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MMA Workout: How to Be Fit Like a Fighter

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Have you ever been to a MMA fight and said, “MMA fighters look shredded… but how can I possibly train like them and gain that level of stamina, endurance, flexibility and strength?”

I have.

Luckily, I don’t have to wonder too much because I have invited Nate Moore, an American mixed martial artist to update me on how he trains.

And yes you can read his Wikipedia entry here.

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In this interview, we sit down to find out how Nate used to train before MMA fights, his training routine and MMA workout, and the lowdown on his combat circuit workout.

In the next part, we’ll explore the top 3 exercises to improve our core, and top 3 ways to prevent injuries.

How to Train like a Professional MMA Fighter

Q: Hi, Nate. Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with us. Can you please tell me more about your background?

Nate Moore: I am a strength-conditioning specialist. First, I started with wrestling and football in high school. I wrestled in college, at Purdue. I was a strength conditioning, kinesiology student. I studied Health and Fitness and Movement and Sport Science.

After graduating, I had four professional fights before I moved to California.

And after graduating from Purdue I went to train at the American Kickboxing Academy with four pro fights under my belt. Over the years I had about I think, 12 total fights professionally under the AKA, and fought for an organisation called Strike Force. I had quite a lot of injuries along the way though. In training, it was just one thing after another… I had broken my rib, broke my foot, my hand was dislocated in a fight, from punching. I broke my nose, broke a tooth.

Tore my ACL that was the one that was the big one, where I was getting to the point where I was like, “I feel like I am good at the fighting, as far as my skill level and as far as good as I got. I don’t have too much to prove for myself.”

Before I moved to California, even when I was in school and in college, the idea was to have my own gym and to start my own business. This is why I decided to start my own gym.

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The Professional MMA Workout

Q: What was your training routine like?

Nate Moore:  It would be more of a team training, and then in the evening we did a 30-minute conditioning workout, three days a week.

Or you could do classes, more specific training, so it’s not necessarily training with other fighters. It’s maybe training in a class where you’re working more on technique or you’re training with a standup coach where you’re just hitting the mitts.

You’re not banging up against anybody else. Then there was always the infamous Aerodyne workout, and that’s what my combat circuit is based on.

It’s the 30-minute conditioning circuit, where you alternate between the Aerodyne bike or a full-body cardio, and then you switch between that and mixed martial arts movements and techniques. It’s just repetitive.

Just do it as many times as you can, go as fast as you can on the bike.

So that was the workout that we would do and then we had just the noon training that would last maybe about two hours or so when all the talking and everything was all said and done.

But probably more about like an hour, hour and a half of hard movement conditioning, sometimes.

Like Tuesday and Thursday we did grappling and wrestling.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we did sparring, and then also Monday, Wednesday, Friday after sparring, we would do gloves/ground sparring kind of stuff. So it was a tough schedule.

On top of the conditioning and the working with the guys and stuff like that, your body has to be able to go through a lot.

Nate’s Training Schedule:

  • Monday / Wednesday / Friday: Sparring
  • Tuesday / Thursday: Grappling and Wrestling
  • Weekends: Running or other cardio

Q: Did you workout on weekends?

Nate Moore:  I trained on weekends as well.

Q: What kind of training did you do on weekends?

Nate Moore: Just a little bit of whatever, just running, something to get the blood going.

I also trained my clients as well. So if you were doing personal training on the weekends, then you’re moving your body. I consider that a learning experience, so it’s entrainment. It’s not necessarily full body like getting my body sweaty as hell, and going all out.

But it is the motor patterns, and when you’re taking in another client you’re taking another person through this workout, and you’re running with them or you’re showing them how to hit the bag and that kind of thing.

You’re practicing still and you’re actually practicing very calmly and technically when you’re teaching a student.

Q:      You spoke about the combat circuit workout earlier. Can you tell us more about this style of workout? Why do you think this workout is effective? What does this workout entail?

Nate Moore:  I created the workout based on the workout that we did as fighters. I made a lot of things more specific.

I gave ten specific rounds, which are designed to get you to move your core in 10 different ways.

So through the workout it’s, again 30-minute alternating between cardio and MMA movements.

There are 10 different types of movements that you alternate.

After you get done with your cardio, you do a core movement.

After you do cardio again, you do knees, and that’s a different way to move the core.

1) You are throwing the hips forward. You’re tilting the head back. You’re lifting the heel off the ground, so it’s a different movement, knees.

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2) Then you go back to the cardio. You jump on the cardio. You jump off the cardio after 90 seconds.

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3) Then you go do kicks which are another thing that’s different. It’s a little bit more torqued. Sometimes you throw a high kick. Sometimes you throw low kicks, push kicks. So we practice all different ones, each day we do a different type of kick.

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4) Then you go back on to the cardio, then you jump off and we do punches, and punches of course, are a different type of core movement. It’s a little more torque up in the upper body, a little more speed, and a little more dynamic in the upper body. So it’s a different way of turning your core.

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5) Your feet are grounded and then we do ground and pound after that, which is again, it’s a different type of core movement because now you’re punching and striking with your arms and sometimes your legs on a grounded opponent. So now you’re fighting gravity in a different way. So it’s a different challenge.

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You’re going to activate different stabilizers, but again, you’re moving your core. So when you’re working all the core movers you’re going to really work the entire body together very functionally. That’s half of the workout.

The second half of the workout, we go into a little bit more of grappling and combination movements.

6) The sixth round, we do freestyle which is where you combine different grappling movements and different strikes on the heavy bag. So sometimes you’ll do punches combined with a wrestling takedown movement, and then follow that up with some kicks, and maybe elbows or knees, whatever sounds like a good, fluid combo. That’s 90 seconds of that.

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7) Back on the bike again, and then back off the bike for the seventh round which is grappling. On that round we work on moving around, negotiating your hips and your core around the mat, sometimes with your back to the mat, sometimes with your side or your stomach to the mat, sometimes all three all around, just moving your body around the mat.

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8) Then after that we have the wrestling round, which is where we’re moving around the body and it’s like you’re negotiating the core in any way.

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But in the sense that you’re always trying to face your hips to the mat, and in the Jiu-Jitsu, it’s more you’re on your back. They’re all grappling movements and some are very similar. A lot of it comes out to look like breakdancing, the wrestling movements.

9) So after wrestling, back on the cardio and after that you jump off, and now you are on round number nine which is the get up round. The standup round, where we’re going to practice getting your core from laying down to up in the air or maybe lying flat, or maybe going from your knees up to your feet and back down again.

It’s, again repetitive movements of your core, so we’re going to see how many times you can get your core up and down, and so that’s the movements that we practice at round number nine.

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10) Round number ten is more now we’re trying to work about moving your opponent around which is what I call opponent manipulation. So now you’re going to be moving around a medicine ball or a sand bell which is a big bag of sand. For me, I use about 20 pounds on either one of those for the medicine ball or the sand bell.

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Women, when they do the workout, it’s either around six to ten pounds that they’re throwing around. I say throwing which is way different than lifting, rowing, or pressing. It’s throwing, twisting, and swinging is what we do in round number ten.

So those are in my eyes, those are the ten different types of core movements that we see in fighting.

I separate the ten. I make sure that we’re able to get balance in the body and activate all the different types of core movements in all the different types of core muscles, in the ones that move the core more importantly because that’s what works in fighting.

That’s what works in sport. That’s what makes us human is the core movement.

So that’s what I base the entire workout off of, is moving like a human and moving your core, as dynamically as possible.

Article Notes

  • About Nate: Nathan Gregory Moore is an American mixed martial artist, who is perhaps best known for his four-fight stint with now defunct promotion Strikeforce, going 2-2 in the promotion
  • For more information on Nate Moore, please go to his website or follow him on Instagram
  • For the next part of this interview and podcast, please stay up to date here