When I started training in kickboxing, I wanted to ensure I made the greatest progress in my training as possible. My key question was …
How many times a week should I do kickboxing?
It then struck me that the frequency in which I trained depended on what my goals were.
Just to Keep Fit
If I just wanted to used kickboxking as a means to keep fit, then the American Heart Association recommends the following:
“Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week”.
The average kickboxing sessions lasts for about 1.5 hours, so doing two sessions per week would meet your basic fitness needs.
So if your goal is simply to keep fit you should train twice a week.
To Gain Mastery
According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in an area.
If you train three times a week for 2 hours each time, it would take over 1,666 weeks to achieve this level. This equates to over 32 years of training. This assumes you never take any holidays or are never off sick. Clearly this is unrealistic. If you started training at 8 years old, you’d end up reaching expert level at over 40 years old. By this time, you’d be past your athletic prime.
It’s therefore clear, that to obtain mastery you have to train more than the standard three times a week that seems to be the mantra for so many gyms.
I’ve spoken to so many people who say that you shouldn’t train more than three times a week. To do so, they say runs the risk of overtraining. You’ll end up burning out and wrecking your body.
To be honest, I used to believe this too until I watched a Joe Rogan podcast with Firas Zahabi.
Firas’s main premise is that in the West we think of a workout as a concentrated effort to burn ourselves out. We go into a training session and hit the heavy bag as hard as we can, move onto pad work and strike these with maximum effort and then spar with all out intensity.
He cites an example of wrestling training in Russia. Russia dominates this sport.as can be seen by the number of medals they’ve won (see here on the Olympic website).
According to Firas Zahabi, Russian wrestlers train with a high amount frequency but with low intensity. Their practice sessions are much more ‘playful’ and slowly increase in intensity as they approach a competition. In contrast to American wrestlers, the Russians will train on almost a daily basis but, instead of going at all out effort against their opponent, they’ll go far more gently, working on their technique and skills rather than brute force.
American wrestlers will typically train 2 -3 times a week and at each session, they’ll exhaust themselves by going at full intensity whilst grappling. They’ll then need 1 or 2 days to recover.
By going at a lower intensity, the Russians are able to train at a greater frequency since they don’t have to take days off for recovery. They are therefore quicker to accumulate the requisite hours to become masters of their craft.
They will have also experienced the higher level of intensity that comes with competition because their training intensity increases the closer to the event they get. However, there is a gradual increase, as opposed to the standard American approach where the intensity is kept high throughout the training period.
Firas gives a further example of Cuban boxers who use a similar approach to their training as the Russian wrestlers.
Cuban boxers are some of the best in the World. Given the size of the country, they produced a staggering number of medal winners at the Rio Olympics (see here on the Olympic website).
This is even more remarkable given it’s a relatively poor country and doesn’t have millions of dollars to spend on their training program.
Here the boxers train on concrete floors so when they spar during their training they are not trying to deliberately knock their opponent out. They train everyday and the lower intensity of their training allows them to do this.
As the date of the competition gets nearer so the training intensity increases. In the case of the Olympics, this is when the film crews come in and start filming their training. This footage shows them going hard on the punch bags and sparring. It’s natural to think that these boxers train this way all the time. Had the cameras turned up a few months earlier, the boxers wouldn’t have been training at this level of intensity.
Firas Zahabi goes on to talk about Thai boxers who train at a lower intensity. Their sparring sessions during their training periods consist of light punches and kicks. Indeed, if someone joins the training session and strikes using too much force then they’ll stop sparring with them, regarding them as ‘too amateur’.
Firas says that if you train to such an intensity that you feel sore the next day, then you’ve trained too hard. As a way to gauge your intensity, you can use the Rate of Perceived Exertion.
If you imagine a continuous scale from 0 to 10, with zero being absolutely no effort, and ten being all out exertion to the extent that even if you had a gun pointed at your head, you couldn’t try any harder.
Instead of training at a nine or ten, as most Americans do, try training at a 6 or 7. If you’re doing this correctly, you won’t feel sore the next day and will be able to continue your training.
It was Pavel Tsatsouline who first popularised this method of training, which he called ‘Greasing the Groove’. He applied it to strength training whereby, you could could train frequently at sub-maximal intensity and make rapid, phenomenal strength gains.
In the clip below, he talks to Tim Ferris about using this approach to gain huge increases in grip strength.
By incorporating the ‘Grease the Groove’ philosophy into your kickboxing training, you can train day after day, racking up the training hours and getting closer to the magical 10,000 hours that transforms you into a kickboxing expert.