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Will Training In MMA Build Muscle? The Whole Scoop

Robert Green
Published: September 14, 2021
Updated: September 14, 2021

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When choosing to learn MMA, you could be wondering whether training in MMA will build muscle or not. While the fighting style is not the usual way to build muscle, it is possible in certain respects. However, it is important to note that you do not need large bulky muscles to be successful in MMA.

Some fighters could decide to train with bodybuilders to pivot into MMA fighting and often this is not a good idea as the two training methods are vastly different. Fighting in the MMA ring also requires many skills like speed, agility, and stamina, which are not taught in bodybuilding.

Training for MMA will help you develop certain types of muscles and how you choose to train will also determine the speed of growth and the types of muscles you grow. Whether you are hoping to improve your physique by building lean muscle or whether you want to look very muscular will help determine whether you should begin training in MMA.

Here is the whole scoop for building muscles to help you decide whether MMA is right for you.

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The Determining Factors For Muscle Growth

Muscle hypertrophy is the scientific term for muscle growth to help describe how muscles increase in size. Based on your level and type of physical activity, you can build muscles more easily if you understand the theory behind it.

Our bodies are made up of three main muscle groups; the cardiac muscles (around your heart), smooth muscles (mostly in your digestive system), and skeletal muscles (the ones that make you look lean and fit).

The ones we are discussing concerning MMA and bodybuilding are the skeletal muscles. These help our body move and complete certain tasks like lifting heavy items. These muscles are voluntary as we need our brain to send the signal to get them to work. Kind of like the several times you need to tell yourself to get dressed and go to the gym.

Skeletal muscles are made up of myofibrils that continuously contract and expand during exercise to the point where small micro-tears occur in the fibers. To heal these tears, your body produces thicker myofibrils to strengthen the area for the next strenuous activity. 

The Role of Exercise In Muscle Growth

When placing your muscles under pressure, slow and controlled movements, such as lifting heavy weights, create a response in the body that helps the muscles recover quickly. On the other hand, when you are using quick bursts of speed and power, the response is a slower recovery time.

The faster recovery time from resistance-styled training also results in more myofibrils being created, which leads to larger muscles in a shorter time frame. The slow recovery time of the muscles results in less growth of the muscles. 

Body Type And Its Role In Muscle Growth

The type of exercise is not the only factor that results in fast or slow muscle growth. People all have different body types and this can create limitations to the amount and speed of muscle growth in your body. 

There are three main body types that will determine how well your muscles grow; endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. 

An endomorph body type allows for quick muscle growth and weight gain with a limitation on how easy it is to shed weight and muscle.

Mesomorphs are in the sweet spot of both gaining and losing muscle and weight fairly easily, which is how many of the top athletes' bodies are structured.

An ectomorph body type is naturally skinny and has trouble with gaining muscle and weight. Despite what a person may eat, they tend to remain lean.

Will Training In MMA Build Muscle?

Based on the above factors, depending on your body type and dominant exercise routines, you can gain muscles when training for MMA. The question is whether you would want to or not. A lot of MMA fighters choose cardio training over resistance training the majority of the time. 

Fighters want to be quick and agile in the ring with increased stamina and coordination, which is easier to obtain during cardio-styled training. If you are looking to gain muscles fast to look big and bulky, then you should look at bodybuilding as your sport.

However, if you are happy to increase your lean muscles through cardio and less resistance training, you can continue on your path to MMA. This doesn’t mean that you won’t build muscles, you can still structure a few training sessions to increase your muscle size, it just won’t be as fast and your muscles won’t grow as big as bodybuilders.

Growing more muscles for MMA is not a bad thing and it can help improve aspects such as flexibility and core stability. To increase your muscles, simply add more resistance training to your workout routines. 

MMA Training And Building Muscle FAQs

Should MMA fighters focus on building muscle?

As an MMA fighter, your training style should match your fighting style. While a large majority of MMA fighters will prioritize speed and agility training, it can benefit you to add in a few resistance training sessions to improve your fighting techniques.

Will I lose muscle while training for MMA?

Whether you gain or lose muscle will depend on your training style and how much you diversify your training sessions. If you are solely prioritizing cardio, you are likely to lose muscle, yet if you add in enough resistance training sessions, you will maintain or even build muscle.

The Verdict

While MMA is not geared toward building muscle but rather about improving speed, agility, and strength, you can still build muscle if you structure your workouts correctly. Adding in more resistance training will help grow your muscles to improve your flexibility, strength, and core strength.

If you are serious about MMA, be sure not to focus solely on bulking up, as the sport is not designed for simply gaining large muscles; speed is just as important as strength.

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