Dropping a Weight Class

Full squat

I want to share my experience with those who are thinking of dropping weight class in combat sports. Well, it is not easy at all and a long process in your career. Regardless of the reason behind a fighter dropping a weight class, things will need to change for him, but hopefully for a little bit. Once a fighter successfully moves down a weight class then you can start to tweak the program to improve strength and optimize muscle mass.

The initial drop can be daunting, but very doable with proper training and nutrition. So what needs to change for a fighter to drop a weight class? Initially, the biggest change will be diet. I’d argue that manipulating macros is a good place to start and being a human optimizer is the best. Pair this with sufficient nutrition in order to fuel continued training and good things should happen. I also provide contents of nutrition and cooking at Tatekitchen

If you need solid nutritional advice on how to safely and effectively drop a weight class, I would contact Perfecting Athletes. I have worked with them and they are incredibly knowledgeable.

There are several changes that need to happen from a programming standpoint, but let’s start with the biggest obstacle. I spent the last year training myself to be a 135 pounds weight class. I am probably put on a little bit of size while decreasing my body fat, and I am dialed in with programming by Skill of Strength and now I need to do the same, but needs to be 10lbs lighter!

Here’s where it all changes!

A goal with training a fighter dropping a weight class is not to have a fight gain muscle or size, it’s to get one stronger at the same body weight. The goal is raw strength, so need to know how to tense his muscles harder.

Remember, the goal of the suggestions below is to give some ideas on how to increase strength with minimal to no hypertrophy.

So, again, this is my experience in dropping from 135 to 125, so assuming working with a fighter who is already comfortable with training. what might change from a strength training standpoint?

1. Keep it under 5 and around 15 

Mostagree that true strength work is performed in the 1-5 rep range. Keep the reps 5 or under and the total volume of reps around 15. Can you go a bit higher? Sure, it really depends on how athletes responds to volume. I would say that 15 reps total in a given exercise is perfect for strength gains.

So what does this look like in a program?

Here are a few 10-week set/rep schemes to consider for strength gains:

Program #1

Weeks 1-4 3×5

Weeks 5-8 3×3

Weeks 9-10 2×2

Program #2

Weeks 1-45,4,3,2,1

Weeks 5-83,3,2,1

Weeks 9-10 3,2,1

Program #3

Weeks 1-4 5,5,3,2

Weeks 5-8 5,3,2

Weeks 9-10 3,2

You can get as creative as you’d like, but make sure you add in de-loads and taper volume as you get closer to a fight.

2. 2 lifts a day

I got this from Mike Perry at Skill of Strength. He’s really smart, really strong and kind of a big deal. So its only 2 lift’s a day? Yes, that is correct.

It’s a minimalist program that will get you strong and rarely make you sore. If you don’t have much time to strength train for MMA try this! Perform 2 lifts a day 3 days a week. Use the under 5 and around 15 rep scheme and you should be all set.

Here is an extremely complicated training template:

Day #1



Day #2



Day #3

Barbell bridge

Renegade row

Simple and effective

3. Implement bodyweight training.

Sure, you can gain a bit of size with bodyweight training, but it is also pretty tough when done right and you will be forced to develop some serious skill. Add in 1-arm push-ups, pistols, hanging leg raises and gymnastic-based exercises. The bonus here is that you have a gym anywhere you go and you’ll learn a ton about your body along the way.

There are many ways to get strong while staying at the same bodyweight, but the ones listed above are very simple.