A strong, stable core is a vital element in MMA sports. It’s through your core that force is transferred to your limbs to strike. If your core is weak,then your strikes will not deliver as powerful a blow. For instance, when you throw a punch, you plant your back foot and then rotate your hips which generate that planted force through your core and into your strike.
When your core is strong, it provides stability which translates into sustainable resistance to movement (both offensively and defensively). Core strength exercises are required in order to maximize core strength and stability. The goal is for the core muscles to contract and release with as little movement as possible. This can be likened to a tightly wound metal coil. The tighter the coil is wound, the more stable it becomes and the more power is exerted when released.
The following core exercises are designed to strengthen core stability and are best used in a circuit training program and executed several times a week for maximum benefits. Remember, the idea is to keep your core as stable (or stiff) as possible when moving your limbs.
This is an excellent exercise for not only strengthening your core muscles, but also to give you a gauge on just how strong (or weak) your core really is.
To complete this exercise, lay face down on the floor, resting your weight on your forearms and toes. Ensure your back remains perfectly straight and hold that position as long as you can. If your body begins to quiver before 60 seconds is up then your core needs some serious work. You should practice this strength training exercise until you can easily go a full minute and longer without any quivering whatsoever.
Note: You can also do this exercise from a pushup position. However, gravity places more of your body weight towards your feet because of the inclined position, so the best plank exercise is as originally described.
From a pushup position and clutching a dumbbell in each hand, raise one arm up while tightening your core. If your core isn’t sufficiently strong, you may need to begin this exercise without the weights and add them as you increase core strength. Remember, the object of core strength exercises is to keep the core as stable as possible while performing limb movements.
Sledgehammer – While in a standing position with feet spread shoulder width apart and holding a dumbbell with both hands directly in front of you, squat down keeping your back straight. As you squat, swing the dumbbell down and between your legs and then swing it back up and over your head as you stand erect. Maintain a controlled motion when swinging, keeping the focus on your core movements. Repeat.
Woodchop – By changing your swings to a diagonal motion, first to one side and then to the other, you go from sledgehammers into woodchops which help to stabilize your core rotation.
Pushups from a Swiss Ball
Execute pushups with your feet on a Swiss ball instead of the floor. Concentrate on keeping your back straight and your core as still as possible while doing the pushups.
Although the pushup action of this exercise will work your arm and shoulder muscles, the fact that your feet are on a moveable object means that your core has to work hard in order to remain stable while doing the movements which is the objective of core strength training.
Swiss Ball Step Offs
Again, from a pushup position, toes on a Swiss ball, legs and back straight, move one leg slowly up, over and down until your toe touches the floor. Then move the leg back up over and onto the ball. Switch legs and repeat. Focus on your core and keep it from moving as much as possible as you make the controlled limb movements.
By strengthening and stabilizing your core muscles through these core exercises, you will improve your resistance strength against your opponent as well as increase your strike power.