Between stand-up and ground fighting, there is clinching. Maybe you’re a judoka looking to improve your throws, or an MMA’er trying to beat strong wrestlers – maybe you just want to be able to disable relatives with a fierce bear hug. These exercises will improve your ability to gain, control, and break clinch positions.
Clinch control is about controlling and manipulating balance. Without it, your strikes lose power, throw attempts fail, and your opponent can take you down to the mat with ease. If I had to give a highbrow explanation, I’d say that balanced clinching comes from having a dynamically strong, rooted stances that allow for you to actively manipulate your opponent’s balance. As such, clinch control primarily relates to three strengths: leg power, core stability/sensitivity, and griping/pulling. Perhaps a judo master could expound more – I’ll ask Vladimir Putin about it.
But enough about that, lets get to exercises that develop muscular strength and skill to control the clinching positions.
Old-school and awesome. If you’ve never done them, make sure you read about the saftey pointers and proper technique from the guys over at EliteFTS here. They’re not deadlifts, and doing them like a deadlift can injure you. Don’t give up on deads, I think they’re great – just different.
The transfer of power from your legs helps you sprawl with strength, as well as push through a sprawl put on you, among other things.
Again, old-school. This will help you get rooted and keep a good stance while working for clinches like “over/under control” (you have one under-hook and over-hook at the same time). Also, when you compete it is important to be able to drive your opponent back while clinched up. Once their back is on the ropes/cage, you can use that lack of mobility to your advantage.
If you have the access, train some drills with football linemen – the ones where they slam into each other and push right after the hike of the ball.
I learned about this one over at the DragonDoor forums, and think this is a mighty nice exercise. Normally, I hate bicep curls, partially due to the immature fascination of body builders with the biceps and partially because bicep curls don’t translate really well to most sports and performance. These are a tad different.
They’re great to produce full body tension, which you need to keep your root and stance while struggling in clinches. Think about it – if you have great chest power from bench pressing, but while standing you can’t back up that strength with a rooted core body, you’ll just get pushed over to your back.
This curl can be done with medicine balls, kettlebells, or rocks. Anyway, Chris Smith describes the exact process of doing them in an article on EzineArticles.com,
To perform the kettlebell crush curl, you simply grasp the kettlebell on each side with a palms-facing grip. Squeeze as hard as you can, like you would with a box of valuables while moving. This will serve to keep the kettlebell from falling to the ground. I perform the kettlebell crush curl with the handle on top, this seems to be easier for me.
Starting at the bottom position, your elbows will be fully extended and the kettlebell should be in front of the thigh area. Keep your back straight throughout this exercise. While squeezing the kettlebell, slowly curl the kettlebell up. Pause at the top and lower the kettlebell in a controlled manner, all the while “crushing” the kettlebell.
Also, if you have shoulder or elbow problems, this curl is friendly to your joints.
Pull ups are challenging – they engage a lot of muscles to do them right. As a general rule, MMA training exercises should be compound, multi-joint movements that incorporate many muscle groups and link them cohesively together, mimicking some specific movement from the sport ( isolation training is a no no!). You want to be able to use your body as a whole, integrated unit instead of a collection of parts.
Anyway… you can do these with either grip – as shown above or by gripping the bar palms facing you. The key to good pull ups is to keep stabilized and don’t cheat kinetically. Cheating is when you swing your knees to help you pull on the way up, or other such shenanigans.
If you can’t muster one full pull up yet, don’t fret. Over at The Art of Manliness blog, there’s a article on how to do more than one stinking pull up. If you look at the picture there, you’ll notice a fun variation that I give two thumbs up.
Due to popular demand, I’ve put together a huge resource about pull ups called pull ups for fighters.
Primarily, this exercise is used to gain rotational core strength. That core strength will help you pull opponents off balance and keep yourself rooted, not to mention it’ll help punching power. Fedor Emelianenko and his team, the Red Devils, beats the crap out of tires with sledgehammers – its a big part of their training. Enough said.
The suitcase lift is like a deadlift, but you are only picking weight on one side of your body. It strengthens the core. Just like the photo, squat down like you’re sitting in a chair and drive with your hips on the the way up. Keep your shoulder girdle parallel to the floor – you should stand erect like you don’t have any weight in your hand. The opposite side obliques will be hit hard! Additionally, it can increase your grip strength.
Oooo…. this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can shoulder carry and practice body slams, put it on the ground and do over head throws (like a back suplex), or just bear hug squeeze for all you’re worth. Front squats, turkish get ups, it doesn’t end. Also, you can use medicine balls.
One I enjoy is the partner drill where you are in sit up position (at the top), back to back, and pass off the medicine ball to the side to your partner. If you’ve got Pavel Tsatsouline’s book, Bullet Proof Abs, his combat twist is awesome too.