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Capoeira Conditioning Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Mestre Aranha has perfected functional fitness for Capoeira students. Read this article to learn how you can structure your workouts to get the most benefit for capoeira training.

Capoeira students doing a circuit in class.
Capoeira Conditioning

Capoeira is a very dynamic martial art. As Capoeiristas, we never stop moving. Of course, going to class and participating is a great workout. But many people ask the question, "How can I get in shape so I can do Capoeira?" Over the years, I have experimented in my Academy with various types of workouts and time and again I settle on circuit training to support strength, fitness, and flexibility for Capoeira. I have over 30 years of experience training and teaching Capoeira, and I have designed thousands of workouts for my students. I know it can be daunting for many students when they start the art, but building conditioning sessions into your training will help build athleticism and prevent future injuries on the mats. Keep reading to learn how I structure my Capoeira workouts.


Why is the structure of your Capoeira conditioning workout important?

Structuring your workouts to support playing capoeira is a great way to ease the transition for new students into the art as well as build the strength and endurance for continuing students. One of the main types of conditioning I like to use in my Capoeira academy is circuit training. The circuits generally consist of 6-8 cardio and strength training exercises performed at various stations around the room. I usually repeat the entire circuit 3-4 times, depending on the number of stations we are using. An academy circuit is almost always time based, as I want every student advancing to the next station at the same time.

While an academy circuit has the luxury of incorporating various props such as balance boards, weights, and agility ladders, an at home circuit will likely be more body weight oriented due to gear and room restrictions. Doing a circuit at home also allows for repetition based (instead of time based) exercises, if that is preferred.

When programming your own at home circuits, it is always wise to ask yourself some questions.

  1. How much time do I have?

  2. Do I have any physical limitations such as injuries?

  3. How much space do I have for the workout?

  4. Am I targeting anything specific, or just a general full body workout?

  5. Is this strictly body weight, or do I need to gather gear such as light dumbbells?

How to program a circuit:

First, you need to decide how many stations you will have. Let’s say you decide on 6. I recommend using a stopwatch or app that includes rest time between exercises. Generally I use 1 minute intervals with a quick breath catcher of 15 seconds, as I don’t want my heart rate to drop too much.

Here are three great considerations for planning your Capoeira conditioning circuit.

1. Because you are a Capoeirista, using specific Capoeira movements should be a no brainer. This is where how much space you have becomes really relevant. If you don’t have much room, ginga is always an excellent idea. I like to hold small 2-3 lb dumbbells when I do this. If you have more space to operate, consider doing sets of Capoeira kicks or floor movements. Sometimes you can turn this into a more compound exercise, by doing a set number of kicks alternating with a set number of pushups or squats. Experiment, the combinations are endless!

2. With 5 more exercises left, you need to make sure you’re covering your basic muscle groups and working up a high energy sweat. I always target upper body, legs, and abs, as well as throwing in 1 or 2 wicked cardio exercises. There are so many upper body exercises to choose from, but I usually go with some kind of push-up. This can be tricky, as you have to be able to do these for a minute straight (3 times)! Consider repping pushups in conjunction with something else. There are many options with lower body workouts. Because you are a Capoeira practitioner, try to add explosive ploy exercises like box jumps, squat jumps, etc. It is also a good idea to track your circuits, so the next time you can do something a little different, like wall sits. Abdominal workouts are fairly straightforward, but can lead to lower back pain. For this reason, I often will do a different ab exercise for each of the times I arrive at that station. For example, the first ab exercise might be crunches, then when I work my through the circuit and arrive at abs again, it’s bicycles or planks. And so on. We Capoeiristas are generally trying to mitigate back pain in our training, so we definitely don’t want to do anything reckless!

3. The last thing to possibly add to a circuit is a balance based exercise. I place a premium on balance in my school, so we use an array of devices like balance boards, balance pipes, slant boards etc. Most people don’t have these kind of props at home, simply balancing on one foot can work. If this is too easy, try doing it with your hands behind your back, or your eyes closed. We want our balance come from within, from body alignment, not from flapping our arms or relying on our vision.

What to do post workout. First, drink water. Walk around for a minute or two, and then do some targeted stretching. Because your body is very warm, this is the time to hit those inflexible areas that have been bugging you.

Let's plan your first at home circuit!

Key Tip: As with all things, programming a circuit is a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you will realize halfway through that the exercises you selected aren’t possible to do for the amount of time you’ve chosen, so always have some kind of backup plan like doing jumping jacks or high knees running in place. Keep at it, and one day you will be a circuit master!

Today’s x3 home circuit. 1 minute stations:

  • Ginga

-15 second break

  • 5 pushups alternating with 5 jumping jacks

-15 second break

  • Squat jumps

-15 second break

  • 1 foot balance

-15 second break

  • High knees running in place

-15 second break

  • Abs:

1. Crunches


3. Plank

-15 second break

After the first round, complete two more times.

In this guide you learned the importance of Capoeira conditioning. We've covered the structure of circuit training and built your first at home circuit!


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