Hi, Gus, there are a couple of routes you can take with this kind of question. If you are currently training in a martial-art class, doing the take downs with a partner and drilling back and forth is one good way to get the movement and the skills down to perfection. But if we are talking about “exercises” to do for take downs, the list can be long. If you are doing a take down from the upper body, I would make sure your lats are in good shape by doing pull-ups, rows, and standing rows with rotation are effective. The abdominals, obliques, spinal muscles and glutes are going to help you manipulate your opponent’s weight, so I would be doing Standing Trunk Rotations with a cable, start out slow and controlled and then speed things up a bit when you get the hang of the movement.
I would also train the lower body just as much if you are doing takedowns from the legs. Lunges, Squats, Glute Lifts, eventually plyometric squats, (jump-squats), as long as you don’t have any joint issues. Work on strengthening your hips, (outer hip muscles as well as inner thigh muscles), glutes and hamstrings, etc…
Any exercise done with control and good effort from the muscle(s) can deliver results in increase of strength and as long as you got the skills and movements of your take downs, you should be ahead in the match.
What is the goal of the exercise? Are you looking for function, strength, power? Are you looking to improve takedown quickness or slam strength/power? There are a lot of variables here but in general for overall performance in strength and power from that body position…keep it simple…heavy deadlifts, Kettle bell swings (single and doubel arm) Kettel bell snatches/cleans heavy full cleans, heavy full hang cleans(full clean – caught a$$ in the grass at rock bottom in the front squat position) and med load hang power cleans.
Since your question is based on takedowns in general and not a specific type of takedown (ie. slam, drag down, push down..), a good routine could follow grip and squeeze pressure (we don’t want them breaking loose in mid takedown) as well as back extention and leg strength. A lot of fighters here practice push/pull methods to deliver more force than can be generated from a stand still. The MOST important factors in takedowns are commitment and follow through so, plyometric exercises could also provide a good basis for muscle memory (you know, like instinct). Good luck!
Weight training to develop the strength needed for takedowns. A suggested rep scheme of a heavy weight for 6-12 reps since any less will spark the growth of fast twitch muscle fibers which will fatigue faster. You are training your client for fighting, not bodybuilding so incorporate the push/pull method because in fighting you strike (push) and grapple (pull).
Personally I feel that although important, weight training isn’t a priority. Muscle mass will make for a stronger athlete but if the athlete lacks technique it won’t matter in the ring. The best exercise routine for MMA takedowns is to do them via partner training.
Similar to stand up, when asked how do you improve your kicks & punches? – you practice kicking and punching!
Also no one mentioned cardio! I mean after all the one who tires first becomes the loser.
Here is an article which you might find interesting on training the MMA athlete using the ACE IFT Model