Body building

Bellator Star Nick Newell Will get Inventive With MMA Coaching

Courtesy of Bellator

Smart and no tougher training has become the mantra of mixed martial arts star Nick Newell since his retirement.

The 33-year-old fighter, who was born with a congenital left arm amputation, took a short break from sports in 2015 and stepped down to focus on opening his own gym and starting a family.

However, Newell didn't stay long. He came back in 2018 and won his first fight by submission. Despite being defeated by Manny Muro in October through a decision, the native New Englander has been streaming to DAZN in the hope that one day he will be able to headline a fight card live. Newell owes its recent success in the cage to a renewed focus on restoration.

"I used to train and my body couldn't make it through these camps," Newell told Muscle & Fitness. "I trained hard and was not smart. Now I'm training a little smarter. "

These days Newell tries to give himself enough time between matches to recover, regardless of whether he emerges unscathed from a match. "Even if you are not injured in the fight, you will be injured in the camps," says Newell. "It's all about balance."

Between paternity, opening a gym in his hometown of Milford, CT, and keeping up with his training, Newell can struggle to reconcile life with struggling. "I have to go the extra mile to really get things done," says Newell.

Outside of camps, Newell trains twice a day, six days a week, with a 90-minute morning training session at 10 a.m. and a two-and-a-half hour training session at night. His workouts range from grappling and punching exercises to sparring, which he strengthens in the camp. "It's the same schedule, I'm just working harder," says Newell.


When a fight is imminent, Newell becomes more selective with his sparring partners and trains additional rounds to work on his cardio and conditioning training.

"If I fight in three rounds, I do five rounds (sparring) and then I do some kind of conditioning," says Newell.

Another piece of the puzzle for Newell's training is his work with Matthew Ramos, owner of the Ramos Athletic Conditioning Center in Milford, CT. Newell has been working with the strength trainer since 2013 to improve its explosive power in the cage. The duo meets two to three times a week for training sessions, with the emphasis on strength building instead of conditioning training. Ramos believes that Newell benefits greatly from the other aspects of his training.

"All of his workouts were designed for strength and strength," says Ramos. "The conditioning component has already been taken care of, what he does with his MMA or his grappling coach."

The main goal for Ramos was to help Newell increase his explosiveness and strength without adding too much muscle or weight to his body. He did this by letting Newell do exercises with low repetitions of one to six for three to five sets, with a lot of pause in between. Ramos also creates two- to three-week “mini cycles” based on Newell's progress and feedback, and utilizing all types of workouts, including jumping training, plyometry, Olympic lifting, and more.

While Ramos worked with professional athletes and first responders, Newell's training proved to be a unique challenge due to the fighter's innate amputation.

"It was a small fight at first," says Ramos, noting how they had to change the exercises to meet Newell's needs. "But if anything, it reinforced the scientific method and love I have for training."

Ramos often relies on bands to resist Newell or uses special equipment like a safety squat when a normal squat doesn't work. Other modifications include the use of levelers to hold Newell on pushups as well as chains to increase weight. In exercises such as dumbbell bench press, Ramos mimicked the resistance on Newell's side that could not hold weight.

"I had to get smart," says Ramos. "We just got a shirt or a piece of cloth, and I had to hold this cloth so that it had the same stimulation on that arm as on its right arm."

The goal was to read a page from Arnold Schwarzenegger's book to create tension in Newell's muscles so that he could maximize the quality of each exercise.

"I really needed to give Nick the ability to create excitement before doing any of his movements," says Ramos. "Without her, he would just go over the movements."

"Ultimately, I'm a martial artist first, so I take my training seriously," says Newell. "It is a lifelong commitment to be a fighter."


Train like Newell:

The following training comes from one of Newell's early weeks at the camp before one of his fights. This workout focuses on speed and strength, at which Newell moves a percentage of his maximum weight as quickly as possible.

day 1

Complete as a circuit, a two-minute break between sentences. *

1A. One-arm DB diagonal presses: 4 sets with 6 repetitions (each arm)
1B. Tire thrust: 4 sets of 10 reps
1C. Inverted Row on the suspension trainer: 4 sets of 6 reps
1D. Break apart: 4 sets of 25 repetitions
* Ramos says that Newell sometimes uses a towel to create the necessary resistance when he trains his left arm.

Complete the cycle and rest 3-5 minutes between sets.

2A. Quarter turn box jump: 4 sets of 4 reps (each side)
2 B. Banded Explosive Lateral Shuffle Step: 4 sets of 6 steps (each direction)
2C. Rotation medicine ball throw (from hip): 4 sets of 5 repetitions (per side)

Complete as a cycle, a two-minute break between sentences.

3A. Isometric Bulgarian Split Squat: 10-20 seconds Hold each leg at the lowest point in a crouch.
3B. Leg flexion (on sliders): 6 reps (Nick adds chains to increase difficulty)
3C. Weighted Cossack Squats: 8 reps per side (Nick uses a weight vest to add weight)
3D. Kneeling banded Pallof press: Nick pulls out the entire alphabet while resisting the rotation before switching to the other side.

day 2

Finish each exercise as a circuit and pause three minutes between sets.

1A. Banded KB swing: 4 sets of 6 reps
1B. Long jump knee jump: 4 sets of 2 reps

Finish each exercise as a circuit and pause three minutes between sets.

2A. Single-arm DB Snatch: 4 sets of 5 reps
2 B. Deep jump in the reverse overhead med ball throw: 4 sets of 3 reps

Finish each exercise as a circuit and pause two minutes between sets.

3A. Dynamic Box Squat (with bands) **: 5 sets with 3 repetitions (with 50-60% of the maximum)
3B. Banded Face Pull: 5 sets of 12 reps
** Ramos has Newell use a security latch. Thanks to its design, the bar sits well on Newell's shoulders so that he can concentrate on his core and legs without worry.

Finish each exercise as a circuit and pause two minutes between sets.

4A. Pushups: 12-15 reps
4B. Chinup: 8-10 repetitions
4C. Manual resistance shoulder lift (front, side, back) ***: 8-10 reps (each)
4D. Hanging knee raise: 10-12 repetitions
4E. Glute-Ham Raise Isometric Back Extension ***: 10-20 seconds.
*** While Newell is holding the isometric contraction, Ramos exerts resistance by pushing it and trying to twist it.

Sport-specific condition day

This is one of Newell's last major workouts before a fight that comes as close as possible to an actual fight. He will go through this five minute round for three to five rounds.

Ramos says that going from one exercise to another will take some time, but there is never a moment when he doesn't work during every round.

First minute: Slaughter rope *

Alternate Slam (20 seconds)
In and Out Wave (20 seconds)
Grappler Slam (20 seconds)
Ramos ties a band to Newell's arm for this step.

Second minute:

Prowler Push: 40 meters
Tire flips: 8 flips

Third minute: (15 meters each)

Pull the sled (from the plank position with a thick rope)
Plank crawls (on sliders)
Knee raises (on sliders)
Pike (on sliders)

Fourth minute:

Tire combat boosts: 10 reps
Reactive medicine ball throw: 6 repetitions (each direction)
Ground & Pound (with punching bag): 10 seconds

5th minute: Farmers Walk (with 40 pound band)

In front rack position (20 seconds)
Over the left shoulder (20 seconds)
Over the right shoulder (20 seconds)

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