I started training at Muay Thai 2 years ago and got into my first fight only to run out of breath in the second round. I started stepping out of the office during lunch time for a jog every 2 days and I tried two different techniques but I'm not sure which one works:

  • Running at a 10kph pace for 5km with a couple of breaks

  • Running at a 15kph pace for 800m and resting for the next 200m and doing so for 5km

I find that with the first one I'm able to keep running longer while with the second one I run out of breath quickly and find it hard to continue the jog.

Which one would give me that bit of stamina that I need to keep going in a fight?

7 Answers 7


Beside increasing your stamina, one important thing is learning to pace yourself in a fight, so you can keep your energy while driving your opponent into losing his, in 1st and 2nd round, so you will be able to finishing the job in the last rounds. (it will depend on how many rounds and how many minutes you are fighting for)

Eventually your exhausted opponent will start to make mistakes like dropping down his hands, giving you lot of opportunities.

Anyway, any interval training like @mattm suggested or heavy bag workout is a good thing, but in a fight remember that every time you've been hit, your breath is taken away (hits to the core or liver are the worst), and hit after hit, it's this irregular breathing that will make you exhausted.

So I suggest you to also focus training on your core/abs so in a fight you'll be able to better handle taking those hits to the body contracting your abdominal muscles.

I'm only a amateur muay thai practitioner, but I suggest you to watch that video called "How to Pace Yourself in a Fight".

  • Thanks for the answer & the video, great advice! Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:27

...while with the [interval training] I run out of break quickly and find it hard to continue the jog.

Which one would give me that bit of stamina that I need to keep going in a fight?

As you've seen - interval training is more tiring, and will help more. But, as Sean says neither will contribute very directly to MT performance.

I train MT now but earlier trained in Kyokushin karate for many years in Japan - the best workout I've seen for building endurance for fights is the "big mitt" Kyokushin guys use - random googled indicative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8CQ4ZLMSaQ

  • might be hard to do at lunch time though - you need a pad holder, and a bit of space - preferably private

  • having someone's body weight behind the pad encourages you to hit hard to actually move them, so front kicks, punches, knees and elbows, side and back kicks, can do a lot of hard work through the target,

  • you can attack full speed and power (given a similar strength/size mitt holder) in your own rhythms (vs thai pads where you're waiting for your partner to move them around, which has pros and cons but tends to give less workout intensity)

  • you can throw in low turning kicks more freely and harder than with thai pads.

  • unlike a heavy bag, the big mitt holder can be moving towards you, circling, backing away, or some combination thereof which affects your technique selection, e.g. you might prefer elbows and knees to break their forward momentum if they close suddenly, and low turning kicks or spinning back/heel kicks if they're circling, gliding side kicks to chase a retreating opponent, stepping-in front kicks or jabs to catch them as they start to close etc.

  • sometimes we'd do several 2 or 3 minute "rounds" with ~15 second rests, other times we'd do 20-seconds-on / 20-seconds-off high-intensity rounds

  • big mitts can be hard to find (in Australia at least) and expensive.

So, if you're serious about building stamina for fighting, and can find a mitt and partner, I'd definitely give it a go.

  • 1
    Thanks Tony, I wonder if I can find someone who has the same goals to train with Commented May 21, 2019 at 4:52

I suggest investigating interval training, which would be your option 2. Fighting requires high intensity and may not actually last that long; a low intensity jog will not put your body under the same strain. Vox has a recent update to an article explaining some of the science relating to particular workout routines and VO2 max measurements.

It's also not necessary for the distances for your low and high intensity training to match.

  • Yes, some form of (HI)IT would be my bet as well.
    – Mast
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 16:30

There is more than one way to build endurance, and like some people have already said, do not stop running. This is one of Bruce Lees methods of building endurance; he ran about 6 miles a day, and he would time himself. When he didn’t have time to run 6 miles he would run 2 miles at a more intense pace. At his peak fitness level he averaged about 7 minutes a mile. His goal wasn’t simply to run long distances, rather it was to run an allotted distance in a shorter amount of time. When he was running an allotted distance efficiently he started adding weights to his body. He started with 10 lbs. and would run until he averaged 7 minutes a mile. After he reached efficiency with 10 lbs., he added another 5lbs and continued doing this until he was running with 25lbs on his body. He stopped adding weight to his body when he reached 25lbs. You can increase the intensity by running hills as well. You can get very creative with running. You can occasionally run backwards and sideward, which will only increase the pace of your footwork in a fight. I’m not saying you have to run the same distances as Bruce. Take it as an example and figure out what works for you. I think all in all, it’s important to have the big picture in mind and ensure your workouts are well rounded. Running should be the fundamental cardio workout, supplemented with other exercises. You want to be as well rounded out as possible. After all, the ability to not get winded is real world power.

  • Great answer, thanks! I like the idea about running sideways, that would definitely get me a bit lighter on my feet during a fight Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:23

To answer your question directly, I think that the second would give you greater stamina in the context of a Muay Thai contest.

Ultimately you want to simulate the intensity and time frame of a Muay Thai fight as closely as possible. Thus, running at a high pace for the length of a round, then resting for the length of your rests between rounds is going to be as close as you can get with running.

But in my opinion, there is no substitute for doing the activity that sport requires. So padwork/heavy bag work are both good options, and don't forget about sparring!

One last thing I'll add, as I don't think it's been previously mentioned, but I believe is a huge factor when competing (as you said you did). The effects of an adrenaline dump can impact your cardio, and isn't something you can train away with further cardio. Learning to manage this comes with time and experience, but is something to be mindful of.

  • Thanks for the answer, you're on the money about the adrenaline and I think it was a big factor during my first match, all the anxiousness and not being able to think or strategise was due to that I think. I know this diverts into another question but any advice on how to manage that especially in the ring? Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:22
  • 1
    Of course, no problem. In my own experience (I used to compete semi-professionally in Mixed Martial Arts), the 'adrenaline dump' is a function of your nervousness. Thus, over time as you gain more experience, and become more comfortable competing, it will be less of a factor. Don't forget too, that adrenaline serves a purpose, especially so in combat sport. Adrenaline decreases the body's ability to feel pain, grants you mental focus, and temporarily increases strength. It's valuable and not something to try and rid yourself of. So my only real advice for managing it, is to compete often. Commented May 22, 2019 at 7:58

To quote Ramsey Dewey:

So the best movement that you can do for cardio in Jiu Jitsu is Jiu Jitsu. Do more rolling, for example, do more drills and by drills I don't just mean going through the motions. I mean, you know, a drill with actual resistance with a specific objective and the same thing with Muay Thai. One of the best cardio drills from Muay Thai or muscle adaptation drills is heavy bag work. Make sure you're getting your rounds on the bag every single day. Three rounds on the bag is a good benchmark. if you're not doing that then do it

He talks a bit more at length about having previously done running, but having to quit in part due to his joints, and in part because he found that it just wasn't translating to more endurance during a fight.

In your case, you don't have a heavy bag over your lunch time, most likely, but you probably can shadowbox. He goes on more at length about the value of shadowboxing in some of his other videos, but a quick summary is that it's valuable, because you're training the same moves that you're going to be doing in the fight, but you need to train with intensity, and mindfulness. Don't just run through drills, but rather do the drills as if you're actually striking the target or dodging the blow, at speed and with power.

I haven't had a chance to track down one of his talks specifically on shadowboxing (this one works by title, but is largely about improving one's fighting through observation and shadowboxing), but from his entry on junk training:

Shadowboxing without visualization is junk training. Shadowboxing with proper visualization is game changing good stuff. In fact, shadowboxing is so important that Jack Dempsey considered it second only to actual sparring in terms of importance for fighters. But how often do you see people shadow boxing at that level, as opposed to simply working up a sweat before doing their bag work?

If 30 minutes shadowboxing doesn't wear you out, but 15 minutes of fighting does, well, that tells you something about relative effort. Some factors are very difficult to reproduce, like the lack of predictability that you'd get with an actual opponent forcing you to reverse directions in mid-swing, or the force of impact, but just consciously throwing the techniques at full force (obviously, you have to pull those punches in the end to avoid damaging your body, but in an actual fight, you'd be doing the same thing for missed blows), and building in "sprint" movements where you don't just duck, but actually drop as fast as you can, as you would under a real strike, will help you to bring realistic tension and strain into the shadowboxing. And, of course, make it dynamic. Don't just go through a strike combination over and over again, but start to interrupt it with a dodge from an imagined incoming attack (again, doing it with purpose, as if someone actually were striking at you) before resuming.

  • Thanks for the answer Sean, shadowing is good but I don't get tired of doing 30 minute shadow, but I do get tired from a 5 minute run on a 15kph treadmill, so I might be shadowing wrong? Is there an equivalent to shadowing/heavy bag drills that I can do on a treadmill or weights? Commented May 21, 2019 at 2:17

Man I didn't saw the other answers but the first most important thing is to run (that you already do) your second option is the best suited for the subject, but if you want to put your stamina on steroids I recomend you to go for sprints in at least 10/20° angle, between 150/200mt give everything while you sprint and came in a slow pace, repeat 7/10 times. You will notice that even if you are training or sparring or doing plastron you get very less tired if you explode than if you do things slowly or without strenght. The routine I recomend you is to do 2x week your longer runs and (different days) 2x the sprints, well implemented with your fight training, hear your own body because with experience you will be your best doctor, trainer and fighter. Obs. I fighted a lot of muay thai and k1, whon a ton of competition a represented my country in some international events (IFMA).

  • Thanks for the answer, I'll definitely try that Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:26

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