How to Train like UFC Fighter Chris Weidman

Before his injury, Weidman was in the best shape of his life. Here's how he got there. Credit: Courtesy Reebok/Spencer Kohn

UFC fighter Chris Weidman, a.k.a. “The All-American,” won’t be taking on rival Luke Rockhold for the Middleweight Championship this June. It’s a shame, and not just for Weidman. The ban on professional mixed martial arts in New York, Weidman’s home state, was recently lifted, UFC fans were primed for the rematch, and there had been no shortage of requisite trash-talk leading up to the highly anticipated fight.

Before Weidman’s fight-ending injury, he said, "I was never in better shape, more healthy, motivated, confident, and excited for a fight in my life." That’s thanks to a goal-oriented approach to training that anyone can benefit from. While you can’t watch him get in the octagon on June 4, you can use his training tips below, and try his 10-minute, full-body workout the next time you have to bail on the gym.

Train for Volume — and Hard

As with training for any activity, “the best way for getting in shape for any of this stuff is actually doing it,” Weidman says. And when you’re a mixed martial artist, there’s a lot to do. In order to train both stand-up and ground-fighting styles, he typically works out twice a day, alternating disciplines: kickboxing in the morning, for example, and then practicing Jiu-Jitsu in the evening. No matter the style, he keeps the intensity high. “The actual sparring that we do is as real as the fight — as real as you can get,” says Weidman.

To give his body “a break,” he’ll switch to speed work and circuit training. Hill sprints and explosive movements (think box jumps) are favorites, and strength training includes mostly bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, pistols (one-legged squats), and sit-ups. He does some traditional weightlifting, but keeps the weight moderate and uses a higher rep (more than 10 per set) scheme. This approach keeps the focus on strength and endurance over getting swole.

Vary Your Recovery

Weidman’s list of recovery modalities is nearly as mixed as his fighting styles. With the literal beating his body takes six days a week, massage and physical therapy are the minimum. On his own, he uses ice baths, Epsom soaks, and NormaTech, a device that provides pulsing compression to enhance blood flow in the arms, hips, and legs.

Embrace the Taper Before an Event

Similar to a marathoner’s taper, Weidman pushes his limits until a few weeks before a fight, then shifts to maintenance mode. In the final week of training, his workouts are pared to once a day, and the goal is to just break a sweat and keep his body fresh. He focuses on refining his technique and stays loose with stretching and mobility.

Stay Clean and Green

Weidman keeps his diet clean, fueling mostly with lean protein (including recovery shakes), healthy fats, and complex carbs. His typical breakfast consists of eggs, toast, and avocado. For lunch and dinner, he’ll have salmon and wild rice, or steak and sweet potatoes. Not a fan of salads, he ups his vegetable intake by keeping pre-made green juices on-hand for easy snacking.

Build a Team

There are no shortcuts to a UFC championship. “Everyone’s looking for the magic bullet,” says Weidman. His only advice is to work hard and build a first-class team of coaches and trainers who have the knowledge and experience to help you reach your goals. “You want to surround yourself with great people who know more about this stuff than you do. Learn from them.”

Weidman’s 10-Minute Anywhere Workout

It’s rare that Weidman doesn’t have access to a state-of-the-art training facility, but he’s prepared for anything with this 10-minute circuit that requires minimal space and equipment. You’ll need a pull-up bar, but scaffolding or playground monkey bars also work.

In 10 minutes, completes as many rounds as possible of

  • 10 pull-ups.
  • 30 push-ups.
  • 30 V-sits: Start in a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the ground, arms straight overhead. Lift your feet, balancing on your sitting bones. With a straight back and open chest, extend your legs and lean back slightly, using your abs to keep your feet and shoulders from touching the ground. Quickly sit up, drawing your knees to your chest and maintaining your balance; slowly lower back to start, and repeat.
  • 30 jumping prisoner squats: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder’s width apart and place your hands behind your head. Squat, pushing hips back, and lowering as far as you can go with your back flat and shoulder back. Pressing through your heels, explode out of the squat to jump and land lightly on your feet with soft knees; repeat.