BASIC WEIGHTLIFTING FOR MARTIAL ARTS
By Stephan Kesting
In the not-so-distant past weight training was
discouraged for martial artists. "It will make you slow", "it
will make you muscle-bound", and "all you need is technique" were
common opinions from the 'experts'.
Times have changed! Athletes in almost every sport
lift weights now. Coaches and trainers recognize that it will make
their athletes stronger, faster, and more resilient to injury.
It is now understood that weight training complements and improves
Below I have listed some important tips, tricks
and guidelines for those grapplers and martial artists thinking
about adding weight lifting to their training. These are BASIC
tips, geared towards a BEGINNING weightlifter. These are not geared
towards powerlifters, Olympic lifters, bodybuilders, etc., all
of whom require specialized training.
Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes on the treadmill,
stairmaster, etc. Heading straight for the weights without
warming up is a good way to get injured, ESPECIALLY in cold
climates. If your main goal is strength development then only
go hard enough to break a light sweat. If your main goal is
to build strength and endurance then go as hard as you can.
Exercise selection: push something off your
body (e.g. bench press), pull something towards your body (e.g.
pull-ups), bend your arms (e.g. dumbbell curls), straighten
your arms (e.g. dips), push something away with your legs (e.g.
squat), bend your legs (e.g. hamstring curl), work your calves
(e.g. calf raises), bend your body forward (crunches), bend
your body backwards (e.g. hyperextensions). You DON"T
need to do three different exercises for your biceps when starting
Do at least one 'warmup' set for each exercise,
followed by two to three 'working' sets.
Do your heaviest, hardest exercises early
in the workout. Do squats before leg curls, do pull-ups before
The squat is one of the most important exercises
for overall strength development, but make sure that your form
is good. Don't let the knees wobble, don't let the ass come
up before the head, make sure that you can go down with your
knees somewhere between 90 degrees bent and thighs parallel
(even if you have to go lighter).
Work with 8 to 12 repetitions per set. Stay
at a given weight until you can do more than 12 repetitions,
then increase the weight so that you can do only 8. Now stay
at this weight until you can do 12 repetitions with it
Unless you are injured use free weights instead
of machines. You won't be able to use as much weight in a free
squat as you will using a smith machine or leg press machine,
but you will build functional strength faster
Stay well hydrated before, during and after
your workout by drinking water or sports drinks to avoid cramping
and muscle tears
Eat a small snack containing some carbs before
you go workout to keep your energy levels up.
Make sure you eat some carbs and protein within
an hour of finishing your workout - this will help you recover
Limit your workouts to one hour or less -
workouts longer than one hour tend to break you down rather
than build you up
Lifting weights once a week is good for maintaining
strength; lift two or three times a week to make advances
Be wary of the training routines in the bodybuilding
magazines. They reflect the workouts of bodybuilders who are
soaked in steroids and have been lifting for decades. They
do not apply to the beginning weightlifter.
Be wary of supplement advice you receive from
the bodybuilding magazines and supplement stores. These businesses
exist to sell gullible people the latest, greatest supplement.
Protein powder works. Creatine works. Not much else works
To get strong you have to train hard, but
also eat well and rest well. If you neglect one of these aspects
you will either stall in your training or get injured.
Weightlifting does not mean becoming inflexible
- you will maintain your flexibility if you continue to stretch.
Expect rapid strength gains initially. Most
people will become up to 40% stronger initially as their nervous
system adapts to the stress of lifting. After this your progress
will slow down a bit and most strength gains will result from
actual growth of muscle.
If you strain the same muscle or body part
day after day it will get weaker, not stronger, and eventually
get injured. Don't work a body part until it is no longer sore
from your last workout.
If you are new to lifting weights stick with
slow, controlled movements. Plyometrics, Olympic lifts and
other rapid movements are appropriate only once your strength
base is established.