Whether you’re just starting on your fitness journey and learning the ropes or you’re dedicated and experienced in strength training, you’ll likely have many questions about cardio. Do you need to do cardio, or is strength training enough? How often should you add cardio to your weekly training diary, and which types are best for losing fat while building muscle? Is the cold, hard slog of raising your cardio and fitness worth it, and what short-term results can you expect?
As you can imagine, there’s no short or easy answer to adding cardio to your training regime. When starting, many newbies focus solely on weight training, building muscle, and reducing body fat ratio. You may neglect cardio early, but you can guarantee the subject will soon dominate your thinking. You have the muscles, look a million dollars, and are comfortable strutting along the beach in a vest, but a decent flight of stairs or short jog will lead to some soul searching. Having a proper level of cardio is essential for humans to survive.
Whether you want to run 5k on your rest day from the gym or feel yourself struggling for breath when playing soccer in the garden with the children, cardio is a critical part of your training. There’s no need to aim for the stars and match the fitness of the athletes you see on TV or quoted at the best sites to bet on sports. Slow and steady wins the day with cardio, and you must learn to walk before you can run, especially if distance running is your goal.
Try combat sports
Picture the scene; you’re in great shape with muscles on muscles, and you look the part. The Hollywood muscle groups are bulging, including the biceps, chest, and shoulders. You look like something from a James Bond movie. It’s natural to start pushing yourself and take the first steps into a challenging cardio workout. You want something that won’t make you lose muscle mass but help add endurance.
What is the best way to get cardio into your training regime while enjoying the workouts? Swimming is a great idea as it’s low impact and works great alongside strength and weight training. But it doesn’t lift you out of your comfort zone if you’re already a strong swimmer and are honest with yourself. The five-mile-plus runs of your youth are probably best left in the past, especially if you’re working to add bulk.
So we turn to the one-size-fits-all cardio training that gives an enjoyable workout. That workout is training in combat sports. We’re not talking about karate or another no-contact martial art. We’re talking about the good stuff: boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Thai Boxing. Which is best, and what can you expect in your first combat sports class? Keep reading as we explain the finer details of boxing training, BJJ, and Thai.
If you research your local amateur boxing gym, you may be surprised by how many are within a reasonable distance. Boxing gyms are known as tough, unwelcoming, and uncompromising places, but that’s not true. You won’t receive special treatment, and they’re unlikely to bend to your demands, but you’ll find a good boxing gym to be a welcoming place. It’s a business; the more people through the door and training, the more income.
A typical boxing session will be almost all cardio workouts. You may start with a few stretches and then a warm-up, like skipping. Those attending a boxing class split up, some doing bag work, others hitting the focus pads, defense drills, and footwork. When you have completed all training stations, the class meets at the end for some circuits.
Prepare to really get a sweat on and burn fat fast. Boxing circuits are usually three-minute rounds doing a different exercise for 30 seconds. You’ll finish with an abs workout, including countless sit-ups and stretches.
If you think you’re fit, try training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Even if you’re a distance runner, play soccer or football, do boxing, or have trained in any other combat sport, BJJ will push you to your limits. It’ll drag you out of your comfort zone and keep you there until the coach and class reach their intention: to make everyone comfortable in the heat of battle. Being comfortable in the uncomfortable.
BJJ gyms are less common than boxing gyms but are on the rise. When joining a BJJ gym, you’ll start with warm-up drills alone or with a partner. These will be simple escapes and repetitions that will help you when sparring. A good BJJ coach will then drill a specific move with the class, and you’ll work it with a partner. A short break for another activity to shoot, and you can expect to learn two or three new moves in one class.
When you have the basics down with a partner, you’ll move it into a live sparring session. It’s not like boxing, where sparring can result in injuries like a bloodied nose. The worst-case scenario in BJJ sparring with an experienced opponent is you tap, discuss where it went wrong, re-set, and go again. You may feel reluctant to tap but must leave your ego at the door. Drill, tap, re-set, drill.
Thai Boxing is one of our favorite combat sports for training as it’s savage. Forget the fancy twists and turns you see on TV, kicking high pads and showreel moves. Find an authentic Thai Boxing class, and you’ll love the sport. It’s the fight game, and like the two above, especially boxing, the aim is to cause serious pain to an attacker.
Please understand; you won’t get hurt at a Thai Boxing gym, and, like boxing, you won’t spar until you ask the coach’s permission and they think you’re ready. Until then, you’ll learn the basics of kicking, punching, elbows and knees. You’ll crash the focus pads and the heavy bags with earth-shattering kicks, killer elbows, and bone-crushing knees. We’re confident you’ll enjoy Thai Boxing.