Strength Training Exercises to Boost Your Martial Arts Performance

In the quest for mastery in martial arts or the pursuit of excellence in mixed martial arts, daily practice of techniques is essential. However, to truly ascend to the pinnacle of your potential, integrating strength training into your training regimen is not just beneficial, it’s critical. Neglecting strength development can lead to stagnation in your progress, capping your martial arts capabilities.

To ensure continual improvement and enhancement of your skills, it is vital to develop a strength training routine that is specifically tailored to your individual needs and objectives. This personalized approach promises significant gains in muscle strength, agility, and cardiovascular endurance. This article unveils the most effective exercises for building comprehensive full-body strength, directly translating to improved martial arts skills. Incorporating exercises like deadlifts, squats, and plyometrics into your routine will empower you to deliver more powerful strikes, respond with greater speed, and maintain endurance over your opponents.

By embracing this holistic approach to training, you position yourself not just as a practitioner, but as a formidable and well-rounded martial artist. The integration of strength training is a strategic move that elevates your martial arts journey from proficiency to excellence.

#1 Deadlifts Build Raw, Full-Body Power

Deadlifts are one of the ultimate full-body power exercises but with an emphasis on upper-body strength building. They work all the major muscle groups—your quads, hamstrings, back, core, and more. By mastering deadlifts, you’ll gain benefits like increased striking power, better explosiveness, improved balance, and added muscle mass. In short, deadlifts can take your martial arts skills to the next level.

Moreover, top fighters will need deadlifts to develop the brute strength needed for MMA. 

It’s no wonder top fighters like UFC champion Israel Adesanya’s workout and training routine incorporates deadlifts, sets, and reps to maximize strength during top fights.

Now that you know the benefits, let’s get into proper deadlift form:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart behind barbell
  • Bend knees and grip bar outside legs
  • Keep back flat, chest up as you drive through heels
  • Lift bar by extending hips and knees
  • Slowly lower bar back to floor with control

Aim for 3–4 sets of 3–6 reps, gradually increasing weight. Just be sure to maintain proper form on each and every rep. And yes you should never skip leg day as a martial artist.

How Much Should You Be Technically Deadlifting?

Determining if someone is strong in the deadlift relative to their body weight involves understanding the ratio of the weight lifted to the lifter’s own body weight. This ratio is a key indicator of strength, especially in powerlifting circles, where relative strength is as important as absolute strength.

A general benchmark for assessing deadlift strength is to consider the multiples of body weight being lifted. For instance, lifting twice your body weight is often seen as a sign of considerable strength. Beginners might start with lifting around 0.75 to 1 times their body weight. As they progress, lifting 1.5 times their body weight is recognized as a good standard of strength. Advanced lifters often aim for 2 to 2.5 times their body weight, which is considered very strong. Elite lifters may exceed this, lifting upwards of 3 times their body weight, showcasing exceptional strength.

It’s important to note that these standards can vary based on factors like age, gender, and lifting experience. For example, strength standards might be different for women compared to men, due to physiological differences. Additionally, age can influence strength capabilities, with younger lifters often having the potential to lift heavier in relation to their body weight compared to older lifters.

Ultimately, while these benchmarks provide a guideline, strength is individual and can be influenced by various factors, including technique, training consistency, and genetic potential. Plus, you don’t need to lift 2.5 times your bodyweight to excel in martial arts disciplines.

#2 Squats: Build Lower Body Strength and Power

Squats are widely recognized as one of the most effective exercises for building strength, not just in the legs, but throughout the entire body, particularly the core. This fundamental movement offers a multitude of benefits, making it a cornerstone exercise in both strength training and general fitness routines.

One of the primary advantages of squats is their ability to engage the core muscles comprehensively. While often perceived primarily as a leg exercise, squats require a strong, stable core to maintain proper form. This engagement strengthens the abdominal muscles, lower back, and obliques, contributing to improved posture, balance, and overall athletic performance. A strong core is essential for performing everyday activities with ease and reducing the risk of injuries, particularly in the lower back.

Squats also promote lower body strength, targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This comprehensive lower-body engagement makes squats highly effective for building muscle, enhancing mobility, and improving bone density. Additionally, they contribute to better joint health, particularly in the knees and hips.

Another significant benefit of squats is their versatility. They can be performed virtually anywhere, with no equipment, making them an accessible exercise for people of all fitness levels. Bodyweight squats can be easily modified to increase or decrease intensity, and variations can target different muscle groups or address specific fitness goals.

Incorporating squats into a regular exercise routine can lead to improved athletic performance, functional strength, and overall physical health. Their simplicity, combined with their profound impact on core strength and total body fitness, makes squats an invaluable exercise for anyone looking to enhance their physical well-being, especially martial artists like those practicing karate or Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Regular squats will help you:

  • Increase power and explosiveness in kicks
  • Improve balance and stability for better footwork
  • Build muscle mass in quads, hamstrings, and glutes
  • Develop a strong core for absorbing strikes

The two main squat variations to include are back squats and front squats. Back squats allow you to lift heavier weights by having the barbell behind your neck. This targets the posterior chain. Front squats place the weight in front, challenging your core more. Aim for 3–4 sets of 6–10 reps.

To perform squats with proper form:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out
  2. Engage core, keep chest lifted
  3. Initiate movement by sending hips back
  4. Push knees out as you descend until thighs parallel
  5. Drive through heels to return to start position

For martial arts, focus on performing squats with power and explosiveness to build that athletic strength. Over time, increase the weight to continually challenge your lower body.

#3 Plyometrics: Develop Power and Agility

Plyometric exercises are essential for building the explosive power and agility needed for martial arts. This type of training uses quick, high-intensity movements to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Incorporating plyometric moves like these will boost your athletic performance:

  1. Box Jumps: Explosively jump onto and off a box or platform. Work on increasing height.
  2. Jump Squats: Add a vertical leap as you come up into a squat position. Land softly and stabilize.
  3. Burpees: Flow from standing to the floor, kick feet back, return to squat and leap up. Intense!
  4. Lateral Lunge Jumps: Jump side-to-side in a low lunge position to build power.

Aim for 2–3 sets of 6–10 reps of each exercise. Maintain proper form as you push for more speed and height on every rep. Focus on quick transitions between movements.

Plyos increase strength, speed, power, balance, and agility – all essential for martial arts. Incorporate them into your routine 2–3 times per week for significant gains. Rest adequately between sets.

Bodyweight Exercises For Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a sport that demands a high level of physical strength, agility, and endurance. To excel in this arena, athletes need a well-rounded training regimen that builds functional strength and power. Bodyweight exercises are particularly beneficial for mixed martial artists as they mimic natural movements, improve functional strength, and can be performed anywhere without the need for equipment. Here are the top five bodyweight exercises that are essential for building strength in mixed martial artists:

  1. Burpees: Burpees are a powerhouse exercise that combines a squat, push-up, and jump into one fluid movement. This exercise is excellent for building cardiovascular endurance, full-body strength, and explosive power. The squat and jump components strengthen the legs and glutes, while the push-up portion works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The rapid movement of burpees also enhances agility and coordination, which is crucial for MMA fighters who need to move quickly and efficiently in the ring.
  2. Pull-Ups: The Pull-up is fundamental for developing upper body strength, particularly in the back, shoulders, and arms. This strength is essential for grappling, clinching, and striking in MMA. Pull-ups also engage the core, promoting better stability and balance. The ability to control one’s own body weight is vital in MMA, and pull-ups are one of the best exercises for improving this aspect of physical fitness.
  3. Push-Ups: Push-ups target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and when performed with proper form, they also engage the core and lower back. This exercise enhances the pushing strength necessary for striking and grappling. Variations of push-ups can target different muscle groups; for example, diamond push-ups focus more on the triceps, while wide-arm push-ups work the chest more intensively.
  4. Pistol Squats: This one-legged squat variation is excellent for building leg strength, balance, and coordination. In MMA, having strong legs is crucial for delivering powerful kicks, maintaining a stable stance, and executing effective takedowns. Pistol squats not only strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes but also challenge the core and improve overall body control and balance.
  5. Planks: Planks are a core-strengthening staple. A strong core is vital for MMA fighters as it connects the upper and lower body movements, essential for effective striking and grappling. Planks also improve posture and help prevent lower back injuries. Variations like side planks or planks with leg lifts can add an extra challenge and target different muscle groups.

Each of these exercises offers unique benefits that are particularly relevant to mixed martial artists. Burpees improve overall conditioning and explosiveness, pull-ups develop upper body and grip strength, push-ups enhance pushing power, pistol squats build unilateral leg strength and balance, and planks solidify core stability.

Incorporating these exercises into a regular training routine can significantly improve an MMA fighter’s strength, endurance, and performance. They can be easily adjusted in intensity and volume to suit different fitness levels and specific training goals. Moreover, the simplicity and versatility of bodyweight exercises make them ideal for fighters who may not always have access to a gym or equipment.


Strength lays the foundation for all martial arts success. You can drill techniques relentlessly, but power comes from tailored strength training. Exercises like deadlifts, squats, and plyometrics build the athleticism to take your skills to the next level. With a more muscular, faster, and explosive body, you’ll strike harder, last longer, and move with the agility of a champion fighter. Unlock supreme confidence in yourself and your abilities through strength.

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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