If you’ve looked at photos of participants in combat sports, likely the first thing that will get your attention is the fact that these athletes are all in incredible shape. Of course, the demands of any contact sport require the participants to be packing lots of muscle on a lean frame. However, what the photos don’t show is the stamina that these athletes possess. Even a few rounds of a fight are exhausting, so these athletes have to be in great aerobic shape as well.
So when you are considering exercises to keep you fit, a combat sports training routine seems like an obvious choice. These routines may not be for everyone, but here are some basics for a simple combat sports training routine that you can do at home.
Two elements of combat sports matter more than anything else: your hands and your feet. Any professional boxer or MMA fighter will tell you that footwork is just as, if not more, important than how much power you can put into each punch. But let’s focus on punches first.
Before you can do these routines, you need to understand the three fundamental punches: the Jab, the Cross, and the Hook. The Jab is a swift, direct blow with the fist you’re holding in front of you (if you’re right-handed, it should be your left hand, and vice versa). The Cross is a Jab, but with your dominant hand, the one you keep closer to your jaw in a traditional fighting stance. Finally, the Hook is a punch that, rather than traveling straight forward, arcs to the side and then back towards your target, with the purpose of hitting them from the side.
Simple, right? Now let’s talk about footwork. Whether or not you plan on sparring with another person, moving around will make sure you get a complete cardio workout. Think of your fighting stance as your basic, foundational stance: one foot in front of the other (the front foot should be on the same side as your non-dominant hand). When practicing footwork moves, remember to end each move by reverting to this fundamental stance.
You have the side step, which is a quick move to either the left or the right. Then, the front step, moving up by pushing off with your back foot and landing on your front foot. Then the back step, which is the front step but reversed. Finally, there’s also a box step, which is where you perform steps in the shape of a box around an imaginary dot in space.
That’s about it for fundamentals. Now, let’s talk about the routines themselves.
Remember how we were talking about the importance of footwork before? Well, there’s not a whole lot better to train those leg muscles than jumping rope. Any fighting routine should start with a few reps of that, and we do mean start here. Warming up is always an important part of the whole package. You should jump rope (or some sort of equivalent, box stepping even) for at least a minute and at most ten minutes.
But we’re not done warming up just yet. To really stretch your muscles and to get them primed for sudden and powerful movement, you’ll need to do squats, crunches, and pushups. How many? It depends on your current strength level, but if you’re just starting, try doing at least 15 of each. Increase that number as you see fit, but don’t go overboard; this is just the warm-up, after all.
Now that the warmups are done, it’s time for the real thing. Before you start using a punching bag (or if you don’t have one at all), you’ll want to practice with “Shadow Boxing,” which is boxing against an imaginary partner. A little silly, maybe, but it’s still effective.
It’s not going to do much good to just throw punches out into the air without rhyme or reason. Instead, you’re going to want to practice “moves” or certain sequences of jabs, crosses, and hooks. Here are a few favorite combinations from boxing professionals to get you started:
- Jab, Jab, Cross
- Jab, Cross, Hook
- Jab, Jab, Cross, Hook
- Jab, Cross, Hook, Hook (with the other hand)
You get the idea. Get used to doing these in rapid succession, turning them into a dizzy flurry of blows. For exercise bonus points, make sure to intersperse these moves with the footwork you practiced earlier: Jab, Jab, Cross, Side Step, Jab, Cross, Hook, Front Step, etc.
For even better results, practice these moves in a certain amount of reps. We recommend five for each, at the very least. For even better results, take breaks and take them often. As we said, this isn’t a marathon, and no one else is looking but you. If you don’t let your muscles relax after high-intensity training like that, you’ll get tired quicker and make the training less effective. At the very least, give yourself a minute, maybe even two, between rounds of exercise.
If you have a punching bag, now would be the time to bring it out. Do the same thing with that as you did with the shadow boxing matches, and try to aim to really knock it back. Again, it helps to know how much power you’re packing into each punch.
That should be enough to send you on your way. Remember, the point is to give it everything you’ve got but in short bursts. So take breaks, keep water close by, and have fun.
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