So you’ve gotten past Dan’s No BS martial arts circuit, which was great for cutting fat, toning muscle, and building cardio. But now you’re looking for something more. Something to push you past the limits of your own body frame and build some monster strength, coordination, and muscle control. Read on in the next article written and demonstrated by personal trainer Al Kavadlo:
It’s no secret that pound-for-pound strength is one of the most important factors for having success as an MMA athlete, and there is no better way to build true pound-for-pound strength than bodyweight training. After all, how can you expect to control your opponent if you can’t even control your own bodyweight?
While conditioning is a key component of being in fighting shape, you aren’t going to get strong from doing burpees and box jumps all day. The following three exercises require total body strength and control in a way that few others do. Master them and you’ll be amongst the most elite in pound for pound strength.
THE PISTOL SQUAT
You could lift weights for years and never build the strength needed to do even a single pistol squat. A variant on the single leg squat, the pistol involves reaching one leg out in front while you squat ass-to-ankle on the other. It takes strength, flexibility and control to pull off pistols with poise. Make sure to engage your abs and keep your heel flat on the ground when performing this exercise. It may be helpful to sit back onto a bench or plyo-box when learning in order to help find the balance. If you fall back, the bench will be there to catch you.
THE HANDSTAND PUSH-UP
There is no better way to build monstrous pushing power than doing handstand push-ups. Start by kicking up into a handstand against a wall with your back slightly arched and your fingers spread out. Engage your core muscles and keep your body tight as you lower yourself down and press yourself up. If you aren’t strong enough to do this yet, you can start with your feet on a bench instead. Make sure you touch your head to the ground on every rep to ensure a full range of motion. You can also try touching your nose to the floor instead of the top of your head to allow yourself to go a bit lower. With enough practice, you may eventually be able to perform a freestanding handstand push-up without using a wall for support.
No other upper-body exercise requires both pulling and pushing power quite like the muscle-up. Even UFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre has recently started adding muscle-ups into his regimen. A muscle-up is like a pull-up combined with a dip, but it’s also so much more! To perform this exercise, you’ll need a pull-up bar (or gymnastics rings) with plenty of overhead clearance. When you do a muscle-up, instead of simply trying to pull your chin past the bar, the objective is to pull (and then push) your entire upper body up and over. Even if you can do lots of pull-ups and dips, you’ll likely need some practice on the transition before you will able to execute a proper muscle-up. Muscle-ups require lots of upper-body strength and can also help build explosive power. It’s great to practice doing muscle-ups explosively as well as slow and controlled in order to reap the full benefits of the exercise.
Remember to be patient when learning these new moves – most people will not be able to do a single rep of any of them upon their first attempt, so don’t get discouraged if you struggle when starting out. Stay humble, keep practicing and take it one day at a time.
Al Kavadlo, CSCS is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor and author of the book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness. Al has also coached MMA and Jiu-jitsu fighters in strength and conditioning. To find out more, visit AlKavadlo.com.