These workouts were designed by strength and conditioning coach and MMA training expert Sabina Skala. Sabina prepared this program for professional fighter Richie J. Edwards to build strength and power. The workouts are presented exactly as they happened without modifications. They will be posted three times per week, but you can adjust them to fit your own MMA or BJJ training schedule. To learn more about Sabina's approach to coaching MMA fighters, read her article, "How to Train Strength and Conditioning for MMA."


Week 1, Day 1: Strength Phase, Day 1



Warm up with joint mobility


3 Rounds:
Barbell Russian Twist:  20kg BB + 15kg x 10 (L&R counts as 1)

Every round change the level:

  • Round 1 - Top of the thigh 
  • Round 2 - Just below the knee
  • Round 3 - Down to the floor


Build up to Front Squat 1RM: 95kg

3 Rounds of 3 reps at 45% 1RM (See notes on time under tension below)
Rest 3 mins between rounds


Looks like: 

  • Eccentric: 16sec 
  • Bottom hold (thighs parallel to the floor): 8sec
  • Concentric: 1sec



4 Rounds:
8x Stiff Legged Deadlift (off a box): 30 % 1RM - 50kg
16kg Dumbbell Isometric Ab Work x 8: Sitting on a bench, hook one foot against a bar on the Smith machine, press against the bar with the other foot. Lean back until you feel most tension in your abdominals. Maintaining this position, Richie did 8 dumbbell presses per arm.


Flexibility work


Notes on Time Under Tension (TUT):  Time under Tension method is well known as very effective in increasing strength, muscle size, or muscle endurance depending on how you use it. When you look at TUT you look at the total amount of work you place on a muscle and the total time muscles resist weight during each set. For example, you could do 5 chin ups with the tempo of 1 sec up, 2 sec hold at the top position, 3 sec lowering down. The time to perform each rep will be 6 seconds, with a total of 5 reps. Therefore the total TUT for this set is 30 seconds.


The traditional protocol for TUT when looking at improving STRENGTH is:


1-6 reps 

TUT: 4-24 sec

Load 50% 1RM +

Seconds per rep: 

1 rep: 4 - 20

2 reps: 2-10

3 reps: 2-6


Strength and conditioning coaches have tweaked these values based on their own experience, so you may see different numbers out there depending what literature you read. Here is what I have come up with for Richie. 


This is first time I used TUT with Rich and the goal was to improve his Front Squat 1RM and also his chin ups. Chin ups followed the traditional protocol with a small change, so I am not going to elaborate on that. However, with squats, the story was completely different. 


The protocol I have followed for squats over 3 weeks time was: 


Session 1: 

3 sets of 3 reps @ 45% of 1RM

16/8/1 **

Rest 3 minutes between sets, short rest up to 30 seconds between reps allowed to correct the grip.


Session 2

3 sets of 3 reps @ 47% of 1RM

14/8/1 **

Rest 3 minutes between sets, short rest up to 30 seconds between reps allowed to correct the grip.


Session 3

3 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of 1RM

12/8/1 **

Rest 3 minutes between sets, short rest up to 30 seconds between reps allowed to correct the grip.


** Eccentric (lowering down)/isometric (hold - thighs parallel to the floor)/concentric (stand up)


As you can see, it differs from the traditional programming. I have decreased the load but increased the time and also allowed for a short break between each repetition. Again, the numbers above are based on experience and they may differ for other athletes. I found this range of time, rest and reps very effective when introducing TUT for the first time. I wouldn't use it more than 2x a year for big exercises like squat and bench press. I haven’t used it for deadlifts and would not recommend doing so, as I personally think it puts too much stress on the back.


Always remember that the form is crucial, so if technique is compromised, decrease the time per rep or load. When you use TUT for the first time, you will be stunned by the results, which leads to the temptation to used it more often. I have tried different scenarios, and the one that has worked best so far was TUT 2 times each year for big lifts. I have not noticed any significant improvement in strength when I increased the frequency of TUT sessions.


Give it a go, play with it, and always remember training = science + art. There are always new ways to explore. I like using TUT with fighters for a couple of more reasons, one of the most important is that using lower load for few reps puts less stress on the joints and you still get the benefits and improvement in strength.