Muay Thai requires incredible levels of cardiovascular fitness, whether you’re a competitive fighter or a casual once-a-week trainer. When it comes to cardio, most people turn to jogging as their first port of call. Although running is a tried and tested cardio booster across all sports, it’s not for everyone. Some people develop shin splints from pounding the pavement, some develop knee problems, and some people just find it plain boring.
So, what are the alternatives if you want to improve your cardio without jogging?
Rowing is a much overlooked aerobic exercise which actually beats jogging in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s a zero-impact activity, meaning that your feet are not repeatedly impacting against the floor. This impact causes lot of niggling injuries in sports that involve running and jumping because the joints and bones are constantly being jarred.
In rowing your feet remain firmly planted in the footpads throughout the workout – meaning no stress on your knees and shins like there is in jogging. Also, rowing engages all of the major muscle groups and will gradually improve your upper body strength, which is hugely beneficial to your Muay Thai training. Rowing is easily accessible with most gyms offering rowing machines, where you can set yourself distance targets and try to beat your personal best times.
Cycling is another zero-impact sport which is great for cardio and also helps you to develop leg strength for kicking. Another great benefit of cycling is that it can be a lot of fun, if you use a road bike and cycle outside with friends. Alternatively, it can also be done inside of the gym on the bike machines if you want to save time or avoid the weather. Be sure to stretch your lower body fully before and after your cycles, or you may find yourself at risk of muscle pulls and cramps.
Swimming is an excellent exercise for cardio and all over body strength, as it engages almost every muscle in the body. It’s also one of the safest sports available, as being surrounded by water means that there is zero impact to your joints, and you are very unlikely to injure yourself in the pool. You can set yourself length targets to swim within predetermined times, or you can race against your previous personal bests to strive for continuous improvement.
High intensity interval workouts are series of short intense bursts of physical movements, paired with intervals of quick rests in between. You probably already do some elements of HIIT during your Muay Thai training with exercises like burpees, squats, press-ups and star jumps. The best aspect of HIIT workouts is that they can be done at home in a very short space of time because there is no equipment needed, and they get your heart rate up very quickly. There are plenty of HIIT workouts on YouTube which you can access for free and work along to. You should opt for low or zero-impact exercises if you are trying to avoid knee problems or shin splints.
Darren Mitchell is a Muay Thai enthusiast and writer for the BestMuayThai blog. Darren has trained Muay Thai for several years at gyms all over the world alongside some world-renowned fighters and coaches.