BEGINNERS MMA TRAINING
by Michael Bunyamanop
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So you’re a regular at Hooter’s for UFC. You can name every top-five fighter in every MMA weight class from Kenny Florian to Anderson Silva to Mike Brown. After months upon months of boozin’ it up with your buddies you’ve finally decided that this is it. You’re going to take the next step toward this MMA explosion that most men would not dare. You’re going to start training!
Well, well, well Mr. Bad-Ass in the making, whereever do you begin your training you wonder? The first step in any sort of beginners MMA training program starts with conditioning your own body in pushing and pulling movements; both of which are essential to MMA. Pushing involves the movements used in striking, while all the pulling movements involve grappling (wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and judo). If you aren’t accustomed to doing some sort of running, well welcome to the fight world. Depending on your level of fitness (please consult a doctor before starting any sort of exercise program to assess medical condition) this is a way to psyche the body up so of speak, before one starts the process of going out and actually finding a gym to train at. This is to avoid the physical shock that happens to the human body when it’s suffering from inactivity and atrophy.
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For the average Joe who’s about 5’9” and weighs in the range of 160-185 pounds, one should begin with an average three-mile run, three days a week. You must be aware of your own body and stop immediately if you feel shortness of breath or any sort of pain. Getting one’s cardio up is important in being able to push and pull properly and stimulate the muscles used in MMA. Once you’ve got the three-mile run down, start to include sprints in between the run. I personally do this while training for fights and find that this motion closely simulates the tempo of a fight. Fights don’t happen in a slow rhythmic pace-they happen in short, periodic bursts that can’t be timed. So pick two spots in between your three-mile run and sprint. What works well for me is to pretend that I’ve found an opening in my opponent’s guard and just exploded into it for all it’s worth.
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Now once you’ve got this cardio prelude down, pick one of the movements, either pushing or pulling. If you’re going to start with pushing please use light weights. This is a must; the goal here isn’t building huge boulders of muscles fit for flexing and showing off. Instead, the goal is to build functional muscle that will be used in an actual MMA fight. Pushing movements with light dumbbells (15-20 pounds) done in an explosive way is what simulates throwing a punch. I would set the timer for a minute and do this in as rapid fashion as possible; don’t worry about reps-you won’t be counting how many punches you throw in sparring or fighting. Another good explosive movement to do for punching power is jump squats with light dumbbells. Remember that a punch starts with the feet-distributing kinetic energy upward into the upper back and then the fists. These would be the two main pushing movements to use to simulate and stimulate striking.
After phase two, it’s time to move on to the pulling phase. This is a bit different than stimulating the muscles used in striking because all grappling movements involve pulling and squeezing, stressing the latisimus dorsi (back) as well as biceps. Veteran fighters and people that train consistently have all felt that burn in the biceps as well as forearm when trying to pull off a rear-naked choke, arm-bar, or kimura. Anyone that’s trained for an extensive amount of time also knows that when one rolls with someone that has monster biceps, it can be hell trying to pull off an arm bar and resist his stack. It becomes much easier when one can rely on some reserve of muscular strength. Pulling movements are done differently from pushing movements in that one can count reps when pulling. What’s important is the squeeze. Pulling should be done with a 3 count at the peak of the pull and one should squeeze the stimulated muscle, as if one were pulling off a submission. When I trained at Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet school, I remember one guy telling me that he always squeezed his triangle choke to the count of ten.
Okay, let’s get to the meat and potatoes then of pulling movements. Lat pulls are a must and I strongly believe that the best way to do this is on a pull-up bar, pulling up one’s own weight and counting repetitions. This should also be done in an explosive way to simulate pulling off a submission. Now weighted lat pulls are in effect after this is done. And the best way to do this for MMA is with cable pulls, pulling toward the chest-not lat pull-downs because there aren’t a whole lot of submissions that start with pulling an opponent’s limb from overhead.
Now the second movement that is great in creating a squeezing guard is the hip adduction, yes, the hip adduction, the machine at the gym where one squeezes the quads together beginning with the legs spread apart. I know for all you fellas out there, this may seem like a girly machine because it’s the majority of women that seek to tone their legs, but trust me guys this machine will help you develop a killer guard because it most closely simulates tightening one’s legs in the guard. Again, I would do this movement with a squeeze count of ten at the end of the movement.
These are just a few exercises to help with your fledgling MMA game and there are thousands of variations to these movements. And now for the last and most important step in your MMA training; finding a great place to train. There are so many gyms out there, but I do suggest three rules to follow when signing up. 1) Go and visit the gym in person. This is the only way to get a feel for the staff and students and for you to know if the vibe there is right for you. Remember, everyone’s different. 2) If your goal is to actually compete in MMA, look for a place that already has current MMA contenders there training. Not all the people training there want to fight! Actually, most don’t. 3) Lastly, make sure that you have quality instruction there. Any jiu-jitsu teacher should have credentials in competition as well as a black belt from someone well-known in the jiu-jitsu world and this doesn’t necessarily have to be a Gracie. Strikers need to have had some fights. I truly believe there is no way to properly train another Muay Thai fighter or any kind of striker without at least one fight. There are a multitude of places to train, so take your time and good luck!
Michael Bunyamanop is a current MMA contender and amateur Muay Thai fighter with 17 yrs of training in Muay Thai beginning in Thailand. Michael came back to the U.S. at fifteen to spend the bulk of his training at the famed Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood CA., where he worked with the likes of Malaipet Sitpraprom, former Radjadamnern Stadium Champion . He amassed a record of 4-1-1 while receiving a B.A. in English from Cal State Northridge. Michael then started his grappling with Gokor Chivichyan and also trained at Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet school while fighting three MMA wars in which he lost on the ground due to lack of grappling experience. He is currently refining his jiu-jitsu game in California’s Bay Area while completing a Master’s Thesis in English, and looking forward to avenging his losses with a complete jiu-jitsu game.
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