Strength Training Periodization for MMA & Combat Athletes

As a combat athlete, how do you program different phases of training leading up to a fight? Do you organize it all in advance? Do you download them off of a website or google search? Do you buy them off a trainer who can help you properly plan and execute your training? Most importantly do you know why you are doing those exercises in that particular order for that amount of reps or sets? In this article we outline how to plan out your training to optimize strength training for your event.


When planning your training phases as a combat athlete, there needs to be a strategy. You need to be able to  get stronger and more explosive without exhausting other energy systems needed in other training aspects. The strength training done in the gym needs to compliment your sparring and technique training in order to excel and not be over trained and under-recovered.  

The Spectrum of Periodization

First, you need to understand how to plan out your training. By using the Spectrum of Periodization, you can properly program your training depending on what your goal is for that time frame.

Strength Endurance/Metabolic Hypertrophy Functional Hypertrophy Relative Strength Max Effort/Explosive

NOONEN LATERAL RAISE LINK INTEGRATED HEALTHThe closer you get to a fight (starting on the left and moving to the right), the more specific you need to become in your training protocols. The training also changes to become less hypertrophy (muscle building) and more strength and explosive training. That limits the amount of muscle soreness but also separates the energy systems being used between the types of training being performed.

The Timeline

Goals need to be made in macro (long term) and then micro (short term) cycles before you even begin to properly periodize a program. Looking at your programming in a macro cycle first, rather than micro, allows you to predict how your training should be planned out months in advance.

Below is an example we used for a boxing client preparing for a fight. We looked ahead 3 months in advance to know what needed to be trained and when. BOXER PROGRAM MACRO CYCLE

Once we had the general outline written, we were able to program the actual workouts that were needed in order to get through the cycles of training before the fight. Working with the boxing coach, It allowed us to set specific goals needed for him to get the most out of his training, not overlap his strength and endurance work and create the best fighter we possibly could.

The Result

Incorporating these concepts you should expect to build significant lean muscle months in advance that will help you when dropping body fat to cut weight. You then will have a greater ability to use explosive type 2 B muscle fibers as you transition into your event. Gaining strength and increasing your neurological output without being sore and losing endurance is crucial for a fight.

COACH – Steve Parkhill 

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