I Trained Like a UFC Fighter and It Was the Most Insane Workout of My Life
There was no blood, thankfully, but a lot of sweat and a few tears—and a newfound appreciation for the hard work Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and other UFC champs put into their fitness regimens.
My typical week of workouts typically means a couple of spin classes along with a weight-training day and the occasional yoga session. Being bored while sweating is my biggest exercise turn-off, which is why I love to mix things up in terms of style and intensity.
So when I had the chance to try a Daily Ultimate Training (DUT) class at a UFC Gym in New York City, I thought,why not?
If you're unfamiliar with DUT, I can tell you that this workout lives up to its name, that's for sure. The boot camp–style class involves an active warmup followed by a circuit of exercises that test your stamina, agility, and core strength.
"These types of workouts replicate the pace of a fight and provide the conditioning to build the best structural foundation for [a fighter's] body to prevent pain and push them to their pinnacle both in and outside the octagon," explained Javier Lee, training manager at UFC Gym SoHo, in an email to Health.
No two DUT classes are the same, but a typical session might include exercises like box jumps, burpees, push-ups, squats, and footwork drills in a Tabata–style structure. (Tabata workouts alternate a period of work with a period of rest.)
I arrived at the UFC gym on a sweltering Thursday evening with my friend Nora in tow. I expected to receive hand wraps and boxing gloves for our class—after all, this was a gym geared toward training fighters. But we were instead ushered to a patch of fake grass with about 10 other DUT-ers.
There, we began the class with a light jog, lots of lunges, and squats of all varieties. Don't stop! our instructor yelled as he pushed down on my shoulders, signaling to sink deeper into my lunge. My legs were on fire. I felt tears in my eyes. And that was only the first 10 minutes of class.
After this warmup, our instructor set up nine stations, each featuring a different exercise. We split up into pairs and Nora and I snagged what appeared to be the easiest station. Unfortunately, nothing in this workout was easy. For the remainder of class, we spent two minutes at each station, taking 15-second breaks between each until we completed all nine exercises. The circuit included:
Rather than remain stationary, we were tasked with shimmying down the wall until fully seated. Then, we extend our legs for a moment, bent our knees again, and had to stand up without our hands, using only our back and ab muscles.
This classic bodyweight exercise involved planting your hands on a windowsill, bending your elbows and extending them for an upper-arm burn.
"I don't think I can jump that high," Nora whispered to me as we approached the 3-foot cushioned box. With a bit of arm swinging for momentum, we got through it.
With our feet propped against a windowsill while positioned downward, we used our shoulder muscles to complete the exercise.
Assisted rope climb
After planting our feet on the ground, we grabbed a thick hanging rope and climbed up and down to work our chest, arms, and core.
Kettlebell crawl and pull
Think bear crawls while pulling a 20-pound kettlebell beneath you, alternating pulling with just the left arm, then the right.
Bulgarian bag swings
We lifted the weighted bags overhead, then twisted to the side and slammed them down onto a tire in front of us.
Plank with elliptical
Why do a stationary plank when you can throw in a little ab-blasting movement? We tightened our cores in a normal plank position, then placed our hands, palms down, on elliptical pedals and pedaled it out.
We finished up the circuit on the rowing machine doing reps of this classic back, arm, and shoulder move.
The hour-long class didn't end there. Following the nine-exercise circuit, we hit the faux grass again for ab exercises such as crunches, bicycles, and scissor kicks before finishing up with some much-needed stretching.
Following a tough sweat session, it usually takes me at least a few hours or until the next morning to feel the muscle aches that tell me my body was challenged. But by the time I finished the warmup at UFC Gym, I already knew that my legs would burn for the hours and days that followed (my abs, shoulders, and upper arms were sore too). I waddled home from class, my legs feeling like Jell-O.
After DUT, I gained a whole new appreciation for the time and effort fighters like Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, and Floyd Mayweather put into their fitness regimens. Being a top-notch UFC fighter isn't just about throwing the perfect jab or uppercut. It also involves next-level stamina, not to mention mental strength. When my legs finally stop aching, I plan to head back for another push-me-to-my-limits workout.