If you train any kind of martial art, then you already know it can be difficult. Between learning new skills, strength training, and sparring, it can be hard to find adequate time to rest. But if you’re reading this, then chances are that you’re debating whether you even need rest. Perhaps you are considering switching up your training every few days, and resting certain muscles.
Well in this post, I am going to address those concerns associated with overtraining while answering the question: Can you train MMA every day?
Yes, you can train MMA daily without any real physical consequences. However, you should use at least one day out of the week for very light training, which might consist of light movements on the heavy bag, shadowboxing, stretching, and light drills. Recovery is still important, especially if your other days are mainly intense training sessions. If you want to train every day, you will need to balance your hard sessions with light recovery work.
However, this answer is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to daily MMA training. I would honestly recommend giving yourself at least one full rest day per week. This style of training is not for everyone, and if you decide to train this way, you will have to spend time structuring and planning your gym sessions.
In the rest of the post, I will give more insight on why you don’t need a rest day, how to prevent injury, and how to maximize the effectiveness of your training.
Is It Better To Train MMA Daily?
Well, not necessarily. The only reason you would want to train MMA daily is to acquire more knowledge. However, if you are not using your extra day of training to learn a new technique, or to strengthen the skills you already know, then the extra day of training is pretty much useless.
The reason why is because strength and conditioning should already be a part of your workout. Taking a beginner boxing class will strengthen most of the muscles in your body while providing you with an anaerobic workout. However, the workout simultaneously teaches and reinforces your boxing skills, which is the most important aspect if your goal is to learn how to fight.
Former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson combines his strength and conditioning training with functional technique training.
Think of it this way: you can gain strength and fitness while training martial arts, but you won’t get martial arts skills by strength training. The emphasis of MMA training should be in gaining knowledge. Only then is training daily beneficial, as you don’t miss any days of training, which means you have more time to learn new techniques.
So yes, if you can train daily without injuring yourself, and are focused on learning martial skills, then daily training is better than training every other day or so. But you must remember that not every day is going to be an intense training session, as this can lead overtraining and injury, which can significantly slow your progress.
How Can You Train MMA Daily Without Overtraining?
In order to explain how you can avoid overtraining, I am first going to define overtraining itself. Overtraining is described as training so hard or so often that there is an increasing sense of fatigue involved with the next training session.
Fatigue can be physical, as in your body cannot physically take more strain without injury. The fatigue of overtraining can also be mental, and can be due to repetitive and mundane exercise, which causes a plateau in your performance.
I will first explain the physical aspect of overtraining. To avoid this style of overtraining, you simply have to let your body recover to the strain put on it from recent physical activity. This means that a certain muscle group will need to be in rest mode the day after it is exercised, while trying to still remain active and have a meaningful training session.
A lack of adequate rest can lead to physical overtraining, which can cause injury.
I must point out that if you are a beginner, then you will definitely have to take a rest day at some point, because many of the same muscles are used in most martial arts.
A more experienced athlete will be able to maintain more stress on their muscles as well as recovery quicker, which will allow them to train daily. However, they still have to split the use of different muscle groups so as not to overwork any one muscle.
So how do you avoid overworking your muscles? Well first, identify the martial arts that you practice most often, and the muscle groups associated with that martial art.
Now, I realize that every martial art pretty much consists of full-body exercise. But you have to identify the martial art’s effect on your own body and muscles.
For example, let’s say you were boxing yesterday, and today you woke up with sore shoulders. Instead of doing the same thing as you did yesterday and overtraining your shoulders, perhaps you could box with some lighter, 4 oz., MMA style gloves instead of big 16 oz. gloves. Or you could try some light grappling and see if it is easier on the shoulders.
Here you can see the difference between various glove sizes. Using a 4 oz. glove (left) is much easier to lift and wear than a 16 oz. glove such as those in the middle.
You get the point. Switch up your training to rest the muscles that were most strained the day before, and focus on training the muscles that weren’t. Also, you should be warming up before every workout to make sure you don’t tear or pull any of your muscles during your workout. And of course, make sure to get enough sleep and nutritious meals to supplement your training.
This type of overtraining is possibly the most common form of overtraining as well as the most overlooked. This is because it is difficult to detect a shift in performance, especially when it is not a big one. And when you do notice the plateau in your performance, it could be attributed to a number of things.
Mental overtraining occurs when your training is too mundane or repetitive, causing your central nervous system to adapt to the movements, so well in fact that it becomes boring and unproductive.
When your movements become too efficient, the training no longer results in growth or improvement, which causes the plateau in performance as mentioned earlier.
Australian rowers follow a strict schedule where rest days are accounted for, so as to avoid overtraining.
The best way to avoid this is by switching up your training. The very nature of MMA, means you will be training various different martial arts, which should keep your training sessions exciting and interesting. Just make sure you are mixing these different sessions in sporadically, and don’t make them too structured.
You should have a basic idea of what your training session will be like, but learn new exercises and drills related to your martial art that will make it interesting. Famed martial artist Bruce Lee applied this approach into his training.
For example, he would usually run a few miles every day as part of his training. But he always tried switching up his runs. Some days he would do sprints, or interval training, or just run all five miles straight. He tried to keep his training interesting and effective in different ways.
An example of another innovative martial artist is UFC fighter Conor McGregor. McGregor is known to have training methods that may be seen as unorthodox or just plain “weird” by others. However, the emphasis of his training is placed on movement, and the results of his unorthodox training methods have shown great results.
As long as your training sessions are not becoming too repetitive, you should be safe from the performance plateau caused by mental overtraining.
What Type Of MMA Training Should You Do On Your ‘Rest Days’?
You will always need days to recover, even if you are splitting up the training of each muscle group for different days. However, this does not mean you cannot go to the gym and learn a new skill. There are still ways you can train your martial arts skills while letting your body recover.
The type of training you do on your active recovery days will obviously be very light. The focus on these days will be drilling the techniques you have learned throughout the week without putting any force behind your movements.
A good example of this would be hitting the heavy bag bare-knuckle. When hitting the bag bare-knuckle, you are not only forced to hit the bag lightly so as not to hurt your knuckles, but you also have to strike correctly. This means using aligning your wrist with your punch so as not to hurt your wrist.
This martial artist is practicing his kicks by striking a pad that is mounted to the wall.
Another good drill you can do on your active recovery days is practicing your kicks on a mounted target pad, such as the one pictured above. This is a good way to practice different styles of kicks, such as your wheel kicks or roundhouse kicks. Title Boxing makes a pretty good mounted kick pad, which you can find on Amazon here.
This way, you are improving your technique, but you are not using as much force as you would when kicking a heavy bag, which allows your muscles to recover.
If you wish to practice grappling during your active recovery day, I would recommend you only drill in your jiu-jitsu class, and skip rolling. The reason why is that rolling is very intense, and it is not the type of strain you want on your body while recovering.
I would recommend watching your fellow students roll, as this way you can think about what they are doing and how your rolling strategy would differ.
How To Prevent Injury When Training MMA Daily
The best way to prevent injury is by warming up before a workout. Many injuries are caused by jumping straight into a workout, instead of slowly progressing into it. Warming up the muscle allows it to expand and contract easily, without much friction. But when a muscle is not warmed up, there is more strain on it when contracting.
A pulled muscle can occur when you attempt to extend the muscle, but the muscle remains contracted, leaving it overextended. But when the muscle is warmed up and stretched, it is a lot more flexible, and has a greater range of motion.
Thus, the chances of pulling the muscle are a lot slimmer, as the muscle can expand and contract quickly.
Do Professional MMA Fighters Train Daily?
You’ll probably be surprised to hear that most MMA fighters do not train daily. Two prime examples are former UFC Champions Demetrious Johnson and Chris Weidman.
In this article by BleacherReport, Chris Weidman detailed his training schedule in the lead up to his first fight with then-champion Anderson Silva, the same fight that won Weidman the belt. In the article, Weidman reveals that he takes Sundays off as a rest from training.
Chris Weidman knocks out Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Championship.
If you read through his training sessions, it also seems as if they are relaxed. For example, on Saturday all Weidman’s training consists of is a sparring session, accompanied by a massage.
Although he does have more rigorous days in training, such as his Wednesday session, it seems he gives himself adequate time to rest from his harder training sessions.
Demetrious Johnson’s schedule is very similar to Weidman’s in that he allows himself time to rest.
In the video below, Johnson details his training schedule and his approach to his training sessions. Around the 8:30 mark, he starts to detail how his current training schedule compares to his old one.
Johnson allows himself two whole days dedicated to rest. Now, I can assume that during fight camp he is using these days to think about his opponent’s abilities and thinking of his gameplan for the fight. But I think the more surprising thing about this video is his how he decides what he will do based on how he “feels”.
By this, Johnson means he can eat a meal he likes if it feels like depriving himself of such meals is hindering him (9:30 mark). If he feels like he’s overworking a certain part of his body, he’ll switch up his training or just not train for that day.
The point is that his training is not set in stone, and he can switch training time or style with no real issue.
I would like to emphasize that it is very important to have recovery factored into your training schedule. Many professional fighters take rest days, and so should you.
However, should you wish to train daily, it is very possible to do, without injuring yourself of course. Just pay attention to your body and how it feels, and adjust your training accordingly. Thanks for reading!