Youngstown MMA

Toughest Fighters Period!

Top MMA Training Mistakes

November 29th, 2012

MMA is a rapidly growing sport in North America.  Along with the sport of MMA is a training process that is needed to meet a level of preparedness in order to compete at a high level.  Along with the sport preparation itself, MMA Training has created a buzz marketing of its own for the genral population to part take in.   As a Physical Preparation Coach, I see many mistakes being made by fighters when trying to get into fight shape.  Here I want to show you the truth about what real MMA Training is and isn’t.

Mistake #1: Going too hard too often.

The first mistake I see not only in just MMA but many other sports as well is “going hard” all the time.  It is a great attitude to have the desire to push the body to the limits.  Everyone watched the Rocky movies and it seems like every other slogan is about out working people and getting less sleep than the competitors.  Trust me; I think this motivation is great! Hard work, dedication, pushing yourself!  I just think many times it gets misplaced.  It’s not just about going harder than your opponent, but it’s more often about being smarter than him/her as well.  Knowing the times to go hard and go light are keys for optimal success.

Let me put it to you this way, your body is not designed to be pushed to the limit every day.   You are designed to work and adapt to it.  The latest trend in MMA is that if you are not throwing up at the end of a workout, than you did not accomplish anything.  If you go hard 5 days a week in the gym trying to improve your conditioning, this will only lead to failure in your training program.  At first you may think this is the only way to train (more is better), but what will actually happen is when you think you are training hard, you will be training in this middle ground where you are not really getting better.  You start to become on auto-pilot where you are just going through the motions.  What happens next?  You lose your ability to be explosive, chronic fatigue sets in, and worst of all, injuries start to occur.  What is this called? You’re right, overtraining.

My point is, not only is it detrimental to your training to have high intensity training every day.  But it is very important to pull back to learn new skills and achieve different levels of work into your entire program.  Unfortunately the hardest thing to learn for all athletes and coaches is less is more.

Mistake #2: Eliminating low intensity aerobic work.

Lately, the use of low intensity aerobic has become an evil in the fitness industry and in MMA Training.  The truth is; low intensity has been used for years as a foundation for many great fighters and great programs.  The people who do not perform any low intensity aerobic work are the same people gassing out in their fights.

Instead of getting into the fine details about low intensity aerobic work, I will give you some key benefits.  Low intensity aerobic work will help develop the heart to become stronger, so that you will allow yourself to get the most out of higher intensity conditioning work down the road.  As well as gaining a stronger heart that will help prevent gassing out in your fight, it can serve as a great recovery method between high intensity sessions and can allow you to teach yourself to be relaxed as you work.  You don’t have to just jog either to establish low intensity aerobic work.  Doing anything at a heart rate between 120-150 bpm will meet the guidelines.  Shadow boxing, cycling, rowing, light circuits are all great ways to fit this into your program.

Mistake #3: Not performing max strength work and misplacing power work.

                This mistake for me lies in two parts.  The first mistake is a lot of fighters do not believe in max strength work because they believe they will gain too much mass and may become too big for what they need.  The truth is; performing max strength work at percentages 85% or higher of your 1 rep max will not significantly cause muscle hypertrophy (it takes tremendous amounts of effort in order to gain just 5-10 pounds of lean muscle mass).  Instead, it will create a stronger nervous system which is more optimal for athletes, especially MMA fighters.

Next comes with training for explosive power.  You need max strength in order to improve your power output.  So, if you are someone who neglects heavy weights, but are doing “power work” than you are probably wasting your time because you are most likely not strong enough to even improve your power output.

Most power workouts I see performed in MMA settings would be considered power endurance workouts.  True power training is an exercise performed at the highest intensity at no more than 1-10 seconds, followed by complete recovery.  Doing 45 seconds of box jumps with 10 seconds of rest before 45 seconds of tire flips is not explosive power training.

Mistake #4: Doing Crossfit or only using certain tools.

I will not turn this into a Crossfit debate.  If you do Crossfit to do Crossfit than that is fine with me.  But Crossfit has no place in the competitive MMA conditioning world.  It does not reach the proper biodynamics and bioenergetics that are required of an MMA Fighter.  Doing a WOD will not help you optimize Sports Performance.  It’s that simple.

This mistake also needs to be a two part segment.  I see and hear of a lot of MMA Fighters only using certain tools in their training.  Things like, kettle bell training only, TRX training, body weight training and so on.  I will say this; everything has a place and time.  Everything works and nothing works forever.  Try to think of exercise equipment and exercises as tools in a toolbox.  You want to be able to use all or most of them at the right and proper time.  This is true Sports Training when you can achieve proper placement and timing of these methods.

Mistake #5: Doing only what you see the pro’s do.         

The last mistake is by watching the pro fighters train and trying to replicate what they do.  Here is another truth in this article.  The pro fighters are fighting at the pro level because they are very gifted athletes.  And because they are so gifted, they can get away with bad training and still perform at a level that looks to be at their highest.  So just because you see so and so doing some crazy workout, that doesn’t mean it is the best workout for not only you, but for any fighter period.


                I hope this has helped gain some insight on how to achieve proper physical preparation in the sport of MMA.  All of these mistakes (topics) can be discussed much further into greater detail but I wanted to give you a general understanding of these mistakes that are being made every day by not only athletes, but coaches as well.  There is a lot of misplaced information out in the industry and I hope this could help clear up some of the mistakes and truths to MMA Training.


Joel Younkins is a Physical Preparation Coach from Hubbard Ohio.  After his college football career ended at Youngstown State, Joel created Joel Younkins Training in order to now help other athlete’s achieve their goals by preparing them for their given sports.  Joel now trains many local athletes in the Youngstown area as well as many of the top professional athletes also.  Go to to find out more about Joel Younkins Training.   

Youngstown MMA

Toughest Fighters Period!