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. :)

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146 Comments on "One of the WORST Exercises for MMA"

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Dane Glidell
22 days 18 hours ago

First, I extend my complements to you for your great accomplishments in MMA. I often read for pleasure and education. But, I often cringe when I see how some people write. Most people have not learned correct fitness techniques. So, their bad form is excusable. But, everyone I know has received years of training in grammar and writing style. So, readers expect a certain level of competence. It’s about credibility. If a writer has not learned good writing techniques or even correct spelling, how can any reader believe the writer has the ability to learn and teach his own craft?… Read more »

2 months 28 days ago

MMA: mixed martial arts. Meaning that they do more then just punching; ANd the resistance bands have helped me a lot. You would have been right if this would be the onlut thing the fighter does; But it isn’t. An mma fighter hits the heavy bag, the speed bag, does shadow boxing… and also uses speed bands: when using it in a pull motion, you learn to pull back your arm faster. If you use it to punch, you learn to better use your whole core and hips while rotating more powerfully. I’ve used them a month in my training… Read more »

5 months 30 days ago

I use light bands in short burst mixed with bag and pad work. It has really help in developing a more snappy punch. I am focosed on staying loose and using good form i also use it for kicks while actually kicking the bag with band attached to foot. Baokow does it and hes a bad ass look it up muay thai motivation part 2. I find that at the end of sets it forces me to be extra snappy and fluent or i start throwing shitty punches. I love it. Its a small part in a big plan. The… Read more »

9 months 12 days ago

Try and educate people and see what you get? I totally agree Eric, I thought the same thing when I saw elsewhere people training with a band to increase punching power. One needs to whip it and snap it back. And the band is totally doing all the work of snapping the hand back in guard. And teaching you to push your punch. Wrong and wrong.

1 year 5 months ago

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
1 year 5 months ago

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

1 year 7 months ago

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

2 years 2 days ago

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

David B
2 years 1 month ago

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.

2 years 4 months ago

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.

2 years 5 months ago

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… Read more »

2 years 9 months ago

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

2 years 9 months ago

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… Read more »

Ray J
2 years 9 months ago

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… Read more »

2 years 10 months ago

What do you think of the mass suit?

2 years 10 months ago

You’re quite dumb. Wrestlers ftw.

2 years 10 months ago

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.

2 years 11 months ago

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… Read more »

2 years 10 months ago

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.

6 months 25 days ago

the muscles don’t get messed up they do what they always do. ADAPT!! smh

2 years 11 months ago

[…] One of the Worst Exercises for MMA […]

3 years 12 days ago

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.

2 years 10 months ago

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

3 years 14 days ago

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… Read more »

3 years 4 months ago

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

3 years 4 months ago

I wouldn’t do that.

3 years 25 days ago

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.

3 years 23 days ago

cstev – you do know Ali punching underwater was a myth, don’t you? If not, check this biography (Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times): 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 –… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago

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

3 years 6 months ago

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.

3 years 6 months ago

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

[…] The full scoop is here: One of the WORST Exercises for MMA. […]

4 years 14 days ago

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….

Danny D.
4 years 2 months ago

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

2 years 1 month ago

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.

4 years 8 months ago

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… Read more »

3 years 4 months ago

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.

3 years 4 months ago

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.

4 years 9 months ago

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… Read more »

4 years 10 months ago

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

4 years 10 months ago

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.

4 years 10 months ago

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.

4 years 10 months ago

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

4 years 10 months ago

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.

4 years 10 months ago

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.”

4 years 10 months ago

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 :)

4 years 10 months ago

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.

4 years 10 months ago

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

4 years 11 months ago

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… Read more »

4 years 11 months ago

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

4 years 11 months ago

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

2 years 9 months ago

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… Read more »

4 years 11 months ago

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

4 years 11 months ago

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

4 years 11 months ago

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… Read more »

5 years 1 month ago

“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

5 years 1 month ago

Please share!

5 years 1 month ago

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

Mike Wilson
5 years 2 months ago

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

Jason Chang
5 years 2 months ago

Maki Riddington obviously dosen’t have a clue what he is talking about and should stay out!!!

5 years 2 months ago

one mooore thing eric if you dont mind sharing a bit more of your knowledge. Alot of us strikers here are looking to improve the explosion and devestation of our striking, something opponents wouldnt even want to block because theyre so vicious. do you think you can post a video of some really good exersises that really increase striking power and explosion, and really work the fast twitch muscles in the core???? Sorry Im getting a little off topic here but explosive and devastating striking is the 1 aspect of MMA I am most interested in

5 years 2 months ago

thanks erik! perfect sense

5 years 2 months ago

ya dont really like the bands type style training either. it might be good for explosive power for the legs when launching but i think there are way better options to consider when it comes to building strength and speed for the upper body.

5 years 2 months ago

Hey eric, I can really see where you’re coming from when you say not to use bands because they bring your hands back for you which screws up your speed and defense. What i cant wrap my head around however is how holding weights is a setback. Once my nervous system has already pretty much memorized how to throw a punch and i could focus less on technique, why not use weights, it is different than bands in the sense that it doesn’t reinforce that bad habbit of not bringing ones hands back and when i drop weights after showdowboxing… Read more »

5 years 2 months ago

It depends on the weight and power of the individual (notice I didn’t say strength).

You’ve got to be careful not to use too much weight because if you’ve got too heavy a weight and you’re not powerful enough to accelerate the weight and snap it back, it becomes more of a front dumbbell raise.

Punching power comes from snap, not strength. So if the weight is too heavy and you lose the snap, you’re not working punching power and it’ll change the mechanics/timing of your punch.

Hope that makes sense.

Timmy O
5 years 2 months ago

I didn’t read every post but from I gathered, I noticed that everyone is focusing on the arm’s and shoulder’s ability to push. The body will only allow the arm to go forward as fast as it can decelerate it (stop it from coming out of the socket. Therefore, if punching speed and power are desired, it is important to train the muscles that decelerate the movement as well. Just making sure that this point doesn’t go over-looked in people training regimens.

5 years 2 months ago

Good point to mention.

5 years 2 months ago

I agree Eric!… The worst thing you can do as an athlete is try to use resistance training in combination with your ‘sport-specific’ skill. It confuses the neuromuscular patterning that you need when competing. Strength training should never be about trying to give resistance to the muscles as they go through a sport-specific range of motion. This causes flaws in skills and sport-specific performance. Strength training should progress the ‘sport-specific MUSCLES’ in terms of overall strength, without trying to ‘copy’ the actual movements required in the sport. I always design my wrestling training programs this way and it is much… Read more »

5 years 2 months ago

” Strength training should never be about trying to give resistance to the muscles as they go through a sport-specific range of motion. This causes flaws in skills and sport-specific performance. ” Steve, please can You tell me whose theory this is? A scientists, a researcher, or a world class athletes coach? I was personaly in Europe in training camp and saw olympic champ wrestlers doing throwing simulation with bands. Also on youtube there is a video of one of the excelent(world class) Russian sambo national team coach doing the same. I just do not understand from where all these… Read more »

5 years 2 months ago

Hey Iver,

The throwing with bands exercise is different from punching with bands in a couple of ways, the most important being that using the band doesn’t change the mechanics/timing of the move, whereas in this example, punching with a band does alter the mechanics of the move.

5 years 2 months ago

Absolutely agree Eric,I did not wont to compare apples and peaches(and my English…) This question was intended only for Steves comment, about resistence and sport specific movement. And probably there are 100s of examples for it and against it. My point is that we can not make this kind of generalization what he wrote, but analyze a specific situation or exercise and than make an opinion, as you have done it with band punch.

5 years 2 months ago

They also do this quite a bit in Judo as well as it helps with your entry into various positions to throw or sweep. I use the bands to drill this quite a bit and it has helped me.

5 years 2 months ago

Most of the coaches has different education, methods, experience. Theory is important, but in sport results count. And there is no “out of the box” solution to everybody.

5 years 2 months ago

You guys and Eric have good points for saying that punching with bands is a bad exercise. But not so long ago, inspired by Eric video on developping punching power and core 😛 , I looked for some other videos on youtube and I found this one: The difference of this video and punching with bands is that on the video it isn’t a band, so it doesn’t pull your arm back! I know that for developping power it is around 30%-40% of your maximal strenght. (I don’t know if the weight is OK on the video, it was… Read more »

5 years 2 months ago

I don’t like the grinding through of that exercise in the fight stance trying to maintain good form, but the concept of staying grounded is an excellent one to train and one you can train with various exercises that don’t have the potential to interfere with punching mechanics.

That’s a big thing that I’m saying here that I feel some people aren’t getting – there are so many exercises you can use to train a certain quality, why use one that has the potential to mess up your technique when you can use others that don’t have this potential?

5 years 2 months ago

I’m also trying to figure what would be the difference between this exercise and a medecine ball front throw, but I’m not able to find a significant one. Is there a better exercise, or they are complementary?
It seems to me that both are simulating a punch.

Do someone can help me please? :) Thanks a lot.

5 years 2 months ago

Hi Eric, Sounds like good advice. Given the dynamics of the resistance while throwing the punch would the reverse be true if you positioned yourself to stand with resistance on the bands is stance then let the the bands spring your punches forward by you relaxing, then provide more resistance when pulling the arms back to stance position? I ask this because we use resistance bands or similar to provide resistance when we pull (simulating breaking of opponents balance) and turn in 180 degrees to throw. The benefit of this is training the body to stay balanced even when your… Read more »

5 years 2 months ago

The snap back comes more from the core than the arms – so if you do the exercise focusing on rotational core speed it is good.

5 years 2 months ago

Still don’t accept that it screws the technique so badly. I think a few other considerations could be made: 1. Have the bands run under the arms, not over, so there is no change in technique at all. 2. Assume that the fighter already has good technique and understands good technique so applies the resistance intelligently. Most exercises require a slight adjustment of movement for that particular exercise but that doesn’t mean it will permanently change the technique negatively. Transfer is important, even more important than specificity. 3. Level of tension? Bands can offer a little or a lot of… Read more »

Jonathan Kiser
4 years 10 months ago

Spot on, I just think that Eric was wanting to point out here that most people train somewhat inaccurately, especially beginners or instructors that easily accept hype or fad training without proper investigation of the overall effects. I had a harness of elastic bands that used to fit to the front of my body and it certainly built my tendon strength and I would do it slow (always band under arm) and then explosively). If I were start with worst exercise in MA/MMA it would be the “hurdler’s stretch” as this one causes quite a bit of damage to knee… Read more »