Find the Martial Art That Makes You Fit

Martial arts can help develop your strength, better your balance, flexibility, and aerobic capacity.

We all know that training in martial arts come with many benefits. One of the biggest takeaways is fitness, both physical and mental. The arts can help develop things like strength, provide a well-rounded cardio and strength routine, better your balance, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and more.1

We all know that training in martial arts come with many benefits. One of the biggest takeaways is fitness, both physical and mental. The arts can help develop things like strength, provide a well-rounded cardio and strength routine, better your balance, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and more.1

Essentially, all martial arts can help you get fit. However, when deciding which style to try, it comes down to what areas of your fitness you wish to address. For instance, if you’re looking to improve areas like your stamina, strength, and flexibility, there are specific styles that excel in those areas.

The following 10 martial arts are great at providing a full cardio and aerobic experience that will tackle those areas and more to lead you to a fit, healthier body.


This is a popular Korean martial art that focuses on kicking; in particular, head-height and fast kicking techniques. Due to the emphasis on that, much of your training will deal with strengthening the lower body, core, and developing greater stamina and endurance.

Aerobic and cardio exercises are a large part of the extra training seen in taekwondo. Don’t be surprised if you’re directed to undertake some running. Running alone can tackle a number of areas in your fitness goals from improving cardiovascular to building stronger bones and muscles2 and lower your mortality risk in comparison to non-runners.3

As you train in taekwondo, you will perform other high-intensity exercises such as working the agility ladder, weight training, and kick drills using dummies and heavy bags. All of which serve as conditioning tools for the body. In fact, an average person weighing between 150-160 pounds can burn more than 700 calories per hour while training.

Muay Thai

If it’s the full-body you’re looking for to address aspects like stamina and strength, then you’ve come to the right place with Muay Thai. It isn’t known as the “art of eight limbs” for nothing. This martial art makes use of a number of combat techniques from elbow and knee strikes, to kicks and clinching.

The training that you must undergo in addition to actually performing these moves on an opponent can be grueling, but at the end of the day, you’ll not only better your fighting skills but greatly increase your agility and mobility. Just take a look at a Muay Thai fighter perform a flawless roundhouse kick. You’ll understand the flexibility and balance that goes into executing moves like that. It’s evident that your strength will greatly improve while practicing Muay Thai. Take a look at your core, for instance. From spinning elbows to flying knees, you’re able to work your core in ways situps won’t.

All in all, training Muay Thai will demand some superior conditioning and execution of techniques. On average, you can burn well over 600 calories an hour while building up serious muscle.


This Japanese martial art has immensely grown in popularity4 since its startup back in the 1800s, becoming popular across all backgrounds and ages.

Judo frequently uses a good combination of joint locks, throws, and grappling. This means that you will be going back and forth quite a bit from being on your feet to rolling around on the ground. As such, it’s pretty clear that you’ll be pushing your endurance with this art.

You’ll have to learn how to perform these moves for a certain length of time without tiring out. If you decide to compete, having better stamina than your opponent can be a deciding factor on whether you win or lose.
These types of techniques also force you to work with muscles that you may have never had to use before. Also, it gets you to train those reflex skills. All of this can then serve as an incredible anaerobic and aerobic workout, improves your cardiovascular system in order to more efficiently burn calories (a rough average between 700-800 per hour), lose weight, and add muscle.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

With such a staunch focus on ground fighting and grappling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) does something that can seem a tad different from some other martial arts: it pushes you to win the fight using your agility and flexibility more over your physical strength.
Many times in BJJ, you will find yourself up against an opponent that will be larger than you. It isn’t like working with some weights in the gym and lifting your own weight. Rather, you can grapple, lift, and throw someone who is well above your weight range. Can you still come out on top? Of course. That’s the point of BJJ. You condition other aspects of your body, like coordination and stamina, so that you are not always relying solely on your strength.

The training in BJJ will push the way you react and how fast you react. It is remarkably useful for building up that endurance you need.4 Plus, like with other martial arts, you can develop your metabolic process and burn a greater number of calories. The calories burned depends largely not just on your own weight/size, but how hard you’re training. On average though, you can shed over 700 calories per hour.


At first glance, this Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance hybrid may not look like much compared to the other art forms discussed here. In reality, anyone who is a fan of capoeira understands just how well the art style can tone up your body and improve the fitness goals you’re looking for as long as it’s performed correctly. How many calories you can burn depends on the exercises. Since training incorporates a number of things from strength to cardio, you can burn approximately 500-700 calories per hour.

This art style emphasizes the use of speed, agility, and strength all working together in harmony. If not, there’s no way you can succeed in this art. The routines are generally fast-paced, a factor that can contribute positively to your stamina levels. You will also become quickly aware how balanced you must be to execute each move. Greater balance can lead to better control of your body’s movements.
The moves in capoeira are not just fast, but they are done in a fluid, uninterrupted motion. You need just the right amount of flexibility on top of speed and balance. This helps you not just build stamina, but if you suffer from stiff muscles, this art will certainly loosen you up.

Since many of the moves in capoeira are variations of spinning, headstands, and more, you will also see an improvement in your strength. Because of all this, you will need to work to condition your body in order to consistently handle these types of movements.

Krav Maga

As a military self-defense system first started with the Israel Defense Forces, it is clear why Krav Maga is a martial art style that will help you reach your fitness goals of building strength and working on things like endurance. This hand-to-hand fighting style is meant to teach you to neutralize enemies as fast as possible. So, when you train Krav Maga, you are working to use your entire body.

The art includes a number of moves, many of which are taken from other martial art styles. You will learn kicks, elbows, punches, knees, takedowns, blocks, etc. That leads to a high-intensity workout session. Many classes include some bag training like focus mitts to help you perform the moves. By doing this, you get a good cardio workout in by losing weight and gaining muscle. You can also burn away, on average, 500-800 calories per hour.

When it comes to endurance, you need to develop good muscle memory and know how to move quickly to perform well in Krav Maga. As mentioned before, this art deals with handling an enemy as fast as you can. The moves you learn must be done with strength as well as speed.

Wing Chun

This Southern Chinese martial art rapidly gained popularity in the Western world thanks to the famous box office hit Ip Man. Other than being the art that many fans enjoy emulating, Wing Chun can be a great workout.

For those that practice Wing Chun, you have to condition both your upper and lower body in order to dish out the powerful punch and kick techniques this art calls for. There is a focus on stance and footwork here, so you are pushed to work on your legs such as developing the right amount of strength and ensuring they have unwavering stamina to endure all of the maneuvers.

Additionally, you will address your upper body just as hard as your lower body. It is common to perform several punching drills to build muscle strength and accompany those with specific stretches to aid with flexibility. These drills can help you burn around 500 calories an hour.


Anyone who practices wrestling understands that this exercise will hit just about any fitness goal you have in mind. There is a certain amount of athleticism that is required to be successful in the art of wrestling. It involves various techniques such as grappling holds, takedowns, and clinch fighting.

Wrestlers are insanely conditioned and disciplined. Depending on the level that you are practicing at, you have to make a certain body weight. Understanding how to make weight can have numerous of benefits beyond helping you build up strength and tone muscle. It leaves a lasting mark on your lifetime health. You will learn about proper dieting on top of managing your weight in a healthy and safe fashion.5

When you wrestle, you are expected to have great endurance so that you can withstand anything your opponent gives you and work through until the end of the match. That is why cardio is heavily implemented in training. Cycling and running are great ways to work on your cardiovascular fitness, insuring that your body is not only healthier, but that you can fight through a match without ever tiring out. Concerning calories, you can see yourself burn over 400 per hour depending on what you’re doing.

Mixed Martial Arts

Because Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) takes from numerous of martial arts from Western to Japanese, it is capable of providing a great overall workout. To start, this art teaches body discipline; it isn’t easy to do, so you are continually working on your self-discipline each time you push yourself to train.

The training itself is highly versatile as well. Many MMA fighters undergo weight training, strength training, and even circuit training. You can see improvement in your energy levels thanks to the intense, fast-paced workouts that simulate what your body will be pushed through during the length of an actual match. This has another benefit of working on your coordination and body awareness.

It is evident that training in MMA will help in your appearance, if toning muscle is of importance to you. Whether you train with weights or focus on other martial arts training like judo or BJJ, you will shed fat and develop some serious muscle. In fact, an average person weighing around 160 pounds or so should be able to burn over 500 calories per hour while training.


Out of all the combat sports out there, boxing is always a popular route to take for those looking to develop a fit, lean, and strong body. Whether you’re training in the gym or in the ring, you can burn over 400 or over 600 calories per hour. In spite of its popularity in many gyms, boxing isn’t a martial art to be taken lightly. To gain the full fitness benefits of this kind of training, you have to dedicate yourself to handle the intense workout routines.

There are a number of ways you can tackle training here. One of the primary ways is by using a punching bag, and this is something you can do at home or in the gym. Whether it’s a speed bag or a heavy bag, punching bags are common. A heavy bag routine, for instance, can serve as a versatile cardiovascular workout, while speed bags can address your stamina and reflexes.

With the punching bags, you can work on developing your technique or you can opt for interval training. This will help you develop that explosive power and strength boxers need to win a match. In addition to that, boxing training will help work to develop core strength and muscle tone. A proper punch comes with proper rotation. The more you get used to throwing a punch correctly, the more all those core muscles are being worked the right way and you will notice the progress in no time.

Dedicate Yourself to a Discipline

If you want to get in a good cardio and aerobic workout that will see you getting stronger and building stamina, then consider taking up one or more of the above martial arts. They certainly can mix up your typical gym routine. No matter which discipline you decide to embark on, as long as you dedicate yourself, you should see an improvement in your overall health.


1. Douris, P. “Fitness levels of middle aged martial art practitioners * Commentary“. British Journal of Sports Medicine 38, no. 2 (2004): 143-47. Accessed November 09, 2017. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2002.001768.

2. Golbidi, S; Laher, I. “Exercise and the Cardiovascular System”. Cardiology Research and Practice, vol. 2012, Article ID 210852, 15 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/210852.

3. Lee, D. “Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk“. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, August 2014. Accessed November 09, 2017.

4. Matsumoto, David; Konno, Jun. “The Relationship Between Adolescents’ Participation in Judo, Quality of Life, and Life Satisfaction”. Accessed November 1, 2017.

5. “Wrestling Nutrition and Weight Control”. Accessed November 1, 2017.

Be the smartest person in your gym

Everything you need to know about strength in in your inbox.