Martial Arts and Weight Training​​​

Fluctuating fitness, age, and injuries, are challenges that will face every lifelong student of combative arts.  To counter these obstacles, the serious martial athlete will research all methods of performance improvement, and there are many effective physical fitness regimens that can add punch to our techniques, including weight training. That is, the right type of weight training. 

While strength is essential for martial arts, traditional powerlifting involving slow, heavy lifts with low reps, decreases the individual’s speed, endurance and overall athletic ability. Instead, budoka might gain more significant benefits from fitness or sport functional lifting. 

When it comes to dumbbells, kettle-bells, battle-rope, chishi (traditional stone weights) or nigiri-game (heavy jars):  new or classical training aids, it’s not the implement, but the implementation that matters most.

There two primary types of exercises the budoka should consider:

Compound – exercises that work multiple muscle groups, i.e., deadlifts and heavy squats

Isolated – exercises that focus on specific muscles and tendons, i.e., light-weight, rapid-fire machine squats for dynamic kicks, or lateral kettlebell swings, for back-fists and uppercuts. 

Weight Training for Strength:

If you take two individuals weighing in at 80 kg, one with higher body fat, the other with lower body fat and higher volume of muscle, the latter will hit harder. The big four compound movements – squat, deadlift, bench and shoulder press – may be viewed as a little “old school”, but they yield optimal gains when it comes to strength-building

Weight Training for Speed:

Martial artists need to be explosive and mobile. Lighter weight, combined with higher repetition and intensity will increases the practitioner’s speed when executing lunges, side steps, bounce backs, and lateral jumps, i.e., when moving the legs and arms in a dynamic, accelerated manner to execute blocks, strikes and kicks. Kettlebells and weighted battle ropes provide an alternative to traditional weights, and can be used not merely for muscle development, but to improve cardiovascular conditioning. 

Weight Training to Prevent Injuries or Promote Healing:

While any well-rounded workout starts with a warm-up and light stretching, and ends with a cool-down, when focusing on therapeutic weight training, preparation is even more criticalBegin with low loads and high, slow repetitions. Be exercise specific. For example, to prevent knee pain, use leg machines for leg extensions, hack squats, inner/outer thigh, and seated leg curlsTavoid injuries or promote healing for back problems, consider very light, bent-over rows. Note: while not technically weight-training, TheraBands, which target small muscle groups, can be useful in avoiding and rehabilitating injuries.

Whether your objective is developing strength or speed, or your aim is more preventative or curative, listen to your body, not your ego.

Like any martial regimen, weight training is not about looking good, but being both stable and agile, and above all, healthy. Stay strong, and see you on the mat.