One of the titans who dominated the early days of mixed martial arts back in the nineties (you know, before it was even referred to as MMA), Sebastiaan "Bas" Rutten was arguably the most fearsome striker in the world. He went on to become a UFC champion, and was undefeated in the last 22 fights of his career – when he earned a reputation for devastating his opponents with his trademark liver shot. On an episode of National Geographic's 'Fight Science,' Rutten's kicking power was tested, and the results showed that a single strike could splinter ribs and rupture internal organs.
It's no surprise that a key component of Rutten's daunting prowess was an equally daunting training regimen and sky-high overall fitness levels. He recently hosted the World Series of Fighting (watch it at wsof.com), but we sat down with him a few weeks ago and asked him to walk us through his favorite exercises, which, understandably, tended toward explosive moves that enhanced his colossal kicking power.
Upper-body cable rotations
Rutten explains that one of the keys to a swift and powerful kick is, perhaps not surprisingly, a strong core. So one way he perfects his kick is by... doing a punching drill using a cable machine? "You might think 'what does this have to do with kicking?' Well, you're training your core to twist, and that's where your power from kicking comes from," Rutten says. "Also, this drill is really good for focusing on footwork. Hooks to the body require both feet on the ground. If my students have bad footwork and punch leaning on their front leg, I have them do this drill to punch so they can see where their power comes from."
Load the machine with weight (Bas uses seven plates, but we expect you'll need fewer). Grab the cable handle, face in the opposite direction of the machine, and take a step out so there is about a foot of distance between your back and the machine. First throw 30 straight punches, then 30 hooks to the body, then 30 straight punches again, then 30 fully extended upper cuts – three sets with each arm. Rutten performs these three times a week, along with running exercises.
Credit: Photograph by Dustin Snipes