Cardio is of paramount importance for combat sports. It is not uncommon to see fighters gassing out and losing the fight. Great technique or fight IQ will not always help if your opponent has superior cardio. It is thus important to focus on cardio workouts aside from regular Muay Thai training. There are many ways to improve cardiovascular endurance through different exercises.
Here are 5 things professional combat athletes do to improve their cardio:
Steady-paced running is part of a fighter’s daily training routine. In Thailand, there is a saying that if you don’t run, you don’t fight. Camps, trainers and fighters all believe that if you don’t run, you will run out of breath easily during training and fighting. Trainers can also tell if a fighter has been skipping his daily runs by his pad work. Just a 30-minute jog on a regular basis will contribute to better cardiovascular fitness.
Swimming is a good alternative to running as a cardio training exercise. Swimming puts lesser impact on the joints and at the same time, reduces swelling, improves circulation and helps diminish soreness. While running tones your lower body, swimming strengthens both the upper and lower body. It is ideal for all ages and adds variety to a fighter’s training program.
Sprint training is an effective way to boost stamina and trains fast-twitch fibers in muscles for speed and power. Sprint training offers many benefits and can be performed at a fraction of the time required for other alternatives. Tire sprint is an alternate form of sprint training with resistance which can further accelerate your speed and power. It is recommended to use a tire about 10 percent of your body weight.
Skipping is performed as a warm-up exercise in Muay Thai for good reasons. Its primary objective is to help increase the heart rate and blood flow, preparing the body for the training session ahead. Skipping is a full-body workout that comes with many other benefits. It trains the fast-twitch muscle fibers, improves coordination and footwork, and strengthens shoulder muscles.
Padwork is the closest In terms of simulating the energy levels of fighting. Fights in full Muay Thai rules go for 5 rounds of 3 minutes each with 2-minute rest in between rounds. This is why pad work often follows the same time-format in Muay Thai gyms. This might seem like an obvious choice but it's not about going through the motions. Giving your best during every single round of pad work will accelerate your cardiovascular fitness and overall performance. While you can’t always go full power in sparring, going all-out during pad work is very encouraged and the most effective method to build your cardio as well as muscular endurance.