Cardio for athletes used to be all about "road work"—running for miles. These days, mixed martial arts athletes rely more on metabolic training, otherwise known as high intensity intervals, which allows them to increase their endurance in less time and with less risk of lower-leg injury. Metabolic training essentially means alternating brief but highly intense bouts of activity with intervals of lighter work or rest. The upside is, compared to light jogging, it improves your muscular and cardiovascular systems in a way that’s much more specific to fighting, and it helps you add muscle while burning fat. The downside is that it’s really damn hard. But if you’ve got the guts to push yourself, you can get in fighting shape without wearing out your running shoes. Choose from the following list of metabolic exercises and incorporate them into your training as suggested.
Interval Stair Run When: After an upper body workout, or on a separate day, two times a week How: Find a staircase (a high school stadium is ideal). Sprint up the stairs and then walk back down. Repeat 10–15 times.
Interval Sprint When: Same as the interval stair run How: Run 30 to 100 meters at 80%–90% of your top speed. Rest four times as long as the sprint takes (hint: time yourself). Repeat eight to 10 times, two days a week.
Heavy Bag Rounds When: After any workout, or on a separate day, two times a week How: Throw punches, kicks and knees for one to three minutes. Rest for the same time. Do five rounds up to three times per week.
When: After any workout, or on a separate day, two times a week How: Place a 45-pound plate on the floor, wrapped in a towel. Stand behind it, bend over, and grab the outer edge. Push it 20–30 yards. Rest four times as long as it took to push; repeat eight to 10 times.