Part 2 of 3 – Developing Strong, Healthy Hips is Essential For MMA Fighters and other Combat Athletes

by Doug Balzarini


3-Part Series On Injury Prevention

Part 2: Importance of hips in MMA and Life

In part 2 of this 3-part series, I want to touch on the second area of the body that I really focus on with my MMA athletes, the hips & glutes. And, in case you missed part 1 about shoulder health, click here.

I’ve often called the hips and glutes, the “powerhouse” of the body. They, along with the rest of the core, comprise the “transfer station” of the body that is used to produce a lot of our power. Throwing that left hook or overhand right requires you to generate power from the ground, transfer it through the hips, glutes, and core, and then on to the fist to knockout your opponent.


Generally speaking, the glutes help with hip extension, rotation, abduction, and stabilization. Trust me when I tell you that these movements are crucial for MMA.  When we throw a punch, shoot for a takedown, throw a leg kick, clinch against the fence…I could go on and on and name just about every scenario involved in a MMA match; the glutes are involved. If you have mobile hips and strong glutes, then you’ll be that much more prepared for battle in the cage.

Most people think we punch with our fist, that’s only the case for inefficient strikers.

EMG research shows that elite punchers and kickers use a high percentage of their lower body to generate power into their striking. Like I mentioned above, push force into the ground with the lower body to generate force up into the upper body. Our bodies have muscle and myofascial slings (read Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers) that show how we are quite literally “connected” throughout our body…feet to legs to glutes to back to arm to hand. Develop some torque in the body to “unwind” and deliver powerful blows.

Get Strong

To get the glutes strong, I don’t use any secret, fancy MMA-specific drills…I use good old-fashioned strength training exercises. Why…because they work. All the guys I work with squat, deadlift, and bridge (Hip Thrusters). There are countless variations of these three main lifts and I highly recommend you incorporate them into your weekly routines. They are some of the best movements you can do for strengthening your backside.

Here’s a clip showing some of my favorite lower body exercises:

Proper Flow

Before you just go and start squatting and bridging, let’s make sure we have adequate range of motion in the appropriate areas. This clip I want to share isn’t so much on strength but rather on the mobility of the hip joint. Mobility is specific to a movement ‡ tissue length + neural control + joint architecture = mobility. I really think this is a critical piece in creating a strong, injury-resilient athlete. When performing a workout, this “mobility” piece comes early on in our sessions, mobilize the body first and then build stability and strength upon that new found range of motion.

Mobility ‡ Stability ‡ Strength ‡ Power/Skill

Check out Dr. Reiner’s clip on some unique mobility drills for the hip joint:


Once we have the hip joint mobile, I like to perform a few “activation” exercises.

These movements usually conclude the dynamic warm-up section of our training for the day. After the activation in complete, we will move on to the strength training, conditioning, or whatever else we have planned for the day.

Here’s a quick clip showing some of my favorite activation drills:

Booty Love

Clearly you can see my love for and the importance of the glutes. Mobilize the hip joint, activate the glutes, get them strong, and dominate the competition.

About Doug Balzarini

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TFW Level 1, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his 2 DVD projects on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” FOX TV show in 2012.

For more information please visit