There are three qualities that a fighter must develop to the highest possible level which are strength, endurance, and mobility. Endurance is an important quality and possibly the most beneficial because it also strengthens mental toughness. There’s no other form of training that tests a fighter’s mental toughness better than high-intensity endurance training. The stress on the cardiovascular system, the nauseating levels of lactate, and the drain on cognition can’t be underestimated. That’s important because the mental toughness that’s enhanced with endurance training will also carry over into the fights. It doesn’t matter how great a fighter’s absolute strength and mobility are, if he’s depleted of energy after a few minutes, it will compromise the fight.
Most endurance systems designed for fighters revolve around too much running although there is very little carryover between running and fighting. Long distance running does build up a person’s aerobic system but it can overload your adrenal glands and adrenal fatigue is the last thing a fighter needs. In addition, the benefits of long distance running are low because it does not provide the body with enough intensity training to carry over into fighting. Fighters need explosive strength endurance. Running doesn’t build that quality; it’ll drain your explosiveness and make you weak.
A proper strength and conditioning program addresses the fighter’s constant concern of ‘gassing out’ during a fight. Recent research shows that an interval training protocol resulted in improved endurance without compromising speed or power.
Interval training is built upon alternating short, high intensity bursts of speed with slower, recovery phases throughout a single workout. The interval workouts can be highly sophisticated and structured training that is designed for an athlete based upon his or her sport, event and current level of conditioning. Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. During the high intensity efforts, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen, but the by-product is lactic acid. As lactic acid builds, the athlete enters oxygen debt, and it is during the recovery phase that the heart and lungs work together to “pay back” this oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. It is in this phase that the aerobic system is using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy. It’s thought that by performing high intensity intervals that produce lactic acid during practice, the body adapts and burns lactic acid more efficiently during exercise. This means athletes can exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue or pain slows them down.
Interval training is beneficial because it adheres to the principal of adaptation. Interval training leads to many physiological changes including an increase in cardiovascular efficiency (the ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles) as well as increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid. These changes result in improved performance, greater speed, and endurance.
Interval training also helps avoid injuries associated with repetitive overuse, common in endurance athletes. Intervals also allow an athlete to increase training intensity without overtraining or burn-out. Adding intervals to a workout routine is also a great way to add cross training to an exercise routine.
In addition, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high intensity exercise. If you are counting calories burned, high intensity exercise such as intervals are better than long, slow endurance exercise, but you may pay a price. There are risks inherent in high intensity training, so it’s important to know both the benefits and dangers of high intensity training.
It is important to remember that interval training is extremely demanding on the heart, lungs and muscles, and it’s important to have an OK from your physician before you start interval training. You should also have a solid base of overall aerobic fitness before performing high intensity training of any kind.