CrossFit for MMA: Pros and Cons

MMA Practitioner training in the Ring

Mixed Martial Arts, MMA, is one of the most intense full-contact sports out there. Also referred to as cage fighting, it melds various martial arts and contact sports worldwide and incorporates grappling, striking, and ground fighting.

You’ve got to be in top form if you’re going to take part in MMA fighting. The question is, what workout will provide the head-to-toe mental and physical training you need to win a one-on-one fight?

CrossFit is one option. Since coming onto the scene, this training style has boomed in popularity. It’s no wonder: This workout is versatile and multi-faceted, both boosting muscles and cardiovascular health. In the United States alone, over 7,000 fitness centers are offering CrossFit programs. But is CrossFit the right exercise for MMA fighters?

Here, we explore the pros and cons of CrossFit for MMA. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, this guide explains how CrossFit will (and won’t) help you in the cage.

CrossFit For MMA: Pros

The big draw of CrossFit for MMA lies in its versatility. This training method consists of random workouts, referred to as a Workout of the Day (WOD), made up of a core group of exercises. The goal is to complete the WOD as fast as possible, using as much resistance as possible, or as many reps as possible. Core CrossFit exercises include deadlifts, lunges, medicine ball throws, running, jumping, squats, etc.

You Will Build Strength

Crossfit involves a lot of weight training and, just as important, a lot of diverse weight training. You’ll find yourself jumping on boxes, flipping tires, and more. This means you can target a lot of different muscle groups in a single workout. You’re also always switching up your WOD, allowing for even broader muscle training.

CrossFit workouts’ unique nature will give you opportunities to use and push muscles that you likely ignore during regular strength training. On top of it all, CrossFit workouts involve lifting heavy weights at low reps, allowing you to build up bulk. That gives you more power in your MMA fighting.

You will Enhance Your Physical Endurance

Another huge benefit of CrossFit is that it’s endurance-driven. These workouts are challenging and long-lasting. You will build up anaerobic endurance due to the intense, high-intensity bouts of physical activity. That endurance will serve you well in a drawn-out fight, keeping you from tiring out before your competitor.

You will also build up muscular endurance due to the many repetitions you’ll have to complete. The athletic nature of CrossFit weight work gets your heart pumping while your muscles are under stress. The cardiovascular system has to work even harder to get oxygen to the muscles and clear out lactic acid.

You Will Challenge Your Mental Endurance

CrossFit workouts push you. You will find yourself facing a seemingly impossible number of reps of an exercise to complete. Being able to overcome that hurdle and get the job done is a great motivator. While the rush you get from a CrossFit workout can’t match the adrenaline surge of an MMA fight, you’ll still activate those “job well done” satisfaction receptors in your brain.

CrossFit also offers another attractive mental benefit by giving you a chance to work out in a group. MMA is a solo sport. Many CrossFit workouts are group-based, offering a nice change from individualized training.

CrossFit For MMA: Cons

While you can make a case for the utility of CrossFit for MMA conditioning, there are two sides to the debate. There are a few critical areas of MMA training that even the most rigorous CrossFit training session can’t address. After all, MMA is a contact support. It’s ultimately about the fight. And that’s where CrossFit is lacking. Here’s how CrossFit comes up short.

You Can’t Train Your Fighting Technique

Ultimately, however, MMA requires an in-depth knowledge of many different styles of fighting. From boxing to Karate, mixed martial arts’ beauty is its ability to encompass a vast range of physical pursuits. This is something that CrossFit won’t help you with. You can’t perfect grappling or striking techniques and strategies through a CrossFit workout.

You Might Slow Down Your Reflexes

What’s more, if you don’t take care, too much CrossFit training can detract from your agility in the cage. CrossFit’s intense nature puts a high demand on the body’s anaerobic systems, especially the central nervous system (CNS). The stress the system experiences as it tries to remove lactic acid from the muscles results in CNS overtraining. The result? Low motivation, a sense of over-exertion, and decreased speed. CNS fatigue will leave you slower in MMA fights.

You Can’t Train the MMA Mindset

Physically, CrossFit for MMA conditioning is a plus. Mentally? Not so much. Yes, CrossFit will enhance your mental strength by encouraging you to overcome obstacles. But it can’t prepare you for the experience of facing off against another person in the cage. Half of the fun of MMA comes from the fact that it’s a contact sport. Standing opposite another fighter creates an adrenaline rush that can inspire you — or, if you aren’t ready for it, leave you hampered by anxiety and fear. Training fights with real live people are an essential part of a comprehensive MMA training regimen. In this sense, CrossFit for MMA doesn’t do much.

The Final Word

When considering CrossFit for MMA, it’s important to weigh both the pros and the cons. CrossFit can enhance your mixed martial arts by boosting your strength, endurance, and mental resilience. That said, CrossFit won’t help you perfect your basic fighting technique. It also can’t prepare you mentally for the experience of actually squaring up against someone in the cage.

However, even the hardiest MMA fighter can’t face off in a full-blown fight every day of the week. You have to give your mind and body time to recover between bouts while still maintaining a bare minimum fitness level. That’s where CrossFit can come into play. Crossfit for MMA conditioning is a no-brainer. Incorporate sessions into your overall training regimen, and you will reap the rewards of overall improved fitness — which will also benefit your fighting.

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