When you start training in combat sports you will normally start slow, 1 to 2 classes a week, hopefully taught by an accredited and experienced coach. However when you decide that you want to take your training up a notch, it normally falls to you to put something together for yourself.
A lot of the time this is quite an intimidating task, as you’ll try and think of all different sorts of types of training that you’ll want to incorporate to bring your training to the next level. Things like proprioceptive training, underwater shadowboxing and sparring on the moon, shit like that.
Honestly, to get really good you just need to do the stuff you do in class, outside of class, it really is that simple. Pad work, Heavy bag work, Shadow Boxing, Skipping, Callisthenics. This is all stuff you should just do more of. here is a list of exercises and types of training you can do to develop a training routine.
Pad work is important in your training to develop muscle memory for your combinations and your timing as well as building strength, speed and stamina in your arms. At a hobbyist and amateur level, pad work and pad drills are very important parts of your training that should take up a lot of your training time.
However you might see that the more experienced professionals may only do 3-4 rounds of pad work per training session, this is because unless they’re learning a new move to add into their repertoire, the pad work they do is just to keep existing skills sharp and it stands them in better stead if they instead focus on other parts of training such as sparring or conditioning.
Shadowboxing is a peculiar beast, as it stands, it helps you with so many aspects of Martial Arts, like developing technique, footwork, speed, power, offense and defence. the problem is it looks FUCKING WACK. No one looks good Shadowboxing, so be ready for that when you do it.
Regardless of how it looks Shadowboxing is very important in your training regime, due to all the aspects it can help with when trained correctly, normally you pick an aspect that you want to work on, for instance footwork, then you set your timer and go.
I normally go for 2 rounds of working on footwork, two rounds of working on defence and two rounds of working on offense. 6 rounds of Shadowboxing works for me perfectly and in time you will find what works for you.
Now one of the important things to remember about Shadowboxing and why I mentioned it earlier is that, when you see your self Shadowboxing, you will feel a little bit like a tit and often times that can affect your performance, you’ll throw combinations lacklustrely and without power, you wont throw them as crisply or sharply as you should.
The problem with that is, that for Shadowboxing to work, you need to do it at 100 percent, throwing everything to the best of your abilities, otherwise you’re just developing bad habits and will likely be bonked into the shadow realm when someone capitalises on them.
Hitting the bag is probably the most universally recognised training for martial arts, whether that be a double end bag, a full heavy bag or a speed bag. Its also one of the most fun parts of training as its so satisfying to be able to hit something full pelt.
It is very important to incorporate some form of bag training into your routine, as it can help you develop almost all aspects of your martial art, speed, power, timing, combinations, conditioning, working the bag does it all.
The heavy bag is a phenomenal piece of equipment and if you only ever had to buy one piece of equipment for your martial arts training, it should be a heavy bag. Of course if you train in a grappling art then a heavy bag is probably at the bottom of your list.
A heavy bag has many types and varieties but most often a heavy bag is a large 5-6ft long cylinder held in place with a chain. its uses are vast, entire routines can be built around a heavy bag, but predominantly heavy bags are used for practicing power, combinations, speed, technique and for conditioning.
A double ended bag is a bag that is about the size of a football and is held in place by two bungee cords or elastics. Its predominant uses are for speed, accuracy and timing. It is also very fun workout for building shoulder stamina. The reason why a double ended bag is so good is it somewhat simulates a punch being thrown back at you, giving you an opportunity to get out the way.
A speed bag is a basically a balloon that’s upside down on a big wooden board. it looks deceptively simple but is probably one of the harder bags to use. A speed bag builds shoulder endurance, hand speed, timing and rhythm. the idea is to keep hitting the bag with an even rhythm to keep the bag bouncing in time. sounds simple, is hard to do and harder still, to do for significant time.
Sparring is considered by many to be the most important form of training, as it simulates live combat. World famous heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey coined the term ‘There is no substitute for sparring’
He was and is right, there is nothing that can match sparring for developing as a martial artist save for a proper bout, it is that important.
Sparring can vary from various martial arts and there are many types of sparring, the most effective kind being full contact, contrary to popular belief, full contact doesn’t mean balls to the walls, 100 percent, full on ape smashing. It can be light, it can be tit for tat or it can be medium sparring where you hit 100 percent to the body and then only 25 percent to the head. All that matters is that you are able to strike any part of the body.
Hard sparring is great for learning but it is also very taxing on your body, there is only so many punches you can take after all, you will get dinged up and might get some small cuts or bruises, which doesn’t always work for everyone, especially if you have a forward facing job or work in retail, it wont look great having a giant black eye.
Every type of sparring has its place in your training arsenal but if you feel competitive and would like to compete at some level, moderate sparring should be completed at least once a week. that means hard shots allowed to the body and then lighter shots to the head.
one way that I prefer to train is with light sparring 2-3 times a week and then 1 hard sparring session every 2 weeks. But I am only an amateur fighter, many famous pros spar everyday, for instance Floyd Mayweather will spar for rounds that last up 9 minutes each. Other fighters wont have such long rounds, but will still certainly spar everyday.
Conditioning should realistically take up a big portion of your training time, whether its done separately from your training sessions or during them will be up to your coaches, as coaches will normally dedicate a portion of training time to conditioning, normally in the form of a warm up and then 10 -15 minutes at the end of the training session.
While this should be sufficient for a hobbyist or someone training once or twice a week, if you want compete, you should look into doing some form of conditioning work 5 to 6 days a week.
This sounds like a lot of time to put in, however, conditioning is the second most important aspect of fighting and martial arts, so you should be dedicating plenty of time to it lest you want to find yourself being winded 2 rounds into a 5 round fight, gasping for air while your opponent looks at you the way at cat looks at a mouse or the way Batman looks at some nameless goons as they loiter around a harbour doing crime and reconsidering their life choices.
Perhaps the most iconic form of conditioning, its free and is so versatile as it can train almost every form of of your cardio vascular and endurance systems. Most popular forms of running for fighting fitness are 3-5 mile standard runs and then sprint training, I personally like hill sprints as I feel they help my cardio more than regular sprints.
You cant really go wrong with running, a simple 2-3 times a week will help with your conditioning immensely but if training for competition you should be running almost everyday.
if you wanted to try and combine your conditioning work and your actual training sessions, Then you could try out something like a Boxfit class or a combat conditioning class. While its unlikely have any level of real technical guidance in these classes, they’re still valuable classes to take, as they will help increase your conditioning massively.
If you train some sort of Kickboxing or Muay Thai then its common place to go for 3 to 5 mile runs every day before training or even as the warm up for training. Its important to note that for these runs its not the speed that’s important, its the amount of time that’s being ran for, its very common for the runs to be more of a slow pace to even being more of a jog.
The reason for this style of running being used is because running at a slower pace for longer helps build an aerobic base, which means you can train for longer without fatiguing as quickly, which means you can fight for longer without fatiguing as quickly.
Whereas running at a faster pace/sprinting taxes the anaerobic system, which is the bodies way of fuelling faster, more powerful movements. The aerobic system is essentially what takes over after your anaerobic system has run out of steam.
Due to your boxing training sessions taxing and using your anaerobic system but often not tapping into your aerobic system due to the frequent small breaks you get to take, it makes sense to train up your ‘reserve tank’ so to speak, with some slow paced long runs to give yourself the best bang for your buck when training.
like I said before, running 2-3 times a week is best for starting out, 2 nice long runs and then one quicker, faster paced run seems to work best.
Skipping is such a good conditioner, it builds strength in the lower legs, builds bone density, improves footwork and is a thorough workout, it acts a full body exercise which means that its more than just a tool for warming up.
While skipping is famously used by Boxers for training, it isn’t just limited to them, regardless of what martial art you train in, skipping is one of the best bang for your buck exercises you can do.
Skipping should be added to your daily conditioning routine, just as a warmup and cool down if that’s where you can fit it in, but do fit it in. Maybe even dedicate 1 or 2 workouts a week to skipping, building the bulk of the workout around skipping and you’ll soon reap the benefits
Callisthenics are something that will be touched on during training with your classes, but adding them into your training routine can actually hugely beneficial for your conditioning.
if you utilise Calisthenics properly, you can get an absolutely brutal workout done in about 15 to 20 minutes. Callisthenics will improve your muscular endurance and will help build bone density too. Many top level fighters follow some form of Callisthenics routine, which is normally done in the form of a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout.
However some fighters do ludicrous amounts of callisthenics for some of their conditioning work. for instance, Mike Tyson was famous during his professional fighting years for doing enormous blocks of callisthenics for his conditioning, sets of 100 push ups and 500 sit ups were common place for him with his daily totals adding up to around 2000 sit ups a day with 500 dips, 500 push ups and 500 shrugs. The number of squats he would do a day is still debated but it is believed that he did around 2000 squats a day.
Don’t fret however, you don’t need to be doing that many and you don’t need to dedicate multiple blocks of time per day to do them, just tacking on some sets of callisthenics after your strength workouts or your runs will be enough to take your training to the next level.
Strength training has been a bit taboo within martial arts circuits, especially within ‘traditional’ martial arts, with the belief being that muscle will slow you down, but now many sports and medicine journals have stated that strength training actually helps with athletic performance. From a martial arts perspective, physical strength is a gift, it helps with so many aspects of the ‘fight game’ that not trying to increase your own strength would be downright stupid.
strength training isn’t complicated either, just perform a group of compound movements 1 to 3 times a week, if you wanted to follow a more complex plan or just read about strength training there are many books that are very useful, such as Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
If you wanted to look in the direction of combining strength training and other aspects of fitness together than my number 1 pick for that would be Tactical Barbell, I consider it my BIBLE whenever I’m struggling with fitness gains or strength gains, I just consult THE GOOD BOOK and within weeks I’m making progress once more.
So what does that actually look like?
I know that all of the above information seems like a lot to take on board and even more to put into practice, but I’ve provided an example training routine below so you can see how easy it all fits together.
Weekly Training Routine
– Morning run
-Coached training session
-Heavy Bag work
-Coached Training Session
– Morning run
– Bag Work
-Strength Training Session
-Coached Training Session
– Pad Work
Looks like a busy week doesn’t it, but when you think about it, most of the work you’ll be doing in one place, the gym, so all that bag work, pad work and skipping are done in close proximity to your coached sessions most of the time.
There are some days where you wont go to the gym due to no coached sessions, those days are normally the worst training days, not due to it being harder because your on your own, but it being harder to push yourself due to being alone. of course you can arrange to meet a training partner, but there will still be some days where you inevitably will train on your own.
if you want to see what the actual sessions themselves consist of then read my post on what an average training session looks like.
Remember to train hard, stay civilized and ill see you next time.