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One of the WORST Exercises for MMA

Whenever I train people in the gym, I often cringe at what I see other people doing.

Bad form is everywhere and I can see people’s bodies getting destroyed as they’re supposedly working out.

Not only that, some of the exercises and routines I observe people doing are pure lunacy.

But one thing I can’t stand is when mixed martial artists are told to perform exercises that are completely useless or downright dangerous.

I mean, if you’re going to tell a fighter what to do, you’d better be damned sure that you know what you’re talking about, because this guy’s (or increasingly so, gal’s) health is at stake.

For the average Joe who hits the gym to get bigger biceps and impress the ladies, a little bad advice here and there won’t kill him.

But for the combat athlete who’s about to step into the cage against some brute who wants to tear his head off, poor training advice could mean the difference between winning a fight and being too gassed to keep your hands up and getting KO’d with an ugly cowboy punch.

Needless to say, I take my job seriously.

So in this article, I’m going to expose one of the absolute WORST exercises to do as a fighter.

And just because you see a UFC fighter doing an exercise on TV or in a YouTube vid doesn’t mean it’s gotten them to where they are…

A lot of times fighters would be better off not doing an exercise instead of ruining their bodies with some of the idiotic stuff I’ve seen.

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s one of the WORST exercises for MMA…

Drum roll please…

PuNChing WiTh BaNDs (hardcore)

punch with bands

This is a popular one and while on the surface it seems like it would be a good exercises, it’s not.

Here’s why…

When you throw a punch, you want your arm to be relaxed and more like a whip as opposed to being tight and pushing instead of punching.

You also want full extension of your arm and once you’ve achieved this, you want to pull your arm back as fast as possible to throw the next one or defend yourself.

But when you punch with bands, 3 things happen that will screwup your punching mechanics:

1) You need a tense arm to punch with the band, not a relaxed one

2) You tend to limit your range of motion punching with bands instead of using full extension

3) The band pulls your arm back instead of you pulling your arm back, so your body gets trained to not pull your arm back (bad for combo speed and bad for defence

This is what happens when ‘experts’ who have no foundation in how the body actually works or the actual mechanics of martial arts skills looks at MMA and tries to create a training program for it.

They basically get you to mimic the skills of the sport with added weights and resistance.

Your strength and conditioning program should train your muscles and nervous system to be stronger, faster and have better endurance, but it should not try to mimic the skills you perform and spend hundreds of hours mastering, because it will screwup the mechanics and timing, wasting all of your hard work.

If you want to be good at punching with your fists, train punching with your fists, don’t train punching with weights or bands in your fists (light dumbbells 1-1.5 lbs are an exception when used in certain situations, it’s like punching with a heavy boxing glove on).

The role of your strength and conditioning program is to develop your muscles and nervous system.

You then take your new, improved muscles and nervous system and train your punching so that you punch harder, faster and longer.

If the mechanics and timing of the exercise doesn’t screw with the technique, it’s A-OK, but in this example, the mechanics and timing are very different and will harm technique, so I recommend avoiding it. There are other ways to develop punching power, speed and endurance where you don’t need to use this exercise.

See, I’m not just a pretty face, am I? :)

So there’s one of the worst exercises you can do for MMA…

(Don’t worry, my Ultimate MMA Strength and Conditioning Program is purposely free of these foolish exercises)

But there are a lot more that I see all the time and I’m sure you see too.

Hit me up with what you think is one of the worst exercises are in the Comments section below and in my next article, I’ll take the worst of the worst and break them down biomechanisticologically-style.

Oh and be a good netizen and hit the ‘Like’ button on the way down for me. Thanks. :)

141 Comments

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  • Somebody

    Reply Reply Sat, September 6, 2014

    Although I agree they shouldn’t be a main training tool, I think these can still have some use. More as a warmup than as an actual workout though.

    Do a few reps with them in front, and work on pull the punch back in the same way as a row, likewise with the band force behind practice the punch as a push action. Do a few reps (10-20) then drop the bands and go straight into speed.

  • Stephen Clipp

    Reply Reply Fri, August 15, 2014

    Guy I studied with = Dick Hartzell, sorry, thought I’d put that in there.

  • dannmann

    Reply Reply Mon, June 9, 2014

    Roy Jones Jr, and Bernard Hopkins are a few boxers that train punching with bands. Genady Golovkin uses them too and he punches very hard. It works for them

  • Grappling@catch wrestling

    Reply Reply Thu, February 6, 2014

    Thanks for the article; I was practicing punches with bands. I think it’s time to discuss these facts with my teacher.

  • David B

    Reply Reply Mon, January 6, 2014

    Bands are the best training tool around. Every asian guy I meet is a freaking mma instructor now. A genius with the new Bruce Lee school of training. Shame on you greedy nobody guy. Shame on you.

  • DavidBaez

    Reply Reply Fri, October 4, 2013

    Resistance bands are used for speed, but nobody knows how to work with them.

    The contraction should be explosive, with few sets and reps because you should not fatigue the muscle.

    Then you must do explosive strikes.

  • Tosh

    Reply Reply Tue, August 27, 2013

    Great article, I think some of you guys are missing the points Eric’s trying to make. This exercise will have negative effects on your technique as your neuromuscular system will recruit motor neurons to carry out a different type of movement a push, strength ain’t power. Not to mention spending to much time doing this exercise or things like the heavy bag will be pushing your fist back to you without you even realising, lacking the snap back with your striking combos? Yea that’s gna be screaming a bit of fight fatigue there when your back muscles are screaming at you :DD

  • mike

    Reply Reply Tue, April 30, 2013

    Great post! See the same thing all the time using a cable machine rather than bands.

  • RM

    Reply Reply Mon, April 22, 2013

    You are completely right about resistance bands in the push direction. Strength is important but force is mass X acceleration. A whip is a good analogy but I always think of a towel. Anyone who has been hit with a snapped towel in gym can tell you it hurts the most when it catches you at the end of the snap. That’s because the counter pull actually increases the acceleration of the tip at the very end. Resistance bands teach you to push your punch. There is a way to use them though. Reverse them. Get into your fighting stance and put tension on the line. Let them pull you into your punch structure, then explode your RETRACTION through the direction of resistance. This will train you to relax and “let go” of your strike. It can also help reduce your telegraph if you use a mirror and immediately follow a resistance band set with a resistance free set. Its not muscular conditioning, its neurological conditioning.

    What a previous poster said about the single whip in tai chi is actually correct. Most people don’t know (its public record, most people just don’t realize it) that Bruce Lee’s first martial art was Tai Chi. His main hand weapon (other than eye gouge) was the Straight Lead. His Straight Lead borrows a lot of its mechanics from the Single Whip. Its one of the reasons he had power that seemed so disproportionate to his size. He had amazing levels of conditioning, which he then applied through a body mechanic that gave him maximum mechanical advantage. You need both for maximum results, so training one at the expense of the other is not the most efficient use of your training.

  • Ray J

    Reply Reply Tue, April 9, 2013

    The best tips I ever picked up on punching power were off Ross Enamait, he’s a badass trainer in Connecticut and his books are the best. He has videos on his website but my favorite was take a 3-5 pound rubber medicine ball, I found two at academy, and repeatedly throw these balls at a heavy bag in the form of a punch. Throw 10, catching it on the drop, then switch hands and repeat over and over. After a few weeks of this and just punching a heavy bag you will notice a dramatic increase in speed and power in your punches.

  • YuFeng

    Reply Reply Sat, March 30, 2013

    What do you think of the mass suit?

  • derp

    Reply Reply Thu, March 14, 2013

    You’re quite dumb. Wrestlers ftw.

  • Rai

    Reply Reply Wed, March 13, 2013

    training bands few days before a fight… probably ruin your timing,
    Training with bands can be a great plyo and cns training routine.

    it’s ok to train your cns system, just cycle it and understand that after increasing your punching power and speed you will have to get used to your new timing,

    I do agree with you that most people don’t even understand how the nervous system mechanics work , and some things may be great to train 4 months out from your fight are not necessarily the best to train 3 days before.

  • Don

    Reply Reply Thu, March 7, 2013

    I disagree with the resistance bands being bad. This is the same as telling someone not to do push ups it’ll ruin their punches, or not to do bench presses. It’s a workout, not the fight itself. Yes you want your arms to be relaxed, but what that means is you don’t want you bicep pulling against your punch. When you push with the band the tension isn’t you tricep fighting your bicep (as it would be if you tensed without the band) it’s your tricep fighting the band, just like doing a bench press. It’s like saying you shouldn’t feel any tension in your arm while lifting weights.

    They’re completely unrelated.

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Mon, March 11, 2013

      The key is not in the fact that the muscles used are the same, otherwise I would agree with you.

      The point is that the movement pattern mimics too closely that of punching (ground based, fight stance, pushing the band like you’re actually punching).

      Because the resistance is different – a 16 oz boxing glove for example pulls the hand down while a band pulls the hand backwards – the neuromuscular patterns get fucked up.

      That’s my point. It’s not about the muscle – but the neuromuscular programming.

  • joe schmoe

    Reply Reply Sat, January 26, 2013

    People are not using the bands for building technique, that is laughable at least to think it is one of the worst excersizes for mma. It does alot more for you then those bosu balls you have some non mma chick on.

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Mon, March 11, 2013

      Hey schmoe, that bosu ball exercise is an example of…. n/m

  • Stephen

    Reply Reply Thu, January 24, 2013

    I disagree. I’ve used bands and they have definately increased the speed of my punching. However bands should not replace regular training on how to stay loose and snap your punch while maintaining good technique; it’s a supplement for speed and strength purposes. Also, no one has mentioned the issue of the strength to the band. If you use light resistance it fairly easy to maintain good form and relaxation. However if you use an excessively strong band and you’re struggling to maintain form then it’s definately hurting your punching technique.

    The key issues are whether or not your using too much resistance and if you’re using bands almost exclusively to train your punching. Final note: bands don’t improve technique

    However, I welcome opinions from anyone who disagrees.

    After all this talk about bands no one has talked about how they believe a person does develop faster hands. If you don’t believe in bands then what do you believe in? And please don’t just say you have to relax when you punch. Everyone knows that.

    Stephen

  • morris

    Reply Reply Thu, September 20, 2012

    Thx for the great article,I was suspecting that training with the bands wasn’t good,but one thing I was thinking of, was punching under water,or maybe with a reverse style resistance bands pulling your punche s forward so u learn how to push it back better and your muscles get trained to punch faster

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Mon, September 24, 2012

      I wouldn’t do that.

      • cstev

        Reply Reply Sun, January 13, 2013

        I thought maybe you were onto something about the resistance bands, even though I know a professional boxer and trainer who has lethal hands that trains with them. However, when you start telling people not to do punch training under water, I have to laugh. The Greatest. That’s right, Muhammad Ali used under water training, and here you are telling people not to do it. All around, it sounds like you’re just giving your opinion, not backed up with experience of actually trying these methods.

        • Eric

          Tue, January 15, 2013

          cstev – you do know Ali punching underwater was a myth, don’t you?

          If not, check this biography (Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times):

          http://books.google.ca/books?id=w9PgTKiU4boC&pg=PT56&lpg=PT57&ots=b9Sc64Fs0v&dq=ali+punching+underwater

          Read this page and the next one for the story about how Ali conned people into thinking this.

          That’s why I gave science in the article, not just, “Well Big Joe does these crazy exercises with bowling balls and he’s the most powerful puncher in the county. So it must be the bowling ball exercises that give him that power.”

          I’m not going to write an article about underwater punching in the Comments section – hopefully you can relate the science in the article I’ve shared to underwater punching and deduce why it wouldn’t be beneficial on your own.

  • Austin

    Reply Reply Wed, July 18, 2012

    So what do you think about taking shots with resistance bands for wrestling?

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Wed, July 18, 2012

      That’s OK because it helps develop leg strength and is a different motor timing sequence that isn’t negatively affected like punching is.

      For power punches, you want to whip your arm out as relaxed as possible, not tense and tight.

      For shots, you want to drive through, which makes the band useful.

      • Austin

        Reply Reply Wed, July 18, 2012

        Thanks for the info. I was pretty sure that was the case but just wanted another opinion.

  • David

    Reply Reply Tue, January 24, 2012

    Want punch power and prevent muscle fatigue?

    Watch the master training… Bruce Lee did not have these fancy bands, and talking about measuring results, his punches have been the fastest and more powerful among all martial artists…

    Here is the video. I bet there is no better way to train punches….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BluUhcEvPtI

  • Danny D.

    Reply Reply Fri, December 2, 2011

    Eric, will punching with weighted boxing gloves improve your hand speed?

    • Ev

      Reply Reply Fri, January 3, 2014

      Punching with weighted gloves is an unbelievably stupid idea! It’s a great way to cause hyper-extension of the elbows and tremendous damage to the connective tissues.

  • FitBits

    Reply Reply Wed, May 18, 2011

    I guess the key to the above post is – why should this exercise be included/excluded in an MMA program.

    If this is performed to improve punching technique, then this is simply wrong – don’t do it. The use of heavy resistance would simply screw-up punching mechanics.

    However as an upper-body/core strength exercise it will serve its purpose; any longterm concerns of this affecting the mechanics of punch are a mute point – remember this would equate to a minute proportion of a dedicated MMA athletes program, and could not negate hundreds/thousands of hours of dedicated training and coaching to develop an effective punch.

    I also believe this could be used to pre-fatigue the athlete (using medium resistance), prior to pad/bag work or to develop lactic acid tolerance – the emphasis would be to maintain a high standard of quality punches and gross motor skill while fatigued,

    Irrespective of my thoughts, the key to this (or any other exercise) is – does it work? -and are the results measurable? if positive – great; if negative – either drop it, or tweak it it until you note a beneficial upswing.

    • Luis

      Reply Reply Mon, October 1, 2012

      Hi,
      If the resistance bands are not good for punch training, why you feel your arms lighter and faster after using the straps?
      I recently bought the bands of stroops, is it better to sell them?
      Thanks. Waiting for your answer.

      • Eric

        Reply Reply Tue, October 2, 2012

        Same reason why after driving 120 km/h (70 mph) on the highway for 2 hours then going down to city speed seems so slow compared to when you drive around the city normally.

        It’s the difference from what you’re used to; the relativity; it’s not that you’re actually moving any faster (or slower, in the case of driving).

        Do I recommend you sell them? Read the article again and answer for yourself.

  • Matt

    Reply Reply Sat, April 9, 2011

    Punching with bands is great for muscle fatigue, not for technical punching. I use them with my ground and pound as there is virtually no body mechanic to screw up anyhow. They are also great when put into circuits for fight conditioning. Im currently designing some hammer work with the bands using various other equipment, the way people use hammers in MMA is so basic currently. We use 6 basic hammers, then internal and external then in reverse so 24 hammers. The body mechanic for a hammer fist is in the drop of the body and not just the arms as everyone appears to use them. Im having good results with the bands currently in this area.

  • Tim

    Reply Reply Tue, April 5, 2011

    So, what would your take be on underwater resistance training, like shadow boxing?

  • OTFC

    Reply Reply Wed, March 30, 2011

    If you use the bands to improve your punching it is probably not the best exercise. It is, although, a good exercise for dynamic conditioning and rehab as resistance band training is generally used for.

  • landon

    Reply Reply Thu, March 24, 2011

    Most fighters don’t know much about strength and conditioning, and most s&c coaches don’t know a lot about MMA technique and the breakdown of a punch.

  • Thorpac

    Reply Reply Thu, March 24, 2011

    Fedor, Belfort, machida, dan miller, him miller, Brandon Vera, Brock lesnar and more…..

  • landon

    Reply Reply Mon, March 21, 2011

    Vitor was fast way before he touched any type of band…

    And theres a bunch of fighters who eat junk food and mcdonalds and theyre ripped. Doesnt mean its good for you tho.

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Tue, March 22, 2011

      You took the words right out of my mouth.

      It’s the old “Well I saw so and so doing this so it MUST be what won him the belt.”

      • Thorpac

        Reply Reply Thu, March 24, 2011

        Still hasnt answered my question, I’ve seen some of the top fighters in the world used it before, why would they use it, oh wait is it because they arent knowledgeable enough for world class MMA training :)

        • Eric

          Thu, March 24, 2011

          What you don’t understand is everything that is in the article… Go read the main points in the article about the exercise and think about them for a moment.

          Your only point is that top fighters do this exercise. But so do low level fighters who have never won a fight before – so what does that prove?

          The proof is in the science and the biomechanics, not the fact that you’ve seen some fighter on YouTube doing it.

  • freepac

    Reply Reply Mon, March 21, 2011

    Hey man big fan of you here, but I have to say I think I’ve seen Vitor Belfort and Machida used these band before. Needless to say Belfort is THE fastest striker in MW and his coach Shawn Tompkins is a very experienced MMA coach

  • Glenn

    Reply Reply Wed, February 23, 2011

    If you use the bands to ‘improve’ your punching ability, then I completely agree with what Eric has stated. The mechanics of the punch, as stated, are completely working against proper punch technique. That being said, so are many other resistance or weight training movements, such as a bench press or push up for that matter. The punch mechanics, as related to a bench press, would also work against proper technique – but you use the bench press for other body strengthening reasons, but the motions are essentially the same family as the resistance bands.

    If you use the resistance bands with the intent of strengthen your body in a dynamic way as well as for general strength conditioning, instead of using them to improve the punch, then I would say the bands can work for you in that way.

    Punching with bands may not be ‘the best’ exercise for MMA training, but I can’t seem to say it is one of the worst as resistance training is good way to get the body’s muscle to work and move. Using bands to perfect your punching technique – yes, probably the worst exercise you can do.

  • Adam

    Reply Reply Tue, February 15, 2011

    Would using a band in a pulling motion be as bad for creating punching power?

    Imagine the band is attached to a hook and you punch out normally without any resistance and with perfect form. But as you pull back you rotate your waist back and theres resistance from the band creating tension in your tricep and waist so when you punch again theres more power?

    Sorry if this question has been asked already, I did read most of the comments but theres a hell of a lot! haha

    • Jonathan

      Reply Reply Tue, February 15, 2011

      This is a good point… when you punch with your right your pulling with your left. The way I practice this instead of using bands, use a free motion cable machine. working on your push and pull seperately… do normal push and pull exercises and that will transfer into more powerful punches on the bag

      • Kru Ray

        Reply Reply Tue, April 9, 2013

        I am a big fan of the Cable pull machine for exercising whole body punch extension (and retraction), with full body tie in by twisting the base and rotating through the trunk. It provides great “grounding” and also good body flow. And when I run and want a portable circuit routine, I bring my bands for the same reason. I have never seen any study that says an exercise meant for conditioning was detrimental if it mirrored a particular set of motions. And I see little difference in the two methods.

        I love the dialogue and many of your tips have merit, but I think it is more important how the bands are used, and in what context, than what resistance method you are employing.

  • Jonathan

    Reply Reply Tue, February 15, 2011

    Oh and if you wanna snap someone with a punch mine as well slap them…. Just ask bas.

  • Jonathan

    Reply Reply Tue, February 15, 2011

    You do not want to whip your punch or pull it back too soon. If anything it should be more like a perfectly timed push. To whip your arm at someone doesn’t require a strong base. You want to generate the power from your feet and expend that energy at the end of your punch preferably meeting your opponents chin at the same time. My two cents

    • JM

      Reply Reply Tue, February 15, 2011

      I don’t think you understand what was meant by “whip”. This isn’t a pulled punch, it is in fact what you describe as starting at your feet and moving the energy through… Like a whip, the power starts at the handle and flows incrementally through each section of the whip, then like a wave through water, snapping at the end.

      It’s the difference between being pushed by an undercurrent that moves you but does not knock you over and getting hit with a cresting wave right on your chest. Both contain the same power, but they are transforming in different ways; one is just transforming from one place to another, the other is transforming from one place to another WHILE condensing into a point, which increases the amount of pressure available. It’s the condensed energy expressed as multiplied pressure that hurts.

  • JM

    Reply Reply Thu, December 30, 2010

    “When you throw a punch, you want your arm to be relaxed and more like a whip …”

    Training to throw techniques in the most relaxed (and therefore fast) manner possible is one of the primary motivations behind the slow, relaxed form practice of “internal” martial arts like taiji, xingyi and bagua. In fact, one of the most common form postures well-known in taiji is called the “single whip”. Wanna know why? ;D

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Fri, December 31, 2010

      Please share!

      • JM

        Reply Reply Sat, January 1, 2011

        Oh hah, that was a rhetorical question. Basically just reinforcing your point that good strikes are thrown out like whips. :)

  • Mike Wilson

    Reply Reply Fri, November 26, 2010

    I have seen Maki’s stuff online video etc and I agree with Jason. Maki Riddington is crap.

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