‘Out of Camp’ Strength Training for MMA – 5 Things to Consider When You Don’t Have a Fight Scheduled

By Phil Daru 

No fight scheduled...no problem!  Working hard and staying consistent is essential for mma fighters. If you want to succeed in MMA, then developing consistent habits is not an option. Being a fighter is not just about striking, and grappling it’s about having the mental fortitude to prepare day in and day out all year round. The problem is most fighters and coaches really do not know how to go about formulating a plan when they aren't in camp.

MMA Training

So How Do You Train Out of Camp?

Pillar 1: BUILD A BASE

BUILD A BASE MMA TrainingHow tall is a pyramid?  Simply put you must structure a program when you are not getting ready for a particular fight to lay the foundation. A pyramid is only as wide as it’s base, so we must set the groundwork first in order to achieve high amounts of stimulus to carry over into fight camp. This is the time where training should be overly hard creating what we call functional overreaching, and maximum recoverable volume. MMA strength training to maximize our fitness, and general overall work capacity. When the body is set to a higher volume, frequency, and intensity structurally they will began to have physiological, and biological adaptations. This is good, we want this to happen, you want to be physically capable of going through in entire camp seemingly unphased by the stresses that are put upon yourself. Once camp has begun we want to already be set to hit the ground running, take aim at the overall goal and not have to get in shape in the beginning of camp. This will allow you to fully dial in on tactical skill work and fine tune your biomechanics, energy expenditure, and strength quality needed in a fight.


PERIODIZATION MMA TrainingThe structured approach...I usually like to formulate a 6-12 week out of camp program for all of my fighters especially if they are coming off a hard training camp. I want to make sure we are fully taking advantage of the time off with good build to achieving our desired adaptations when going into another camp. This is especially true for my fighters that leave to go back home and are not under my watchful eye every day. This allows me to fully keep a close look at their training and how they are progressing even when I’m not around. In the beginning of the program after they have taken a week or two off after a fight (depending on injury or not) I start with an accumulator phase this may last for 1-2 two weeks depending on how out of shape they are. Each day is focused on full body movements, squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, and core work. This will be for 3-4 days a week primarily with aerobic work on the days off of weight training or on drilling days. I’m looking to build up work capacity so yes soreness is normal just make sure to adequately recover by means of active release treatment (Massage, Graston, ART, Sauna, Cold Bath, etc.) to keep you training hard and with good quality frequency.

The first microcycle may look like this..

  • Monday: Full body: hypertrophy |strength endurance | core stability
  • Tuesday: Aerobic training | motor control | drilling | pad work
  • Wednesday: Full body: hypertrophy | strength endurance | core stability
  • Thursday: Aerobic training | anti rotational stability | light sparring (before)
  • Friday: Full body: hypertrophy | strength endurance | core stability
  • Saturday: live drilling | pad work
  • Sunday: OFF

This will lead into the following week of intensification, then into realization subsequently going into a slight deload. With every microcycle keeping it frequency fairly high volume moderately high and intensity some what low we are able to push the overall work capacity to a all time high. A full out of camp program should always end with a deload week leading into camp to better facilitate metabolic pathways and overall super compensation.


high reward exercises  TrainingIt’s all about the intent...I’m not too big on varying exercises too frequently for mma athletes because most of the time they are novices when it comes to wait training. So In order for us to get a stimulus adaptation exercise must be performed with good intent for at least 3 weeks long. Now with that being said variation is important, but it doesn’t always have to be about just the exercise. Changing tempo, rest periods, adding bands/chains are all good ways to vary your exercises but still keep it to where they are producing adaptive qualities. Another go to of mine is sled pulls, prowler pushes for distance, farmers carry, sandbag carry, and up hill running and jumping. These are very low risk high reward exercises and drills that can build up a foundation of not only strength but aerobic capacity as well.


BUILDING CARDIO TrainingStart slow... Now I know I’m gonna get some slack for this from my earlier articles on how I’m against long distance conditioning for building up Aerobic capacity. But let me reiterate I do believe in working on volume of aerobic work were building up Vo2 is the main focus. In the case of out of camp training this is perfect. Because we want to initiate work capacity keeping lower intensity higher volume style of aerobic mma strength training would give us stimulus we are looking for from an energy source perspective. Let’s face it boxers and wrestlers have been doing road work for years, and as long as it’s put in at the right times I see no problem with it especially out of fight camp.


structured plan MMA TrainingIt’s not rocket science... The main focus of an out of camp program is to develop some fitness. General physical preparedness mma strength training with a sole focus to get your body and mind ready to go 8 full weeks while reducing the risk of injury and maximizing our overall performance potential! Keep it safe and simple, work efficiently and effectively. Have a structured plan that works towards phase potentiation and stimulus adaptability. Lastly have fun with it do some new exercises that are going to be effective but interesting keeping you from developing staleness in your program.

mma strength training consistently outside of your training camps is essential for every fighter.   Using these pillars correctly will give you a massive advantage over the competition..and, as  stated earlier, these habits will build a foundation for the more intense work that needs to be done during a fight camp.


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