As a Certified MMA Conditioning Coach, we will often ask you which protocol is best for improving cardiovascular conditioning. “Hey coach… How do I improve my cardio?” will be something you hear often. It’s important to understand the research, science, options, safety, and best practices to improve performance without adding too much volume and over training for your athlete.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that demands high levels of cardiovascular fitness. The ability to sustain high-intensity exercise for prolonged periods is critical to success in this sport. Optimizing cardiovascular conditioning is essential for MMA athletes, as it can improve their overall performance and reduce the risk of injury during training and competition. This lesson will discuss the proper protocol to optimize cardiovascular conditioning for MMA athletes, including specific data on work/rest cycles, intensity, modes of exercise, running formats, V02 testing, and tapering for a fight.
MMA athletes require a balance of high-intensity exercise and adequate recovery time to optimize cardiovascular conditioning. Work/rest cycles should be carefully structured to avoid over-training and injury. A typical MMA training session may involve a combination of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity endurance training. Work intervals should range between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, followed by a rest interval of 1-2 minutes. This type of training can improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity while allowing for sufficient recovery time. Metabolic conditioning is a large component of your curriculum within our training course here.
Intensity is a Critical Component
MMA athletes should focus on improving their VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be consumed during exercise. It can achieve this through a combination of high-intensity interval training and steady-state endurance training. High-intensity intervals should be performed at 90-95% of maximum heart rate, while steady-state endurance training should be performed at 70-80% of maximum heart rate. Both types of training can improve VO2 max and cardiovascular conditioning.
Modes of Cardiovascular Exercise for Combat Athletes
There are several modes of exercise that MMA athletes can use to optimize cardiovascular conditioning. These include running, cycling, swimming, and rowing. Running is the most popular mode of exercise among MMA athletes, as it closely mimics the physical demands of the sport. However, cycling, swimming, and rowing can also be effective in improving cardiovascular fitness and providing a low-impact alternative to running.
Running Formats for MMA Conditioning
MMA athletes can use a variety of running formats to optimize their cardiovascular conditioning. These include steady-state running, interval running, hill sprints, and fartlek training. Steady-state running involves maintaining a consistent pace for a prolonged period, while interval running involves alternating between high-intensity sprints and low-intensity recovery periods. Hill sprints involve running up steep hills, which can improve both cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Fartlek training involves alternating between different running speeds and intensities to simulate the unpredictable nature of MMA competition.
If you are a huge advocate for running, and have your fighters do a lot of road work as part of their conditioning, you will definitely want to consider the NESTA Running Coach Certification.
VO2 Testing to Improve MMA Athletic Performance
VO2 testing is an important tool for monitoring cardiovascular fitness and determining the proper training intensity for combat athletes. This type of testing involves measuring the maximum amount of oxygen that an athlete can consume during exercise. VO2 testing can determine an athlete’s VO2 max, which is a critical component of cardiovascular fitness. MMA athletes should undergo VO2 testing regularly to monitor their progress and adjust their training programs accordingly.
Tapering for a Fight
Tapering is a critical component of preparing for an MMA fight. The goal of tapering is to reduce training volume while maintaining or improving performance. Tapering typically involves reducing training volume by 50-60% in the two weeks leading up to a fight. This can help athletes recover from training-induced fatigue and optimize their cardiovascular conditioning for competition.
Optimizing cardiovascular conditioning is essential to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury during training and competition. Work/rest cycles should be carefully structured to avoid over-training and injury, and intensity should be focused on improving VO2 max. Modes of exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, and rowing, can all be effective in improving cardiovascular fitness. Running formats such as steady-state running, interval running, and hill sprints.
Learn how you can become a Certified Running Coach with NESTA.
- Cordova, A., Sureda, A., Tur, J. A., & Pons, A. (2010). Effects of a short-term high-intensity circuit training program on body composition, strength, VO2max, and self-esteem in adults. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 50(3), 377-384.
- Gomes, R. V., Caputo, F., & Pimentel, G. D. (2016). High-intensity interval training in hypoxia: a promising training strategy for overweight and obese individuals? International journal of obesity, 40(2), 270-277.
- Hooper, S. L., Mackinnon, L. T., Gordon, R. D., & Bachmann, A. W. (1997). Hormonal responses of elite swimmers to overtraining. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 29(7), 1104-1109.
- Impellizzeri, F. M., Marcora, S. M., Castagna, C., Reilly, T., Sassi, A., Iaia, F. M., … & Rampinini, E. (2006). Physiological and performance effects of generic versus specific aerobic training in soccer players. International journal of sports medicine, 27(06), 483-492.
- Mujika, I., & Padilla, S. (2003). Detraining: loss of training-induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part I: short term insufficient training stimulus. Sports Medicine, 33(10), 749-768.
- Mujika, I., & Padilla, S. (2003). Detraining: loss of training-induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part II: long term insufficient training stimulus. Sports Medicine, 33(10), 787-803.
- Rampinini, E., Impellizzeri, F. M., Sassi, A., Maffiuletti, N. A., & Marcora, S. M. (2007). Validation of a new computerised method for the assessment of running performance. International journal of sports medicine, 28(03), 204-210.
- Seiler, K. S., Kjerland, G. Ø., & Tonnessen, E. (2007). Training and testing methods for determining VO2max in athletes. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 2(2), 111-126.
- American College of Sports Medicine. (2014). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.
- Bompa, T. O., & Haff, G. G. (2009). Periodization: Theory and methodology of training (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Haff, G. G., & Triplett, N. T. (Eds.). (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (Eds.). (2016). ACSM’s Foundations of Strength Training and Conditioning (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2016). NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Tudor Bompa Institute. (2016). Tudor Bompa Training