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How to Warm up and Cool Down Like a MMA Fighter

Updated 
October 13, 2020
Written by 
Jai

If you have ever done sports and fitness training with a group, then you’d have experienced having the fitness instructor leading the group to do warm up and cool down movements. This is because - and we have written about this over and over - warming up and cooling down is a very important part of any workout or training routine. 


And quite often for MMA Fighters, preparing well and training hard can be the difference between earning their octagon wins and possibly getting knocked out. 


And when it comes to MMA training, the real deal athletes do not just walk into the gym and start punching and kicking bags with no purpose or direction. MMA fighters prepare for and cool down after every fight in the same way they do their actual training: with intensity and precision.



Warm Up

Warming up for a training session can be done in four parts. A quick self-massage, some dynamic stretches, a round at the agility ladder and then a circuit. This warm up routine can also be done as a conditioning workout before an actual fight. 

This robust, dynamic warm up helps make fighters more flexible and get the body ready for the intense training. 



Warm Up Part 1: Quick Self Massage

Use a massage gun

Many use a percussive therapy device like HYDRAGUN after a workout to help speed up recovery. MMA fighters can also use it as a quick, easy way to “wake up” the muscles and get them ready for dynamic stretches (because you should not stretch cold muscles).

Duration

30 seconds to 1 minute on each muscle group you will use for training or fighting

What to do

“Float” the massage gun over your shoulders, abs, upper and lower back and chest. Adjust speed/intensity settings depending on your fitness level, but do not stay in one area for longer than the recommended duration.

Warm Up Part 2: Dynamic Stretches

As the name implies, these stretch exercises will get you moving. Dynamic stretches prep the muscles for intense training, which is why they are better for warm ups than static stretching exercises.


Knee Hug + Twist

Duration

10 reps for every leg

What to do
  • Bring your knee up towards your chest
  • Hug your knee then step forward to do a lunge.
  • Twist your torso toward your front leg
  • Switch to your other leg and repeat the movements.


Drop Lunges

Duration

10 reps for every side

What to do
  • Drop one leg backwards and across your body
  • Slowly squat down
  • Walk laterally towards one direction, then back in another direction.
  • Switch sides and repeat the movements



Reverse Lunges

Duration

10 reps for every side

What to do
  • Put your left foot behind you to do a backward lunge
  • From this position, reach back with your left arm to the opposite side of your body
  • Switch to the other side and repeat the movements.


Reverse Toe Touch

Duration

10 reps for every side

What to do
  • Walk backwards, kicking up one leg behind
  • As you do the kick backwards, reach forward towards your front toe with the opposite side hand.
  • Switch sides and repeat the movements. 


Pass Throughs (Shoulder Stretches)

Duration

10 reps 

What to do
  • Grab a PVC pipe or a light (very light) bar that is wide and long enough to get over your head, and be able to touch your butt.
  • Slowly bring the bar or pipe back over your head in front of you until it touches your thighs.
  • Repeat the movements.




Warm Up Part 3: Agility Ladder

Agility ladders are ideal to get your core all warmed up. It helps boost an athlete’s speed and motion. It is a great exercise for a fighter’s footwork and concentration.

If you are warming up at home and do not have an actual agility ladder, you can create one by laying out tape on the floor. 


Ladder Runs

What to do

Put both feet, one at a time in each ladder box and continue until you reach the end of the ladder. Go back up the length of the ladder, repeating the movements.


Lateral Runs

What to do

Lateral running works just like the first exercise, except that you are moving laterally instead of one straight run.  Put both feet, one at a time in each of the boxes until you reach the end of the ladder. Then go back up the ladder, repeating the movements.


Hops

What to do

Put both feet in the box, then hop forward landing both feet in each box at the same time. Hop until you reach the end of the ladder, then back repeating the movements.


Lateral Hops

What to do

Same as the exercise above, you hop into each box to the end of the ladder and back. Only this time instead of doing straight hops until you reach the end of the ladder, you move laterally (side hops). 


Warm Up Part 4: Circuit

Strength circuit - to be specific. This warm up exercise activates your shoulder muscles, glutes and prep your other bigger muscles. Typical of circuits, you need to do one type of exercise following the number of reps recommended and move on to the next exercise, no breaks in between.

Circuits are done twice, rest for one minute before going through the second round. 


Single Leg Glutes Bridge

Duration

14 reps on every leg

What to do
  • Lie down with your upper back laid flat on a bench
  • Spread both arms outward.
  • Placing your weight on one heel, slowly put your other leg up in the air. 
  • Push your hips upward, squeezing your glutes as you raise your hips.
  • Bring your hips down slowly.
  • Switch to the other leg and repeat movements.


Hanging Knee Raises

Duration

10 reps

What to do
  • Hang on a bar
  • Pull up your knees to your chest
  • Lift your hips so you don’t overwork your hip flexors for this movement.


T’s & Y’s

Duration

10 reps for every position

What to do
  • Holding blast straps or TRX, lean back
  • Put your arms out to form a “T” shape
  • Push your chest forward, do this for 10 reps.
  • Fly your arms out to form a “Y” shape
  • Push your chest forward, again doing this position for 10 reps



Cool Down

After an intense training session, it is tempting to just stop moving and rest your muscles. After all, you deserve a break after all that hard work right? Not just yet. MMA fighters put as much effort into their cool downs and you should too. 

Walk or Jog on the Treadmill

Duration

5 to 10 minutes

What to do

Go for an easy walk or jog on the treadmill. This will help slowly bring your heart rate down to normal. If you are not training in a gym or do not have a treadmill at home, go for an easy walk around your neighborhood.


Static Stretches

Duration

At least 15 seconds hold for each type of stretch

What to do

Do any of the following static stretches on every muscle group, particularly the ones that you worked on the most:

  • Hamstring stretch
  • Glutes Stretch
  • Low Back Stretch
  • Arms and Shoulders Stretch
  • Front Shoulder and Chest Stretch
  • Triceps Stretch
  • Wrist Stretch
  • Side Stretch
  • Calf Stretch
  • Neck Stretch
  • Hip Flexor Stretch


Remember - stretching should not be painful. If you feel a sudden stab of pain or any type of pain then that means you have gone too far. 


Post Training Massage

Duration

2 minutes per muscle group

What to do

Doing post training self massages using recovery tools like HYDRAGUN helps speed up muscle recovery.

Float the massage gun over your glutes, hamstrings, calves, chest - areas that you worked on the most - for two minutes. You can also self massage on muscles that still feel particularly sore and tight, to help relax them. 

Start with lower speeds and adjust depending on your fitness and comfort level. 



Summing it up

We have written about it countless times - warm ups and cool downs are crucial in an athlete’s training. And we hope this article has helped give you an insight into how MMA fighters do it. What’s your take on preparing for and cooling down after a fight? Do you think we missed out on some key exercise routines? Let us know by sounding off in the comments!



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