MMA Sprawl & Brawl Tabatas for Fat Loss and Conditioning


Fighters require a multitude of attributes to be successful; power, endurance, and agility to name a few.  Especially in MMA, an athlete needs to have these facets of their game well developed to ensure they’re well conditioned to strike and grapple and or transition between the two. One of the ways in which a fighter can develop these skills is through Tabata workouts. The pace and intensity of a Tabata workout resemble the bioenergetic demands an athlete’s body faces during a fight. The fighter will have to perform rapid explosive movements, recover quickly, and then continuously repeat the process over again. Even if you never plan on stepping in a ring or the octagon, regular Tabata workouts can be beneficial towards your overall fitness goals.


Tabatas were developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers in Japan. They found that 7-8 sets of intervals of 20 seconds of maximum effort work followed by 10 seconds of rest, improved athlete’s anaerobic and aerobic performance. Their studies compared two groups; the first completed 4 minute maximum effort intervals (Tabatas) and the second completed 60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. The researchers discovered both groups had the same positive impact on aerobic capacity. However, the group that performed Tabata not only worked for significantly less time to achieve the same aerobic results, but they also showed improvements in anaerobic performance (whereas the second  group did not)  What does all this mean for your fitness? Tabata workouts are a time efficient way to improve your overall conditioning.  Studies have proven relative intensity of workouts is a primary factor that influence how many calories are burned during and after a workout. The more intense your workout, the more calories you burn and ultimately the more fat you lose. The Tabata workout below is especially effective in that it pairs two of the most beneficial exercises for improving your conditioning while burning calories all in one workout.


The workout: because Tabatas must be performed at maximal intensity and these are very explosive dynamic movements, it’s important to warm up for about 5-10 minutes before starting the workout.   A perfect warm-up tool for this style of Tabata is a jump rope.  This workout only incorporates 2 exercises: a sprawl and shadow boxing.  In MMA, fighters constantly practice sprawling as a way to improve take-down defense and quickly scramble back on their feet. Additionally, sprawls are similar to burpees in that they’re a highly effective exercise for burning calories and total body conditioning.  Shadowboxing is a staple drill in any boxing gym used as a tool to refine technique. On its own, shadow boxing preformed at a fast pace is one of the most intense conditioning exercises around.


Sprawl and Brawl Tabata:  try performing this workout for 8 sets total at a maximum intensity.  This tabata calls for a 2:1 work to rest ratio(20 seconds on/10 seconds off) where you sprawl and shadowbox for a total of 20 seconds (do each exercise for 10 seconds) and rest for 10 seconds before starting over.


Warm Up: 5-10 minutes


Sprawl and Brawl Tabata: 8x

-Sprawls: 10 seconds

-Shadow Box: 10 seconds

-Rest: 10 seconds


Cool Down: 5 minutes

Erick Avila
About the Author:

Erick Avila. Erick Avila is a strength & conditioning coach/nutritionist. He works with top-ranked professional boxers and athletes. He specializes in areas ranging from boxing-specific physical preparation and hormone optimization to general weight loss. Erick's training methods have been featured on various prominent fitness magazines and websites.