To be honest, I’ve never really been a big fan of circuit training. Sure, it has its place, but if you are simply picking 5-6 exercises and performing them in a :30 on, :30 off fashion, you’re probably missing the boat.
Will you be tired if you exercise this way? Yes, you will. If you equate being exhausted with being fit, just wait ‘til you have a newborn. You’ll be exhausted for damn sure, but will you be more fit? Nope.
Anybody can design a circuit. Pick some exercises, choose a work to rest ratio, set the timer and off you go. I’ve done some of these brutal workouts in my day and most of the time this type of training leaves you tired and incredibly sore.
Now, I’m not saying that you should never be sore or tired from your training sessions, but there is a difference between a session where you do a few sets of heavy squats versus one where you perform 100 bodyweight squats with, 100 pull ups and 200 push-ups. One will leave your legs tired for a day or so and the other will leave you feeling destroyed for 3-5 days.
Here’s the problem. If my fighters cannot train for 3-5 days because I decided to destroy them in a training session, I’m not doing my job. They aren’t going to improve their BJJ if they can’t even lift their arms above their heads and they sure as hell won’t be able to shoot for a takedown if they can’t get out of a chair.
When it comes to circuit training (and many things in life), if you design it properly, it should work.
So what type of circuits do I think would be beneficial for MMA?
I’m not going dive into each one in depth, but I will give you a quick template on how to design each one.
Alactic Capacity Circuit Template
There are several exercises that work well for an alactic capacity circuit, but here are my favorites:
- Bike sprint
- Rower sprints
- Ski erg sprints
- Battling ropes
- KB swings
- Treadmill sprints
- Bungee sprint repeats
- Sled pushes
- Ground and pound on the bag
- Hill sprints
Here’s a secret to exercise selection when performing this type of circuit: you’ll want to do your best to avoid local muscular fatigue. For example, if an athlete performs sled pushes, bungee sprints, treadmill sprints and hill sprints all in the same circuit, his lower body will fatigue incredibly fast.
If your goal is to increase lower body muscular endurance, you could possibly pair some of these drills together, but since here the goal is alactic capacity, “spreading the load out” is a good idea.
To avoid this muscular fatigue, you could choose treadmill sprints, battling rope slams, bike sprints and ground and pound on the bag. This way, you’ll tax the whole body, while doing your best to avoid localized muscular fatigue.
Here’s a quick template to consider:
Treadmill sprint :12
Battling Rope slams :12
Bike sprints :80
Ground and pound :12
* Repeat for 3-5 rounds.
As you can see, the template above is pretty simple. The risk of injury is low and managing fatigue while performing these exercises does not require a high level of skill. Using alactic capacity circuits, like the one above, is one of my favorite ways to train my fighters and we’ve had very good luck using this template.
The Aerobic Circuit Template
Another way to utilize circuit training is via Aerobic circuit training. There are a few simple guidelines.
- Try to keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone. Anywhere from 120 to 150 beats per minute works fairly well for most people.
- If possible, keep the exercises low impact. Aerobic circuits are not the time to train elasticity!
- Focus on nasal breathing for the duration of these circuits.
- Incorporate BJJ, wrestling and grappling drills into the circuit when possible.
Aerobic circuits don’t have to be boring! These circuits are a perfect opportunity to incorporate fun drills, practice new techniques and move your body in various planes. I like to incorporate ropes, sandbags, medballs, slamballs, ladder drills and more to change it up and have some fun.
You shouldn’t dread your training and every session doesn’t always have to be an ass-kicking.
Feel free to change things up and bit and be creative when doing MMA circuit training. As long as your training stays principle-based, you should be good to go.
As always, train smart and train hard!!