MMA Body: Creating the Killer Core

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Scientific fact: Over 90% of people who’ve watched the Rocky movie saga have attempted to do upside-down situps while pumping “Eye of the Tiger” on their iPhone, thinking they would get the same cut and washboard abs as Sylvester Stallone.

OK, admittedly, that fact was made up—but so are most of the results that the different abdominal gimmicks out there promise. Let’s take some of the techniques used by some of the world’s top fighters to get results with the only approach that’s not a gimmick: hard work.

Getting the core of today’s MMA superstars will take more than attempting neck-breaking moves like the “upside-down situp,” but luckily it will take less than the approach used by Ivan Drago. With over 20 locations worldwide, Training for Warriors uses rotational, high/low rep, functional movements to help people build fighter physiques. Try this core workout by TFW’s Director of Operations John Annillo, C.S.C.S., that will help bring out your warrior within.

Target muscles:

Workout level:

 Perform the workout up to five times per week

Time needed:
 15 to 20 minutes

How to do it: 
Perform this workout as a circuit, one exercise after another with limited rest in-between. You’ll do 100 repetitions each set. Rest a couple of minutes once you’ve completed them and repeat for a total of three sets. Record how long it takes you to complete all three sets, and aim to beat your time each workout.

The routine

  • Hanging leg raise 3 x 10 reps
  • Situp with punch 3 x 20 reps
  • Med-ball Russian twist 3 x 10 reps each side
  • Cable woodchop 3 x 10 reps each side
  • Weighted Swiss-ball 3 x 10 reps
  • Plank roll 3 x 10 reps
  • Swiss-ball knee drive 3 x 5 reps each side

Hanging leg raise

Using an overhand grip, grasp a pullup bar with your legs straight and feet off of the floor. Contract your abdominals as you lift your legs up as high as you can, controlling the speed as you bring them back to the starting position.

Situp with punch

Start lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Contract your abs as you come up into a situp position while throwing a punch with your left and then right arm before returning to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Med ball Russian twist

Grab a medicine ball and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90°. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight (your torso should be at about 45° to the floor). Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right. That’s one rep.

Cable woodchop

Attach a rope handle to the pulley of a cable station, grab it, and stand a few feet away so that you feel tension on the cable. Turn your body perpendicular to the machine so that the handle is over your left shoulder. Now rotate your torso diagonally downward and to the right as if you were chopping into a tree, until the handle passes your right knee (allow your feet to pivot naturally). Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Weighted Swiss-ball

Sit on a Swiss ball, grab a weight plate, and lie back on the Swiss ball. Hold the weight against your chest. Tuck your chin to your chest, and crunch your rib cage toward your pelvis. Lower your body to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Plank roll

Get on your knees, cup one hand over the other, and rest your forearms on a Swiss ball. To start, extend your legs with your knees off the ground. Tighten your core, and allow the ball to roll forward as far as it can before your hips dip toward the floor. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Swiss-ball knee drive

Get into pushup position with your hands on a Swiss ball. Raise one leg off the floor and drive it up until it touches the ball. Return to the starting position. Repeat with the other knee. That’s one rep.

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