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The Capoeira Conditioning Thread for Beginners

Matt Thornton

Amateur Fighter
Sep 2, 2004
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As I promised in the other thread regarding Capoeira.

QUESTION: (Ask yourself this before reading this thread, and after.) Can you come up with a reason why running, the most common form of cardio, is more beneficial to the combat athlete than Capoeira?

Alright, so recently I bought a book called "Capoeira conditioning," and it was worth every penny to me. I never grew up in a very athletic environment when I was younger, and I was more the pudgy bookworm type (until I picked up martial arts and wrestling in 7th grade). As a result, although I've gotten in good shape, I'm still not the *most* athletic person. I can't do a handstand pushup, can't do a front or back handspring, can just pull off a cartwheel.

Since first seeing Capoeira, I've always wanted to be able to do moves like that. It looks like an absolute blast, and it's perfect for building athleticism.

So you can imagine my excitement when I finally found a book showing me how to work my way up to that from the ground up.

I'll give you some of the exercises I've been using, going from beginner to advanced.

Your basic bodyweight squat. In the Capoeira version, you put your arms between your legs as you squat all the way down, and then as you explode up, you throw your arms up by your ears, and arch your back, extending your spine upwards as far as it can go, while getting up onto your toes.

These sound easy, but after a while, they get to be a real pain. Lie flat on your back, and bring your hands up by your ears. I think you know the rest here. Keep your feet flat on the floor as you bridge up onto your hands, and bring yourself up as high as you can go. You should do a good warm up and rotate your wrists before doing this one. It really puts a lot of pressure on your wrists, and you can hurt yourself. Hold it for as long as you can.

As you get more advanced, try these variations on the Ponte:
-Back bridge pushups (go back down, but not all the way, and then push back up)
-Back bridge with one leg raised (toes pointing to the sky, like a front split)
-One armed bridge (pushup optional)
-"Wheel" bridge (see description below)
-No cheat bridge (see description below)
-Bridge walking! Exorcist style! This one is really tough. Walk like you'd do a crab walk, but instead from a Ponte position.

I've been doing the "wheel" bridge in addition to the Ponte. Stand with your back facing a wall (make sure the floor and wall are NOT slippery). Arch back and place your hands on the wall in the same way you'd put them on the floor for a bridge. Walk yourself down to the floor with your hands, until you're in a back bridge on the floor. Walk yourself back up.

The no cheat bridge has a direct carryover into Capoeira. It looks almost like the beginning of a back handspring. If you've ever seen a Capoeira player go into a handstand backwards, this is how they do it.

Looks sort of like that, but instead of bringing yourself all the way over, just stay in a Ponte position. In other words, move into a back bridge from a squatting position, without touching anything but your feet and hands to the floor. WAY tougher than it sounds.

This is a fundamental exercise that, in combination with back bridge practice, will allow you to do some of those sick backflip-cartwheel-etc. type moves.

For total beginners (like me), stand facing a wall. Kick your legs up so that you're in a handstand, with your feet touching the wall for balance. Hold this position as long as you possibly can.

You want to then work your way up to a handstand pushup. To do this, at the end of your handstand, lower yourself SLOWLY down until your head touches the floor. Then get out of the handstand. The controlled downward motion will build up your strength until you can eventually push back up. The key to handstand pushups is to not wait around on your head; immediately push back up after your head makes contact with the floor.

The book doesn't list it, but obviously, if you have the opportunity or need to, you can always do overhead presses. That's probably your best bet if you can't even hold a handstand.

Another good variation that will aid directly in some Capoeira moves is to try to do a split while in the Bananeira position.

I'm not quite at this level. The Bananeira will help me work up to this, in addition to a stretch I'm about to give you.

The Capoeira Au is different from your normal cartwheel. It starts from the ground, in a squatting or bridge position, so you need to be able to enter a cartwheel from low on the ground, and from strange angles. The Au is an important transition movement and looks really cool.

In addition to the handstand to work your way up to this, try a stretch called the ESQUIVA LATERAL. To do it, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet parallel. Bend one knee and support your weight on the palm of your hand on the same side as your bent knee. For a full stretch, extend your opposite arm towards your bent knee, so that your arm is parallel with the floor. Keep your hips low and hold the position.

To do the Au, you start from the Esquiva Lateral position, and then you cartwheel toward the bent knee. Sounds easy, right? Try it. Remember for a cartwheel, your hips need to be perpendicular to the floor. Also, in a full Capoeira Au, the legs are kept loose (for balance, I think), so that you're doing a split while upside down.

A good Au workout once you can do this is called Au walkbacks. When you finish an Au one way, do an Au in the opposite direction before you stand up. So you stay in that low, esquiva lateral position while doing Au's in both directions.

Those are the 4 basic movements that the book lists. It includes a lot of variations, in addition to some Capoeira positions, and one of the most important parts of Capoeira: the Ginga.

There really isn't a translation for the Ginga. Basically, it's flowing and dancing, never keeping still. You can't learn it from reading. It's really a visual thing. Look up the Ginga, or I'll explain it when I have more time (I have to go soon).

I'll be back soon to explain some of the other positions, as well as include some photos. Feel free to contribute to the thread.

One of the best ideas I've ever seen. Want a workout that improves strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, anaerobic endurance, aerobic recovery, athleticism, explosiveness, burns fat like a mofo, and best of all, is an absolute BLAST to do?

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Capoeira! You can do this even if you can't do the fighting movements of Capoeira, although you'll get a better workout when you can do the Au walkbacks, handstand pushups, bridge walking, no cheat bridges, and some of the more advanced exercises I'll give you later on.

HIIT, if you haven't read about it, consists of short, all-out bursts of anaerobic activity followed by short periods of medium-paced aerobic activity. The simplest example is jog-sprint-jog-sprint. HIIT training is a killer cardio workout, will not burn muscle like long distance cardio, is short, and has been shown to burn more fat than pure aerobic or anaerobic cardio workouts.

Here's a simple, but tough, yet fun HIIT Capoeira workout. It consists of the conditioning exercises for Capoeira for the anaerobic portion (all out), and then uses the Ginga for recovery in between.

30 seconds of jumping Cocorinha squats, as many as you can do

1 minute of Ginga

30 seconds of Au walkbacks, as many as you can do

1 minute of Ginga

30 seconds of as many Ponte bridge pushups as you can do

1 minute of Ginga

30 seconds of no-cheat bridges, as many as you can do

1 minute of Ginga

30 seconds of Au pushups (doing a pushup instead of cartwheeling over), as many as you can do

1 minute of Ginga

TOTAL TIME: 7 1/2 minutes

Sounds easy. But if you've never done HIIT before, you're in for a treat. Remember to push the intensity, as you're only working out for 7 1/2 minutes. I promise you, if these movements present any difficulty to you, this workout will be a KILLER, and it will melt the fat right off your pudgy frame. HIIT is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the idea of HIIT Capoeira is awesome. Short, intense, FUN, and more effective than long, slow cardio!

As this thread gets older I'll provide more exercises and more ideas for conditioning. Capoeira is my new favorite thing next to MMA.

Now ask yourself that question again. Why would you run when you can condition yourself for and practice Capoeira? I am going to learn Capoeira so that I can get to the higher levels of a Capoeira workout, while learning more moves to add to my stand-up game.
if most girls who take capoeira look like that i plan on starting soon
Very nice. And Capoeira sounds cool too. No seriously, this is something I've been considering getting into for a while now (and breakdancing, which has gotta be even better all-round training), so I'll be picking this book up.

Right now I'm in the process of developing my handstand. I find setting a target time each day to be beneficial - a set amount of time every day spent in handstand, gradually easing myself free of the wall for support, and each day I add 10 seconds on to the time. You don't have to complete the time period in one go, just work through it incrementally in 60-90 second handstands. I'm making some good progress with this method.
Someone who finally gets it!

I've always thought things like jumping kicks were the perfect agility drill and conditioning drill combined in one. Try doing multiple sets of jumping combos for 15 minutes and you'll see what I mean.

But so many people don't get it. They think it is just for flash. And then I see TKDers saying things like, "We hardly practice jumping kicks anymore..."

Makes me want to punch them in the face.

Conditioning is where it is at! It isn't hard to learn the simple techniques. And that is true on the ground as well. But when your sparring/grappling everyone gets tired. And suddenly it comes down to who can scramble faster. Who can get that position. And the out of shape guy is usually the one that loses in the scramble game.

I know...because working/teaching as I do I've had periods where I'm in pretty good shape and periods when I'm in downright bad shape. And when I do both Sambo and TKD I notice it. You see an opportunity, something your opponent has left open for you, but you just can't get there in time cause you're huffing and puffing too hard.

You've got the right idea. Use these drills for agility and conditioning. Even if you never use any of the moves in an actual match, they'll help. Just like doing updowns.

Oh yes. And women are not really all that impressed by fighting. The good ones tend to steer away from guys who resort to violence. But every girl appreciates a man who can do cool handstand stuff for their friends. So it will benefit you in more ways than one!
Oh yes. And the girl in the capoiera book is a cutie...just saying. :)

We married men can still look...
really cool post, i saw that book and was tempted to buy it. I motion for this to be a sticky.
I'll add it to the thread with my Instructionals like I did with Tokian's Muay Thai Heavybag thread, but alas I must change the title because it's only Official if it's started by, well, an Official. lol

No discredit to you Ice. Good thread. And the little girl on the cover of that book makes a guy think evil unspeakable thoughts that have nothing to do with Capoeira.
Hi all nice to see capoeira getting some forum time with good comments I have the uppermost admiration for people with the pure balls/ or lack of if a lady lol to start this dynamic martial art. Start with your books for sure but plz remember books are only training aids and to learn the real thing you will need to join a class!
Isn't Ginga really a formalized movement, with a specific pattern for your feet?
Not that it can't be flowing and freestyle, but I thought there was a certain pattern you did.
Not that it can't be flowing and freestyle, but I thought there was a certain pattern you did.

hiya the ginga ia the base of capoeira all techniques come from this movement it is flowing you never stop moving in capoeira

bad example but you will get the idea

sc0rpion said:
hiya the ginga ia the base of capoeira all techniques come from this movement it is flowing you never stop moving in capoeira

bad example but you will get the idea

I've seen much much better, but I don't know if that footwork is correct. Maybe it is?
thats just a bad example ill take a video of my sons instructor to night and post that
Great Capoeria thread, thanks for posting it, Iceman.
Yeah, the only thing I dislike about capoeira is that it seems to be more about dance and friendly choreographed entertainment than fighting. That Crowder and Jaa vid. is the only place I've seen it exercised with aggression.
The Gubbinz said:
Yeah, the only thing I dislike about capoeira is that it seems to be more about dance and friendly choreographed entertainment than fighting. That Crowder and Jaa vid. is the only place I've seen it exercised with aggression.

and it looked damn good with aggression didn't it.