Cross-Training Options For MMA Fighters

(Dario Ayala / THE GAZETTE)

Being a fighter is all about focusing on and really honing your craft. It takes 24/7 dedication to become a professional MMA fighter, and it may feel sometimes like taking a day off is unacceptable. But many times being a pro means knowing when to rest, and when to put your focus elsewhere. Cross-training is a great way to expand your discipline, strength, and knowledge as a fighter, and here are some of the best ways to do it.

1. Skiing and Skating

You might be surprised to see these cold-weather activities at the top of the list, but there’s a good reason why many athletes enjoy hitting the slopes or the rink during the off-season. If you live in a colder climate, you might be at a loss for how to train in the winter without hours of monotony on the treadmill.

For athletes looking to increase their leg strength and practice their balance, ice skating and skiing are great hobbies to pick up. Ice skating requires intense activation of the core muscles, as well as strong ankle joints, and you can switch to roller skates once the warm weather comes back around. So invest in some wool jackets and get outside this winter for some extra fun cross-training.

2. Swimming

It’s no secret that swimmers are some of the all-around strongest athletes out there. As a workout, swimming has the benefits of cardio and resistance training all at once, without putting pressure on the joints. Older athletes find swimming to be a perfect cross-training workout because their battered knees and shoulders get a break from the harsh impact other workouts frequently have.

You can also work on your breath control and heart rate in the water, making you a more disciplined and mindful athlete. Plus, you won’t need any expensive equipment and you’ll be able to get a workout in even on that beach vacation. It’s best to find a program to follow with splits focusing on different areas of muscle, rather than just doing laps. 

3. Running

Running is an activity that most people either love or hate. But it has the benefit of being one of the most attainable forms of exercise out there, and effective in terms of getting your heart rate up and increasing your endurance. To make your run a workout and begin training towards a specific goal, try switching between various levels of effort between an easy jog and a full-out sprint. This will keep your heart rate elevated and will take a lot of strength to accomplish. Be aware that running can be tough on the joints, and should generally be replaced with another workout once the temperatures are soaring in the summertime.

4. Other

If you prefer a variety of activities, rather than sticking to one form of cross-training, there are lots of ways to mix up your routine. For instance, many athletes enjoy hiking on weekends, or when they’re having rest periods between tournaments. Depending on the difficulty of the hike, it can take serious agility skills, endurance, and balance to reach the top safely.

If you’re recovering from an injury or simply want to take it slow, yoga is a great option for staying strong while letting your body heal. Yoga may seem like a step above taking a nap, but it will prove a challenge for your core muscles and may just surprise you with how sore you are the next day. Plus, you’ll be increasing flexibility and giving your muscles a chance to recover. 

Lastly, some athletes enjoy taking on the challenge of joining a CrossFit gym for their off-season training. CrossFit has the advantage of being a group activity, which can help keep you motivated as you go through their rigorous training routine. This is a great option if you’re trying to improve all areas of strength with cross-training.

Whatever way you decide to cross-train, it’s guaranteed to improve you as a fighter and make you a more well-rounded athlete.


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