How long should cardio workouts last when training for an MMA competition? Should they be as long as possible, or should cardio workouts be short and intense? The type of cardio and the intensity of that exercise should always mimic the same situations you’ll face in the cage. The duration of your cardio training is no different.
As a good rule of thumb, I don’t believe that cardio workouts should last more than twice the length of your competition. So, if you’re going to be fighting for 20 minutes, I wouldn’t recommend going longer than 40 minutes. I would also make sure that your cardio lasts at least as long as your competition. So, a 20 minute fight means at least 20 minutes of cardio.
If you’re getting your heart rate high enough, you shouldn’t need more or less time than that. Meaning, if your intensity is too low, you won’t see much benefit to your cardio when you’re in the cage because your body won’t be used to getting your heart rate high enough.
Cardio sessions that last too long will decrease your explosive power. You’ll also become more fatigued if your heart rate gets too high during the fight because you won’t be used to extreme heart rates. If your body isn’t trained to handle extreme heart rates and intensity, it will not recover like you want it to in a fight.
Conversely, if your intensity is too high and your workouts last too long, you will likely be spending all of your energy on cardio training. You’ll also run the risk of overtraining injuries. If you feel like you don’t have enough time and energy for sparring, technique training, and conditioning, just try to get the heart rate elevated and activate muscles with short, high intensity sessions. Save energy for technique training, and keep your cardio bouts from going overtime.
Just try to make sure that you progressively push yourself just past your limits. One of the biggest reasons for injury is overuse. Either you’re going too hard too soon without giving your body enough time to adjust, or you’re going too hard for too long, and your body is getting worn out. Either way, you need to listen to your body and progress over time. Don’t go from no training right into hours of training a day. Start slow, and progressively overload your body.