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Powerlifting and MMA [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Oct 30, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Powerlifting and MMA

Powerlifting and MMA

To become a better MMA fighter I personally think you are better off doing CrossFit or weightlifting than powerlifting to emulate movement and speed in your strength training. 
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What is your why 

Before we go into the details of whether you can combine powerlifting and MMA, let me ask you a couple of questions: 
  • Why do you want powerlift? 
  • Why do you want to fight? 
  • What happens when you do? 
  • What happens if you don’t? 
These questions are essential for your success. Research shows that people who write down their goals and reflect on them are more likely to achieve them. When was the last time you did this? Can you even remember? If you can’t it is time to get out a pen and paper to get going. Many people go about their lives like this: 
  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it
This is a great way to achieve nothing. If you focus on what you want your will spread your resources thin and scatter your time between too many activities. You will run in every direction and get nowhere. What you want changes hundreds of times a day depending on what you do, who you are with and where you are. Making this the center of attention will just confuse you. Something interesting happens when you flip these questions on their head: 
  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What needs to be done 
This way you will focus on your long term goals and fulfill your dreams. This will make you happier and in turn make success more likely. If you want to know how this works on a psychological level read Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle will change your life. 
It all starts with changing your habits and rituals towards your new life. The best tool I found to achieve this is the self journal. I use it for two years now and my marriage and salary have improved significantly. 

What is your goal 

If you want to combine MMA and powerlifting It is important to know what your goal in your training is. Are you doing MMA mainly or powerlifting? Do you just want to stay fit by doing MMA? Do you want to pack a harder punch? What do you fancy? 
The answers to whether powerlifting and MMA are a good combination vary considerably based on your goals and status quo. If you do MMA just for fun in addition to powerlifting to move around more, great, no adjustments needed. 
If you are a competitive MMA fighter who wants to add some extra muscle to the frame to go up a weight class, maybe go for bodybuilding instead. 
If you are a competitive MMA fighter who wants more power to kick and punch harder, maybe go with Olympic weightlifting instead to develop explosiveness. 
If you want to go all the rounds and not run out of steam than CrossFit is a good option. 
If you struggle with your groundwork and grip by being overpowered by other fighters, powerlifting might be the right solution for you. 


Powerlifting is the sport of the total. Your total consists of three lifts. These three lifts are the bench press, squat, and deadlift. For each lift, you get three attempts. Your best attempt for each lift gets counted towards your total.
The big difference to lifting in the gym is that you will be judged. Three referees will observe your attempts from different angles and decide whether they have been performed according to the standards of the federation you are competing in. Two out of three have to agree for your lift to qualify. You need one qualifying attempt per lift to make it on the board. 
Powerlifting is all about maximum strength and tension. Think of a truck instead of a Formula 1 car. They are both very powerful but use their strength in very different ways. Use this metaphor when you decide on whether to combine powerlifting with your MMA training. 

Mixed martial arts 

Mixed martial arts is one of the ultimate tests of prowess and strength. You need to be strong and agile to win. There are different parts to MMA which are: 
  • Boxing / kickboxing elements 
  • Wrestling / Brazilian Jiu Jutsu elements 
  • Ground and pound elements 
All of these make a well-rounded fighter. To address all of these techniques you already have to spend enough time in the gym to improve yourself on various techniques and endurance. Strength is only one part of the picture. 

Powerlifting and MMA

Generally speaking, I think that you are better off to supplement your MMA training with Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit in most instances. Agility and endurance combined with strength will usually be of more use to you than raw power as you are fighting a moving target. Powerlifting is great when you want to move stationary objects. Once movement comes into play I think your strength training should emulate this for best results. 
A good, quick program to do is Jim Wendler 531. If I had to pick a strength program with barbells for an MMA fighter that would be the one. 

Topics: Powerlifting