Training Drills Inspired by Martial Arts
Even if you don’t practice a martial art, you can mix in some of the training moves they use to build overall strength and cardio fitness. All of the disciplines have their unique ways of training every muscle, sometimes all of them at once. These are great because the equipment needs are minimal – you don’t need a gi, special Thai boxing gloves, or a coloured belt. Just pick a card, any card, and get to work with training moves used by many types of martial artists.
A boxing favorite. If it’s been a while since you tried it, you’ll be surprised at how hard it is and how little time it takes to get completely winded. Use a rope that’s the proper length – folded in half, it should reach from the floor to about your armpit. Start with the basic two-foot hop and then progress to doing two or three hops on each foot. Try to increase your speed and work up to being able to jump for at least two minutes, which will feel much longer than you think. For a few great rope options, you can check here.
You’ll see this one in so many styles – muay Thai, karate, tae kwon do, and more. You build hip flexibility and hip flexor strength as well as core and quadricep strength. Start by slowly pulling your knee up as high as you’re able, and then push forward keeping your knee up and leading with your heel. Try to keep your foot as high as possible and your quad tightly tensed. If you have access to a heavy bag, use it for resistance and to develop control.
In the Brazilian art of capoeira, your hands are just another set of feet. You spend a lot of time using them to move you around, and one of the most essential techniques is the handstand. In playing, being able to find your balance on your hands not only gives you more movement and transition options, it also helps you fall over well. For just building strength, though, it’s one of the best bodyweight exercises out there. Once you’re able to get up, try to stay for 10 seconds, moving up to 30 seconds or more.
Learn to fall up. Don’t throw your upper body toward the ground. Start with your arms and palms pointing downward and picture your feet falling up. Go up with control, kicking up slowly with a spotter until you are able to get both feet on the wall.
Keep your arms straight. Hold your stand only as long as you are able to do so with straight arms.
Don’t sink in your shoulders. Your shoulders should not be up around your ears. Roll them back and lift.
Tuck your chin. Do not look at the ground. In capoeira, your eyes need to be on the person you’re playing with, not the ground.
BONUS MOVE: Start about your body’s length from the wall, put your hands on the floor and your feet on the wall with your arms straight, so you’re in a plank position. Now, slowly walk your hands toward the wall while you walk your feet up until your hands are about a foot from the wall (don’t go too close or you could fall over), and then walk back out to your starting position. Have someone spot you if you haven’t done these before – they’re intense!