The Circuit Workout That Keeps MMA Star Vinny Magalhães in Killer Shape

Brandon Hall STACK

Vinny Magalhães isn’t one to waste time.

A 35-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist, Magalhães’ five most recent victories have all come in under two minutes. That ability to end fights quickly led to a runner-up finish in the Light Heavyweight finals of the Professional Fighters League last year, and he fully expects to walk away with the $1 million first place prize this season.

Magalhães brings that same sense of urgency to the gym. The former Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion performs weight training three times a week and the sessions are always fast, functional and punishing. Magalhães has no interest in drawn-out, bodybuilding-type workouts, as he rightfully believes they won’t do him much good inside the octagon.

“We don’t really focus on (individual) muscles—like, let’s just do arms today, or just shoulders today, or just triceps today. That’s not working on what I need,” Magalhães told STACK. “We never do anything just for biceps or just for calves or just for triceps. It doesn’t make sense for what I’m doing.”

Instead, he utilizes full-body circuits with several compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Each circuit is composed of three exercises, and he performs each circuit four times before taking a short rest and moving on to a different one. He usually utilizes three different circuits per training session to mimic the three rounds of a typical MMA fight (though his rarely last that long).

A sample weight training day for Magalhães might look like this:

Round 1
Perform the entire circuit four times, moving to the next exercise with little to no break

  • Barbell Squats x 8-12 reps
  • Barbell Bench Press x 8-12 reps
  • Barbell Rows x 8-12 reps

Round 2
Perform the entire circuit four times, moving to the next exercise with little to no break

  • Trap Bar Deadlift x 8-12 reps
  • Dumbbell Bench Press x 8-12 reps
  • Pull-Ups x 8-12 reps

Round 3
Perform the entire circuit four times, moving to the next exercise with little to no break

  • Leg Press x 8-12 reps
  • Decline Dumbbell Chest Press x 8-12 reps
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row x 8-12 reps

Magalhães often increases the weight on each go-around of a circuit, though less-advanced athletes may be better off sticking with the same load or even decreasing weight from round to round.

His trainers vary the exercises from one workout to the next, but each circuit tends to follow the format of one leg exercise, one chest exercise, and one back exercise.

Done right, this type of circuit training can be a highly effective way to pack on muscle mass, enhance muscular endurance, and achieve astonishing levels of overall fitness.

“There isn’t much of a break. My rest is when I’m doing chest and back. (I might take) 30-60 seconds between rounds, but each round is just go—there’s no stop,” says Magalhães. “It gets great results. Not just for fighting, but I also feel great and it makes me feel a lot better.”

Along with the weight training and constant sparring, grappling and striking sessions, Magalhães also performs dedicated aerobic endurance training several times a week. If one of his fights does go the distance, his lungs are ready.

More recently, he’s replaced jogging with cycling to help save his knees. The Las Vegas native often bikes in the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near his home.

“Now that my knees are pretty banged up, I’m doing a lot of cycling. I just go to Red Rock and do 15 miles maybe three times a week of bike riding. It’s a lot easier on my knees. It doesn’t have any kind of impact. It’s been great. That’s one thing I’ve brought into my game,” says Magalhães.

To support an intense regimen that often sees him training two or three times a day, Magalhães trusts products from ProSupps.

His go-to supplements include HydroBCAA, a full spectrum amino acid supplement that also includes electrolytes, and Iso-P3, a three-source protein powder that helps grow and support lean muscle. And when he needs a pre-workout energy kick, he says nothing compares to Mr. Hyde.

“I believe supplements have to be a big part of it,” says Magalhães. “Their proteins, their pre-workouts, they’re great…You see results all the way.”

With his training, nutrition and supplements fully dialed in, Magalhães says pressure on fight night has become a thing of the past.

“When I’m prepared, I don’t have any kind of pressure. Walking to the cage, I feel like I’m just walking into the gym.”