This article is evidence-based, verified by Blake Conner, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist.
When observing MMA fighters, you may notice that they are compelling individuals. These athletes can strike and produce force at very high levels. If you want to get good at either of these, you should want to know how to build strong hips for MMA.
Not only are they using this power for punching, but they are also using it for any kicking, wrestling, or grappling. All of these movements and skills are crucial to be a well-rounded MMA fighter.
What is the cause for most of this power? The hips. MMA fighters need to have healthy bones if they want to produce a lot of power. The hips play an integral part in much of a human’s movement patterns, but they also have the capability of producing force.
The “hip” is an essential bone within the lower extremity of the body. The hip is what connects the upper body and the lower body into one piece. For the most part, it is a very mobile part of the body and plays many roles.
The hip region or “trunk” also includes the glutes, hip flexors, part of the quads and hamstrings, and even some core muscles. This allows the hips to be mighty because large masses of tissue are present in this region.
Hips can be trained to become even more robust, thus allowing for a more energetic individual. If an MMA fighter (related article) is looking to increase their abilities in the ring, then hips may be the right place to start. Of course, other areas of the body are essential as well, but a lot can be done with the hips.
More On Why Strong Hips Matter In MMA
Punching, kicking, grappling, and a multitude of other actions all involve the hips. An opponent may have stronger hips than you, and it will be evident in how powerful they are. Therefore, they matter and could be the determining factor in you winning or losing a match. When most amateurs start out, they focus on the equipment they need to provide them an advantage, such as mouth guards, MMA shoes, or even hand wraps, but this isn’t necessarily the right way to progress.
When you punch, you may use some torque from the body. A lot of the force from that will come from the hip flexors that rich up into the lower abdomen. If these muscles are weak, then there is a chance that your punches may end up weak as well.
Kicking takes a loud “pop” from the hips. The harder, faster, and more powerful you can perform this snap of the hips, the better you will be able to kick.
Kicks can be very advantageous in fights because not everyone knows how to execute them correctly, but also not everyone has strong enough hips for it to matter.
If you wish to utilize kicking in your fighting style, then I highly suggest that you work to get stronger bones.
When grappling, you may need to maintain a position on an opponent. If the opponent can get lower or in a place that allows them to manipulate you, then there is a strong chance you won’t be successful.
However, if you can develop the hips and other trunk muscles, then you may have a good advantage over your opponent when in regards to grappling.
As you can see with many essential aspects of MMA, the hips are very helpful. It would be a difficult task to accomplish a lot in MMA without the presence of strong hips or a strong “trunk.”
Therefore, it is in your best interest to work to develop yourself in this aspect.
How To Train The Hips
Resistance training will play a massive role in the strengthening of the hips (Source). Using weights, you can add the resistance that is needed to provide the proper stimulus for adaptation.
This will fatigue the muscle enough to force them to adapt. Sample workouts are included at the end of this article, but we will cover the general specifics.
For starters, hip extension is essential. This is the motion of the hips coming forward. An excellent way to imagine this is to consider what happens when you stand up from sitting. As you stand up, your hips progressively move forward, thus allowing you to stand to erect fully.
If you were to speed this movement up and work to jump, the same thing would happen. However, this increase in force production would lead you to move farther and faster.
This is a sample of how the hips produce force. So, keeping this in mind for training is essential.
You may observe lots of MMA fighters working on explosive jumps. These are called plyometrics and can help the body learn to produce force at a rapid rate. Repeatedly doing so and increasing the resistance or height will help to create some powerful hips.
Using weights, this could be simulated in a movement such as a jumping squat holding a kettlebell, or you could use a barbell and do hip thrusts. All of which would be a great way to increase hip power using resistance.
Those movements can be precise, but some generally work great. The back squat is a gold standard. Through the action, you are using a lot of the hips to move. This move can be strengthened to improve hip strength and power.
While many trainers or coaches may neglect the back squat for fancier exercises, nothing trumps the classic squat. It has been used for many years to produce healthy athletes in all sports; it just so happens the one thing they had in common is healthy hips.
Using bodyweight, the hips can be trained as well. Forcefully putting yourself into extension, even without weight, is excellent. This can make the nervous system more efficient around the hips, leading to faster, more powerful moves.
Bodyweight can also be utilized in specific training. As for an MMA fighter, you may spend a lot of your practice working on grappling. There may be certain moves or positions that will require you to exert a lot of force onto your sparring partner or opponent.
One great way to do so is to use the hips. Extend them and apply force or lockout the hips to maintain position. Well, doing so in training is developing your ability to do so. This is as specific as hip training for MMA can get.
Utilizing some indirect forms of training are also useful. This can come in the form of core work or even some unilateral training. Core work can involve anything that trains the abdominal muscles or the “core.”
When considering this, many may immediately think of sit-ups and crunches, but there is more to it than that. One beneficial method is static or isometric movements.
Some examples would be plank holds, hollow body holds, or L-sits. All of the moves involve holding a static position that develops the core muscles. Having stronger core muscles helps to stabilize the spine and hips.
This can, in turn, help the bones perform more safely, but also increase the power output. Unilateral training involves using one out of two limbs for a movement.
Typically, this is done with the legs. Why does this help? It helps activate the core, but it decreases any asymmetries in the muscles. If one leg can be more durable on its own, then it will be even more useful when both are used together.
For a sport such as MMA, this can be very useful because there will be instances where you only have one limb available for use. Being able to engage the hips or produce force with that once limb may prove very useful.
These workouts can help an MMA fighter to improve their hip strength and power. Of course, some variation will have to be used, but using the provided samples and information creating your own will be no problem.
- Beginner Workouts for Hip Strength #1
- Barbell Back Squats
- Five sets of 5 reps @ 80% of 1RM
- Box Jumps (related article)
- Seven sets of 2 reps (take lots of rest between)
- DB Bulgarian Split Squat
- Three sets of 10 reps (lighter on the weight)
- Isometric Glute Bridges
- Five sets of 15 reps (3-sec hold for an isometric portion)
- Beginner Workout for Hip Strength #2
- Single Leg Bounds
- Five sets of 10 each leg
- Broad Jumps
- Five sets of 5 jump for max distance
- Kneeling Med Ball Throws
- Five sets of 6 throws (forcefully extend hips)
- AB Wheel Roll Outs
- Five sets of 10 reps
- Low-Plank Holds
- Five sets of 30-sec hold
The above workouts are great for beginners who are looking to produce more force in the hips and be strong for MMA. One utilizes a more resistance training style workout, while the second one is more bodyweight intensive for producing power and core strength.
- Intermediate Workout for Hip Strength #1
- Sumo Deadlifts (related article)
- Seven sets of 3 reps @85% of 1RM
- Barbell Hip Thrusts
- Five sets of 10 reps (moderate weight)
- GHD Back Extensions
- Five sets of 10 reps (bodyweight)
- Kneeling Hop to Feet
- Five sets of 2 reps
- Max Vertical Jumps
- Six sets of 2 attempts
- Intermediate Workout for Hip Strength #2
- Barbell Back Rack Jumping Squats
- Five sets of 6 reps
- Barbell Back Rack Box Step Ups
- Four sets of 6 each leg
- Massive Russian Kettlebell Swings (related article)
- Five sets of 20 reps
- Kneeling Hop to Box Jump
- Six sets of 2 reps
- DB Romanian Dead Lifts
- Five sets of 10 reps (moderate weight)
These two workouts will be perfect for an intermediate MMA fighter. The weights are more substantial, and the movements are more complex, which is designed so that more force produced throughout the entire hip.
All of these will indirectly work some core muscles along with the other powerful muscles of the “trunk” region.
Check out the video below to learn about the differences between the high bar and low bar squats. 👇
Hip Strength Benefits Injury Prevention
A critical aspect of being good at a sport, especially MMA, involves staying injury-free. Through research, there seems to be a strong relationship between hip strength and injury prevention (related article).
The more reliable individuals hip flexors were, there was a lower chance of them being injured.
You can find out more about unlocking your hip flexors here
One such study reported that screening for hip strength was important due because individuals showing weak hips had occurrences of lower back pain (Source). Low back pain is always something to be avoided in any sports setting, especially MMA.
Two prevalent injuries that can be seen within MMA are knees and ankles. Both of these areas are up for a considerable risk of injury just due to the strain put on them.
However, when looking to prevent injuries in these two places, having stronger hips seems to help (Source). By increasing one’s hip strength, they can decrease the risk of damage to knees or ankles (Source).
Within other sports such as hockey, there is a high prevalence of adductor strains in the hip.
This is a muscle that could easily get injured for MMA fighters as well, but similar to previous examples, hip strength was necessary. Those that had stronger hips had massive reductions in the occurrence of injuries to hip adductors (Source).
Putting It All Together
It is clear to see that hip strength is essential for athletes. MMA fighters are a group that especially needs to have healthy hips to be successful. By using resistance training and other modalities, these qualities can be easily trained.
Benefits will show in punching, kicking, grappling, or any other combat techniques. Healthy hips are also crucial for avoiding injuries to the lower back, ankles, knees, and hip flexors/adductors. When you do partake in any striking, ensure you have the right gear for your hands, and footwear to move well.
- (1). Snyder, K. R., Earl, J. E., O’Connor, K. M. and Ebersole, K. T.
- Snyder, K., Earl, J., O’Connor, K., & Ebersole, K. (2009). Resistance training is accompanied by increases in hip strength and changes in lower extremity biomechanics during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 24(1), 26-34. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2008.09.009
- (2). The Relationship Between Lower Extremity Injury, Low Back… : Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine
- The Relationship Between Lower Extremity Injury, Low Back… : Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. (2019).
- (3). Anon
- (2019). Citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Retrieved 13 October 2019, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.454.132&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- (4). Smith BI, E. A.
- Smith BI, e. (2019). Effects of Hip Strengthening on Neuromuscular Control, Hip Strength, and Self-Reported Functional Deficits in Individuals With Chronic Ankle Instability.
- (5). The Association of Hip Strength and Flexibility with the Incidence of Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players – Timothy F. Tyler, Stephen J. Nicholas, Richard J. Campbell, Malachy P. McHugh, 2001
- The Association of Hip Strength and Flexibility with the Incidence of Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players – Timothy F. Tyler, Stephen J. Nicholas, Richard J. Campbell, Malachy P. McHugh, 2001. (2019). The American Journal Of Sports Medicine.