Are combat sports considered aerobic or anaerobic?

Jonathan Penney
Jonathan Penney on behalf of National Academy of Sports Medicine
Combat sports would not truly be classified as either aerobic or anaerobic; it would be best classified as both. Plenty of aerobic endurance is required when competing in combat sports. In addition, plenty of anaerobic is needed in order to win your match.
National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Combat sports like wrestling, boxing, judo, and mixed martial arts are extremely grueling contests that test nearly all of an athletes muscles and energy systems. Studies have suggested that during a combat sports match that the energy system being most heavily taxed is the anaerobic or lactate system.
Because of the extremely high intensity nature of combat sports the aerobic system can not supply energy to the working muscles quickly enough to keep up with the demands of the sport. The more intense an activity is,  the higher the percentage of fuel that is derived from the lactate or aerobic system. Studies have shown that during the most intense portions of an MMA or wrestling match that an athletes' heart rate can exceed 90-95% of their maximum heart rate, an intensity rate which demands very rapid delivery of fuel.
Despite being a sport that is primarily anaerobic in nature studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the athletes who have a strong aerobic base recover more quickly between bouts of high intensity activity like rounds of a boxing match or mma fight.
Fortunately research suggests that performing repeated bouts of high intensity short duration work like 30 second all out sprints on a track followed by a 60-90 rest interval repeated 5-10 times can increase your anaerobic power while also increasing VO2 max which is the best measure of aerobic fitness. Performing such workouts 1-4 times a week can improve your fitness for combat sports.

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