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4 Lean Muscle Building Strategies For MMA Fitness

4 Lean Muscle Building Strategies For MMA Fitness

1. Are you failing to achieve lean muscle building gains in your MMA and individual fitness program? 

2. Do you struggle to drop body fat despite having the ability to practice your martial arts and other sport skills? 

3. Do you easily bulk, or gain in your current strength and conditioning program? 

As a strength and conditioning specialist my job is to look at your individual life and sport needs. From this I can create a strength and conditioning program to help you achieve your goals. When looking at your needs involving MMA and martial arts there are some things to consider if you’re striving to build lean muscle.

How To Build Lean Muscle For MMA And Fitness

Black and white image of a fighter flexing and showing his "fight face" prior to a Thai boxing match.

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I’ve personally practiced Muay Thai for over 10 years.  I’ve created strength programs for many high level competitive fighters when it comes to the realm of martial arts. So I understand very well that your goal should be to develop your body. You want to do this in order to operate at peak performance. The only way this is done is by training your body to become more supple and better conditioned for moving in different ways. It only makes sense right? After all we’re talking about fighting another human being so it should make sense!

Because of this the result is that your body will develop into having a nice lean shredded look. This will no doubt pass the eyeball contest for both aesthetics and performance. Knowing this it just goes to show that form always follows function…not the other way around.

If you answered yes to any of the questions at the beginning of this article regarding your lean muscle building woes then this article is going to be just the thing for you. To help you correct this here are 4 lean muscle building strategies that will help you to achieve that strong lean functional look you need to perform at your peak.

1. Incorporate More Multi-Joint Movements Into Your MMA Strength Program:


Multi-joint movements are pretty self-evident with the name. As you guessed multi-joint movements involve exercises/drills that involve more than one joint. This in turn involves more than one group of muscles. Because more muscles are involved there is more stress on the body. As a result when there is more stress on your body there is more adaptation of muscle that will occur.

Multi-joint movements such as deadlifts, squats, and presses are great for helping you to build significant lean muscle mass. These will also allow you to get the most bang out of your training within a shorter time frame. This is incredibly valuable if you happen to have a hectic life schedule as well.

Additionally by including more multi-joint movement into your strength and conditioning program you’ll be able to develop a higher level of functional strength. This is also crucial for the purpose of MMA and fight performance. The other benefit is that by stressing your body with more multi-joint movement you’ll spike your metabolism quicker. This in turn will enable you to shed unwanted pounds while giving your fitness level a serious upgrade.

2. HIIT-High Intensity Interval Training:

Brandon performing some HIIT training by delivering some knee strikes to a long bag.

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HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a huge for helping you to torch body fat. It’s also great for training your body’s nervous system to adapt to the demands of MMA and sport.

HIIT is a form of cardio training that drives your physical cardiovascular stress up to the point of exhaustion. Obviously because of the elevated intensity this form of conditioning is more short burst in duration.

HIIT can be structured a number of different ways to achieve this optimal stress level for your cardio system. It may involve an all out sprint for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, or it can involve the practice of MMA itself by unleashing a flurry of kicks and punches on the long bag.

The point here is that you want to condition yourself to trigger your short burst anaerobic energy system to get used to performing intense work followed by recovery in repetition for task after task. With this set up you can see how this would translate well over into the world of MMA and combat fight performance.

This HIIT is great for lowering your body composition and giving you that ideal physical fighter look while also optimizing your performance. I have often included a variety and combination of sprint and kettlebell drills to help demonstrate the HIIT at work here on the site.

3. Meal Prep And Nutrition:


You can’t out-train a bad a diet. That’s a common statement in the strength and conditioning world and it’s true. This is especially true if you’re looking at your fight performance, or performance for any athletic endeavor for that matter.

When you train you have to fuel your body so it can elicit the desired adaption from the stress that you place on it in a rigorous training environment. Because of this when you fuel you don’t want to put the wrong fuel in.

I love analogies because I sometimes use them to communicate valid points that directly apply to the discussion. There’s no reaching to make a point here. With that being said when it comes to nutrition I always tell my students to envision themselves as a car engine.

I say imagine driving down the interstate and as you press down the accelerator the engine runs faster and the car speeds up. As you let off the accelerator there is less fuel going into the engine to burn therefore the car slows. If the tank runs dry then the engine will stop running altogether.

Your body and your metabolism represent the car engine and the food you eat represents the fuel. So in order to run your metabolic rate faster for MMA performance and fitness you need to make the investment in preparing your meals and preparing good quality meals for that purpose.

When eating to enhance your lean muscle and performance for fighting make sure to eat foods that are unprocessed and nutrient rich. Eat fresh vegetables from the produce section with much of these being a variety of fibrous carbs such as broccoli, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables.

Additionally eat meats that are lean such as fish, eggs, and chicken. Prepare these foods by keeping the junk out them. Stay away from the processed packaged junk food and make sure you drink plenty of water in order to stay hydrated.

4. Undulate Your Intensity And Stay Committed:


There is nothing more powerful than steadfast commitment. You can execute the best and hardest training session of your life, but if you fail to stay consistent everyday in your approach to your MMA fitness and performance needs then it’s all for nothing.

Man with muscular arms bending down to lift a pair of heavy dumbbells off the floor.

Learn how to build lean muscle and peak performance with my 90 Day MMA Strength & Conditioning program. Just click the image to order now!

Being steadfast doesn’t mean that you need to take a kick to the balls every training session with a super intense HIIT workout, lifting, or sparring session. No, there is certainly a time and a place for that and we should always push ourselves, but when you are looking at training intelligently by increasing your health, fitness, and lean muscle development over the long haul then you’ve got to be smart in your approach.

Undulating your intensity with your training is a great way to do this. Whether you’re looking at your approach to strength or the conditioning aspect of your training you want to undulate your intensity. So what does this mean?

Undulation refers to a wave with high points and low points. In terms of training this means more intensity and volume and less intensity and volume. You can structure your strength and conditioning program a number of different ways to encompass this strategy.

If you’re looking at strength development you can devote the first half of your week to more volume and endurance and the second half to strength and power. Furthermore, you can incorporate what is known as deload weeks every 6 to 8 weeks where you do lower intensity and volume the whole week, or back off even further to focus on mobility and recovery.

This undulating principle offers several benefits for your health and fitness. It’s great for joint preservation, muscular recovery, and mentally it’ll do wonders for you as well so that you are able to stay committed to the cause. Undulation will no doubt make you stronger, fitter, and as a result you’ll be able to build some serious lean muscle mass from your training.

The Takeaway From These Lean Muscle Building Strategies

At the end of the day if you want to be at your peak for MMA fitness and for your respective life goals then you want implement a smart plan. If you’re looking at how to do this then the 4 strategies that I’ve outlined for you here will help you to go a long ways.

Are you currently incorporating any of these strategies into your MMA strength and conditioning program? 

Are you building lean muscle with your current strength and conditioning program? 

What areas are you currently struggling with the most in your MMA fitness program? 

Are you currently training to prepare for a competitive fight, or sparring session? 

Post up in the comments below and tell us about it.

Also if you want to learn how to tie these together then make sure you check out my brand new 90 Day MMA Strength And Conditioning Program right here below! I guarantee it’ll get you into the best shape of your life, or I’ll give you your money back no questions asked.


It’s changing lives already!

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How To Enhance Your Fitness And Physical Work Capacity

3 Top Conditioning And HIIT Workouts For MMA And Combat Fitness

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5 Unique Strength Drills To Enhance MMA Performance And Serious Fitness

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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