More soldiers are utilizing the principles of MMA and combat training to improve their performance on the physical fitness test and the battlefield.

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There was a time when the best athletes came from the world of one of the big four sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey.) Then people began to discover the amazing conditioning inherent in "fringe" sports such as crew, cycling and decathlon. But today, it is widely believed that combat athletes from the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) are the most well-conditioned athletes in the world.

This belief has spilled over into the mainstream fitness world as athletes, weekend warriors and everyone from kids to grandmas are turning to MMA and combat sport training to improve strength, flexibility, stamina and overall conditioning. In fact, MMAthletics in Las Vegas trains pro athletes from all sports for $5,000 a month, and has reportedly helped improve the conditioning of many of these already elite athletes.

Today, there are soldiers utilizing the principles of MMA and combat training to improve their performance on both the Army physical fitness tests and the battlefield as well.

Many units follow the field manual on physical readiness training, but that is not the only way soldiers are deciding to stay in shape. One way some soldiers are choosing to stay Army Strong is through the Army's combatives program.

For two soldiers from the 41st Fires Brigade, Rail Gunners, the Army's combatives program has helped them stay in peak physical condition. Spc. Micah Barro and Capt. Nathan Thobaben spent their days at Fort Hood in Texas conducting intensive combatives training in preparation for the All Army Combatives Tournament. But along the way, they discovered they were not only more prepared for hand-to-hand combat but also in far better shape than when doing by-the-book fitness training alone. Besides taking one Army Physical Fitness Test during his time training at Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center, Thobaben said he has seen a great improvement in his running.

"It wasn't until working on their combatives level three certification that we realized how far we had come," says Thobaben, a Wilmington, Ohio, native. "My cardio is way above where it used to be."

According to the staff at Cage Fitness, a leading MMA workout program, mixed martial arts training can benefit participants in all four main categories of fitness: strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular ability.

"This is because the various styles that may be associated with a martial arts exercise program will target all major muscles instead of a regular exercise routine that will only focus on one aspect of one's body, like arms or abs," notes the Cage Fitness staff blog. "Martial arts training is also a great way to work out daily stresses. If you find the routine of your conventional gym workout tedious, martial arts training may be much more entertaining, making you prone to stick to it."

Much like Ft. Hood's Kieschnick gym, other military fitness centers can help any of their members achieve higher forms of fitness through MMA-based classes and training, with or without the actual combat.

MMA-Inspired Group Class Ideas:

Swings, Straps and Sandbags: Some of the most utilized tools for MMA fighters are kettlebells, TRX suspension trainers and sandbag training tools. A class utilizing these tools can have anyone training like a UFC champ.

Fit to Fight: Utilizing a battling rope, heavy bags and focus mitts, participants can get a full-body blast with stress-releasing benefits.

Jump to It: A 30-minute blast of jump rope training and core conditioning to make any MMA fighter ready to go.

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