Article by Coach Doug Balzarini

Want a rock solid mid-section? Get walking with these core exercises…

Both in my own personal workouts, and in the training programs of my professional athletes, walking movements have emerged as a staple. Not my overweight client, my beginning client, or my just coming off an injury client, but rather my elite UFC athletes. Of course, I’m not talking about a Sunday stroll while sipping on a Caramel Macchiato.

I love using circuits and complexes in my programming as they help build strength, endurance, promote fat loss, and are time-efficient. Circuit training has been around for years now, but adding walking to the mix has made it even better. For after you finish up a round of your circuit, what do you do next? Flip through a ‘Muscle & Fitness’ magazine? Watch 2 innings of the Red Sox game on TV? Check out the gal texting on the elliptical? No, you’re wasting your time!

Be productive and use those seconds or minutes after a circuit for “active rest”. I refer to active rest simply as, “the moments after exercise when the body is still working, but the heart rate is returning to its resting rate,” and I like using stretches, certain isometric exercises, mobility drills, and walking, as active rest examples.

Farmers Walk Core Workout

Just Walk? Not Exactly

When working with combat athletes, I incorporate walking drills into their routine using certain tools. After a challenging combination of kettlebell snatches and kettlebell swings, why not grip that bell and walk for 40 yards? It’s a great way to challenge grip strength, work the core musculature in a unilateral fashion, and allow the heart rate to recover at the same time.

With kettlebells, here are several walk variations I use frequently:

1. One arm suitcase carry
2. One in the rack position
3. One on the overhead position
4. Two suitcase (commonly called Farmer Walks)
5. Two in the rack position
6. Two overhead
7. Any variation of the 3 positions….1 bell in the rack and 1 overhead for example

Medicine Ball Examples

1. Overhead walks
2. One-arm overhead walk
3. Straight out in front of you (Frankenstein walk)
4. Explosive forward throw and walk

Miscellaneous Examples

1. Heavy dumbbell or barbell suitcase carry
2. Plate pinch carry
3. Trap bar walk
4. Heavy dummy carry
5. Crawls, hand-walk variations, jumps, lunges (I realize these aren’t really “walks,” but we still use them and I think they’re extremely valuable)

Dan John Loaded Walks

Give Walking A Chance

I love these walking variations because they improve grip strength, breath control, trunk stability, joint integrity, and mental toughness, all qualities essential to the sport of MMA.

It’s common during an MMA fight for there to be quick bursts of activity followed by longer periods of a slower, steadier, pace. You see a nice punch and kick combination followed by a 15-20 second clinch battle up on the cage. It’s during this longer exchange where you need to control your breathing, demonstrate superior grip strength, and maintain your mental toughness.

Here are a couple complexes I’m currently using:

A. One Kettlebell
1. Perform 6 KB snatches in right arm and then walk 20 yards in the overhead position. Repeat on left side.
2. Perform 6 KB cleans in right arm and walk 20 yards in rack position. Repeat on left side.
3. Perform 10 swings in right arm and walk 20 yards in suitcase position. Repeat on left side.

B. One Med Ball
1. Perform 10 MB diagonal chops and walk 20 yards with ball overhead.
2. Perform 10 scoop tosses and walk 20 yards with ball straight in front of you.
3. Perform 10 MB burpee throws and walk to ball.
4. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

C. Bodyweight
1. Perform 10 jump squats and lateral hand walk 20 yards.
2. Perform 10 pull-ups and bear crawl 20 yards.
3. Perform 10 jump lunges and lateral hand walk 20 yards.
4. Perform 20 pushups and bear crawl 20 yards.
5. Rest for 60-120 seconds and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.

Additional Benefits For The Non-MMA Athlete

1. Time efficient
This is a great way to get a full-body workout in. If pressed for time, grab a bell and perform a series of swings, cleans, and snatches followed by walk variations. Complete 5 rounds and you’ll be done (literally) in 15-20 minutes.

2. No gym?
If you don’t have a gym membership, pick up a medicine ball and head out to a local park for a great metabolic circuit of slams, throws, pushups, and overhead walks.

3. Incorporate into existing program
If you need a quick 5-minute finisher at the end of your strength training program, a kettlebell walking complex fits the bill.

Don’t most of these qualities discussed here apply to so many different sports beyond MMA? Tell me a sport where you don’t need a strong core or healthy joints. These are not MMA-specific goals. Which means regardless of your sport or hobby, including walking into your routine will aid your development as an athlete. So get out there and start…walking.

About the Author

Doug Balzarini is the founder of DB Strength, a company that provides personal training, sports performance coaching, nutritional services, and fitness/wellness education. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in San Diego, CA. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises. A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management for Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego, he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, and obtained multiple certifications/trainings including the NSCA – CSCS certification, ACE – Personal Trainer certification, MMA – Conditioning Coach certification, and TRX Instructor Training. He has appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness-related articles, has competed in multiple grappling tournaments, and produced his own 2-DVD set titled, “Strength & Conditioning for the Combat Athlete”. 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. For more information please visit