Interval Training for Boxing and MMA

interval training bag work with free-standing heavy bag

High intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) is perfect for boxers, MMA fighters, and other fight sport athletes. 

Interval training can help fighters increase power and improve endurance. In addition, HIIT routines mirror the pace of a typical bout by incorporating multiple intensity levels over the course of the workout.

For fighters looking to give themselves an edge over their opponents, or just a way to add some variety to their training routines, consider HIIT and other interval training options.

The Basics of Interval Training

Interval training using a slam ball

The fundamental concept of interval training is simple. After an appropriate warm-up, you engage in 100% effort on a particular exercise for 15 to 30 seconds. Then you spend the next 60 to 120 seconds in a “rest” mode. For strength training, this could be a full rest. For cardio work, like running or cycling, this looks more like dialing back to an easy pace. 

Repeat this cycle for about about 30 minutes. Then either cool down or move onto skill-specific training (combinations, grappling, footwork, etc.). 

From a physiological perspective, pushing yourself to 100% effort forces your body into anaerobic mode, kicking up your calorie burn. Further, HIIT exercise routines trigger a muscle “rebuilding” mode after the work out is complete. This leads calorie consumption to continue after your training completes. According to various studies, the effects of workouts last about two hours after exercise

The pattern of ramping up into high-intensity, then back down to lower intensity mirrors the competition setting of many sports. Rarely in sports are you going at one constant pace full-time. While the traditional model of sustained exercise helps build overall endurance, HIIT helps you prepare for the range of intensity you’re likely to experience during a fight. 

One thing you should note. Interval training applies a lot of stress to your system. Do NOT engage in this type of training every day. You should aim to do this type of exercise NO MORE than two or three times per week. You will need to give your body time to recover before doing HIIT again.

Add Interval Training to Your Routine

Interval training using a sand bag for weighted squats.To get started, we recommend investing in a good-quality boxing timer to help you keep time during your workout. As we’ve said, the HIIT model mimics a competition fight in a lot of ways. And boxing timers are already set up to handle timing variable timing. Two to three minute rounds followed by a one minute rest is very similar to 30 seconds of exercise followed by 60 to 90 seconds of rest. Most boxing timers easily handle the intervals required by HIIT. 

Integrating a timer into your routine is also vital to keeping you on track. A timer or app on your phone can be convenient (especially when combined with ear buds and an audio signal). We’ve found, however, that an external timer works better at keeping you accountable. It also ensures that you’re being precise with timing during active periods.

You can incorporate interval training into just about any part of your routine. Cardio exercises like running and cycling are pretty straightforward. You sprint for the high intensity period and then slow down to an easy pace for the rest period. 

Strength training can be equally simple. Find a weight or difficulty setting that you can reasonably do at full speed (and proper form) for 30 seconds. Then do that exercise (like squats, push ups, or presses) as fast as you can, safely, for 30 seconds. For the rest period, you can simply rest fully, or you can get up and walk around to keep yourself warm. 

Even bag work can be modified to accommodate this style, once you understand the fundamentals. 

Get Started with Interval Training 

Because it’s exceptionally easy to customize to an individual’s unique goals, interval training is a popular option for beginners and pros alike. Getting started with this style of training can be a bit daunting at first though. We recommend that you sign up for a HIIT class or consult with a trainer before venturing off on your own. 

Author: Sean Cunningham

I love to understand how things work. That's the reason that I found my first career path, as a Mechanical Engineer. But, I discovered, that once I understand it, I want to share that information with the world. And this has informed my second career path, as a digital marketer and writer.

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