best martial art for fitness


If you’ve landed on here, then you’ve no doubt heard about all of the great benefits that learning martial arts can bring into your life, such as increased self confidence, fat loss, self defense, and even improving your fitness levels.

While nearly all martial arts will improve your health and fitness, not all of them are the same when it comes to getting you to the level that you wish to be at, therefore it’s important to select the right one if this is your ultimate goal.

So now you might ask “what is the best martial art for fitness?

Here are the best martial arts for fitness:

  • Boxing
  • Muay Thai
  • Kickboxing
  • Taekwondo
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Mixed martial arts

In this article, I will go over each and everyone of these martial arts and explain why they are great for fitness.


Boxing match

Boxing is a combat sport and martial art that has been practiced for centuries now and focuses on mainly using the hands to fight and defend oneself.

In a typical boxing class you can expect the following things:

  • Learn how to throw punches such as jabs, crosses, and hooks
  • How to evade punches such as bobbing and weaving your head
  • Learning how to block and parry punches
  • How to counter punch
  • Strength and conditioning drills, especially those involving your core
  • Punching Mits and heavy bags
  • Sparring

In addition to being a great martial art to take up for fitness reasons, you can expect to learn a lot of very practical self defense moves that can be applied in most situations to keep yourself safe.

Why Its Great for Fitness

Your heart will be beating nonstop in a class as you learn how to throw proper punches and evade attacks.

A lot of cardio and heart pumping exercises are employed in a boxing class such as learning how to skip on the jumping ropes, performing push ups or sit ups, and even doing rounds punching mitts.

Your whole upper and lower body will be worked during a boxing class and you should expect to see significant strength improvements after a short period of time.

If you enjoy punching objects or even people, then you’ll love boxing!

In a typical boxing class you can expect to burn up to 727 calories in an hour!

Muay Thai

muay thai training

Muay Thai is a Thai martial arts self defense system and combat sport that was developed in Muay Thai. It is known as the art of eight limbs and its practitioners employ a combination of punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinch work to defeat their opponents.

In a typical class expect to learn the following things:

  • How to punch (jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts)
  • How to throw leg kicks (round house, push kick, low leg kicks)
  • How to clinch with an opponent
  • How to throw knees and elbows
  • Pad work
  • Sparring
  • Lots of strength and conditioning exercises
  • Cardiovascular exercises such skipping on a jumping rope, or jogging around

Once you advance through the rankings, you will get the opportunity to step into the ring and start sparring with people.

These sparring sessions are great ways of burning extra calories as you will be working your butt off trying to either beat your opponent or survive the rounds.

Why Its Great for Fitness

If your looking to get into great physical shape while being able to go toe to toe standing up with anyone then look no further then Muay Thai.

After training for only a few short months, not only will you get a lot stronger and see immense improvements in your cardiovascular health, but you’ll also have a whole deadly arsenal of weapons at your disposal.

In a Muay Thai class, you can expect to burn anywhere between 600 to 900 calories per an hour depending on your weight.


kickboxing class

Kickboxing is a watered down version of Muay Thai that is a lot less brutal compared to its close cousin.

It started off in Japan with its roots mainly centered around karate combined with boxing.

During the 1970s it gained popularity over in North America.

Today the kickboxing that you see though may have moves borrowed from Muay Thai as well as Karate, Taekwondo, Kung fu, and Boxing.

While you may learn a lot of similar moves such as a round house kick, or a jab, some schools won’t teach nor allow you to use some of the more deadlier moves such as elbows or knees.

And if you want an even easier and liter version of kickboxing then there’s cardio kickboxing which only focuses on fitness and exercise, rather then self defense.

In these classes, expect to hear really cheesy dance music while the instructor counts down the time on a microphone.

Think Tae Bo and you’ve got a good idea of what a typical class is like.

Here are some of things you can expect to learn in a kickboxing class:

  • How to punch (jab, cross, hooks, uppercuts)
  • Counter punches
  • How to block and parry
  • How to throw leg kicks (front kick, side kick, back kick, round house kick)
  • Strength and conditioning drills (push ups, sit ups, crunches, planks, etc)
  • Sparring
  • Mitt work

Now depending on which version of kickboxing that you decide to take (cardio or self defense), you may or may not do some of the aforementioned things in class such as sparring or mitt work.

Why Its Great for Fitness

Like its close cousin Muay Thai, kickboxing is a great self defense and striking martial arts that not only focuses on helping you develop killer striking skills, but will whip you into great physical shape through a lot of strength and conditioning exercises being taught in class.

In a typical class, expect to work both your upper and lower body as well as cardiovascular systems.

According to a Harvard Health Study, you can expect to burn anywhere between 600-900 calories per an hour of martial arts training such as kickboxing. The amount of calories that you will burn will depend on your body weight though.


Best martial art for fitness: Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art developed in Korea that focuses mainly on kicking as its weapon of choice.

In class, students wear uniforms and performs moves that look quite similar to Karate, where Taekwondo has had some influence from.

However, make no mistake, Taekwondo practitioners are experts when it comes to kicking and speed as a lot of classes focus on developing power and speed for their kicks.

Here’s what you can expect in a Taekwondo class:

  • Learning different kicks (Front kick, Side kick, Round house kick, Hook kick, Back kick, etc.)
  • How to punch
  • Learning differences stances (front stance, fighting stance, etc.)
  • Blocks
  • Some self defense techniques
  • Strength and conditioning drills (push ups, sit ups, crunches, planks, etc.)
  • Sparring
  • Pad kicking drills
  • Breaking objects
  • Patterns (Poomse)

Furthermore, some schools may even teach rolling, weapons training, and meditation techniques.

Why Its Great for Fitness

These heart pumping and sweat filled classes are a great way for improving your fitness levels due to sheer amount of kicking, and strength and conditioning drills that you will be doing in class.

You can expect to kick at least 200-300 kicks per a class, along with a few dozen push ups and crunches.

Your upper and lower body, and core will be targeted during sessions.

And if that’s not enough for you, well then there’s also sparring which is another great way of burning off those extra calories.

Not only is Taekwondo great for fitness, but its very flashy as a martial art as well and you’ll no doubt learn a number of awesome high jumping kicks in the air that will wow your friends and family, and possibly scare off that bully that’s been harassing you lately.

You can expect to burn around 600-900 calories an hour in class.

To learn more about Taekwondo, check out this article about the pros and cons of Taekwondo.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Best martial art for fitness: Brazilian jiu jitsu

Brazilian Jit Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that originated in Brazil that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.

Rather then strike at opponents like other traditional martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners aim to get their opponents to the ground where they can subdue and submit them using a variety of different chokes and joint locks.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, by using leverage and weight distribution, a smaller fighter can beat a larger opponent by taking them to the ground and submitting them.

If you’ve ever watched a UFC or mixed martial arts match on TV before, then there’s a high likelihood that you probably saw BJJ being used in a fight.

Here are some of the things that you can expect to learn in a BJJ class:

  • How to roll
  • How to sweep
  • How to apply chokes
  • How to apply joint locks
  • Take downs
  • Take down defense
  • Ground fighting techniques
  • Rolling on the mats (sparring)
  • Strength and conditioning drills
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises

Through learning techniques and applying them in rolling sessions, students will develop competency in ground fighting and self defense.

This may come in very handy if you ever get into a scuffle with anyone on the streets and it turns into a grappling match.

Why Its Great for Fitness

Through constantly grappling with other students, you will develop excellent cardiovascular health and as well as muscular endurance.

These mat rolling sessions can be quite taxing on your aerobic and anaerobic systems, especially if you’re grappling with consecutive opponents one after another.

Strength and conditioning is built up through strength exercises such as push ups, squats, core work, and grappling with opponents.

Furthermore, your flexibility will be greatly improved as you will need to be highly flexible to attempt some of the submissions.

In a BJJ class, you can expect to burn anywhere between 300-500 calories per an hour.

Mixed Martial Arts

Best martial art for fitness: mma

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a hybrid combat sport self defense system developed through the fusion of multiple traditional martial arts.

An MMA practitioner may learn for example a combination of Muay Thai and Taekwondo for striking and Judo and BJJ for grappling.

Fights in an octagon style ring or a traditional ring can either consist of standing and exchanging blows or fighting on the ground.

In the last decade or so, MMA has gained quite a large loyal following due to MMA becoming more mainstream.

In an MMA class you can expect to learn the following things:

  • How to punch (jabs, cross, hooks, uppercuts, etc.)
  • How to kick (round house kicks, front kicks, leg kicks)
  • How to throw
  • How to sweep an opponent
  • How to take down an opponent
  • Chokes
  • Joint locks
  • Strength and conditioning drills

If your looking at competing in some form of MMA type of competition then you definitely should look for an mma school.

Why Its Great for Fitness

Unlike some of the other traditional martial arts systems that are one dimensional, MMA will teach you how to fight both standing up and on the ground.

This means that the training will be highly versatile.

One day you might work all of the muscles that help you strike at an opponent, while the next day, all of the muscles that help you generate strength and power for grappling and submitting someone will be worked.

Furthermore, a lot of MMA fighters incorporate strength and circuit training into their routines as well to help condition themselves.

You might end up using free weights, weighted ropes, TRX bands, or an airdyne machine to condition your body.

Overtime your body will turn into a lean mean fighting machine.

In a typical MMA class, you can expect to burn around 500 calories for a 160 lb person, and more if you’re heavier.


If your looking to get into great physical shape and improve your fitness levels, then look no further then martial arts training.

Martial arts training will not only teach you self defense, but it will improve your cardiovascular health, strength, and melt all of that fat away.

Here’s a quick recap of the best martial arts for fitness:

  • Boxing: A combat sport utilizing one’s fist to strike at an opponent.
  • Muay Thai: The art of eight limbs that involve the use of punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching
  • Kickboxing: A style similar to Muay Thai that has its roots in karate and boxing.
  • Taekwondo: a Korean martial art that has a heavy focus on kicking
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: a ground fighting and submissions combat sport originating from Brazil
  • Mixed martial arts: a hybrid combat sport system that utilizes both striking and grappling in competition

Regardless of which style of martial arts you decide to take, you can rest assured that your overall fitness levels will improve with training.

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