The MMA Workout You Can Do at Home

You don't have to be a professional MMA fighter to go a few rounds at home, but you might benefit from trying an MMA workout routine actually designed by a professional fighter. Chris Camozzi, an 18-time UFC veteran who's constantly in training for his next big fight, designed the following program to give you an MMA workout experience you can try at home. All you need is a heavy bag, boxing gloves, hand wraps and a jump rope to kick your conditioning routine into high gear and fight your way to better health.

And don't worry, if you don't have access to a heavy bag or gloves, but still want to get in fighting shape, check out the "bonus round" at the end of this article—it's an equipment-free circuit workout designed to mimic the heart rate changes that MMA fighters experience during a big fight.

1
Jump Rope

It's important to get your heart rate up at the beginning of your workout, and jumping rope is an excellent option that combines cardiovascular exercise with agility, speed, and coordination, all of which play a role in mixed martial arts. "I like to do five, 5-minute rounds of jump rope with 1 minute of rest between each round," Camozzi says, although he admits that can be tough for beginners. If you're new to jumping rope, he suggests you start with five, 1-minute rounds with 1 minute of rest between sets, then build from there. "You want it to be difficult, but it shouldn't be so hard that it ends your workout. Find the balance based on what your fitness level is when starting out," he says.

Advanced Option:

  • 5 minutes jumping rope
  • 1 minute rest
  • Repeat five times

Intermediate Option:

  • 3 minutes jumping rope
  • 1 minute rest
  • Repeat five times

Beginner Option:

  • 1 minute jumping rope
  • 1 minute rest
  • Repeat five times

When you've completed your jump rope rounds, take a couple-minute water break, wrap up your hands, and put your gloves on.

2
Shadow Box

Chris Camozzi shadowboxing
Chris Camozzi

The shadow boxing portion of your workout is optional, depending on how much time you have. Shadow boxing is pretty straightforward—you're sparring with an imaginary partner, throwing punches and moving around an imaginary ring.

But just because it's straightforward doesn't mean you should take it lightly. Camozzi stresses that you should push yourself, working at a quick pace with fast punches and lots of footwork. "You will feel it in your legs after the shadowboxing, and that's what we want," he says. "Picture yourself in the ring fighting. No dropping your hands or walking around and throwing a combo here and there."

Camozzi typically completes two to three, 5-minute rounds of high-pace shadow boxing and moving. But if you're short on time, you can opt for a single, 5-minute round, or you can cut it completely from your routine, skipping straight to the heavy bag work.

All Levels:

  • 5-minutes shadow boxing at a fast pace
  • 1-minute rest
  • Repeat zero to three times

3
Heavy Bag Work

Heavy work can be done by yourself or with a partner—the choice is up to you, but partner training tends to be more fun.

Camozzi's typical heavy bag routine consists of three, 5-minute rounds, each followed by 1 minute of rest. Each round focuses on a different aspect of training. "I like to start with one, 5-minute round of just boxing, hands only. This should be done at a high pace with a high volume of punches," he says, adding that you should mix up your speed and power, working long-range and close-range punches. "A lot of times I'll throw three to four punch combos fast, making one of those punches as hard as I can. It's good to change up the rhythm."

The second, 5-minute round is similar in function to the first, but focused solely on kneeing and kicking movements instead of boxing. "I kick low, high, and mid-range, and often double-up my kicks—meaning I throw a left kick, left kick, one after the other as fast as possible," Camozzi says. "I also mix up high and low. I might throw a low left kick immediately followed by a high right kick." The point is to keep the pace fast and high-volume for the entire 5-minute round, but you're welcome to get creative as you go.

The third, 5-minute round puts everything together, combining punching and kicking. This will be exhausting, but keep your intensity up, it's only 5 total minutes of work. "No throwing single strikes!" Camozzi emphasizes. "I throw all combos and mix up speed and power throughout the round. High, low, hard, fast, double up strikes, burn those muscles and lungs."

In between each of the 5-minute rounds, give yourself a minute to rest. You can take this as total rest or active rest, depending on how you're feeling. For instance, Camozzi uses his minute-long "breaks" to do core work. "I do crunches, or I sit down, wrap my legs around the bag and do sit-up with two light punches at the top of each sit up."

When you've completed all three rounds, give yourself a 2- to 3-minute water break before moving on.

All Levels:

  • 5 minute punching round, fast pace and high volume
  • 1 minute rest (active or passive)
  • 5 minute kicking round, fast pace and high volume
  • 1 minute rest (active or passive)
  • 5 minutes kicking and punching, fast pace and high volume
  • 2-3 minutes rest and water break

4
The Burn Out Round

heavy bag mma workout
MrBig_Photography/Getty Images

The burn out round is like a final, high-intensity battle between yourself and the bag. You can do this alone or with a partner, although most workouts are more fun (and challenging) when you have a partner there to push you. "If you do it alone, you really have to challenge yourself," Camozzi says.

All Levels:

Set an interval timing app to time five intervals of 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest. If you're doing the workout without a partner, you'll be pushing yourself as hard as possible during the 30-second work period, then resting during the 30-second rest period. If you're working with a partner, you'll simply switch off, one of you doing your work during the work interval, and the other doing your work during the rest interval:

  • 30 seconds punches as fast and hard as you can
  • 30 seconds rest (or it's now your partner's turn)
  • 30 seconds kicks as fast and hard as you can
  • 30 seconds rest (or it's now your partner's turn)
  • 30 seconds punches as fast and hard as you can
  • 30 seconds rest (or it's now your partner's turn)
  • 30 seconds kicks as fast and hard as you can
  • 30 seconds rest (or it's now your partner's turn)
  • 30 seconds punches as fast and hard as you can
  • 30 seconds rest (or it's now your partner's turn)

5
Core Work and Pushups

If you have time, complete a few sets of push-ups, doing as many as you can on each set while maintaining good form, then finish out your workout with a series of ab exercises, including planks, sit-ups, medicine ball oblique twists, and leg lifts. You'll have utilized your chest and core during the meat of your workout, but this is a great opportunity to really target these muscle groups. Even adding just 5 to 10 minutes is a great way to finish things out.

6
Bonus Round: The Equipment-Free Conditioning Circuit

Push-ups circuit mma workout
JohnnyGreig/Getty Images

If you don't have access to a heavy bag, or you need a workout you can do from a hotel room or small space, don't worry, there's a solution. In fact, according to Matt Marsden, a fitness instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, who has a training and coaching background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, boxing, Muay Thai, and Tae Kwon Do, this type of workout is pretty common for MMA fighters because they travel so frequently and sometimes have to train outside of the typical gym setting.

Marsden also makes it clear that bodyweight conditioning workouts are every bit as important for MMA training as throwing punches in the ring. "If there's one thing for certain in this sport, it's that your heart rate will change several times over the course of a five-minute round due to the many battle styles a fight can take. It may start as a boxing match, move into Olympic-level, wrestling, then return back to the feet," Marsden says. "To train in this manner, take the idea of rep schemes, ball it up and toss it in the trash. There are no reps anymore, just timed rounds."

And fighting your way through a series of timed conditioning rounds is an excellent way to mimic the training MMA fighters have to implement. For instance, Marsden offers the following workout as a good example:

Rest for 1 minute after completing the 5-minute round (just as you do in an MMA fight), then repeat, completing three total rounds of the circuit.

After completing the three bodyweight rounds, Marsden suggests finish things off with a final, high-intensity interval round, where you perform five to 10 intervals of 30-seconds work and 30-seconds rest, where you sprint or do jump rope as fast as you can for the 30 seconds of work.

He also adds that this type of bodyweight circuit is inherently flexible, so you can mix up the exercises as you wish, but he has one word of caution: "Feel free to change up the movements, but be cognizant of varying the exercises to maximize heart rate changes," he says. "By this I mean don't do three high-intensity movements, then end with two rounds of lower-intensity planks and flutter kicks." Switch back and forth between higher- and lower-intensity exercises when planning your bodyweight circuit.

A Word From Verywell

Of course, no home-based MMA workout will completely mimic the adrenaline rush of getting in the cage with another fighter. If you're serious about training in mixed martial arts, you'll want to find a facility in your area with coaches who can help you acquire the specific skills needed to actually fight your way through three tough rounds. It's not just about punching hard or throwing a solid kick, you have to learn to grapple and wrestle, how to break out of holds, and how to take a punch without faltering. Home-based workouts can only take you so far.

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