why mma fighters don’t lift weights

why mma fighters don’t lift weights

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters are known for their impressive physical strength and agility. However, it may come as a surprise to some that many MMA fighters do not prioritize weightlifting in their training routines. This article aims to explore the reasons why MMA fighters often choose not to lift weights and how they achieve their remarkable physical condition through other means.

1. Functional Strength

One of the main reasons why MMA fighters avoid weightlifting is because they prioritize functional strength over pure muscle mass. MMA requires a combination of explosive power, speed, endurance, and flexibility. While weightlifting can build muscle mass, it may not necessarily translate into functional strength that is directly applicable to the dynamic movements and techniques required in MMA.

2. Injury Prevention

Weightlifting, especially heavy lifting, can put significant stress on joints and muscles, increasing the risk of injuries. MMA fighters often engage in intense training sessions that involve grappling, striking, and other high-impact movements. Prioritizing exercises that mimic these movements, such as bodyweight exercises and plyometrics, helps reduce the risk of injury and allows fighters to focus on improving their specific skills.

why mma fighters don't lift weights

3. Time Efficiency

MMA fighters have limited time to train and prepare for their fights. Unlike bodybuilders who spend hours in the gym solely focusing on weightlifting, MMA fighters need to allocate their time to various aspects of training, including technique drills, cardio, sparring, and recovery. By eliminating weightlifting from their routines, fighters can optimize their training time and focus on areas that directly contribute to their performance in the octagon.

4. Weight Management

MMA fighters compete in specific weight classes, and maintaining the right weight is crucial for their success. While weightlifting can lead to muscle gain, it can also result in an increase in overall body weight. Fighters often prefer to focus on exercises that help them improve their strength-to-weight ratio, such as bodyweight exercises and functional training, allowing them to maintain their desired weight class without unnecessary bulk.

5. Sport-Specific Training

MMA is a highly specialized sport that requires a diverse skill set. Fighters need to train in various disciplines, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing. Each of these disciplines has its own specific training methods and techniques that need to be mastered. Devoting time to sport-specific training allows fighters to refine their skills and improve their overall performance in the octagon.

6. Cardiovascular Conditioning

Cardiovascular endurance is crucial in MMA as fights can last for several rounds. Weightlifting, especially heavy lifting, can be taxing on the cardiovascular system, potentially impeding fighters’ ability to maintain a high level of endurance during fights. MMA fighters often prioritize cardiovascular conditioning through activities like running, cycling, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to improve their overall stamina.

7. Body Composition

MMA fighters aim to achieve a lean and athletic body composition rather than a bulky physique. Weightlifting can lead to muscle hypertrophy, which may not align with the desired aesthetic for MMA fighters. By focusing on exercises that promote functional strength and endurance, fighters can maintain a lean and agile physique that is better suited for their sport.

8. Injury Rehabilitation

MMA fighters often face injuries during their training or fights. In such cases, weightlifting may not be the most suitable form of exercise for rehabilitation. Instead, fighters may opt for exercises that aid in injury recovery and promote mobility, such as yoga, swimming, or physical therapy exercises. These activities can help fighters regain their strength and flexibility without putting excessive strain on injured areas.


MMA fighters have unique training requirements that differ from those of traditional weightlifters. While weightlifting can be beneficial for building muscle mass and overall strength, MMA fighters often prioritize functional strength, injury prevention, time efficiency, weight management, sport-specific training, cardiovascular conditioning, body composition, and injury rehabilitation. By focusing on these aspects, MMA fighters can optimize their training and achieve the physical condition necessary for success in the octagon.

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