Martial Artists, Here’s How You Can Take Your Cardio To The Next Level

If you’ve ever watched a professional boxing match, you’d know that it takes an insane amount of cardio to last 12 rounds. There’s no doubt that the greatest fighters are perpetually in the peak of fitness, putting as much emphasis into conditioning as they do in honing their skills.

For a martial artist, having great cardio could make all the difference in the ring, mats, or cage, especially when he/she is faced with an equally talented opponent. If a martial artist has great cardio, he/she can overwhelm a less-conditioned opponent with attacks. Hence, this less-conditioned opponent not only runs the risk of losing the match but also having all their hard work go down the drain.

As martial artists who are on the constant quest for self-improvement, perhaps we could take inspiration from professional fighters to take our cardio to the next level. Today, Evolve Daily shares 8 Ways Martial Artists Can Take Their Cardio To The Next Level:

1) Do more reps

As a martial arts student, you’re certainly no stranger to doing hundreds of repetitions of techniques in class. There’s no doubt that doing this would help to make each technique eventually feel like second nature and become part of your arsenal of weapons. To increase your cardio, you can do more repetitions than required during class, provided you perform them in the time allotted by your instructor. If you find that you don’t have enough time, take the initiative to drill before and after class and do your repetitions there. Not only will you be able to work on your cardio, you’ll also find a way to sneak some extra training in.


2) Roadwork

Perhaps one of the most popular ways to boost cardio for martial arts, roadwork is one of the best ways to increase endurance. In fact, professional Muay Thai fighters and serious Muay Thai students usually run up to 10 kilometers before a training session to build the endurance they need in the ring. To take your roadwork to the next level, you can try running uphill. Running uphill adds the much-needed anaerobic element to your roadwork and also builds serious strength and stamina because you’re working against gravity.


3) Heavy bag work

Training on the heavy bag is a great way to build stamina and strength while working on your coordination and core stability at the same time. If you’ve attended a boxing or Muay Thai class, you’d know how tiring it could be to constantly hit the bag with full force. Next time you hit the bags, remember to exhale with every punch or kick you throw to ensure that your working muscles get a continual supply of oxygen. This will also help you relax, which in turn will help you do more reps on the bag.

To learn more about using the heavy bag, check out our article.


4) Sparring

If you’re looking for a fun way to work on your cardio, sparring is your best bet. All the techniques you’ve learned in class and all the drills you’ve done is put to the test. As soon as you bump fists with your training partner, you’d need to harness both your mental and physical strength to see where you stand. And all it takes is a few minutes to see results. The more spars you do in a session, the more endurance you’re building – so don’t skip the sparring and try to get in as many spars as you can!


5) Jumping rope

One of the simplest exercises in our list, jumping rope is one of the most effective ways to boost your overall cardio. Not only does it strengthen your heart and lungs, it also works your arms, legs and core. To take your jumping rope exercise to the next level, jump rope at a faster pace and add in different jump patterns. This will certainly work every muscle and push your heart and lungs to the limit.


6) Train more

BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia, a grappling phenom known for beating opponents twice his size, believes that training more BJJ helped him boost his cardio. He says, “I put all of my energy into jiu-jitsu because I don’t have to do anything (else). I don’t have to lift weights, I don’t have to jog. My energy has to be focused on this (BJJ) if I want to improve on this. I don’t want to improve my running or swimming. I want to improve my jiu-jitsu so I put all my energy into it.”


7) Fuel properly

An hour of Muay Thai can help you burn over 1,000 calories an hour.

An hour of Muay Thai can help you burn over 1,000 calories an hour.

As martial artists, we all understand the importance of proper nutrition and how it affects our performance. It works the same way with regards to cardio. If you’re looking to increase your cardio for martial arts, you have to eat in a way that complements your training. To give yourself more energy, add more good carbs to your intake to fuel your cardio. One of these is honey, which is known to help regulate blood sugar during times of intense exercise. This will help you train longer and harder, without breaking down muscle tissue.


8) Interval training

One of the best ways to improve stamina, mobility and strength is interval training. Studies show that interval training is one of the most time efficient ways to enhance cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. To include interval training into your regular routine, join a strength and conditioning class. If you don’t have time for a class, you can follow the exercises above and perform 10 repetitions of each for 5 minutes with a 30 second rest period in between.


If you’re determined to increase your cardiovascular strength, you must double your efforts each training session. Developing your cardio is never easy but doing so will help you develop the mental toughness you’ll need in the ring, cage or on the mats. So tell us, which of these tips will you try today?

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