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The Best MMA Cardio Workout

Prepare to go the distance in this five-round MMA conditioning circuit.
Beth Bischoff

It’s probably best that you leave mixed martial arts fighting to the professionals in the UFC and watch it from the safety of your couch (behind the bag of Fritos). But there’s no reason you can’t train like a fighter to lose fat and build your wind. The following is a pretty good simulation of an MMA fight—you know, without the foot about to land upside your head.

The workout lasts approximately as long as a real championship MMA fight: five rounds. In those rounds you’ll perform a little of nearly every kind of exercise that fighters use to prepare for battle, from jumping rope to bodyweight circuits to combinations on the heavy bag. Use it to get in fighting shape, and then watch the real fights from the safety of your couch.

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Follow the instructions for the five rounds.




Warmup: 3 Minutes Total Work
Jump rope for three minutes; rest 90 seconds.

4 Minutes Total Work
Shadowbox for two minutes. Then perform the circuit of exercises for two more minutes:
Stay light on your feet and throw jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts at an imaginary opponent. Keep your hands up.
Bodyweight Squat
Stand with feet shoulder width and toes turned slightly out. Bend your hips back and squat as low as you can. Aim for 20 reps.
Perform conventional pushups, aiming for 20 reps.
Get into pushup position and then bend your elbows so your forearms lie flat on the floor. Brace your abs and hold the position until the end of two minutes.

5 Minutes Total Work
Perform the following combinations on the heavy bag and then jump rope for the remainder of five minutes.
50 jabs
50 crosses
50 jabs and crosses
25 jabs, crosses, and hooks
Jump rope

5 Minutes Total Work
Perform the following combinations on a heavy bag and then jump rope for the remainder of five minutes. 
Alternating knee strikes
Duration: 60 seconds 
Alternating kicks
60 seconds 
50 jabs and kicks
50 crosses and kicks
Jump rope

5 Minutes Total Work
Perform the following grappling drills on the floor for five minutes:
10 Forward rolls
10 Backward rolls
100 Situps
Ground and pound

(place a heavy bag or shield on the floor; mount, and strike it)
15 Pushups
Jump rope

Men's Fitness training director Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., assembled a team of the best trainers in the world to create boredom-beating, plateau-busting routines that cover any amount of time you have to exercise and whatever tools you have available to do it. Programs cover every body part, every implement (barbells, dumbbells, bands, etc.), and cardio. There's a nutrition plan, too.

Pick up what Arnold Schwarzenegger called "a fantastic collection of workouts" at

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