Pro fighter Drex Zamboanga shares MMA conditioning drills to get you fighting fit!
Drex Zamboanga is living proof of just how essential proper conditioning is to MMA and combat sports. This year alone, he has competed twice in matches where his body was pushed to the limit.
Earlier this year, “T-Rex” successfully captured the Full-Con bantamweight title against Michael Fangki in the latter’s own backyard, 5,000 feet above sea level in Baguio City. A month later, Zamboanga set the tournament record for the longest match in Toughguys Close Combat Grappling Championship history, submitting his opponent after an hour and fifteen seconds of back-and-forth grappling.
Zamboanga says that his superb conditioning did not come overnight but are results of years of hard work and training. Here are some of Drex’s go-to exercises to help you develop Spartan-like stamina.
This targets your pulling muscle: shoulders, back, biceps, and forearms. These are very useful in both Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, where you need to pull your opponent, either into your guard or in for a takedown, says Zamboanga. The pro fighter says he busts out at least a 100 repetitions of these, spread across three sets. For beginners, Zamboanga recommends starting off with assisted pull-ups for 20 total reps until you can do the exercise un-assited.
Sit-outs is a move made popular by wrestlers and not only target the shoulders and thighs, but also improves cardio and balance, according to Zamboanga. He does this workout for 1 minute for 3-5 sets. For beginners, start out slow and go for 3 sets of 20 reps.
This drill simulates the act of passing an opponent’s guard (getting past his legs) so that you could pin or control his body. Do this drill long enough and you’ll feel your heart pumping and your legs burning.
“T-Rex” advises that, while doing the workout explosively, you should always maintain proper form for utmost efficiency. “Kelangan yung tuhod mo, nakalagay sa may tagiliran para ready to knee rake ka na. Papatungan mo ng tuhod yung kalaban mo para mahirapan siya himinga. Tapos kapag naka knee rake ka na, pwede ka na mag-side control to proceed sa submission. Kumbaga panggulang din kapag naka knee-rake ka na,” he says.
PRO TIP 1: GAUGE YOUR CARDIO
According to Zamboanga, it’s important that you know your body and can gauge whether its in fighting form or not. For him, target mitts helps him gauge his stamina.
“Na-de-develop naman sakin dito yung cardio kasi dun ko nalalaman kung gaano kataas na yung cardio ko. Pag napagod ako within three minutes, ibig sabihin yung cardio ko mababa pa, so parang yun yung test meter ng cardio ko. Pero pag umabot ako ng five minutes tapos hindi pa ako napapagod, ibig sabihin, yung cardio ko malakas na, kundisyon na ako nun ibig sabihin. Dun ko nalalaman kung kundisyon na ako whether sa grappling, sa striking or MMA.”
PRO TIP 2: WELCOME ADVERSITY IN THE GYM
Going beast mode every training session could leave you burned out or worse: injured. However, getting used to some tough training sessions that really push you is a must for you to get your conditioning to that next level, Zamboanga says.
“Na-adapt ko yung hard training kaya nung nag-18 na ako, nag-20 na ako hanggang ngayon, nadala ko na yung tradisyon na training nila na hard training hangang sa may tinuturuan ako na estudyante, nadadala ko siya kumbaga hindi kasi ako sanay na pag magte-training ako na easy lang. Kumbaga everytime na nagte-train ako, gusto ko hirap ako. Kumbaga sakin, mas masakit, mas masaya!”