Top 5 EXPLOSIVE Exercises For MMA – Garage Strength

Top 5 EXPLOSIVE Exercises For MMA

The first movement in this list can be labeled as a reflexive movement. Reflexive movements are performed with an incredibly light load. Not only is the weight used light, but the movements need to be performed fast. Real fast. In addition to doing the movements fast, the movements tend to demand balance, co-contractions, and coordination. And maybe the most coolest part about reflexive movements is that they are performed in an omnidirectional manner (think of a video game controller joystick). 

Reflexive movements are a very new area of strength and conditioning, entailing reaction and projecting forward. Basically, anything that asks an athlete to absorb force and react quickly.

With that quick lesson out of the way, let’s get into the exercises.

1. Drop Dumbbell Snatch To Hip Lock To Box

First, we will be standing on a single leg. The dumbbell will be in the hand opposite of the balance leg. We will drop the dumbbell and quickly react to catch the dumbbell with the opposite hand. The moment we catch the dumbbell we will pull the dumbbell into a snatch while simultaneously driving the non-balance leg forward and up onto a box.

MMA has a lot of change of direction and force absorption. Athletes have to learn how to use that energy properly when competing. A lot of things that happen in the fight happen so quickly the nervous system can’t actually think fast enough. Thinking, “I want to step and punch,” won’t be able to be executed quickly enough. We need to train the body in specific skills so the body can do it without the mind thinking through it–that is where reflexive strength training comes into play.

2. Rotating Jump Lunge To Box

When thinking of strength and conditioning for MMA, we have to look through the fight filter. MMA is an open-skill sport that demands chaos coordination.

To do this movement, we want to hit a lunge, jump, rotate, and land on the box, going back and forth. We want to do three sets of three jumps on each leg. The goal is to make sure that we rotate which is outside when jumping and inside when jumping. The movement will improve proprioception, explosiveness, and overall performance fighting.

3. Banded Punch

The point of this movement is to accelerate all the way through while being explosive. Using a PowerLastic band, we want to rotate through the hips, punch, and try to hold. There needs to be a big focus on the eccentric is to decelerate coming back with strong tension through the abs to help develop more dynamic trunk control. Doing the eccentric with the tension will make the movement feel more lively. The eccentric lighting up the trunk will also help hip and head movement when fighting because of the improved dynamic trunk control.

Make sure to do this movement on both sides and feel the deceleration.

4. Jan Jump Series

This jump series is named after Jan, a former PSU linebacker, Titan NFL player, and 2x PA state champion wrestler. The jump series transfers really, really well to MMA because it asks athletes to do unilateral movements into bilateral movements.

Imagine a fighter like Leota Machida who moves side to side from leg to leg. So with this movement, we want to do single leg jumps side-to-side over mini-hurdles. Two to three jumps off each leg. Upon landing after the last jump on two feet, we want the athlete to do bilateral jumps over high hurdles.

The jump series will help train fighters to learn how to react from unilateral and bilateral positions.

5. Depth Drop With Upper Body

This is one of my favorite exercises for increasing upper body power output. It helps greatly with increasing pummeling capability.

In a push-up position with both hands elevated on a box, we want to push into the air and bring our hands in to clear the edges of the boxes. Gravity will take over and propel the body towards the ground. As the hands hit the ground, we want to decelerate with the upper body and reapply force into the ground. Reapplying the force into the ground, we want to propel the body back up to the boxes.

Clapping push-ups are a great place to start. Over time, as the skill level increases, athletes can increase the height of the boxes.

The whole goal is to not let the chin hit the floor. Ideally, the stomach does not touch the ground either. The movement is essentially a plyometric movement for the upper body. This exercise is one of the best ways to increase knock-out power. Twice a week doing this movement is plenty.


Doing these five exercises as an MMA fighter will increase a fighter’s skills to execute co-contractions, absorb force, and apply that force as rapidly as possible. So go out, give the movements a go and let us know how it goes.


Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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