Working Class Fitness LogoWe all know that one of the most important physical characteristics a fighter (or just the regular guy who wants to be in fighting shape) needs is great cardio.  But having great cardio by itself isn’t enough – a fighter doesn’t need to just be able to having a good heart and set of lungs.  He needs to be strong, fast, and generally just do a lot of work – while having good cardio at the same time.

There’s a big difference between being in shape enough to go do roadwork and even do hard sprints, and sparring, grappling, or hitting the bag for several rounds.  The harder work taxes much more than just a fighter’s wind.

Plus we know that a fighter needs speed and explosiveness.  And speed and explosiveness are rooted in first being strong.  In other words… work that’s done in the gym.

So how can we combine all this to build the type of conditioning a fighter can really use?

An easy way is to simply add smaller, “active-rest” exercises during your strength workouts.

An “active rest” exercise is one that keeps you moving and working, yet is not so difficult that you’re not able to still rest and recover from whatever the “real” work (for lack of a better term) is in your workout that day.

There are two types of “active rest” exercises I like to use: moderate effort, more explosive exercises for low to moderate reps, and very easy exercises for slightly longer time periods.

Examples of the former might be box jumps onto shorter boxes, bench jumps, burpees, or possibly even explosive pushups (depending on your strength levels).  These would be done for 6-10 reps.

Examples of the latter would be jumping jacks, shuffle splits, seal jacks, or even rope skipping.  You could do these for 30-50 reps or simply just 30 seconds.

You would pick one set of each, and do them directly after your sets in a strength workout.  So say you were doing bench press and rows.  You’d do a set of bench, followed up by (for example) bench jumps x 8 reps and jumping jacks x 40 reps. Repeat for all your sets of bench press.  Then after a set of rows, you might do burpees x 8 reps and rope skipping for 30 seconds.  Repeat for all your sets of rows.

What this allows you to do is focus primarily on your strength workout yet add a ton of extra work to the workout as a whole.  This makes you do a lot of excess conditioning, getting you breathing hard and your heart pumping while focusing on your strength work.  The “active-rest” exercises in and of themselves are never that tough in an individual set, but it’s the cumulative volume and fatigue that will build your overall capacity.

Try this out on your next workout and see how it goes.

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Before you go to the gym again, you owe it to yourself to find out what kind of MMA workout pro fighters, boxers, recreational MMAists, or just the “regular guy” who wants to be in shape like his favorite fighter *should* be doing.  (HINT – it’s not the crap you see in the magazines.)  To discover the truth, hit up Wiggy at or on Facebook at

(Physical exercise can sometimes lead to injury. and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or fitness advice. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise program, and never substitute the information on this site for any professional medical advice or treatment you may receive or the assistance of a fitness professional.)

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