Review : Ultimate Warrior Workouts

A great training resource.

Following on from his highly successful first book, Training for Warriors, Martin Rooney has delivered another informative and useful training resource for fighters - Ultimate Warrior Workouts.

The premise of the book is simple - Martin set out out on a world-wide trek to investigate and document the strength and conditioning practices of the most influential martial arts that are used in MMA. He travelled to the birthplaces of these martial arts and trained his ass off with their elite practitioners. Great idea, huh?

The fight-styles that Martin focuses on in the book are BJJ, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, Kickboxing, Judo, Sambo and Karate. It's easy to see the logic behind these choices - the first four are obvious--techniques from these disciplines make up the majority of the MMA technical syllabus. And the later four have been used successfully by a number of MMA champions.

With this book Martin set himself a number of goals ...

  1. To record and preserve the physical training techniques of MMA's component martial arts for future fighters.

  2. To briefly outline the history and philosophies associated with each martial art.

  3. To demonstrate specific training exercises that are used by their top practitioners.

  4. To provide strength and conditioning benchmarks specifically tailored to the needs of fighters.

  5. To outline a comprehensive training program to help fighters achieve (and surpass) these benchmarks.

Did he achieve all of these goals? Yes :)

Now rather than go into a detailed account of the structure and content of Ultimate Warrior Workouts, I'll take a look at my four favorite features of the book - the Warrior Challenges, style-specific exercises, exercise variations and partner drills.

Warrior Challenges

An underlying premise of Ultimate Warrior Workouts is that there are certain levels of fitness and specific physical requirements for each martial art. With that in mind, Martin provides a set of exercise tests, that he calls 'Warrior Challenges'. Along with these challenges, he outlines a set of benchmarks that can be used to rate your strength and fitness progress. Each challenge has ten levels (starting at minimal physical requirements up to elite level status). The challenges themselves revolve around various bodyweight exercises done for time along with three max strength exercises (deadlift, bench press and weighted pull-up). So the goal is to achieve 10th level status on all the challenges, and consequently develop a 'well rounded' strength and conditioning base to power your specific fighting skill-set.

Each challenge 'favors' a particular martial art. Taken as a whole, the full set of Warrior Challenges provide a simple and effective way to pinpoint the 'gaps' in a MMA fighter's strength and conditioning. For example, I'm into Muay Thai, so it's no surprise that I scored very highly on one of the challenges geared towards muay thai conditioning (a speed kicking drill). However, when it came to a more BJJ-oriented challenge, I scored MUCH lower. No prizes for guessing what I'll be emphasizing in my training over the next few months, eh?

I actually think portraying strength and fitness benchmarks as 'Warrior Challenges' was a stroke of genius. A fighter is a highly competitive animal. By issuing a 'Warriors Challenge', Martin Rooney is basically waving a red flag at a bull. Challenges motivate fighters! So bringing measurable and graduated strength and fitness challenges into the gym is a great strategy to keep fighters motivated and hungry for training :)

Style-based Exercises

Another great feature of the book is the insiders-look at how other martial art styles' train! As mentioned, I come from a Muay Thai background, so I was familiar with most of the exercises Martin outlined in the Muay Thai section. However, I've had very little exposure to wrestling or Sambo, so I was fascinated to read about the exercises and strategies utilized by them.

Indeed, a key lesson we can learn from this book - and Martin's whole approach to training - is to be willing and open to learn from others. Fighters must be willing to learn from other fighters, other styles, and other training methods. Does that mean boxers should implement every exercise a kickboxer uses? Or a BJJ fighter should utilize every training tool a muay thai fighter uses? No. But we should be open to learn from others, and be prepared to adopt and adapt any relevant concepts, strategies, tools or exercises that can potentially enhance our own training.

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Exercise Variations

I've been following Martin's work for a few years now, and one thing I've noticed is that he's very good at finding/developing effective variations for exercises. He keeps coming up with modifications that manage to squeeze out a little more value, or add a little more spice to the regular movements we train. And I'm pleased to report that in Ultimate Warrior Workouts, he continues this tradition, including a tonne of useful and innovative tweaks to exercises you're probably all ready familiar with!

Partner Drills

Fighters spend a lot of time training with others - whether they be coaches or training partners. So I was particularly pleased to find a heap of useful and interesting partner exercises in Ultimate Warrior Workouts. My favorites were some of the wrestling drills. Those guys have some incredibly creative partner exercises!
(Added Bonus)

I was pumped to see that Martin used one of my favorite nak muays, Yodsanklai Fairtex to demonstrate some of the exercises in the muay thai section. Yod is one of the best nak muays on the planet. In my opinion, any book is better with Yod in it :)


I really enjoyed reading this book. I've already incorporated some of the exercises and ideas into my own training and I intend to regularly test myself using the warrior challenges. So from my point of view, the book has been a valuable acquisition! Martin Rooney has, once again, put out a product filled with high quality, effective, useful content tailored specifically for fighters! Does it sound like I'm a biased Martin Rooney fanboy? Good - that means I'm communicating clearly and effectively ;)

In all sincerity, if you're unfamiliar with Martin Rooney's body of work, then I highly recommend you get acquainted ASAP! And Ultimate Warrior Workouts is the perfect introduction. What I like most about Martin, is that he actually DOES the training - he sweats right alongside his clients. Nothing better than a coach who leads from the front! Whether or not you agree with all his training concepts, strategies and exercise selection isn't important ... He WILL help you grow in your understanding of fight training. He WILL show you simple and effective ways of improving your strength and fitness. And he WILL inspire you to become better! And becoming a better fighter is what it's all about!

Kira Robert Clarke

Fight Geek is a self-proclaimed Muay Thai tragic, Anthony Mundine Fan and unabashed Essendon supporter. Find out more over at his online home.

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