MMA Strength Training: How Much Can You Bench?
Author: Derek Manuel
"How much can you bench press?" We've all heard this question which most of the time has an underlying meaning that the person asking is trying to figure out - usually something along the lines of, "can you beat me up?" But how relevant is your 1 rep max in the bench press to a fighter's mma strength training?
It is, of course, a silly assumption to think that whoever can bench press more between two people is a better fighter. Let's dive into that question even deeper though. What the person is often thinking when he asks that question is, "if he can bench press more then me, he is stronger then me, if he is stronger then me, then he can hit harder, throw me around more easily, and can take more punishment from a less stronger opponent."
For some reason, the bench press has become the symbol of overall strength for many people. To the uninformed, absolute strength is basically a measure of how much weight on can push or pull, without any other consideration to speed, endurance, whether the movement is static or dynamic, the body weight of the person, the exact type of movement and it's functionality, and so on. They just believe that if you can bench press a whole bunch of weight, you are stronger then anybody who cannot bench the same or more weight and therefore you can pretty much push these people around with ease.
Although the sport of mma is still relatively new, it has been around long enough to prove that just having absolute strength, your one rep maximum lift for a given exercise, is of very little use alone in fighting ability. The most important type of mma strength training is power, which is basically strength times speed, with the endurance to continuously exert the same or similar levels of power during a given time period (such as the scheduled length of an mma fight).
A good example in the difference between absolute strength and power is Bruce Lee's infamous 1 inch punch. Lee often stressed the fact that the one inch punch is still a punch, in that you are using power, not strength to push your opponent several feet back. Instead of starting off slowly and then pushing your opponent when you make contact, you are actually executing a quick and explosive movement right from the beginning and the speed times strength (power) knocks your opponent back by the time you make contact.
Rarely in mma does a fighter have the need to push a very heavy (balanced and stable I might add) weight in the full range of motion. 90% of moves need to be executed explosively, such as striking, throwing, take-downs, sprawling, escaping your hips, etc.
So even if you can bench press a lot of weight, it is only potential power, and is of little use in a fighter's mma strength training routine until you can transmute it. However, if you can bench press a lot of weight AND move that weight quickly, explosively, in different angles, with various types of resistance (dumbbells, sandbags, other heavy awkward objects) and in many other forms, THEN you are turning a simple bench press into an exercise that will become more and more functional as a fighter. And this doesn't just go for bench pressing; it goes for ALL the major muscle groups.
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