Mixed martial arts is the pinnacle of combat sports and may very well be considered the most demanding of all sports. An MMA fighter must constantly train to be competent in all fighting areas and be physically and mentally prepared. But how much exactly?
MMA fighters train between 2 and 6 hours daily, depending on their level and whether or not they are preparing for a fight.
Training time depends on many personal factors for each fighter and the phase in relation to a fight. But do you need to train 6 hours per day, and under what scenarios would you train less or more?
As I’ve said, MMA fighters train from 2 to 6 hours daily. This may seem too broad a timeframe, but there are many determining factors regarding how much time they need to spend in the gym.
MMA fighters must manage numerous individual components, each of which plays an essential role in their training, preparation, and development. These include striking, grappling, wrestling, stretching, endurance, mobility, and recovery. Each component requires time to be developed and maintained.
Depending on the fighter’s level and free time to dedicate to training, his schedule may look different.
Amateur fighters and low-level pros usually work full-time to make a living, meaning their training must be tailored around their work hours and other obligations. In these cases, two hour-and-a-half sessions per day may be all that the fighter can manage.
The life of a professional MMA fighter is built around his training schedule, so naturally, he has a lot more time to dedicate to training. Two sessions of two hours each are normal, but they can be extended by another training session amounting to six hours.
The third important factor determining how many hours MMA fighters train is if they are in a fight camp or off camp. A typical fight camp lasts 6 to 12 weeks, with 8 weeks being the most common duration.
The training priorities in the two phases differ, and with that, each training session. While in preparation for a fight, two sessions per day are mandatory.
Of course, if you have no serious injuries or illnesses, you must tend to. So 3 hours per day is somewhat a minimum a fighter will train. If you add another hour or an hour and a half session, we are looking at 5-6 training hours daily.
The out-of-camp schedule varies a lot more from fighter to fighter. Professionals and most amateurs train only once per day during the offseason, which amounts to about 2 hours in the gym.
None of this is set in stone, of course. Each fighter has individual needs and training capabilities, so the hours and sessions may look and last very differently from fighter to fighter.
With that said, some principles and concepts have been proven very efficient, so it’s in the best interest of fighters and coaches to adhere to them to get the best possible results.
Do MMA Fighters Train Twice A Day?
While in fight camp, MMA fighters must train twice a day. One session is usually reserved for non-technical training, meaning developing strength, power, endurance, and flexibility.
The other sessions include MMA technical training, which covers some or all aspects of the sport, such as striking, wrestling, or grappling.
Pro fighters frequently train three times per day. This is very demanding on the body; only top-level athletes can train that much and benefit. Still, even at this level, you must carefully plan the focus and intensity of each session.
The two or three daily training sessions must be programmed so that athletes can progress in all of the technical and non-technical aspects of their game to compete at the highest levels of MMA.
In simple words, the training sessions must be scheduled to allow a fighter to build strength and endurance without inhibiting his ability to develop his MMA skills.
Each training session can be different in length. Sparring sessions, for example, are very intense but relatively short. In contrast, you can do long cardio sessions or low-intensity skill drills for extended periods.
With these things in mind, we can see professional fighters do 14–15 sessions, which takes approximately 16–18 hours per week, with Sunday being a rest day.
How Often Do MMA Fighters Train?
With so many skills and physical attributes needed in an MMA fight, fighters must train daily and, in most cases, twice daily. But when a typical training session is between 1.5 and 2 hours, that does not mean the entire time is spent working at full capacity.
Each session includes a warm-up of around 15 minutes and some post-workout stretching or winding down. The real work is done in the remaining time.
Not all training is strength or fight-specific. Some sessions on low-intensity days can be aimed entirely at mobility and flexibility. Which is very low-effort work that, when appropriately applied, brings significant benefits in fighting and injury prevention.
The daily training sessions also have a changing focus from day to day. Typically, workloads are divided into low and high-intensity days or low, moderate, and high-intensity days.
The coaches do the weekly distribution depending on the phase (in camp or off camp). Still, for example, a fight camp training week alternates one day of low intensity with one day of high intensity.
In contrast, an out-of-camp weekly schedule can include moderate intensity training instead of high on some days.
Low-intensity days are needed to allow the fighter’s body and mind to recover, strengthen, and learn the new skills they are working on.
While still training every day, fighters do need rest days. This day, in almost all cases, is Sunday. The rest day is required to allow the fighter to recover. Following periods of overload and recovery, athletes adapt to training, allowing adaptations to occur.
If there are insufficient or no recovery periods, the body and mind of the athlete are unable to adapt to any training stimulus.
A rest day does not necessarily mean a complete break from all activities. But the activity must be light enough to let the body rest from the rigors of MMA and strength and conditioning training.
Some suitable activities for a rest day may be a walk in the park or the beach, a short hike in the mountains, fishing, and many other popular past times.
Yoga or light mobility work can also aid in body recovery. Foam rolling and other forms of massage, as well as breath work and meditation, are great ways to prepare the body for the new training week.
Let’s not forget that taking days off also helps fighters mentally. A fight camp is challenging on the mind, but even without preparing for a fight, daily MMA training takes its toll. Learning to relax and take the steam off is a key but often overlooked factor for long-term success in the sport.
Depending on their level and goals, fighters train between 2 and 6 hours daily. This is divided into three sessions for professional fighters or amateurs training for a high-caliber fight, compared to one session per day for amateurs and off-season pros.
There are a lot of factors and considerations that go into constructing an efficient MMA training plan. Still, even with the best schedule, the fighter must put in countless hours and effort to obtain what is needed to succeed in MMA.