Striking and social distancing

Guest writer Nick Blanchard from shares some great tips for stepping up your game. Check out Nick’s site for all things martial arts and MMA.

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With martial arts academies across the country closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been tougher to keep your techniques sharp. In this article, I’m going to cover tips that will help you work on both striking and grappling while on quarantine. Then, we’ll take a look at the training the UFC’s pros are doing right now and how we can learn from them.

Striking Specialists: Work on Strength

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but strength is directly correlated with striking impact. An NIH study investigated the impact of strength on punching power of 15 boxers. The results were striking, no pun intended.

Because your body serves as a lever that amplifies the power behind each bunch, even a small amount of added strength can have a drastic positive impact on your striking power. Strength training doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. In my experience, the two best strength-building exercises that you can do at home for martial arts are:

  1. Pull-ups. Although striking is a pushing motion, pull-ups are key for your punching power because they strengthen your lats. The reason your lats are always so sore after a solid boxing session is because the torque from a punch is initiated in your back and core. Anyone can pick up a cheap doorway pull-up bar and start working on their 
  2. Bicep curls. Over the past 10 years, there has been quite a bit of backlash from the Crossfit and “functional fitness” crowd against bicep curls. Crossfitters used to regard them as more of a bodybuilding exercise, although many are starting to come around to the obvious practicality of having strong biceps for any physical activity involving your arms. A set of dumbbells is all you need to start building your bicep strength with curls.

Grappling Specialists: Learn Theory and Technique

There’s no way around it, practicing grappling martial arts like Jiu Jitsu without a training partner is tough. The one thing you can do is make sure you’re brushing up on your theory and technique. You can find pretty much any martial art topic widely covered on YouTube. When it comes to grappling, my favorite channel is BJJ black belt Stephan Kesting’s.

The downside to free videos on YouTube is that they are all over the place. You’ll learn one technique after another that don’t necessarily connect and might be hard to actually implement on the mats.

For higher-end wrestling content, former MMA superstar Ben Askren and his brother offer an online program that is very affordable and has a ton of useful stand-up theory from the funkmaster himself. If Jiu Jitsu is more of your thing, you might want to check out ADCC Champion Marcelo Garcia’s popular site MG in Action, or the budget-friendly Gold BJJ Online Training.

What are the Pros Doing?

One of the best parts about social media (and I agree, there’s a lot not to like as well) is the insider’s perspective it gives us into the training methods of elite fighters. Your favorite UFC stars are almost certainly on Instagram, and you’d be surprised at how open they are about their training.

Dustin Poirier, currently ranked 11th in the UFC’s pound for pound rankings, is a particularly interesting fighter to check out because he is so strong as both a grappler and a striker. While it’s hard to practice wrestling and Jiu Jitsu without a training partner, Dustin has been using a grappling dummy to responsibly work on his ground game:

Pro fighters are also taking this as a time to work on their cardio and strength. Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman said it best in this post: The work don’t stop!

Outfitting Your Home Gym for Martial Arts

I know that I train more frequently and more effectively when I am happy with the space I’m training in.

The number one piece of equipment I recommend prioritizing is flooring. This might sound counterintuitive since most martial artists are typically focused on their heavy bags, uniforms, or gloves. Great flooring is often overlooked but will allow you to train longer, more enjoyably, and injury-free.

The cheapest flooring option, and what I personally use, is 1” puzzle mats. You can find these on Amazon and the nice part about puzzle mats is you only have to buy the coverage you need for your exact space. If you really want to splurge, you can get full-on academy grade mats. My school uses Zebra mats, which are sold individually to outfit your home gym.

You’ll also want to consider that the ideal gear for training at home isn’t always the same as for training at your academy. Boxing gloves are a perfect example of this. Sparring gloves are designed to protect your partner, while heavy bag gloves are designed to protect you. If you’re at home wailing on the heavy bag, make sure you are using gloves that provide adequate protection or you’ll be quickly sidelined with sore hands.

A New Super Lux Option

Professional boxing trainer Flo Master (who has worked with top fighters like Anderson Silva and Erik Paulson) is one of the lead instructors for FightCamp, an at-home boxing setup that many users are calling the “Peloton of boxing.”

FightCamp is not cheap – depending on if you have your own heavy bag or not, it will run you between $439 and $1,349 for the setup plus another $39/month for the membership. But it is pretty darn cool.

The FightCamp hand wraps come with Bluetooth trackers that give you in-depth statistics on your workouts like punching speed and frequency. If expense isn’t an issue, it’s an option worth considering.

Set Realistic Expectations

Finally, I’d like to take this time to remind you to slow down and take a deep breath. Take things one day at a time, try to find balance, and don’t beat yourself up about shaking up your normally strict training schedule.

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