MMA training combos:

Completing their series of articles on MMA training, Dee McNeill and James McNeill demonstrate cage conditioning drills to incorporate into clients’ boxing or kickboxing training.


MMA training provides the opportunity to create new and dynamic workouts for participants and clients of every fitness level. As well as enhancing power, speed and endurance, effective conditioning drills used by MMA fighters also develop functional strength.

While fighters train to go the distance in the octagon, your clients and participants don’t need to be a cage fighter to benefit from these dynamic, simple-to-learn MMA drills that can be used in any pad or circuit class, boot camp or basic training session.
The effectiveness of MMA training comes from a mix of training drills that require core stability and endurance in conjunction with dynamic, full body movements to add a new dimension of challenge.

The following MMA-specific conditioning drills will give your classes and clients a taste of MMA training without the black eyes! Drills utilise either bodyweight or a standard kick-shield and are simple to introduce to any style of training session. As a guide, try one to two minutes for these drills, increasing the time, if required, to add challenge.

Conditioning drills

Gator Push Ups
1. Start in a standard push up position.
2. Bring right foot up to the outside of right hand. Complete one push up, bringing right elbow to right knee.
3. In one movement, kick right leg back behind body and bring left knee up and out to the outside of left hand. Complete one push up so left elbow touches left knee.

Monkey Walk (4 forward, 4 backward)
1. Start in a push up position with knees slightly bent.
2. Step right hand and left leg forward at the same time, keeping abdominals braced.
3. Step left hand and right foot forward at the same time.
4. To move backwards, simply reverse the movement by stepping the opposite hand and foot back at the same time.

Side Control Hover Elbows
1. Bring both hands onto the kick-shield, roughly shoulder-width apart.
2. Bracing the core, take one arm off the kick-shield and bring thumb to shoulder and tip of elbow towards the ceiling.
3. Drop elbow down onto the kick-shield then repeat with the other elbow.
4. For a less intense option, support body on the forearms instead of hands as the move is performed.

Ski Jumps
1. Place both hands onto the kick-shield, with feet on one side.
2. Jump from one side to the other, bracing the abdominals and landing with soft knees.
3. Continue to jump over the kick-shield for the pre-set number of minutes or repetitions.
4. As strength and control develop, work on creating a momentary pause on the jump, during which the weight is carried in the arms and the core is braced.

Dee McNeill, BBus
Dee is a leading group exercise instructor with over 17 years teaching experience. She is the operations manager for MMA Fitness and works for Les Mills Asia Pacific as a senior trainer, training thousands of fitness professionals in Australia and throughout Asia since 1998. Dee’s passion is for yoga and martial arts-based fitness training. For more information contact or visit

James McNeill, BEc
James is co-founder of MMA Fitness, Australia’s first MMA-inspired Pad Training accreditation provider. Experienced in coaching Thai boxing, boxing and karate, he works as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. James is also involved in providing conditioning and strike training for the Gracie Barra Brookvale fight team.