Train Like the UFC

Martial arts icon Michael Bisping batters FHM into shape…

Ever watched the UFC on TV? You’re missing out. For the uninitiated, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a mixed martial arts association that hosts global events pitting warriors of any fighting sport against one another in an octagon-shaped cage. It’s now the fastest growing sport in the world, with the UFC’s recent UFC 72 tournament held in Manchester drawing a whopping 3.5 million British viewers – including Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and, weirdly, Girls Aloud at ringside.

Yet despite its fighters pulling off such lethal moves as the “ground-and-pound” (scooping rival fighters off their feet, then pinning them to the canvas while repeatedly punching them in the face), it is, so far, safer than professional boxing. (Where, according to America’s respected Journal of Combative Sports statistics, 11 boxers die each year.) No one who’s competed in the UFC has been killed yet. The reason comes down to fitness and body conditioning.

So, with this month’s UFC 75 tournament taking place at The O2 arena in London’s Docklands, seeing Lancashire light-heavyweight legend Michael Bisping take on vastly muscular – yet curiously deaf – US-based martial artist Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, the UFC’s equivalent of Ricky Hatton talks us through his rigorous training regime…

1/ Cardio

Earn the right to stuff yourself


“In the morning jog four miles at 70% intensity,” says Bisping.
Calories burnt: 612

“Join a local mixed martial arts club (visit for an hour-and-a-half evening training session involving shadow boxing, sparring, skipping rope and circuit training.”
Calories burnt: 670
Daily calories burnt: 1,282

Guilt-free gorge:
One brownie = 243 cals
Cheeseburger = 312 cals
French fries = 490 cals
Chocolate M&Ms = 209 cals


AM: run three miles at full pelt.
Calories burnt: 560

PM: back to the MMAC club. Get over-confident. Get the shit beaten out of you.
Calories burnt: 670
Daily calories burnt: 1,230

Guilt-free gorge:
Pint of Stella = 256 cals
Ham and cheese toasted panini = 429 cals
Walkers cheese and onion crisps = 525 cals


AM: Sprint up and down a hilly park at 80% intensity. “Stop intermittently for pull-ups on trees. Push yourself more by hurdling logs,” says Bisping. “This drill gets me the fittest as the body’s constantly stressed.”
Calories burnt: 812

PM: Time to return to your MMAC to take beating number three. Thank God it’s the weekend.
Calories burnt: 670

Daily calories burnt: Guilt-free gorge:
BLT sandwich on white bread = 534 cals
Mars bar = 530 cals
Can of Coke = 139

2/ Weights

To be performed on Tuesdays and Thursdays (in between the soul destroying cardio days)


1/ Deadlifts

Keeping your back straight, lean over the barbell on the floor in front of you, hold the weight at either end, then try to stand up with the bar, while straightening your legs. Do three sets of ten. Then look at the clock, watch Sky News on mute for five minutes, think about taking a shower.



2/ Squats

The “all-over workout” hurts like hell, but it’s essential. “Rest the bar across the back of your shoulders,” says Bisping. “With legs shoulder-width apart, slowly lower your arse towards your calves and blast back up.” Do this for three sets of six. Probably should have taken your boxers off first…



3/ Clean and jerks

“Stand with the barbell in front of you, squat down and grab it at either end. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back straight, then flip the bar up to your shoulders, while powering up through your legs.” Then press the bar over your head and fully extend your arms. Do this ten times.



4/ Bench press

Extend your arms vertically upwards, until they lock. Do three sets of ten. Think big men. In prison. Lying on a bench. And lifting a weight in front of them, perpendicular to their chest. Think that exercise has made their pecs big? Wait till they strip off in the showers.



5/ Upright rows

Hold a barbell at your groin level, with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Then pump it up towards your chin, and back down. “They’re ideal for building up the traps [the neck muscles that run from the back of the neck to each shoulder] and give you more shoulder mass.” Do three sets of ten.



6/ Bicep curls

“Grab a weighted bar and, palms facing the ceiling, raise it while tucking both elbows in.” But here’s the real trick: squeezing the muscle at the top will pump them with even more blood. Three sets of ten is enough. “These are great if you want to punch heavier,” says Bisping, “and they help increase the likelihood of escaping an armlock.”



7/ Pull-ups

“They’re a mass-building exercise for your back muscles. But try to control the movement as you lift yourself.” Crucial to this is imagining pulling your body weight through your elbows so that you’re focused solely on the area in hand. Rather than flailing your legs in a bid for your chin to reach the bar. Three sets of six should do it.


Cheat yourself fit: Sack off your infrequently used gym membership now

Drink after work

A 13-year study of 12,000 British men showed that those who knocked back eight to 14 units of alcohol (seven glasses of wine or six pints) per week had the lowest death rate.




Roughly one calorie is burned every 15 steps. So, go for a brief stroll while you’re brushing your teeth (then curse after getting toothpaste down your front).


Stairs will save your life

Want to gain an extra two years? Just add six minutes of stair-climbing each day.


Take half an aspirin each day

Those little white pills reduce the likelihood of you having a heart attack by nearly 40%. Although swallow too many in one day and you could unknowingly force your body to start bleeding internally. Great!


Have breakfast

Those who regularly skip breakfast burn an average of 150 fewer calories a day because they’re delaying the act that kick-starts their metabolism each morning.


Make fat your friend

Studies show that unsaturated fats in oily fish, nuts and pulses force your body to burn “bad” blubber.


Don’t sit down

Staying on your feet for an extra hour a day will see you burn an additional ten to 20 calories. Which works out as a whopping 3,650 to 7,300 calories (seven to 15 Big Macs) each year.


Choose low-fat crisps

They don’t taste that different, they’re 20 calories less, and they nearly all contain a staggering 80% less fat.


Use jam instead of butter

Save up to 4g of fat with every teaspoon smeared on your toast.


Chow down more garlic

Eat just half a clove per day and you’ll reduce your risk of heart attack by 18% as you reduce your cholesterol levels.


Substitute a glass of water for a fizzy drink once a week

Save a terrific 7,500 calories (seven Domino’s pepperoni pizzas) each year.


Cut the calories

One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so cut your intake by 500 calories per day to lose one pound of fat each week.