I'm a bigger guy, 6 foot tall, about 250 pounds, go to an MMA gym 3-4 times a week (more when time allows) and a regular gym once or twice a week. My boxing/kickboxing/Muay Thai is on point, both for power and accuracy, but my cardio is horrendous, especially when doing live rolls in Brazilian Juijitsu. What would be the best way to increase my cardio capacity without losing my striking power?

Note 1: I don't think at my age and with my previous KOs making me a bit scatterbrained at times I'll be actually taking a fight, but it would be nice to not huff and puff when live rolling or for going longer than about a 5 minute round on the bag.

Note 2: I also belong to the martial arts stack exchange but I felt this would be better suited for general fitness

Thanks in advance for any advice

  • For clarification purposes, does heavyweight mean the same as overweight ? Unless you pack on a lot of muscles, 250 lbs seems to be the latter. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 1:15
  • I'm about 22% body fat, so a little overweight but not too fat. My goal is to get around 17% body fat or lower, look a bit like Andrei Arlovski's body type Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:24

3 Answers 3


If BJJ makes you gas, then BJJ is a fine way to increase your cardio. Do more BJJ rolling.

The concern with developing cardio for MMA fighters, particularly heavyweights, is that cardio A) can interfere with sport-specific training time, of which much is needed in this wide-ranging sport, and B) can make the heavyweight become smaller and need to drop down a weight class. Since you say you carry a little extra fat, then you shouldn't worry about extra cardio. Since BJJ is sport-specific for MMA, it's a fine way to get cardio work in.

  • Dave, I like it. Basically do BJJ more than once a week (time usually only allots for one for me) and that should help increase my cardio without killing my power. Well said Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 13:07

I'm 6'4 250 lbs, and a current BJJ and kickboxing practitioner (though I compete very rarely). I have a couple favorite methods I use to stay in decent fighting shape:

Two handed, lightweight (~35 lbs in our case) kettlebell swings. I really try to focus on driving the bell down, and using the hip action to pop the bell up. The explosiveness, especially in the hips, is fantastic for supplementing striking power.

I've also recently fallen in love with the sledgehammer. A lot of folks hit a tire indoors, but I prefer hitting gravel piles, for what it's worth. I typically alternate both sides using a 12 lbs hammer.

I usually design my workout in intervals based on the length of rounds I'm training for.

For instance, if I'm training for 3 minute rounds, I'll do kb swings for a minute, sledge swings for a minute, then shadow box (usually working on a particular set of combinations for a minute).

Rest however much time you're alloted in between rounds, and repeat the cycle the maximum number of rounds the fight might last.

This will probably gas you pretty good. don't overdo it, especially the first few times. I train in class twice a week, lift heavy three times, do light aerobic work twice, and a high intensity anaerobic cardio workout like this max twice a week (and mobility and stretching whenever I can). That said, you'll probably have to feel it out for yourself.

  • 1
    Kettlebell swings, especially if you use your hips and don't drop into a squat, are terrific.
    – Eric
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 1:38
  • Remo, I would upvote but don't have the rep yet. Excellent response Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:26
  • 1
    @Matt No worries, dude. Hope it works out for you. Get out there and knock em out. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 15:33
  • I've marked yours as the answer instead of Dave's based upon the fact that if for some reason I can't get to BJJ as it's only offered during specific times of the week this would be a great workout for me to do to also help increase cardio. I already have a kettlebell at home (albeit only 10 pounds) and a sledge as well. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:15

Are you getting better? Is it getting easier? If it's really hard, your cardio should already be increasing, you'll have to figure out wether you are above or below the ideal amount of cardio per week. If you're improving I wouldn't make any large changes, if not, try adding a cardio session or include more cardio work in your bjj sessions, we used to do a thing where you would roll like this:

p1 vs p2

p1 vs p3

p2 vs p3

p2 vs p1

and so on, so you'd first roll with someone tired and then with someone fresh.

I would also consider losing a bit of weight, heavyweight usually don't have a problem with knockout power, so sacrificing a bit to get lighter, faster and more endurable should be a good idea.

  • Ideally I'd like to either get down to about 225-230 with 17% or less body fat. As I said, I'm not necessarily looking to fight anymore but should I have to be a last second replacement or in a self defense situation I want to be prepared and confident. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 13:09

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