One training method I have been incorporating more of lately is walking. In my own personal workouts and the training programs of my professional athletes, walking movements have become a staple. I’m not talking about my overweight client, my beginning client, or my client just coming off an injury. I’m talking about my elite, UFC athletes. Yes; we walk in our training sessions. And no, I’m not talking about a Sunday stroll while sipping on a Caramel Macchiato. Let me explain.
I love to use circuits and complexes in my programming – combine pushups, pull-ups, and squats together and you have a challenging full-body routine with just 3 moves. Putting multiple movements together in a circuit helps to build strength, endurance, promote fat loss, and is time-efficient. Circuit training has been around for years now and while some circuit protocols are better, and safer, than others, I prefer this style of training over most others. Include walking into the mix and we have made our circuit training even better. After you finish up a round of your circuit, what do you do next? Flip through a ‘Muscle & Fitness’ magazine? Watch 2 innings of the Red Sox game on TV? Check out the gal texting on the elliptical? You’re wasting your time. I prefer to be productive and use those seconds or minutes after a circuit for “active rest”. I refer to active rest simply as, “the moments after exercise when the body is still working, however, the heart rate is returning towards its resting rate”. Some popular examples I like to use as active rest include stretches, certain isometric exercises, mobility drills, and walking.
Just Walk? Not Exactly
When working with combat athletes, I incorporate walking drills into their routine while using certain tools. After a challenging combination of kettlebell snatches and kettlebell swings, why not grip that bell and walk for 40 yards? This is a great way to challenge grip strength, work the core musculature in a unilateral fashion, and allow the heart rate to recover all at the same time.
With kettlebells, here are several walk variations that I use frequently:
1. One arm suitcase carry
2. One in the rack position
3. One on the overhead position
4. Two suitcase (commonly called Farmer Walks)
5. Two in the rack position
6. Two overhead
7. Any variation of the 3 positions….1 bell in the rack and 1 overhead for example
Medicine Ball Examples
1. Overhead walks
2. One-arm overhead walk
3. Straight out in front of you (Frankenstein walk)
4. Explosive forward throw and walk
1. Heavy dumbbell or barbell suitcase carry
2. Plate pinch carry
3. Trap bar walk
4. Heavy dummy carry
5. 1. Crawls, hand-walk variations, jumps, lunges (I realize these aren’t really “walks” but we still use them and I think they are extremely valuable)
Give Walking A Chance
Top reason why I love these walking variations include – grip strength, breath control, trunk stability, joint integrity, and mental toughness. All these qualities are essential to the sport of MMA and that’s why these walking exercises transfer nicely to the sport.
It’s common during an MMA fight for there to be quick bursts of activity followed by longer periods of a slower, steadier pace. You see a nice punch and kick combination followed by a 15-20 second clinch battle up on the cage. It’s during this longer exchange where you need to control your breathing, have that superior grip strength, and maintain your mental toughness.
Here are a couple complexes I currently like to use:
A. One Kettlebell
1. Perform 6 KB snatches in right arm and then walk 20 yards in the overhead position. Repeat on left side.
2. Perform 6 KB cleans in right arm and walk 20 yards in rack position. Repeat on left side.
3. Perform 10 swings in right arm and walk 20 yards in suitcase position. Repeat on left side.
B. One Med Ball
1. Perform 10 MB diagonal chops and walk 20 yards with ball overhead.
2. Perform 10 scoop tosses and walk 20 yards with ball straight in front of you.
3. Perform 10 MB burpee throws and walk to ball.
4. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
1. Perform 10 jump squats and lateral hand walk 20 yards.
2. Perform 10 pull-ups and bear crawl 20 yards.
3. Perform 10 jump lunges and lateral hand walk 20 yards.
4. Perform 20 pushups and bear crawl 20 yards.
5. Rest for 60-120 seconds and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
Additional Benefits For The Non-MMA Athlete
This is a great way to get a full-body workout in. If you are pressed for time, grab a bell and perform a series of swings, cleans, and snatches followed by walk variations. Complete 5 rounds and you’ll be done (literally) in 15-20 minutes.
If you don’t have a gym membership, pick up a medicine ball and head out to a local park for a great metabolic circuit of slams, throws, pushups, and overhead walks.
Incorporate into existing program
If you need a quick 5-minute finisher to put at the end of your strength training program; a kettlebell walking complex fits the bill.
If we broaden our thinking, don’t most of these qualities apply to so many different sports out there? Tell me a sport where you don’t need a strong core or healthy joints…the point is these are not MMA-specific. Regardless of your sport or hobby, including these into your routine will help your game. Give a few of these examples a try with any equipment that you have access to and let me know what you think. Get out there and…walk.
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his own 2-DVD set on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was recently a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” TV show.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.