One thing that I hear about all the time with regard to fight training is “cardio, cardio, cardio…” Yes they usually say it three times to emphasize just how important it is for a fighter to have good endurance.
What this usually means is throwing together a random cluster of exercises done at high speed with little to no regard for biomechanics. The goal of this “cardio work” is to make the fighter tired, nothing more.
This is extremely shortsighted for several reasons.
#1) Breathing is a skill
#2) Technical skill will determine the necessary effort
#3) Energy Conservation is also a skill that can be honed
#4) Conditioning or “cardio” is specific to the task
#5) There are only so many hours (and so much energy) in the day to train
Let me elaborate a bit…
1) Breathing, just like anything else, is a skill that can be trained. One way to do this is to restrict your breathing to nose breathing only. This will auto regulate how much you can take in, prevent you from opening your mouth (leaving yourself vulnerable to knockout) and help you stay calm.
2 and 3) Skill and Energy Conservation. If more time is spent on improving technical skill of throwing punches/kicks/rolling, then you will be able to practice the art of energy conservation. No one can sustain 100% effort indefinitely. But a fighter can learn to exert a necessary level of effort for a much longer duration by practicing that skill with regard to effort.
4) Conditioning. Michael Phelps is (or was) arguably the best endurance athlete on the planet. However if you put him in an endurance event that was not water based, he would only be mediocre at best. Your body adapts with acute specificity to the task at hand, and if you condition your body only to do burpees and pushups, you aren’t conditioning them to stuff a takedown and clinch up with your opponent.
5) Limited Time. A fighter has a lot of responsibilities from a training perspective. Most of these responsibilities involve a beat down, as is the nature of the sport. In my opinion, the training side should be focused on movement and strength, two qualities that are not optimized by actual fighting. The rest of the time should be dedicated to improving fight skills.
Movement quality is the balance of coordination and flexibility, executed with precision and accuracy. This is imperative for maintaining active flexibility as well as preventing injury.
Here is an example of this in motion:
Improve your ability to move, get strong and spend the rest of your time developing the skills you need to perform at your best.
Follow these rules and have the “cardio” to last in the ring forever.
Max Shank is an international presenter in the field of Strength and Conditioning. He has an Undefeated record in Amateur Muay Thai and regularly trains BJJ. To find out more about Max please visit www.maxshank.com.