Made4Fighters uses cookies to ensure we provide you with the best possible experience. Continuing to use the website will inform us that you consent to receive cookies from Made4Fighters.

The Best Cross-Training Workouts for Fighters

The Best Cross-Training Workouts for Fighters

25th Sep 2018

Most combat sports are considered a “cross-training” exercise themselves, so many fighters don’t see the need to break out of their specialty areas. However, cross-training is extremely important when it comes to building overall muscle strength. When you begin to repeat the same movements for months--or even years-- your body can get incredibly efficient at performing that particular move. So, while you might be able to throw a heavy punch at the punch bag, you’ll never get stronger and will most likely maintain your current level of fitness.

The intensity and nature of cross-training workouts vary greatly depending upon the athlete, their main discipline, and fitness level. Fighting legends such as Floyd Mayweather maintain an extremely demanding cross-training regimen that includes running, swimming, circuit training, and yoga. While you don’t have to be quite so intense, the best cross-training routines include equal parts conditioning, strength and power training, and technical exercises.

A study by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville found that the training effect on VO2max (or the highest rate at which oxygen can be taken in and consumed by the body during strenuous exercise) is equal among cycling, running and swimming. In other words, these are the holy trinity of cross-training.

However, while swimming, biking, and running are commonly considered the most effective forms of cross-training, the benefits are not nearly as great if you do not practice them with a defined workout in mind. Continuing at a single speed, exerting the exact same effort for the entire workout, will likely do very little. Maintaining a steady pace is typically not fast enough to make your body work hard and adapt, yet too fast to build endurance.

As anyone who’s ever been in the ring knows, developing endurance, fast-twitch muscle, and maintaining a high level of overall fitness is extremely important. To do this, you must incorporate anaerobic as well as aerobic exercises into your cross-training routine. Incorporating variety into your routine will also save you from injury and “physiological fatigue.”

Aerobic exercise is any activity that stimulates your heart rate and breathing to increase-- but not so much that you can't sustain the activity for more than a few minutes. Whereas, anaerobic exercises are those that you perform in short bursts as the intensity cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes. Think sprinting, weight lifting, etc.

To help kick-start your cross-training routine, we’ve identified some of the best cross-training workouts specifically designed for fighters of any discipline- from Boxing to Muay Thai and more.

Cross-Training Workouts for Fighters

Swimming

Its low-impact nature and cardio benefits make swimming one of the best full-body workouts around. Of course, you can always swim back and forth a few times, but that can a.) get rather boring, and b.) provide only half the benefits of a true swimming workout. For the best possible results, you need to practice breath control and alternate between an elevated and resting heart rate.

The two workouts below incorporate elements of both aerobic and anaerobic activities and are organised by skill level. Swimming is no walk in the park, so each workout is designed to be challenging yet do-able depending upon your skill level.

Workout One

Advanced:

1 x 400 meter swim holding an even pace

1 x 400 kick

1 x 400 pull

4 x 50 meters- breath every 5 strokes

4 x 50 build each 50 to sprint

4 x 50 negative split (last 2 sets faster than the first)

1 x 200 recovery

2 x 50 sprint

1 x 200 recovery

Total: 2,300 meters

---

Intermediate:

1 x 200 meter swim holding an even pace

1 x 200 kick

1 x 200 pull

2 x 50 meters- breath every 3 strokes

2 x 50 build each 50 to sprint

2 x 50 negative split (last 2 sets faster than the first)

1 x 200 recovery

2 x 50 sprint

1 x 200 recovery

Total: 1,400 meters

---

Beginner:

1 x 100 swim holding an even pace

1 x 100 kick

1 x 100 pull

1 x 50 breath every 3 strokes

1 x 50 build to sprint

1 x 50 sprint

1 x 100 kick recovery

1 x 50 sprint

1 x 100 recovery

Total: 700 meters

Workout Two

Advanced:

1 x 400 warm-up

1 x 400 kick

4 x 50 descend (each 50 gets faster)

1 x 200 - 50% effort

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 200 - 100% effort

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 200 - 50% effort

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 200 - 100% effort

1 x 400 recovery

Total: 2,000 meters

---

Intermediate:

1 x 400 warm-up

2 x 50 descend (each 50 gets faster)

1 x 200 - 50% effort

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 200 - 100% effort

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 100 - 50%

1 x 100 recovery

1 x 100 - 100% effort

1 x 200 recovery

Total: 1,600 meters

---

Beginner:

1 x 200 warm-up

1 x 200 kick

2 x 50 descend (each 50 gets faster)

1 x 50 - 50% effort

1 x 50 recovery

1 x 50 - 100% effort

1 x 100 recovery

Total: 750 meters

Cycling

Like swimming, cycling can get a bit repetitive, and as you get stronger simply cycling around might not be nearly as effective as a form of cross-training. Again, you must work in anaerobic activities if you want to increase your overall fitness level and continue to get stronger. Each of the workouts can be completed using either a stationary or road bike.

Workout One

15 minutes - easy pedaling

Gear: Medium-Large

40 seconds - hard pedaling

20 seconds - recovery

x 10

**Repeat 1-4 times for a total of 10-40 reps

Workout Two

15 minutes - easy pedaling

Gear: Large

30 seconds - pedal as hard as you can while standing

20 seconds - recovery (lower gear)

30 seconds - pedal as hard as you can while sitting

20 seconds - recovery (lower gear)

x 3

10 minutes - easy pedaling

**Repeat set 2 times for a total of 6 reps with 20 minutes rest

Running

Running can be an extremely effective form of cross-training for fighters. Just be sure you’re not training in the heat of the summer and, as with the other two activities, begin your cross-training with a plan in mind.

Workout one

5 minutes - warm-up pace

5 minutes - 20% effort

1 minute - recovery

4 minutes - 40% effort

1 minute - recovery

3 minutes - 60% effort

1 minute - recovery

2 minutes - 80% effort

1 minute - recovery

1 minute - sprint (100% effort)

1 minute - recovery

x 1-2

5 minutes - easy jog


Workout two

10 minutes - warm-up pace

30 seconds - sprint full-speed (100% effort)

1 minute - recovery

45 seconds - sprint full-speed

1 minute - recovery

30 seconds - sprint full-speed

1 minute- recovery

x 2

5 minutes - recovery

Other Cross-Training Exercises

While the “trinity” of cross-training is by far the most popular when it comes to workouts for fighters, there are plenty of other activities that can also be effective forms of cross-training. Running, swimming and cycling tend to be the most accessible, but if you’re willing to put in the time and money, there are endless options available to you.

Cross-country skiing: Cross-country skiing offers fighters in colder climates an opportunity to train outdoors in the winter. Much like running and cycling, skiing is largely dependent upon muscles in the legs, while also being a great cardiovascular workout.

Roller-skating: Another great leg workout, skating also requires balance which works the core muscles.

CrossFit: CrossFit is an increasingly popular type of workout routine, so accessibility throughout the UK shouldn’t be an issue for most fighters. It builds strength, power, and endurance in a fun group-oriented workout.

Yoga: While it doesn’t offer quite the same aerobic/anaerobic benefits as swimming, jogging or cycling, yoga should absolutely be part of the cross-training routine for fighters. As most fighting sports involve repetitive movements and often overuse specific muscle groups, yoga is extremely important to relax those muscles, increase flexibility and overall strength. 

Hiking: A long day of hiking is a great way to build endurance, agility, and balance as you navigate rocks and other uneven surfaces.