Include a dynamic warm-up into your routine to ensure you are properly preparing your body for battle. In this 6-part series, I will briefly explain the essential pieces that comprise a complete strength and conditioning program for a MMA athlete.

The six components are:

  1. 1. Dynamic Warm-Up
  2. 2. Explosive Movements
  3. 3. MMA-Specific Resistance Training
  4. 4. Flexibility
  5. 5. Energy System Development
  6. 6. Regeneration Time

While we may not include all six components into every single session, they are the foundation for our complete 8 to 10 week camp.

First up is the dynamic warm-up. There is controversy out there as to whether or not a dynamic warm-up is really necessary for clients and athletes. While I agree a 30 minute “warm-up” is probably overkill and a 2 minute pedal on the recumbent bike is a waste of time; I am in favor of warm ups and will continue to include them in every one of my sessions.

The term “warm-up” goes by many names – “mobility prep”, “stretching”, “integrated flexibility training”, “pre-hab”, etc. They all take place at the beginning of your workout with the hopes of priming your body for the rest of the routine. For the majority of clients, I feel a complete well-designed dynamic warm-up shouldn’t take any more than 10 minutes to complete.

Why Include a Dynamic Warm Up?
Generally speaking, the purpose of the warm up is to “prepare” the body for what’s to come…to have it ready to roll for the rest of the workout. While the entire body is covered in this phase, I really like to target three primary areas – the shoulders & thoracic spine, the hips & glutes, and the foot & ankle complex. If we can get these areas of the body active, mobile, and strong, then we are on our way to an efficient and productive training session.

Additional key reasons to prepare the body with a sound warm up routine include:

  • Injury prevention
  • Improve blood circulation throughout the body
  • Boost core body and tissue temperature
  • Increase ROM (range of motion)/flexibility
  • Neuromuscular stimulation
  • Improved proprioception and coordination

Importance of DWU for MMA Athletes
I believe it is important to gear your warm-up specifically to your sport. Sure, just about every athlete is going to benefit from jumping jacks and bird-dogs; I just make sure to include MMA-specific movements in as well to ensure the body will be optimally prepped. These athletes endure enough bodily damage with all the other training they do during the week so I feel this component is a great way for them to “work out the kinks” and focus on any muscular imbalances created by their daily grind.

We stay away from static stretching during our warm-ups, choosing to save our static flexibility work to the end of the workout (which will be discussed in an upcoming segment). The warm-ups we use are typically divided up into four sections. Below is a series of quick clips showing you some of my favorite movements for each section.

1. Foam Rolling
This quick clip shows us focusing on the lower body and back/thoracic spine. For the leg movements – IT band, quads, adductors, hamstrings, and calves, I recommend staying on each area for 20-30 seconds. Feel free to give a little extra love to any areas that may be tighter. Calves typically are tight on fighters since they are constantly bouncing up on the balls of their feet for all the stand up work they do. For the side-lying movements, openers and circles, perform 6-8 movements per side.

2. Movement (line drills)
This quick clip shows some of the “line drills” that we typically run through in our warm up. We have a ton of line drills moves; I usually use 8-10 per workout and try to mix them up fairly regularly to keep it fresh for the guys. Each movement is completed for 30-40 yards.

3. In Place (jumping jacks, sit-outs, etc.)
Like the line drills, we have a number of drills that we incorporate into this section. This clip shows a couple of our more common movements. We perform 1 set of every exercise and complete anywhere from 8-20 repetitions depending on the exercise.

4. Joint Integrity
It’s very important to develop the stabilizing muscles around your joints. Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to focus on the shoulder, hips, and ankles in this section. This quick clip focuses on the shoulder joint. Perform each exercise for 20 reps.

I like the guys to have elevated heart rates and a good sweat going without their muscles being fatigued. Once we’ve achieved this, we are ready to move on to the next phase of our training program.

About Doug
Doug Balzarini is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in Chula Vista, CA. He is also the founder of, which provides fitness-related articles and education. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 for 6 ½ years as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, obtained an ACE Personal Trainer certification, the NSCA-CSCS certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and received his CPR/AED instructor status. He has also appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness articles, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.

Prior to working at Fitness Quest 10, Doug worked for the American Council on Exercise as the Continuing Education Coordinator where he was responsible for managing over 400 continuing education providers.

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