Power for MMA: Some factors to consider

Here are my key factors for power training for MMA: (those of you interested in reading more about power training should check out Danbakerstrength.com, Zatsiorsky’s Science and practice of strength training, super training as well as EliteFTS.com. There’s Loads of good info in these resources).

1. Train Max Strength: This will help with all the other qualities and gives you that power to move you’re opponent that you need for MMA. Loads in excess of 85% 1RM will help to develop max strength. Read my previous article for more info on strength development.

2. Train for power with loads in excess of your fighting weight. This will help you develop explosive strength/power which will transfer to the cage and give you that physical and mental edge. Loads between 60 and 80% 1RM are suitable for this and exercises such as cleans, jump squats, high pulls, etc are all good choices.

3. Train for maximal power. Max power tends to occur with loads around the 40-60% 1RM range and varies according to how strong you are. It is a very important quality to develop. All the exercises above are excellent for developing maximal power as well as many other movements.

4. Train for full body explosiveness from the ground up! This includes pushing, pulling, rotating, unilateral, split stances, and from deeply flexed to extended positions. Just like when your technical coaches tell you to use your hips more to get that into those positions better, or escape from side control etc etc, the same goes for producing power. It is very rare that a single limb works in isolation. Explosive movement occurs through a contribution of several joints and generally includes your hips, knees and ankles. Phil Taylor might argue with me on that point and hey he is an athlete after all!!

5. Train for power horizontally, vertically and specifically. MMA is not a sport where your feet are in a parallel squat stance or you use both your arms in a bench press style pressing movement. You need to develop power in a sport specific way. Most programmes focus on vertical power such as jump squats and cleans but MMA requires power to be produced in the horizontal plane, as well as everything in between. Use sled spints, horizontal power presses, barbell explosive rotations, and other such movements to make your power programme even more applicable to the sport. You also need to make sure you are training for power in positions that you specifically need for your game. Look at your previous fights, your future opponent, and get feedback from your coaches. Try to include specific movements closer to fight time to help improve these qualities.

6. Train Speed power. This is training with very light loads including bodyweight, plyometrics, and medicine ball throws. This quality is particularly applicable to stand-up fighting and helps to develop explosive striking, agility and footwork around the cage.

7. Train Power endurance: This includes both power and strength endurance: This is essentially producing power/strength over a sustained period of time and is key to successful MMA performance. It is however a topic for another article along with strength endurance.

8. Recover! Don’t neglect this aspect of power training. In fact, it’s probably the most important. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to recover between sets and reps. Power is all about speed, not fatigue. Make sure you’re fresh with every effort. 2-4 minutes is generally okay, or use a heart rate monitor and wait for your heart rate to return to below 130bpm.

All these key points help to make up what is referred to as the Load Power Training Spectrum, shown below (Baker, 2010).

Different athletes will need to place emphasis on different elements of the load performance spectrum and at different times during the preparation cycle.

How do you train for power?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

See you there!


  1. Daniel March 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Really enjoyed this article and think it breaks down the different aspects of training for combat sports well. Looking forward to reading more and taking part on more of your courses.

    1. Brendan Chaplin April 5, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Thanks for the feedback Dan much appreciated 🙂