The #1 Lesson Bodybuilders Can Learn From MMA Fighters


The 80/20 Rule

Are you *really* satisfied with your workout?

The 80/20 Rule

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re busting your ass in the gym damn near every day, but when you step on the scale, look in the mirror, or take a look at how much weight is on the bar, it just isn’t matching up. I mean, shouldn’t you be getting A LOT more for all the work you’re putting in?

Or maybe you *are* getting results, but damn if you don’t seem to spend every waking minute in the gym!

Your buddies bust your balls because they think you should hang out with them more, regular everyday responsibilities seem to be tougher to pull off because you’re in the gym all the time, and your wife/girlfriend is pissy with you because you’re not paying her enough attention. To top it all off, there’s a little voice in the back of your mind…getting louder…almost gnawing away at you like a beaver chomping on nether regions of your mind.

“Is this really what I should be doing? Is there a better combination of exercises? Am I missing out on that ‘utlimate’ routine? And what about that workout I just saw in *insert magazine, website, or article here*?”

Yeah, it can be frustrating when the time and effort you’re putting in doesn’t seem to be coming back to you the way it should. Chances are, it’s not that your workout needs a slight tweak – what it needs is some time on the chopping block. But before you can do that, you gotta overhaul your approach. And that’s where MMA and the “80/20 rule” comes in.

Early days of MMA

I first got interested in MMA before it was even really known as “MMA”. It was the late ’90s, I was still in college, and a buddy got a bunch of us together to watch this bootleg video tape of UFC VII. I was immediately hooked. Back in those days, there really was no such thing as “training MMA”. There were no MMA gyms and no MMA coaches. Guys had to train all the different disciplines separately. This meant that you’d have to go to the BJJ dojo a couple times per week. Then go hit up the boxing gym a couple times. Then get with your Muay Thai coach. Then hit up your local wrestling club. Then, if you were lucky, you and a few guys would get together at someone’s house on the weekends to try and put it all together via some kinda sparring.

The 80/20 Rule

It really was like training a bunch of different sports all at once.

At the same time, MMA was so young as a sport that only a very select few were making a full-time income from it. This meant that in addition to doing as many as 8-10 different skills sessions each week, they still had to work a full-time 40+ hour/week job. This left hardly any time for working out – you know, getting stronger, faster, improving cardio, and so on. Then, just to add the proverbial insult to injury, MMA is one of the most physically diverse activities you can do! While other sports require mainly strength, mainly speed and explosive power, mainly endurance, or whatever, MMA needs high levels of ALL of it.

In the end, this meant you had to do a workout that would give you every conceivable physical trait, do it in minimal time, *and* wouldn’t destroy your recovery ability so you could keep up with all your skills work.

Talk about having the deck stacked against you. The notion of it all – how to design workouts for fighters that did all this and more – ended up becoming my passion…only for me to realize that it would end up having FAR reaching benefits beyond just the world of MMA. And it’s exactly what’s going to help you.

The 80/20 rule

When I embarked upon experimenting with different types of workout design, I knew I was gonna have to rely heavily on the “80/20 rule”. The 80/20 rule – known as “Pareto’s principle” – is a concept generally used most often in the business world. Wikipedia defines it as:

…for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In other words, if you take a look at what everything you’re doing, 80% of your results are gonna come from only 20% of your work.

The 80/20 Rule

Let’s look at a gym example.

If you were looking to put chest size on, you could go on a program of heavy Bench Presses, Incline Flies, and Cable Crossovers. Well, say what you want about the Flies or Crossovers, but 80% (if not more) of the size, strength, and more you put on your chest will come from the heavy Benching. So wouldn’t it make sense to Bench more and do the other stuff less?

HINT – Yes, it would.

The 80/20 rule put into practice

When I started putting together MMA workout routines, I knew that the only way I could develop a super-efficient, non-recovery draining, “do-damn-near-everything” workout would be to rely on those “bang for your buck” exercises.

The 80/20 Rule

Then find a way that I could use them that would do lots of things at once. This meant almost never using isolations movements. Instead, focusing on big, compound exercises that would tax as much of the body as possible. Think Overhead Presses, Bench, Dips, Rows, lots of Chins/Pullups, Deadlifts, Squats, etc. Then, we had to find a way to get guys fast, build speed, and have a lot of explosive power. While there are a lot of ways to do all this, I always wanted to do the stuff that would build the most explosive power with the least amount of time, work, or need for technical proficiency. i.e. – “Dummy-proof” it with stuff that couldn’t be screwed up. Stuff like different Jumps, throwing a medicine ball, and athletic movements like Dumbbell Snatches, Swings, and the like. After that, we had to look at conditioning.

You’ve seen bodybuilders do cardio for 2+ hours each day…and you probably didn’t have time in your “normal” life (i.e. – you don’t get paid to train for a living) to do all that. Neither did fighters.

So, while different forms of cardio weren’t elminated entirely, only a minimum was done. Instead, I learned how to stack different exercises together, eliminating rest breaks. You’d still lift heavy, move quickly, or what have you, but you’d do it all with very little rest. This shot cardio, conditioning, and work capacity (all different things) through the roof, while still building the strength, speed, and so on. Notice the running theme here:

Only do as much as necessary, but nothing more. Use only the biggest “bang for your buck” activities. And whenever possible, learn how to put everything together in a way that will accomplish multiple things at once.

Sort of a “best of all worlds” kinda thing.

What you should learn from this

Now, you might not be interested in training like a fighter. (Though, in my humble…but usually correct…lol…opinion, most guys should be. And unless you’re planning on stepping on stage, you’d get way more out of training like a fighter than you would a traditional bodybuilder.) But the lesson still remains. Figure out what your main goal is. Take a hard – and honest – look at your training.

Alistair Overeem

TIP – Leave ego at the door on this one.

Determine what parts of your program are the “20%” – what’s giving you the most benefit? Once you have that sorted, drop absolutely everything else.

Then, hit those “20%” activities with 100% of all you’ve got – put all the time, effort, energy, and more that you’d put into your old, cluttered program into this new, streamlined one.

You’ll likely find that your progress – no matter what you’re trying to achieve – will skyrocket in order order. I know it works for the fighters I train. Ever since I started a Top-10 pro MMA fighter on this style of training, his results have never been better. (There’s a link to get a sample of his program below.) My military and law enforcement clients that use these methods find themselves attaining all new PRs, and blowing their normal PT tests out of the water with relative ease. And the “regular guys” are not only getting in their best shape ever (both in terms of performance and how they look inthe mirror), but they’re not spending all day in the gym to do it.

So give that a shot – focus on the 20%, and you’ll find you get way more than 80% in return.

Author: Matt “Wiggy” Wiggins

Owner of, Matt “Wiggy” Wiggins is a self-taught, 20+ year veteran of the “Iron Game” that focuses on helping MMA fighters, military/law enforcement, and “regular guys” all over the world get in “fighting shape”. members can Click Here Now to get the workout he created for a Top-10 MMA fighter.