Circuit Training For Mixed Martial Artists

Circuit training is a great form of exercise to acquaint yourself with if you plan to compete in mixed martial arts. It allows you to work on strength and cardio at the same time. In addition to that, circuit training has the potential to burn an amazing amount of calories, so if you are looking to drop some weight these are the exercises for you.

What is Circuit training?

Circuit training is a form of conditioning in which you string together a number of exercises completing one after another without rest or with minimal rest. The exercises that you string together form what is called the circuit.

How to do it.

There is a huge amount of room for creativity when it comes to creating a circuit. You can vary the overall length of time, the time spent on each exercise, the time in between exercises, what exercises you use, how much weight you use (if you are using weights), etc.

Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider when creating a circuit training program to improve performance in MMA.

  • Time length – This one is pretty easy. You will usually want to try to mimic the length of time you will spend fighting and resting during a mma fight. For example, if you have a 3 round fight with each round lasting 5 minutes with 1 minute rest in between, then you would want to create a circuit that uses those times. Of course there are instances that you may not want to do it exactly that way. For instance you may want to increase the intensity of the workout beyond what you will experience in the fight e.g. less rest and longer periods of activity.
  • Exercises – Well, I’m a big fan of exercises that use large muscle groups, since that is usually what you use in a fight. Think pull ups, push ups, bent over rows, and squats. Not exercises that isolate one part of the body like one arm bicep curls, calf extensions and tricep extensions. Also try to make the exercises as sport specific as you can. For instance, rather than doing squats, grab a partner and practice shooting in for a double leg, then pick him all the way off the ground, then repeat. You can replace wind sprints with an intense round of kicking the thai pads. That being said, you can pretty much use any exercise you want in your circuit providing it is safe and will push you in the direction of your goal.
  • How often? – This is not an easy question to answer because it will vary from person to person. But it’s definitely an important one to ask so that you can prevent over or under training. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get a better idea of how often you should be trying to fit this into your routine.
    • Am I gearing up for a fight or just trying to maintain the fitness level I already have?
    • How intense is the other training I am currently doing?
    • Have I recently had a fight and need to recover?
    • How intense is the circuit I created?

    The answers to those questions will hopefully give you an idea of how often to implement circuit training into you conditioning program. Other than that, just make sure you listen to your coach, he is there to monitor your training and make sure you neither over nor under train.

No good article on circuit training would be complete without a demonstration. So I will turn it over to Randy “The Natural” Couture to give us a demo of a circuit.

Randy “The Natural” Couture Circuit Training


In mixed martial arts we usually see the more conditioned athlete with his or her hand raised at the end of the fight. Rarely do we see it the other way around. This being the case, if we want to be in the winners spot it’s our job to show up in the best shape we can. Circuit training gives us a great opportunity to improve both strength and cardio so that we can take not one, but two steps closer to being the more conditioned of the two athletes that step into the ring.

  1. CDEI December 12, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Would you please repost the Randy Couture video? I just watched it this morning, but didn’t get a chance to write down the routine. I want to incorporate it into my workouts.


  2. CDEI December 12, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Strange! It’s back up. Thanks!

  3. Yavuz GÜLSOY December 16, 2007 at 8:35 am

    To those who built this site,

    Thank you very much for investing your time and energy on building such a useful and comprehensive web-site on MMA training. It seems that you have spend great effort to do this. I, a fan of MMA and an amateur practitioner of thsi wonderful ‘way of life,’ just wanted to say how much I appreciated this site. thanx again, and good luck!

  4. Need help December 20, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Hey guys I need some help with the mma program. I’m 18, 5″6, and 128lbs. I don’t know what weight class I would be considered in, but I need some help. I trying to get started and stick with it. I have my own orginized sport just like the ufc, but mine is made out of water hose and landscaping timbers.

  5. Guy December 22, 2007 at 5:58 am

    If you weigh 128 lbs. and you’re looking to compete in MMA, I suggest either looking at some of the lower weight classes (featherweight starts at 145 lbs. and bantamweight starts at 135 lbs.) but you’re better off going to a higher weight class like lightweight (155) or welterweight (170) since organizations that do anything below lightweight are much harder to come by. First, make sure you’re serious about competing and know who you’ll have as your trainers and when you’re ready to commit to a weight class, talk to a nutritionist about a diet plan to get you to that weight.

  6. Keith December 23, 2007 at 2:01 am

    Need Help:

    You would be considered a featherweight. I don’t know what the rest of your post means.

  7. Sam Sampsonite December 28, 2007 at 2:10 pm


  8. Tamara Bell December 30, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    The video is great, however would he really do about 3 or 4 sets of that, with any rest in there? That kinda just seemed like it would be a bonus workout for him.

  9. Bama Black Belt December 30, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Just wanted to thank ya’ll for posting the Randy video. We do this as part of our team workouts and have seen good results. thanks for all the help

  10. MMA Trainee December 31, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks alot for the video! Helps alot! Made me more mentally and phyically stonger

  11. Tweaker January 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    @Need help: Well, your most likely a Bantamweight right now. Biggest tip on the mma training program, create a program that emphasizes full-body work-out for now. From you body mass index, you might want to get at least up to 140+ lbs, so train hard! ^^

  12. BIG MIKE January 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I have been using the couture workout for 2 months now and, it is incredible the changes in strength that i have.

  13. MMAISMYGAME January 6, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    how often do you do his routine?

  14. durty January 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    NUTRITION NUTRITION NUTRITION!!! If you didn’t get that the first 3 times…NUTRITION NUTRITION NUTRITION!!! If you don’t know, the most important part of NUTRITION is “U.”
    Your best weapon in pursuit of MMA greatness (or greatness in any sport) is your nutrition. This all depends on you, of course. You must be willing to dedicate yourself to the measures it takes to be great in any sport in which you compete.
    Conditioning is great and should never be overlooked. Strength training should never be overlooked. Nor should your time on the mat, in the ring or on the mat be overlooked.
    You need to gain weight, no getting around that. Most fighters that compete at 135 are 155, most at 145 are 165, and so on. This should be a general guideline. You need to be strong enough to compete with natural strength. For this, concentrate on the main lifts, Bench, Squat and Dead. Also, cleans, lunges, and rows are equally essential.
    Don’t forget those basic movements in all human activity, workout with tire-flips, rope climbs and pushups every chance you get.
    In all, do everything you can to strengthen your entire body. But ensure your body is well fueled to handle the punishment you choose to dish out. Be a monster, and all is yours. Semper Fi.

  15. Brian January 8, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Hey iam 18, iam 6’2 and weigh 172 lbs is this a good weight or decent size to compete at?, i am really interested in competing in MMA

  16. Brandon January 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Watching the video I thought that wasn’t really a big deal. I’ve been training for about 6 months now and considered myself to be in (at least) decent shape. Holy mother of god… that kicked by ass

    Appreciate the video guys.

  17. Guy January 26, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    That’s a good weight/height. Since you’re young, you have lots of time to train in whatever martial arts you want to incorporate into your style. 6’2″ is a good height, and at your weight you’d either be looking at fighting at Welterweight (170 lbs.) or, more probably, cutting weight before your fights at Lightweight (155 lbs.)

  18. Feared by All January 31, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Ive discovered, while doing circuit training, get a good thick belt and wrap it around your chest just at nipple level. Tighten with yer lungs half full, than do yer workout. After about 2 months, youll notice u have alot more wind during fights… This is an old cambodian pradal serey trick.

  19. Brian February 6, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    i was wondering what a good mix would be for a starting up mma experience. I am 6′ 1″ 167 lbs and i have some experience in taekwondo, a little clinch and a little grappling experience, any tips?

  20. Brian February 6, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    and 17, sorry about that

  21. travis0103 February 13, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    i’m just starting back into everything and hope this will break me down and lift me backup, check me out in three weeks.

    Thank guys

  22. craig February 14, 2008 at 10:39 am

    don’t worry about what weight class you would fight at especially if you are new to mma training. It takes years to prepare yourself technically and your weight is likely to change throughout training. When and if you are eventually ready to fight, there will be a weight class suitable for you.

  23. Mario February 29, 2008 at 4:22 am

    Hey! I’m 17, 5’22” (170cm) and 141 lbs (64kg),
    Last time I checked I had a fat % of 10,9.
    I started practicing ultimate full contact (vale-tudo) 2 months now, after 5 years of karate, shotokan style.
    I wonder if I should try to increase my weight? I thought that it would probably be good to raise it to 158 lbs. Any opinion? Thnks.

  24. David March 3, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Hey,I’m a huge MMA fan and was interested on how to get started.I’m 19, 5’8 165 give or take a few beers.I played baseball all 4 years of high school and a year in college.I’ve been in a few street fights,but that is all my hands on experience so far.I’m mainly wanting to do this for self-defense and just believe it will be awesome to be able to do all of this.What are the first few steps should i take?

  25. Thomas March 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    He would have rests. Probably only a minute rest and five sets of those. Its an anaerobic workout and that means it’s pushing your body to the limit, letting it recover, and you do it again, and again.

  26. Richard March 10, 2008 at 9:19 am

    i’m 18 5’6″ and when i started training 2 years ago i was 145 pounds with 10% body fat. i didn’t lift that much cause i wanted to stay around 145 and 150 but now i am 170 pounds with around the same body fat % does anyone have any tips on getting back down to a lower weight but still cutting the least amount of muscle as possible? thanks

  27. brian March 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Any other circuit training videos?

  28. Owen April 3, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Hey, here’s another placement question. I’m about 5’8″, 160 pounds (about 4% body fat) and I’ve been practicing this sport for about a year. What weight class would you say I’d be best suited to compete in?

  29. Ben April 20, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I love this vid gonna start it this week. i will shoot for it twice this week with the 25’s along with cardio. im 6’0 260lbs i used to do the fake wrestling but the past month have learned a little on my own in the way of mma. also i live in indiana if anyone out there is close to the southeren half please let me know if you train and can assist me in my training as well as your own. by the way im 30 and can travel for sure occasions. later and thanks.-ben

  30. chris April 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Richard. Most fighters cut about 10 to 15 pounds prior to a fight. Ever watch a fight and they say the guy is 170 pounds and your like,”Damn, that guy is big for 170.” That’s because he’s probably actually 185. That said, if you want to get drop down a weight class, cut back on the weights some. Your workouts should be more focused on things like plyometrics (just use your own body weight for resistance). Take a look at what your eating too. Cut 300-500 calories from your diet. You’ll lose some muscle, but with your low body fat percentage that is where most of your weight is.

  31. mormma April 23, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    i was wonderng if anyone here could eplain how to do a triangle from guard?

  32. Ben April 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Hey,I’m 18 6’2 and weigh about 153.Idk my bodyfat percentage, butim trying to get into mma. I heard my body type was good for it b/c i weigh so little and am tall, allowing for a versatile kick.Anyway, i was wondering some exercises i could do to not gain weight, but gain strength. That weigh i could stay in lightweight. This video looked like a good idea, butdo u have anymore exercises/tips?

  33. Ryan May 5, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Great article, guys.

  34. Mark May 11, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Ben and anyone else looking to get into mma. Find a gym that trains mma in your area, and go there and train. They will tell you all you need to know. You won’t learn how to train or fight just by going online and looking up training vids and taking advice from people who post about various articles. Go and DO!

  35. frank May 14, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    i like the workout but i feel like it isn’t enough can anyone comment on whether it is or isn’t

  36. Jacob May 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I hear all you guys talking about getting into mma and how to get into it go to your local mma gym or if you dont have one get some buddies togethere and get some focus mits and train on your own it works, but it is not the greatest.

  37. COREY May 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Great video! I have a question if anyone is interested. I’m about 6’2 at 245 lb and 24 years old. I am in the process of dropping 40lb. i was turned on toWECout 6 months ago. Every since i watched my first bout i gained a strong intrest in the sport. I do not have any skills but i want to train and see about fighting MMA. My Qestion is, Is it to late for me to start now or am i waisting my time since i don’t have any skills so far?

  38. rob May 28, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    you just have to double click the play

  39. chris June 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    damn, i’m 14 and i can’t find any organized fighting programs/organizations and such, know of any???????? . . . i guess i’ll just have to wait until i’m old like all you peeps.

  40. holpop June 7, 2008 at 4:10 am

    im 6’3 187 pounds and regualy compeat in mma will this workout make me lose weight

  41. holpop June 7, 2008 at 4:11 am

    oh im 14 by the way

  42. Chris June 9, 2008 at 6:54 am

    This is great article I’ve been doing wrestling for a couple of,years and am just now getting into M.M.A. So I’ve been doing heavier training but noticed I wasn’t punching as fast as circuit trainers.

  43. mma June 9, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Great article , The more you bleed in training the less you bleed in combat!

  44. Andrew June 25, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Well im 16 and im 5’9 and im tryin to be a mma fighter im 212 and um i was wondering i know boxing,and some sumissons,but i need extra help and hope you can help me i need to get my hands harder as in hurt more any tips

  45. Brendan G July 4, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I was wondering what woulld be a good ratio of weight trainning : cardio : circuit to get in the best all round shape ???

  46. johnny July 6, 2008 at 1:24 am

    hey i am a freshman in highschool(15) im 5′ 11” and weight about 155 lbs i play football, wrestling(varsity) and thinking about going into mma. What kinds of fighting should i go into? (i was thinking muay thai kickboxing and brazilian jui jitsu)

  47. Davide July 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Great Site and article.

    I’m not an MMa practitioner, i am a student of okinawan goju ryu, a karate system that teach a way of fighting very close to mma but more self defense oriented, so it’s great to gather informations on sites like this, Thank you! 😉


  48. Heavy Hitter July 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Sup I am 25 years old 5’5 315 lbs and I am looking to begin training for MMA. First off I am just tryin to drop weight. I could fight in heavy weight but I think I would be more effective fighter at 205. I know my weakness is cardio, but I am no stranger to free weights. Any suggestions on what kind of circuit training I could use to drop to 205 safely and effectively?

  49. Phil July 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Hi i’m 17, 6’3″ and weigh about 165lbs. I’m looking to start taking mma seriously and was wondering if anyone knows of any other videos similar to this one so i have a bank of workouts. I practice Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Ju-jitsu, Wado-Ryu Karate, and judo. Thanks, Phil

  50. Travis July 28, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Im 5’10” 140 pounds.I still hve quite a bit of growing to do and weight to gain but im and great shape and i would push my self as far as possible during training. I guess im just really looking for a strtin this sport and i eed help getting it.

  51. timothy simmons August 9, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    I want to be as conditioned as Sean Sherk. I was wondering if there were other types of caveman traing regimens that any of you guys know of.


  52. Nate August 13, 2008 at 2:29 am

    So this can be my weight training? because I hate doing traditional 3 sets of 10 based workouts, I do them, but they are boring and I dont feel that they fully benefit me in grappling and what not.

    How often should I do this as well. Im 17 right now, 5′ 9-ish, and not currently fighting but am trying to take my strength and conditioning to a new level. how many days out of the week would be good for me.

  53. TabascoSAUCE August 22, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Great video. If you’re going into MMA, train like an athlete with maximum intenisty and explosive power. Don’t lift weights like a body builder focusing on a bicep, then a tricep, then a hamstring. Don’t work your muscles like a collection of individual body parts. You’ll see better conditioning gains training whole body, with multiple body movements as shown by Randy Couture.

    Also, if you’re new getting into MMA, I’d suggest finding a MMA school that doesn’t just train in all facets of MMA individually, but, incorporates each fighting style to link together. A school that teaches effective striking, that transitions to the clinch, that transitions to muay thai, that transitions to judo throws, that transitions to BJJ. That’s the kind of school you’re looking for.

    Btw…if you plan to compete, train in no-gi grappling/BJJ.

  54. i`m such a fat kid August 24, 2008 at 7:35 am

    hey, i have some experience in aikido, hapkido, judo, shotokahn, and about 6 years of tae kwon do, but i have gotten lazy over the past couple years and i am definitely out of shape. i am currently deployed and i`m trying to use the little bit of free time i have to get back in shape. i was wondering if anyone can tell me any good “quick” workouts that will help me burn excess fat…i`m not too worried about strength training or bulking up….just to get in shape enough to last 3 five minute rounds….i realize that no quick workout is going to do wonders but any advice would help

    thanks, shane

  55. treeeed August 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Hey, I am 17 years old and have been training MMA for 7 years. I am 5’11 165lbs. I have very good jujitsu and judo skills, and i have been working in Muay Thai for about 5 years. I train with my brother and one of my friends. The only thing is, i don’t live anywhere close to a gym and have trained myself from scratch. I haven’t used the internet to train, i just use what i see done in mma fights. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what may help me improve.

  56. u16's mma fighter August 31, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    hey man this is a great help. thank you for posting uve boosted my training. i can currently only complete the circuit if i use 35 pounds tho :P:P also, im 14 and have a black belt in jui jutsu and have done boxing and kickboxing for 2 years. i am currently looking to start in an under 15’s or under 16’s mma tounament im 6 foot 1 and 148 pounds, im mostly made of mucsle. i live in the u.k any heads up on tournaments or anything coming up?

  57. the saint September 3, 2008 at 9:20 am

    my first fight is in less than a month i have cut 29 lbs down to 205 done all the traing but still have weak lungs any advice! the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle thats my moto!

  58. reaper September 25, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    hey i love what you guys are doing with this website but im new to the mma scene and really dont have a clue where to get started im 6’5″ 217lbs and dont know how i should start out as far as weight class and conditioning cuz ill admit mma is a whole other world from amateur boxing think you guys could give me some tips cuz this is something im very serious about but have no help with getting started

  59. reaper September 25, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    im 21 by the way

  60. Auspex October 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    For the guys just looking to start out:

    Get in shape, if you think you’re in shape get in better shape. I’m not a MMA fighter, but I did fight NCAA Judo for a few years. I started doing circuit training about a decade ago and still haven’t found a better workout.

    Avoid lifting too heavy of weights. You shouldn’t be adding mass, just strength and endurance. Lotsa muscle requires more oxygen to function…watch guys like Sokoudju, he’s got some serious strength, but he’s fighting to breathe after 1 round.

    I like to add a min or two of medium intensity jogging at the end of each set, as well. And a punching bag and jump rope are also two of the best endurance exercises out there.

    Don’t worry too much about your weight, but be smart about your diet. For me, the best tool to losing weight was drinking less beer. It’s amazing how much that’ll add to ya. Also, slow down on your sugar and processed food intake.

  61. Tony October 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Hey I’m just about to start MMA I’m 16 5’8 135 and wanted to start getting in shape before i entered any classes can anyone help me out on what i should start doing

  62. Derek November 6, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    We use this workout and it’s awesome. We have labeled it “the Randy Workout.” We have added figure 8’s with a med ball and no rest in between sets. It’s aweful and awesome all at once.

  63. Derek November 7, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Hey, the saint.

    I hope that your first fight went well.

    I have been training in mixed martial arts for roughly 13 years and have done well in the fights that I have been involved in. In those years I have fought many demons including sports induced asthma and I can tell you that the workouts these guys are posting are fantastic.

    You have to involve strength training, endurance training and explosive training in a lot of your workouts. Check out this video on youtube which works in with what these guys are saying.

  64. Abnormal Fighter November 9, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Obviously the kind of this trainning (8x routine)should be repeated at least 3 times.
    It improves better force, explosive one,sure Coture knows what he´s doing but certainly he has at least routines of muscle resistance (15 to 20x routine) repeated at least 4 times or more.Muscle resistance is a must on MMA,cardio stuff also with explosive routines. Cycling can be a good alternative.
    All the best from PT,


  65. raffi k. November 16, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Thanks for the great video.

  66. Justin November 25, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I noticed that Randy was doing his deadlifts straight legged. That is bad for your back, even with low weight. You need to incorporate a squat motion into that.

  67. BOLT December 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    This helps alot thanks

  68. Dave December 24, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    hey my name is david i am 16 im 6ft. 140lbs. (tall and skinny) right now im training for boxing my first fight is next month, but to be honest i just cant wait to do some mma im training now with some good trainers at geronamo fight club in peoria illinois but you cant fight until your 18 there so im training my ass off until then

  69. Hurricane January 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I need some help fellas. I’m 6’2, 182, 17 years of age.I have 4% body fat. Ive been dedicated to karate all my life(3rd degree blackbelt, almost 4th!).. its not enough for me though, and looking to get into MMA…any suggestions for me. Also there arent any MMA gyms near me