Resistance Band Training for MMA

A resistance band is an alternative training tool that allows for a greater range of motion than normal weights. In addition, the band provides tension throughout the entirety of each movement, decreasing your dependence on momentum. Fighters can benefit from these bands by substituting them for weights in conventional exercises, or by integrating bands in sports-specific movements such as shadowboxing. This guide walks you through resistance band basics, and it outlines some exercises that will make you a better fighter.

Resistance Bands Explained

Compared to resistance bands, free weights provide greater resistance during one part of any given exercise. However, bands allow for constant resistance throughout the entire motion. For example, when bench pressing, tension is at its greatest as the bar touches your chest. A similar chest press exercise with resistance bands enhances difficulty by applying consistent tension throughout the entire motion. In addition, smaller muscles are engaged more effectively with bands, since bands require you to stabilize throughout each movement. As a result, bands are used in a variety of balance exercises.

A resistance band is made of rubber, and it resembles a long, colored tube. There are a wide range of bands you can choose from, differing in style and quality. In addition, some bands have handles, an ideal attribute for elementary exercises.

Also, keep in mind that exercise difficulty depends on the resistance level of the band, which is usually differentiated via color coding. As an added bonus, bands are relatively inexpensive and take up very little space.

Fundamental Exercises

The exercises outlined below require a band with handles. Appropriate resistance levels will probably differ among exercises based on your personal strength and comfort.

Hot Tip: Ladder Drills

To intensify agility ladder drills, attach a longer band to a pole and loop the band around your waist. If you’d rather not buy a longer band, then grab a partner. Wrap the band around your waist and have your partner hold the handles. Go through your ladder drills while your partner applies consistent tension. Check out our guide on Agility Ladder Training for Boxers for detailed ladder drill descriptions.


If you want to push the pace of a bout, then you better have strong legs. Here’s how to strengthen your quadriceps with resistance band squats:

  1. Hold the handles and place the center of the band under your feet.
  2. Keep the band under your feet, but spread your legs so that your feet are slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and chest out through the movement — maintain resistance by holding the handles palm up with elbows bent.
  4. Stand back up and repeat the movement for a predetermined number of sets and reps.

Chest Press

Successful in-fighting depends heavily on your ability to push your opponent around at a close distance. Chest press exercises are essential to achieve this strength.

Follow the steps below for an easy exercise that will boost your chest strength:

  1. Wrap the band around a sturdy object such as a pole.
  2. Hold the handles at chest level with your back to the pole. Take a step forward until the band is taut—place one foot out in front of the other.
  3. Start with your forearms parallel to the ground and your elbows bent.
  4. Push your arms forward to engage your chest muscles. Control all of your movements.
  5. Return your arms to the starting position and repeat for a predetermined number of sets and reps.

Overhead Press

Your shoulders play an important part in each punch you throw, so it’s best to make them as durable as possible. Here’s a breakdown on how to perform the overhead press:

  1. Hold the handles and place the center of the band under your feet.
  2. Bring the handles up next to your head so that your upper arm is parallel to the ground.
  3. Push the handles up until your arms are straight.
  4. Return the handles to the starting position next to your head.
  5. Complete the movement for a predetermined number of sets and reps.

One-arm Rear Flies

Your triceps and deltoid muscles also play an integral role as you throw punches. This exercise hits both muscle groups. Follow the steps below:

  1. Begin on all fours with your back straight and hands and knees on the floor.
  2. Pin one side of the band down with one hand.
  3. Grab the other end of the band in the opposite hand. Lift this end straight out to the side — lead with your elbow and follow with the forearm. Engage your core throughout the exercise in addition to your triceps and deltoids.
  4. Increase or decrease tension by changing the portion of the band that you choose to pin down.
  5. Move slowly, always controlling your movement. Complete for a predetermined number of sets and reps.


Resistance bands can also be integrated into shadowboxing routines, like so:

  1. Place the center of the band behind your back.
  2. Stand in your fighting stance — hold the handles in a guard position by your face.
  3. Shadow box normally while holding the handles — straight punches generally work better.
  4. Complete a round with the band, and then do another round without it. You should feel an increase in punch speed once you scrap the band.

The Possibilities are Endless

This guide provides a very basic overview of resistance band training and should not limit you in your resistance band workouts. Nearly every dumbbell workout can be integrated on the band instead. Be creative and always push yourself to try new exercises. Stability and balance must always be your primary goals as you move forward, though.

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