How to Train to Fight

Whether you’re an amateur fighter with your sights set on the professional world or simply someone who’d like to prepare for the worst, there are training fundamentals that will help any fighter get in gear. You'll need to learn everything from the best training workouts, to what kind of food you'll need to eat, as well as different martial art forms.


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    Commit to a rigorous workout regimen. Professional fighters train for months before so much as entering a ring; amateur fighters should try to do the same to not only reach their peak physical condition, but also perfect basic techniques. Three critical areas in which to focus your training are cardiovascular fitness, core strength, and muscle mass:
    • Do cardio. This is the lifeblood of fight conditioning: fighters need to not only have excellent endurance, but also be able to summon a quick burst of power at a key moment in a fight. Fatigued fighters, on the other hand, tend to drop their arms, leave their critical hit points exposed, and fail to maintain a strong attack during the later rounds of a fight. To simulate the physical demands of fighting, do interval training; this has been shown to be an especially fast and effective way to condition your heart.[1]
    • Do core exercises. A fighter generates much of his or her power from the core, which helps the entire body move and work cohesively. Try performing exercises that involve many muscle groups such as chin-ups, crunches, squats, pull-ups, and thrusts.
    • Lift weights. Weightlifting helps fighters build muscle and strength to improve their attack power. The chest, shoulders and arms are of particular importance to upper-body-oriented fighting styles such as boxing; do flat bench presses, dumbbell military presses, lateral raises, bicep curls, and tricep kickbacks for chest, shoulder, and arm strength. Other fight styles such as MMA will require more balance between upper- and lower-body workouts; do squat-thrusts, hamstring curls, single-leg squats, step-ups, barbell deadlifts, and barbell squats for calf, thigh, and glute strength.
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    Eat foods that develop muscle. In addition to watching your intake of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and water to combat workout fatigue and the buildup of metabolic waste, emphasize healthy proteins to build bulk.
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    Learn how to throw a punch. Start with a basic punch, making sure to practice with both the dominant and weak hand. Once you master the basic punching technique, try more advanced methods such as:
    • Jabbing: The jab is a short punch that’s is usually done with the weaker hand and helps keep your opponent away from you. To maximize the effectiveness of the jab, professional boxers twist their arm and wrist just before making contact with their opponent.
    • Cross-punching: As opposed to a jab, which is thrown straight in front of the body, cross-punching is powered by the shoulder and delivered by the strong hand in a slightly upward motion across the body.
    • Hooking: The hook can be delivered to the head or body of the opponent – whichever is unprotected – and is often used in combination with other punches. Its chief drawback is that it will leave you susceptible to a counterpunch.
    • Uppercutting: The uppercut is an upward blow unleashed by either hand and is especially effective in close quarters.
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    Learn fighting combinations. Just like in chess, individual fighting moves are useless on their own; performed in a calculated sequence, however, they can take an opponent out. Learn how to not only combine moves from your chosen field of discipline, but also how to counter such combinations. In boxing, the most basic combination is a jab followed by a cross. Another effective combo adds a hook. (If you're right-handed, this would be a left jab followed by a right cross and ending with a left hook.)
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    If bare-knuckle fighting, condition your knuckles. This will make your nerves less sensitive. Note that some fighting styles (ex. many traditional martial arts) encourage whole-body sensitivity and would never recommend nerve-desensitization.
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    Learn how to block punches. Slapping your opponent’s punches away from you, which is known as parrying, is the simplest way of blocking a punch. In boxing, more advanced techniques include:
    • Slipping: If your rival aims a punch at your head, sharply rotate your hips and shoulders.
    • Bobbing and weaving: If your rival aims a high blow (ex. a hook to the head), bend your legs (bob) and then arch the body just out of range (weave).
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    Learn how to take a punch. If you are boxing, try blocking, which is done by absorbing impact with your gloves rather than your body.
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    Find a sparring partner. This will help you prepare for real world fights, work on your reflex speed, develop hand-eye coordination, and get in the right headspace. Make sure to practice against someone who is better than you; nothing is gained except through challenge.
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    Develop a winning attitude. We often wonder how professional athletes with extensive training and years of experience can lose so badly during game time. The answer is simply that competition is as much about physical as mental training. To get in the right headspace, train until your body knows the moves so well that your mind can focus on your opponent; listen to music that pumps you up while you practice; learn to reinterpret pain as a step on the path to victory; visualize yourself fighting, defending, and winning; most importantly, learn to love to fight.


  • Train hard, but have a steady routine so you're not sore.
  • Always use the bathroom before a fight (preferably #2) to keep your weight down and agility up.
  • Always stretch before working out. Hyperextended joints and torn ligaments won’t do you any favors during a fight.
  • Always try to intimidate your opponent; if your opponent thinks (s)he's going to lose, (s)he will. Growl, trash-talk, strut, and do whatever else you have to do.
  • If your opponent is far bigger than you, use low kicks to take out his knees. He can't fight if he can't stand.


  • Do not take this as encouragement to pick fights. If you start a fight on the street, your opponent might have training, have back up, or be armed. Do not fight unless you absolutely have to.
  • Be careful not to seriously injure anyone, including yourself. Listen to your body: if you're hurt, take a break.
  • If you suspect that you’re hurt, don’t continue a fight; though your body will be flooded with adrenaline and you may not feel much pain, you might be in for some nasty surprises when the dust settles.

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Categories: Martial Arts