Top 5 Dumbell Exercises For MMA & Martial Arts Training

Top 5 Dumbell Exercises For MMA & Martial Arts Training

Top 5 Dumbell Exercises For MMA Training

 (This article was published for MMA Sports Magazine)

When it comes to training for MMA and Martial Arts the best exercises are the simplest ones and exercises that will work the full body to make it stronger as a whole.

Dumbell training has been used in BodyBuilding and with athletes for a long time now, and it’s a very effective tool for building muscle and improving overall strength. It’s a proven winner when it comes to building strength and muscle so adding some type or dumbbell training is very beneficial to MMA and Martial Arts.

Another great thing about Dumbells is that you can pretty much find them anywhere. It’s a rarity to see a gym that doesn’t have a set of dumbbells which makes it very easy to implement them into your training overall.

With these 5 dumbell exercises the goal is to create overall body strength for MMA, not a focus on hypertrophy and size like a bodybuilder.

All these exercises require nothing but the dumbbells. No other equipment or benches so you can do these anywhere as is.


A Note On Reps

A very simple rule of thumb on reps for dumbbell training and training in general is let your reps be based on your goal. Here is a very simple rule for reps. Please note this is not exact and people are different but depending on your goals you can adjust your reps accordingly to suit your training goals.


1-5 Reps Strength

5-8 Reps Strength/Muscle

8-12 Reps Muscle Hypertrophy /Strength

12-15 Reps Muscle HyperTrophy/Muscle Endurance

15-25 Reps Muscle Endurance


Dumbell Exercise #1 Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press is a fantastic pressing exercise and great for MMA athletes, jiujitsu athletes and grapplers.

It is exactly like a dumbbell bench press except you lie on the ground and press from the floor. Doing this will reduce the distance travelled (in a bench press you get a longer stretch from the elevation of the bench). When you grapple you will be on the floor and often times be on your back so this is a great upper body strength exercise.

3 Key Points On Dumbell Floor Press

  1. To isolate the upper body do not use your legs. Have them lie straight or raise the feet.
  1. To make the exercise harder pause every rep at the bottom as a dead stop
  1. Vary it up by also adding in 1 arm versions



Dumbell Exercise #2 Goblet Squat

The Goblet Squat is a great exercise for MMA & Martial arts for many reasons but a few are as follows.

It’s a great squat to engage your core which is critical for overall strength. It will improve your hip mobility which carries over into kicking, grappling, and more. As well it’s a very joint friendly squat which will make you feel amazing. The bar squat is the corner stone of my training but bar work really can take its toll on the back and arms, where you can goblet squat every day without pain or discomfort. It’s a great squat variation.


3 Key Points On DB Goblet Squats

  1. Learn to push the knees out and allow the hips to sink as deep as comfortable
  1. It’s important to create a “brace” and keep your core tight on every rep. Pretend someone is going to punch you, create your brace, then squat
  1. Learn to “Squat Tall” and keep a neutral spine throughout the goblet squat.


Dumbell Exercise #3 – 1 Arm Dumbell Row

The Bent Over One Arm Row is a staple dumbbell exercise that can be used for many reasons. When it comes to MMA there will be a big focus on pulling and a strong grip and strong lats are very important for this. The one arm row is a simple yet effective exercise to improve your grip and strengthen your pulling power. It will also add beef to your lats faster than most exercises.

3 Key Points For 1 Arm DB Row

  1. Try to row with your lats arms, and grip and not use momentum and your hips to do the pulling/rowing. Focus on the muscles doing the work and not momentum.
  1. Vary your hand positioning on rowing. Do a normal grip (palms facing you) Also add in overhand grip (thumb facing you), and also underhand grip (thumb facing away) for getting strong in all areas
  1. Use Straps When Going Really Heavy. Your grip will always be a limiting factor in this exercise, and while you want a strong grip it’s also ok to use straps once in a while to overload the amount of weight being used. I’d recommend 25% work with straps.





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Dumbell Exercise #4 Stnading DB Press

I prefer to do most of my pressing for strength training in a standing position. Sitting on a bench and doing pressing variations takes out the legs and core and is great to isolate the shoulders, but for overall full body strength I like doing this exercise standing not seated.

Stand in a neutral stance (feet together) or stand in a staggered stance (one foot in front of the other) and try your pressing from both stances.

It’s also a great variation to do one arm presses as this will engage your core as well making this a very challenging exercise and full body movement.


3 Key Points For Standing Dumbell Press

  1. Keep your core tight at all times. Learn to brace and keep that core tight.
  1. Learn to squeeze your glutes. Squeezing your glutes will protect your lower back and also improve strength.
  1. Vary pressing from one handed and two handed versions and also change your stance from feet together to split stance. If your back hurts on these try a split stance but elevate your front foot about 1 foot off the ground on to a box of step up.




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Dumbell Exercise #5 Weighted Carry (Single & Double Arm)

Weighted carries are one of the best overall exercises for improving grip along with improving core strength and mental conditioning.

You can mix up your carries from double handed carries to single arm carries. When you do a single arm carry your core will have to stabilize much harder making this one of the best core exercises you can do..

The variations are endless between doing heavy carries for distance, for time, challenges and more.

For MMA and Martial Arts weighted carries I consider to be a must do exercise.


3 Key Tips For Dumbell Weighted Carries

  1. Learn to brace and keep your core tight. Focus on locking your ribs down and keeping your core tight like someone is going to punch you.
  1. Keep good posture. Avoid pushing your head/neck to far forward. Always try to keep a neutral spine and strong posture.
  1. Vary up your carries for best results. These are a great way to finish any workout.




Dumbells are one of the most effective and simple tools to add to your training arsenal. They are simple and effective and can be found at almost any gym or fitness center. Add dumbbell training into your workouts, keep it simple, keep the movements perfect and always be trying to get stronger and lift HeavyWeights.

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