Many people who practice martial arts also go to the gym to lift weights and do other resistance training. Naturally
they believe that this extra training will give them extra strength and therefore make them a more formidable opponent in
a fight, giving them an edge over a person who just does the martial arts training and not the weight training. This seems
like an obvious presumtion to make - weight training makes you stronger and being stronger makes you a better fighter; but
in many ways it is actually wrong.
Lifting weights can complement martial arts training, but only if you do the right kind of training, otherwise it could
easily be a hinderance. In fact, the kind of training that most people do at the gym would almost certainly have negative
impacts for someone practicing Oriental martial arts, or martial arts in general.
If you follow the advice that you might find in bodybuilding magazines, or mens health magazines, or if you follow one
of the standard programes that personal trainers or the people who do your induction at the gym would give you, you will probably
be doing 2-3 sets of something like 8-15 repetitions for each exercise. It is likely that you will also be using machines
rather than free weights alot of the time, which are supposed to target specific muscles and improve your training.
This is exactly the kind of training that a martial artist should not be doing.
Firstly, in regards to the number of repetitions what you must remember is that there are different kinds of strength
(fast and slow twitch muscle fibers and so on), and that there is not a precise correlation between muscle size and strength
(have you ever noticed how power lifters are so much smaller than body builders in muscle size, despite the fact that they
are stronger?). The kind of training described above, which would be used by most people who go to the gym, has one primary
aim - to increase muscle size. This is an entirely superficial aim, as the size of a muscle is only a matter of appearance
and nothing else. The problem for the martial artist is that larger muscles make for slower movements and a decreased range
of motion. What's more the gains in strength from such training are not as significant as one may think because you would
not be training for the kind of strength which is most often used in martial arts. You are training a middle range strength
useful for lifting and carrying things and so on, but of little relevance to martial arts.
For a martial artist it is much more important to develop explosive power - something which relies on speed and so can
actually be hindered by larger muscles! For this the training routine of a power lifter would be much more appropriate than
that of the body builder. This involves low sets of less than eight repetitions with a heavier weight, and regular 1 set lifts
in which you try to lift as much as possible. During these lifts you should concentrate on the speed of your lift, pushing
it up with as much explosive power as possible, rather than trying to be slow and controlled. It is also important for a martial
artist to have alot of stamina in the muscles, paarticularly the shoulders as keeping the guard up and throwing punches can
exhaust the shoulder muscles quite rapidly. To help counter this problem very long sets of 20-50 repetitions with a light
weight is very useful.
It is also quite imporant to use free weights rather than machines. This is because the kind of strength developed by
using machines which isolate particular muscles is not what is known as 'functional strength'. When you lift free weights
you do not just train one set of muscles at a time but many supporting muscle groups as well, and many of these are small
muscle groups which none of the machines, which only concentrate on the large mucles groups that look good when built big,
actually strengthen. This means that whilst you may build very stronbg chest muscles, for example, if you actually try to
use them to do anything other than a machine lift you will fail - not because the chest is too weak but becuase in any
natural movement these small supporting muscles groups are used, and ifv they cannot 'keep up' with the chest then you will
not be abl;e to perform the movement.
I hope this artilce has been of use to you.