Krav Maga: the Total Fitness Workout that Will Help you Build Strength, Cardio and Lose Weight

I often get inquiries concerning Krav Maga and fitness, and, without fail, the same set of questions comes back:

  • Is Krav Maga effective for fitness and weight loss?
  • Is Krav Maga training a good workout?
  • Can you build muscle with Krav Maga?
  • Can you get fit training Krav Maga?
  • Will Krav Maga get me in shape?

While the short answer to these queries is a resounding “yes,” it is essential to delve into the nuances.

Many people also expressed an interest in gaining more thorough insights, so I took a deep dive into the science of physical fitness and conditioning. Here is what I found.


From the beginning, the reality of interpersonal violence informed Krav Maga training. Founding figures such as Moshe Feldenkrais or Imi Lichtenfeld recognized the importance of adequate physical conditioning. It was clear that both technical and physical training had to go hand in hand.

The same sense of urgency that led to the technical innovations Krav Maga is known for also fostered a deep interest in sports science and physical training methodologies.

So, to determine how effective Krav Maga is for fitness, we'll embark on a journey through four key dimensions:

  1. The historical development of physical training
  2. The realms of cardiovascular fitness, stamina, and endurance
  3. The cultivation of Strength and Power
  4. Insights into weight loss and effective weight management strategies

1. A Brief Historical Account of the Development of Physical Training

The development of Krav Maga was always informed by the brutal reality of street fights and unregulated violence.

The founding instructors understood that surviving physical violence required stamina, strength, and speed. Consequently, Krav Maga training had to incorporate adequate physical conditioning.

The simple truth is that:

  • A good cardiovascular fitness will give you an edge in a fight.
  • The stronger you are, the more likely you'll survive a physical assault.
  • The more mobile you are, the more likely you'll escape a situation.

While there is a long tradition of physical conditioning to prepare for war, the development of Krav Maga was largely influenced by a series of sports innovations that started in the 19th century and continued in the 20th century.

Among the pioneering Krav Maga instructors who understood the critical importance of physical conditioning, Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was one of the most influential. His work became the foundations on which Kapap and Krav Maga would develop.

Not only did Feldenkrais integrate fitness into Krav Maga, but he was keen to experiment with the most modern training methods. Biomechanics and movement were of particular interest to him[1].

The commitment to innovation, embracing modern training methods, and staying current have been defining characteristics of Krav Maga. al training had to go hand in hand.

The same sense of urgency that led to the technical innovations Krav Maga is known for also fostered a deep interest in sports science and physical training methodologies.

The 19th Century and the “Physical Culture” Movement

Physical Culture emerged during the 19th Century and popularized physical education. It led to the revival of the Olympic games in 1896[3].

Track and Field (running, jumping, throwing), which had a long and prestigious history in Classical Greece, were the first disciplines to be revived.

Athletics contests such as the Cotswold Olympics games in the UK or l’Olympiade de la République in revolutionary France, became popular events all over Europe.

Spurred by nationalistic ideologies, physical activities were seen as a way to rejuvenate physical and mental education[3].

In the wake of Napoleonic wars, people such as Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852), a German gymnastics pioneer, advocated for physical education to prepare individuals for warfare[2].

Gymnastics programs, in particular, emphasized the development of a healthy population fit for military service.

At the time, the traditional gymnastic disciplines were:

  • the parallel bars
  • the rings
  • the high bar (aka “horizontal bar”)
  • the pommel horse
  • the vault horse (or “vault”)
  • rope climbing

Callisthenics was another popular form of body-weight strength training. Unlike gymnastics, though, it does not rely on extensive training equipment. Push-ups, shuttle runs, or burpees, among other exercises, can be easily integrated into any training program.

Following these trends, Early Jewish communities in Palestine engaged in regular combat and physical training. Strength training, combat sports, athletics, gymnastics, and callisthenics were key physical training methods during this period and had a lasting impact on the development of Krav Maga.

Early 20th Century: Méthode Naturelle and Obstacle Courses

At the turn of the 20th Century, new training approaches appeared. One of the most influential was "La Méthode Naturelle” (The Natural Method) by French naval officer Georges Hébert (1875-1957).

This training system emphasized natural activities executed at a rapid pace over challenging terrain[4]:

  1. walking
  2. running,
  3. quadrupedy (i.e. crawling),
  4. climbing,
  5. jumping,
  6. balancing,
  7. lifting and carrying
  8. throwing
  9. defence (wrestling, boxing),

Hébert’s method led to the development of obstacle and assault courses, now a standard fitness drill in the military.

The increased competition between European nations had found a new arena in the Olympic Games. This led to the development of sports sciences and new training methods.

One of the most significant innovations was the Interval Training method. Pioneered in the 1930s in Sweden with the Fartlek method, it consists of steady-pace, moderate-intensity, aerobic exercises with “bursts” of high intensity. Typically, easy running is interspersed with sprints.

It was in this environment that many of Krav Maga founding instructors such as Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), Gershon Kofler (1906-1941), Meishel Horovitz (1919-2009), Yehuda Markus (1912-1945) or Imi Lichtenfeld (1910-1998) grew up.

Lichtenfeld, in particular, was a renowned boxer, wrestler, and gymnast, who won several national and international championships in the late 1920s. His experience as an athlete would have a significant influence on the development of Krav Maga.

Post-World War 2: Circuit Training, Plyometrics and HIIT

In the years following World War 2, advancements in sports science were further accelerated by the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, along with their respective allies.

One of the prime innovations at the time was progressive overload.

Developed by Dr. Thomas Delorme while working with injured veterans, the principle of progressive overload states that consistently increasing the workload (i.e. volume, intensity, frequency, or interval duration) in training sessions promotes muscle growth and strength development[5].

In the early 1950s, the quest to optimize training time and effectively coach large groups of athletes prompted the development of Circuit Training (CT).

CT is a type of exercise that involves moving through a series of different stations sequentially, with minimal rest between each station[6, 7, 8]. It typically combines cardiovascular and strength training exercises, and targets different muscle groups. Circuit training offers a time-efficient and effective way to improve overall fitness, strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health[8].

In the 1960s, Plyometrics became a popular form of physical conditioning. It focuses on enhancing muscle power through speed and force in various movements.

Plyometrics entails rapid, repetitive stretching and contracting movements, such as jumping and rebounding, to create explosive transitions from muscle extension to contraction[9]. "Plyos" can be integrated into body-weight exercises like push-ups and is a common component of physical conditioning programs.

Up to that point, steady-state aerobic exercises like running used to be the go-to training method for improving cardiovascular capacity. In the 1970s, however, athletics coach Peter Coe pioneered High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)[10].

Building on the Interval Training method, Coe came up with a new approach that involved reaching a 100% maximum heart rate. Known as Sprint Interval Training (SIT), it was specifically employed to enhance the performance of elite Olympic athletes[11].

One of the most popular tests to measure anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power outputs is the “Wingate Test” which was developed in Israel during the 1970s at the Wingate Institute, Home of Krav Maga.

However, it was only in the 1990s that HIIT gained mainstream popularity. A study by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his team showed that, compared to moderate-intensity endurance training, High-Intensity Intermittent Training led to faster gain in aerobic capacity and greater gain in anaerobic capacity[12].

Interestingly, Krav Maga expanded beyond Israel just as HIIT was gaining recognition in the fitness industry.

With its short bursts of intense anaerobic exercises interspersed with low-intensity aerobic segments, High-Intensity Interval Training aligned perfectly with Krav Maga requirements. As a result, many instructors and organizations adopted HIIT methods.

The 21st Century and the Movement Culture

The latest and hottest fitness trends are activities that emphasize varied functional movements. CrossFit, Parkour, and the lesser-known MovNat (Natural Movement Fitness) are prime examples.

Sometimes referred to as the Movement Culture, these practices drew significant inspiration from Hébert's "Méthode Naturelle."

Like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), modern Krav Maga should integrate more advanced aspects of mobility training.

Interestingly, UFC champion Conor McGregor enrolled Israeli trainer, Ido Portal, for mobility training.



While Portal and his methods are controversial, to say the least, the main idea behind the “Movement culture” is to use body weight and movements to develop coordination, strength, mobility, agility, and flexibility.

2. Can Krav Maga help improve your cardiovascular fitness, stamina and endurance

For anyone who's done any combat sport, this is absolute evidence: good cardio is key. The first generations of Krav Maga instructors recognized that as well, so improving cardiovascular fitness, stamina, and endurance was always a central part of their training.

One of the most efficient methods to improve these three aspects is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Considering the intense demands of interpersonal violence and the necessity to train in a way that mirrors the intensity of real fights, HIIT protocols seem ideally suited for Krav Maga.

Before exploring the benefits this type of protocol can bring to Krav Maga training, let's examine the science behind HIIT.

The science behind High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Early research on Sprint Interval Training (SIT) highlighted two key aspects, namely that[11]:

  1. SIT improved aerobic capacity (expressed as VO2 max)
  2. Intensity was the key factor in the improvement of maximum aerobic power

These findings were pivotal. In plain terms, VO2 max represents the body's peak oxygen consumption during physical activity. Essentially, it's a measure of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump, and how effectively your muscles can use that oxygen.

Usually expressed in millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute, VO2 max is the reflection of the combined abilities of:

  1. The respiratory system (i.e., the lungs) and the cardiovascular system (i.e., heart and blood vessels) to supply oxygen to the working muscles.
  2. The muscles' ability to extract that oxygen for energy generation in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

This means that higher VO2 max values are associated with improved athletic and endurance performances. Put another way, the higher your VO2 max, the greater your ability to run faster and longer, for example.

Since high cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and also specific types of cancer[13], VO2 max is considered a reliable indicator of cardiovascular health and overall fitness level.

In 1996, Tabata and his team verified the beneficial influence of HIIT protocols on cardiovascular fitness through a study that compared the effects of Moderate-intensity Endurance Training and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on aerobic and anaerobic capacities[12].

The study's findings indicated that HIIT outperformed conventional training methods, with the Tabata protocol specifically resulting in more substantial improvements in both anaerobic and aerobic capacities.

We've already discussed the significance of aerobic capacities (VO2 max), but it's essential to recognize the importance of anaerobic capacities as well.

Anaerobic Capacities & Lactate Threshold

During exercises, anaerobic metabolism produces lactate (i.e. Acid Lactic). When the liver can no longer clear lactate faster than it is being accumulated in the blood (i.e. Lactate Threshold), the body will start to decrease its output, and the muscles will slow down.

So, the higher the lactate threshold, the longer an individual can work at higher intensities. In other words, the individual will be able to accomplish more work in less time while maintaining a higher output.

Since the lactate threshold occurs at a percentage of VO2 max (50-60% in untrained individuals and 70-80% in trained individuals), a high lactate threshold means that an individual can perform at a higher percentage of their VO2 max.

In concrete terms, this could mean running the same distance faster or being able to sprint again at the same speed following a shorter recovery period (because the liver cleared the lactate from the blood faster).

A 2006 study by Gibala et al. perfectly illustrates these points. The scientists observed that after eight weeks of HIIT workouts, athletes could cycle twice as long, compared to their pre-study performance, while sustaining the same pace[14].

It is worth highlighting that:

  • Aerobic capacity (VO2 max) is the ability to do something for as long as possible. Essentially, this is the definition of endurance.
  • Anaerobic capacity is the ability to do something at maximum effort for as long as possible. Basically, this is the definition of stamina.

As a result, we can say that High-Intensity Interval Training will build up both endurance and stamina.

Overall, for the past 40 years, numerous studies have shown the many benefits of HIIT[12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20]:

  • It increases cardiorespiratory response.
  • It builds up cardiovascular fitness.
  • It expands anaerobic capacities.
  • It improves heart function and arterial health.
  • It improves blood sugar levels.

Interestingly, the main reason HIIT became so popular in the fitness industry is that it was shown to achieve similar physical improvements to other methods in significantly less time[20].

Now that we've uncovered the perks and dived into the nitty-gritty of the science, let's see the practical aspects of incorporating HIIT into your Krav Maga training.

Building up Cardiovascular Capacity, Endurance, and Stamina with Krav Maga

Krav Maga principles emphasize responding promptly to an attack by utilizing a blend of defensive and offensive actions to overpower the aggressor.

Consequently, short high-intensity drills, such as punching or kicking, and body-weight conditioning exercises are prevalent in Krav Maga training sessions.

Striking the right balance between physical conditioning and technical skill development is paramount in Krav Maga, as in any martial arts or combat sports.

Often, conditioning exercises are part of the warm-up phase, which is not ideal. It is concerning that instructors confuse warm-up and physical conditioning. Properly implementing HIIT protocols would be a more efficient approach.

Krav Maga training can replicate HIIT protocols by alternating segments of high and low intensities in a consistent manner during the whole session:

  • High intensity: exercises including pad-work such as punching, kicking, etc. (i.e. Repeated High-Intensity Techniques) and simple body-weight exercises such as push-ups, burpees, etc.
  • Low intensity: “technical drills,” i.e. performing a specific technique at slow to moderate speed to acquire proficiency and refine motor skill execution.

Simply performing intervals “whenever you feel like it” is not high-intensity interval training. The two key factors when implementing HIIT are Work-to-Rest ratio and Intensity.

Work-to-Rest ratio & Intensity

Various studies have shown that 1:4 to 1:6 ratios offer an interesting compromise for martial arts training[21, 22]. It means that for 1 min of high-intensity exercise, you’ll get 4 to 6 min of active recovery:

  • 1 minute: Repeated High-Intensity Techniques (RHIT) or body-weight exercises.
  • 6 minutes: technical drills at low to moderate intensity

The second key factor when implementing a HIIT protocol is the Intensity.

The intensity of interval training plays a crucial role in eliciting body adaptations such as improved cardiovascular function, increased oxygen utilization, enhanced metabolic efficiency, and greater muscle endurance[23].

A 1:6 Work-to-Rest ratio dictates that the high intensity should be “all-out” as typical of SIT[11, 24, 25, 26]. “All-out” means the maximal intensity that an individual can sustain for a full minute (i.e. 95% of VO2max[27] or 85% maximum Watts (Wmax)[28] or 90% Max Heart Rate.

The low-intensity phase should align with 60% of the Max Heart Rate, akin to a gentle jog. The long recovery period will allow you to push yourself to true max capacity during the high-intensity phases.

So, the key to effective HIIT implementation lies in maintaining the right Work-to-Rest ratio and intensity. By prioritizing exercise intensity, individuals can gain substantial benefits from interval training.

It is an effective and time-saving approach for enhancing overall fitness and performance. However, it is worth noting that not all Krav Maga organisations and programs have adopted High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) protocols, so make sure your school does.

3. Developing Strength and Power with Krav Maga

As already mentioned, pioneering Krav Maga instructors understood that surviving physical violence required stamina, strength, and speed. So it is no surprise that they included strength training in their routine.

Unlike gymnastics or weight-lifting, callisthenics does not require any substantial equipment. Hence, body-weight training became an obvious pick for physical conditioning.


Callisthenics involves using your body weight as resistance during exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and body-weight squats. Its benefits for strength training have been known for a long time.

A number of Classical Greek texts describe how ancient warriors prepared for combat using body-weight exercises[29].

A good Krav Maga session will integrate a variety of body-weight exercises like:

  • Push-ups (Upper body)
  • Squats, Lunges (Lower body)
  • Abdominal crunch (Core)
  • Burpees, Jumping Jacks (Total body)
  • High knees/running in place (Total body)

While progressive overload is easier to achieve with free weights, the intensity of body-weight exercises can be increased by incorporating variations (like Spiderman push-ups) and combinations (such as push-ups-to-kick-throughs or burpees) or increasing repetitions or speed.

Consequently, callisthenic training is an "effective training solution to improve posture, strength, and body composition"[30].

It helps increase explosive strength, strength endurance, and aerobic fitness[31, 32], and improves body awareness, proprioception, core stability, and balance.

Overall, body-weight exercises make for a good toning workout. They are easy to integrate into a Krav Maga session and provide an efficient and practical solution, particularly when combined with High-Intensity Circuit Training (HICT)[31, 33, 34, 35].


Plyometric training is a form of exercise that involves rapid and explosive movements such as depth jumps, clap push-ups, or medicine ball throws. It has many well-documented benefits[36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46]:

  • Increases muscular strength and power
  • Increases endurance
  • Increases metabolic rate
  • Increases the power output of a muscle mass (more forceful muscle contractions with less energy consumption)
  • Improves the velocity of the muscle contraction (this usually leads to more speed, quicker changes of direction, better control to stop and start, and increases the height that someone can jump).
  • Optimizes athletic capabilities
  • Improves neuromuscular function

In short, plyometrics is an easy and efficient addition to any workout routine to enhance power, agility, and overall athletic performance.

The development of explosive strength is one of the objectives of Krav Maga. For this reason, “plyos” should be part of any training program.

Combatives Training

Combatives training involves striking and grappling techniques. Krav Maga boasts a diverse arsenal in the striking department, featuring kicks, punches, elbow strikes, and knee strikes.

Surprisingly, many Krav Maga organisations still overlook the significance of grappling, particularly ground fighting. This oversight is rather strange, considering Krav Maga’s core philosophy of adapting to threats and to the reality of interpersonal violence.

If more evidence was needed, MMA competitions such as UFC made exceedingly clear that grappling was an essential component of any good fighting system. The dominance of grapplers is evident. Physical confrontations bring combatants up close, and end up in the clinch and on the ground.

Accordingly, any modern Krav Maga training programme should include a substantial dose of grappling and ground fighting.

Combative training involves simulating real combat by striking equipment such as punching bags (a.k.a. "aggression bags.") or using strength, leverage, and technical skills to overcome an opponent at close quarters.

While striking arts will develop speed, grappling, by its nature, will increase strength.

Grappling is a general term used to describe a type of close-contact combat involving various techniques aimed at controlling, immobilising, or submitting an opponent without striking or weapon use.

Familiar forms of grappling include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, wrestling, and various traditional martial arts styles. Grappling techniques often involve holds, throws, takedowns, pins, and submissions, with practitioners using their body strength, leverage, and technical skills to overcome their opponents.

How Graplling Help To Build Strength

Grappling's strength-building benefits stem from various factors:

  • Resistance training: Grappling involves intense physical exertion against an opponent's resistance. This resistance acts as a form of strength training, stimulating muscle growth and increasing overall strength.
  • Full-body engagement: Grappling techniques require the use of multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to a full-body workout that contributes to overall strength development.
  • Isometric contractions: Grappling often involves holding positions, such as maintaining control over an opponent or resisting their movements. These isometric contractions can build static strength and improve muscular endurance[47].
  • Core strength: Many grappling movements heavily engage the core muscles for stability and control, leading to improved core strength and stability[47].
  • Explosive power: Grappling often requires quick bursts of explosive movements, such as takedowns or escapes. These explosive actions can enhance power and speed, contributing to overall strength and athleticism.
  • Functional strength: Grappling movements are highly functional and mimic real-life situations where physical strength is necessary for self-defence or competitive sports.
  • Grip strength: Grappling involves strong gripping and holding techniques, which can significantly improve grip strength over time.

Overall, consistent practice of grappling techniques can lead to increased muscular strength, endurance, power, and functional fitness. Grappling workouts provide a challenging and effective way to build strength while also improving various aspects of physical fitness crucial for martial arts and overall athleticism.

4. Losing Weight and Building Muscle with Krav Maga

Martial Arts conditioning drills and intense body-weight workouts -designed to tone and strengthen your entire body- help develop strong, lean and functional muscles. The intense circuits stimulate muscle-building hormones such as growth hormone (HGH) and IGF-1 which puts your body in a perfect state to build lean mass. The more energetic your workout, the greater this effect will be[48].

The prevalence of HIIT in weight control strategies is due to its time efficiency. Data indicate that individuals burn more calories performing a HIIT session than performing a steady-state cardio (SSC) session for the same amount of time[48, 49].

Consequently, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT) are effective strategies for weight loss, body-fat reduction and cardiovascular fitness improvements[48, 50, 51, 52].

HIIT/HIRT also increase lipid metabolism for exercise recovery which favours the weight loss process[53]. So, another aspect to consider is Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).

Energy Expenditure & Metabolic Equivalent

As a general rule, exercises that consume more oxygen burn more calories.

The following table shows the comparative Energy Expenditure (EE) of different activities using the Metabolic Equivalent (MET) method[54]:

Physical Activity


Time in activity (minutes)

Energy Expenditure (kcal)**













Yoga (Hatha)





Pleasure walking





House cleaning





Golf (walking, carrying clubs)





Dancing (rehearsal or class)





Boxing (punching bag)





Resistance training (vigorous)





Running (slow: 15 min/mile ~ 6.4 km/h)





Badminton (competitive)





Boxing (sparring)





Bicycling (moderate effort)





Circuit training (vigorous)





Running (moderate: 12 min/mile ~ 8 km/h)





Rugby (competitive/)





Bicycling (RPM/Spin class)





Martial Arts (moderate pace)















Boxing (competitive/ring fight – 6 rounds)


18 (6 rounds)



skiing, cross-country, ice skating





Running (Elite: 5 min/mile ~ 19km/h)


131 (26.2 miles)



(*) METs figures are found in Compendium of Physical Activities: a second update of codes and MET values [55].
(**) Energy Expenditure = (MET x 3.5 x (body weight in kilograms) / 200) x time in activity.
The comparison is based on 80kg and 60kg individuals.

While the MET method provides "estimates" and doesn’t consider factors such as gender, age, fitness levels, or environmental conditions, it still offers a useful indication of the energy expenditure of a given activity.

As we can see in the Table, all the components of a Krav Maga training session (circuit training, boxing, martial arts, HIIT) are vigorous exercises with high energy expenditure.

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)

Also known as the “after-burn effect”, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is the amount of oxygen needed for your body to recover, repair and return to its typical Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR, I.e. homeostasis) after physical activity.

In the period immediately following exercise, oxygen is used for several functions:

  • Generating ATP to replenish the expended ATP from the workout.
  • Rebuilding muscle glycogen from lactate.
  • Reestablishing oxygen levels in venous blood, skeletal muscle blood, and myoglobin.
  • Collaborating with proteins to repair muscle tissue that incurred damage during the workout.
  • Returning body temperature to its resting levels.

Since the body uses around 5 kcal of energy to consume 1 litre of oxygen, the greater the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), the more calories you’ll burn during the Post-exercise Recovery Period.

EPOC can last up to 48 hours[56, 57] but is most noticeable during the first 12 hours following training[56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61].

Time plot of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption
(EPOC) after exhaustive submaximal exercise [60]

The duration and magnitude of EPOC are largely influenced by the intensity (and to a lesser extent the duration) of the exercise. So HIIT and HIRT are two of the most effective ways to stimulate a strong after-burn effect[48, 57, 62, 63, 64].

The EPOC response to a high-intensity workout can add 6 to 15 percent of the total oxygen cost of the exercise[63]. One study showed a 10% higher energy expenditure after 14 hours compared to a baseline RMR[61].

So, the EPOC could help burn a significant extra 50 kcal to 150 kcal per session depending on the session intensity and duration[57, 65].

Estimating the Energy Expenditure of a Krav Maga session

The MET method for a 60-minute Martial Art class (MET = 10.3) gives us an energy expenditure (EE) of around:

  • 865 kcal for an 80kg individual (Equiv. 1298 kcal for 90 minutes)
  • 649 kcal for an 60kg individual (Equiv. 973 kcal for 90 minutes)

Some studies that examined the EE of various martial arts activities, determined that[66]:

  • participants in body combat classes were expending an average of 9.7 kcal/min which equals 873 kcal for 90 minutes
  • participants in karate training were expending an average of 8 kcal/min which equals 720 kcal for 90 minutes

A 2018 study measured the average energy expenditure of practitioners during a moderate-to-vigorous intensity 60-minute Krav Maga “workout” session (so not a regular Krav Maga training session)[67].

  • males = 884 +/- 141.1 kcal
  • females= 492 +/- 107.1 kcal

Using the MET method, I tried to estimate the energy expenditure of a typical 90-minute session in my Krav Maga classes in South London. To gain a more precise estimate, I broke down the session into its various parts according to their different level of intensity. The results were:

  • 918 to 1059 kcal per session for an 80kg individual
  • 688 to 794 kcal per session for an 60kg individual

Add the after-burn effect (50kcal to 150kcal), and you could burn a total of:

  • 968 to 1209 kcal per 90-min session for an 80kg individual
  • 738 to 944 kcal per 90-min session for an 60kg individual

While these figures are not exact and cannot replace actual measurements, they offer a good idea of the number of calories consumed during a 90-minute Krav Maga training session. And they clearly meet the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for managing body weight.

ACSM guidelines for weight maintenance

The ACSM guidelines for weight maintenance and preventing weight gain in most adults are as follows[68]:

  • moderately vigorous physical activity of 150 to 250 minutes per week
  • energy equivalent of 1200 to 2000 kcal per week

While fad diets or intermittent fasting can lead to short-term weight loss due to low or reduced caloric intake, weight gain often follows upon returning to a regular diet[51].

Long-term strategies are required. Studies showed that individuals exercising 150 to 250 minutes per week are less likely to gain weight[69, 70].

So, even a single 90-minute Krav Maga session per week would get you closer to that sweet spot.

Conclusion: Krav Maga, The Complete Fitness Solution

Physical conditioning was always an integral part of Krav Maga training. Visionaries like Moshe Feldenkrais or Imi Lichtenfeld understood that true readiness for unregulated violence demanded more than technical skill.

It required a holistic approach encompassing cardiovascular fitness, stamina, endurance, explosive strength, and speed.

So, from the beginning, Krav Maga instructors aimed to create a complete fitness solution that could rapidly prepare individuals technically and physically.

And it is fair to say that the commitment to innovation and improvement in training methods has been a hallmark of Krav Maga's evolution.

With its emphasis on swift and high-energy moves, High-Intensity Interval Training aligns perfectly with the objectives of Krav Maga. Scientific research has consistently shown that HIIT enhances aerobic and anaerobic capacities, cardiovascular fitness, stamina, and endurance.

Yet, the key to harnessing the full potential of HIIT in Krav Maga lies in maintaining the appropriate Work-to-Rest ratio and intensity. The combination of HIIT and bodyweight exercises alongside combative training ensures the development of explosive strength and speed.

In practical terms, a rigorous Krav Maga session can burn anywhere from 400 to 1000 kcal, depending on your body weight. This substantial caloric expenditure aligns with the recommended weekly guidelines for managing body weight outlined by the ACSM.

As a result, Krav Maga is not only a formidable self-defence, it's also an effective fitness programme.

Want to Learn more about Krav Maga?

Read some of our articles on Krav Maga


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