If you have any interest in martial arts, you probably already know that taking hits is a major part of many sports that can be painful if you do not prepare for it properly. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a thrilling sport, but it also requires a lot of practice and training so that you can avoid injury.
Martial artists can train their bodies to take more hits through a variety of strategies that involve strengthening muscles, relaxing their bodies and minds, and developing a reliable routine. For each of these strategies, there are exercises that fighters can do to make sure they are prepared before they enter the ring.
Whether you are an established MMA fighter or just starting in the sport, taking hits can be an intimidating prospect. However, with proper conditioning and lots of practice, you will find a way to roll with the punches and avoid any serious injuries that may occur. Keep reading to learn some of the best techniques to condition your body for the hazards of the ring.
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How Can I Become Better Conditioned to Take MMA Hits?
In the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, fighters often have to deal with punches, kicks, and other forms of attacks from their opponent. These are known as hits. While there is no way to completely avoid hits from your opponent, there are certainly ways to improve your physical and mental condition so you will stay safe and minimize the damage that hits may cause. The best ways include practice and training.
If you are just starting with MMA, the prospect of these hits may be daunting. Do not be too concerned. MMA is an exhilarating sport that will train you to be a better athlete and fighter. MMA is a combination sport that includes techniques from the following sports:
- Ancient martial arts
Because of the variety of influences that take place within the sport, MMA is known to be very complex. A good MMA fighter will have to be prepared to take on the variety of hits that are allowed in a typical fight. As mentioned before, practice and training are essential to this capability. The following sections will outline specific strategies that you can use to get your body in peak condition for any hits that may come your way.
Strengthen Your Muscles
MMA is a physically demanding sport, and competitive fighters need to be in good shape to stand a chance in the ring. Before you take on difficult opponents and hits, make sure that you are in good physical condition.
Before entering a match, you should focus on building strength in the most key areas of your body.
Do Not Skip Leg Day
Your base is typically a combination of leg and core strength. Any time you are in the ring, you will need to be able to count on these parts of your body to stay strong and keep you upright. Most of the time, you will not get directly hit in your legs, and if you do it will probably not hurt as much as other key areas such as the jaw or abdomen.
However, keeping your legs in good condition is key to giving you a solid foundation from which you can stay agile and dodge or absorb hits. If you receive a hard hit, your legs may feel weak. Staying in good shape in this key area will help you stay upright and keep fighting even after an intimidating strike.
As you develop a fitness routine, make sure you are not overlooking leg conditioning. Dedicate some time in each workout to focus on leg strength. Leg strength may be developed through the following strategies:
- Running or stair climbing
- Resistance training
It may seem like your arms and core are the most important tools you have in the ring, but this is not true. Your legs will keep you upright and make sure that you can keep on fighting, no matter what.
Keep Your Neck Strong
Blows to the face or chin can be some of the most painful hits you can take. They can also result in the most injuries, as bones in the face can be very fragile and prone to breakage or bleeding. Before you get in the ring, know that neck strength is a huge part of absorbing blows that may fall on your face or jaw. Your neck is home to several crucial muscles that should not be overlooked during your fighting preparation.
Research some popular neck muscle exercises. Consider investing in weights and specialized harnesses that will make it much easier to give focused strength-building attention to these muscles. Remember to always do approved exercises or consult a knowledgeable trainer before using weights for your neck. Without safety precautions, you may end up causing damage to your neck and spine.
Not only can your neck keep you from damaging your face externally, but it can also protect you from potential head injuries, such as concussions, that can result from MMA fighting. The importance of neck strength in taking hits cannot be stressed enough. Keep neck exercises a central part of your training routine.
Work on Your Core
Abdominal muscles are typically targets of punches and kicks in the MMA ring, and they can be the only barrier between your opponent and some of your most vital organs.
To protect yourself from pain and injury, make sure that your core is strong. Having a strong core will also contribute to the following factors:
- Attack power
Your core is the center of your body and it contributes to the base from which all of your attacks are powered. Additionally, a strong core can be key in helping you stay in the ring even when your opponent lands a powerful hit. Do core exercises every single day to keep your muscles strong and toned. Work on all of the muscles in your core for best results instead of just focusing on one area.
Nothing can be more intimidating than seeing your opponent’s fist traveling toward your face. When you see this happening, it can be very tempting to shrink away or attempt to dodge it. While dodging hits is a very useful tactic, you cannot reasonably expect to dodge all of them. If an unavoidable hit comes your way, knowing how to brace for it will be your biggest asset.
Bracing yourself successfully consists of the following features:
- Tightening: contracting or clenching the muscles in the area that will be hit will add a layer of protection. For instance, if a punch is directed toward your abdomen, tighten your abdominal muscles to reduce pain and minimize the risk of internal damage.
- Breathe out: Exhaling when you take a hit will make your muscles tighter and will reduce the likelihood that you will be winded and face the unpleasant sensation of not being able to catch your breath.
- Activate your base: Stay grounded when you see a hit coming, and activate those leg and core muscles that are so crucial to keeping you upright. Even if you are not being hit anywhere near this area, it will keep you on your feet and ready to stay engaged in the fight.
Bracing yourself takes some practice, but it will save you a lot of pain in the ring and increase your chances of a successful fight.
Training for Bracing
When you are in the adrenaline-filled moments of a fight, it may seem impossible to remember how to successfully brace yourself. For this reason, it is necessary to practice until it becomes an instinctive skill.
Ask your gym partner to hit your stomach with a medicine ball so you can practice bracing. Start softly, and work your way up to realistic-feeling hits. Sparring practice can also be integral to this. Ask a trainer or partner to work on hits with you, aiming for popular hit areas and critiquing your bracing technique. Before you know it, you will develop a skillful brace instinct.
Learn to Stay Loose
Being relaxed in the ring does not mean letting your guard down. When your muscles are loose and your mind is attentive, you can respond to hits and keep your body in the fight. Staying loose is usually both a mental and physical feat, and both will require training to do it instinctually.
Teaching Your Body to “Flow”
Absorbing a punch or hit usually means moving with it. For example, if you move as you get punched in the jaw, you will reduce the impact of the hit and therefore the pain. “Flowing” is considered an advanced capability, so you will probably need to do lots of practice before you fully master it.
The best way to work on a relaxed physical response is through sparring practice. Set up a routine with a partner where you can work on your flow in a low-stakes environment. Do not be discouraged if your technique is not perfect. Having a base is essential to success in the ring when the time comes.
Learning to Relax
Taking on a hit is nearly as much of a mental battle as it is a physical one. Nerves can be a huge factor in causing you to tense up and absorb hits less successfully.
Practice your mental relaxation using the following strategies:
- Take deep breaths: Before a fight or sparring match, work on your ability to breathe deeply. This will increase your oxygen flow, making you more alert. It will also calm you down significantly.
- Set a goal: Sometimes, repeating a mantra or having a clear goal in mind will enhance your relaxation and give you something to focus on instead of your nerves.
- Learn to meditate: Spending some time meditating before a fight or sparring match will do wonders for your nerves. Download a meditation app or just take a few moments of stillness to close your eyes and clear your thoughts.
When you are mentally relaxed, you will become physically relaxed, too. Your mind has a tremendous influence on your body, and you will need to have a clear and focused mind to better absorb hits.
Develop a Routine
Conditioning requires practice, and there is no way to consistently practice unless you have a routine in place that you follow closely.
Developing an airtight routine is easiest when you do the following things:
- Get in touch with a trainer: Experts will be able to help you set a weekly routine and also guide you through exercises that will help you fight better and take on hits. Reach out to an MMA trainer in your area to get you started.
- Reserve gym time: Some gyms will require you to reserve ring time for practicing and sparring. Look at the regulations for the gyms in your area. Reserve a ring for when you need it and set up a repeating schedule. If you are sparring with a partner, make sure your gym time works for both of you.
- Get motivated: You will be a better fighter and more likely to practice hard if you have a goal in mind. Your goal can be small or large, but be sure to set something that is attainable and will keep you inspired.
When you have a routine, you will become a better fighter who can take hits and roll with the punches. It may take some time to develop the perfect routine, but when you do, you will notice a serious improvement in your performance.
MMA fighting requires discipline and toughness to absorb hits and keep going even when you are tired or in pain. Fortunately, many strategies will help improve your body condition so you can take hits and keep fighting.
As you practice and train, remind yourself that all things take time. MMA is a difficult sport, and you will need to invest a lot of time and energy in becoming a skilled fighter. With some grit and dedication, you will be winning your fights before you know it.