How to Condition Yourself Like a Cage Fighter


When it comes to cardio for mixed martial arts athletes, every trainer used to talk about “road work”—running for miles and miles.

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These days, though, fighters and MMA athletes rely more on metabolic training, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Metabolic training essentially means alternating brief but highly intense bouts of activity with intervals of lighter work or rest. HIIT allows fighters—and any athlete, really—to increase their endurance in less time and with less risk of lower-leg injury.

The upside: Compared to light jogging, HIIT improves your muscular and cardiovascular systems in a way that’s much more specific to fighting, and it helps you add muscle while burning fat. The downside? It’s really damn hard to do. But if you’ve got the guts to push yourself—and you’d better have guts if you’re gonna get into cage with some jacked dude who wants to claw your face off—then you can get into fighting shape without wearing out your running shoes.

Choose from the following list of metabolic exercises and incorporate them into your training as suggested. We promise you’ll like the results.

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1. Interval Stair Run

When: After an upper body workout, or on a separate day, two times a week.

How: Find a staircase (a high school stadium is ideal). Sprint up the stairs and then walk back down. Repeat 10–15 times.


2. Interval Sprint

When: Same as the interval stair run

How: Run 30 to 100 meters at 80%–90% of your top speed. Rest four times as long as the sprint takes (time yourself). Repeat eight to 10 times, two days a week.


3. Heavy Bag Rounds

When: After any workout, or on a separate day, two times a week

How: Throw punches, kicks and knees for one to three minutes. Rest for the same time. Do five rounds up to three times per week.


4. Plate Push

When: After any workout, or on a separate day, two times a week

How: Place a 45-pound plate on the floor, wrapped in a towel. Stand behind it, bend over, and grab the outer edge. Push it 20–30 yards. Rest four times as long as it took to push; repeat eight to 10 times.

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