Mixed martial arts is a badass full-body workout—and doesn't need to be reserved for Ronda Rousey. You too can reap the benefits

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
November 10, 2015

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, has become hugely popular in the past few years as fans tune in for the bloody, no-holds-barred, cage fights. And Ronda Rousey-one of the best fighters, male or female, the sport has ever seen-has been proving that women can be both beautiful and badass in the ring. She wins every title possible and looks hot doing it! (Check out these 15 times Ronda Rousey Inspired Us to Kick Some Ass!)

But while you may know the sport for the spectacle, you may not know how great of a workout it is. Many women see all the fighting, posturing, and blood in the ring and are too intimidated to try it. But not only is MMA an amazing full-body workout, it's actually safer overall than boxing, a traditional gym favorite, says a new study.

It's totally possible to get a killer workout the safe way, says Kendra Ruff, a personal trainer and nationally ranked MMA fighter. She herself fell in love with the sport after getting tired of being "skinny fat" and having no muscles. Starting with easy boxing and calisthenic drills, she was delighted to see muscles start to pop out everywhere. So she began adding more and more wrestling, boxing, and body weight moves to her workout routine (Try starting with our 20-Minute Workout to Help You Get Fit, Get Toned, and Get On with Your Day). Yes, she got crazy strong, but even better, she says she felt stronger.

"Taking MMA is almost like having a secret weapon," she says. "I'm not a doormat anymore and on a night on the town I know I can pull the badass out of my pocket if I need to." She adds that her MMA workouts also gave her a healthy outlet when she was going through a difficult divorce. "In MMA, you have permission to be strong," she explains. "You want to have powerful legs and strong arms, not just because they look good but because their functional. It's empowering."

But you don't have to be a professional fighter to work out like one. To try it out for yourself, Ruff recommends looking for beginner classes which are now offered at many gyms. Expect to practice floor moves, like grappling and rolling; kickboxing drills; and more traditional moves, like burpees and push-ups. However, if your gym doesn't have one, look for MMA specific gyms in your area. Many will offer women-only classes that focus on self-defense and overall conditioning instead of blood sport. And, she says, don't be afraid to go all out. Not only will you get a better workout, but you'll have more fun and build your confidence in your skills.

If home workouts are more your speed, try this workout Ruff designed especially for Shape readers that incorporates real MMA moves in a routine you can do anywhere, any time, no equipment necessary: MMA Training Plan: Get Into Fighting Form.

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