Bodybuilding and martial arts

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Judah, Jan 2, 2013.

  1. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Many of us lift weights as supplemental training for our martial arts. Not aiming to pack on mass or improve definition it's used to improve strength and power. The title says bodybuilding as that's what I'm most familiar with but what I'm saying can apply to any type of picking up heavy shit and putting it down.

    Tony Sewell, one of my all time favourite kickers, he's not a small boy, weighs the same as me and this guy fukin floats in the air!

    Firstly I'm going to bust some myths.
    1) bodybuilding will make you big and cumbersome. Well this CAN be true if all you do is lift heavy weights and eat shit loads of food, however, diet determines results with bodybuilding, if you don't eat enough you can't grow. Also staying light on your feet (or on the mats) is largely determined by your training in THAT area. Sure the bigger you are the more energy it takes to move your frame around. That's where fitness training comes in.

    2) lifting weights will make you inflexible. This is bollocks, flexibility is determined by stretching, there is also bone structure to take into account but the size or strength of a muscle doesn't effect it's flexibility. Sure if you don't stretch then the stretch receptors will set shorter but that's due to inadequate stretching, not lifting weights. In fact if you use full range if motion (RoM) your flexibility will improve. A long muscle is a strong muscle, flexibility training can be seen as strengthening the muscle in a stretched position (but I'm getting off topic)

    3) lifting weights will make you slow. Ha! What rot! It all depends on HOW you lift. Do it slowly and your muscles will learn to move slowly but do it as fast as you can on the concentric phase and even if the movement is slow due to the weight your muscles will learn to move fast. I've always been complemented on my speed for a guy my size and put that down in part to lifting weights.

    4) lifting weights will block your chi... Well I just don't buy that but as there's no way to measure chi I can't disprove the statement... But I don't have to, it needs to be proven before I have to disprove it. :) - Maybe Sifu Phil has an opinion on this, and from his avatar it looks as though he has a great physique! ;)

    There are many martial artists with incredibly muscular physiques, there are bodybuilders who can do full splits.
    Flex Wheeler, a former pro bodybuilder and a martial artist.

    Just look at the muscles from Brussels ,JC Van Damme, for an example,
    a bodybuilding martial artist who can still do the splits at 52 and still has an impressive physique.
    Take someone we all know and love (or love to hate as the case maybe), Enkidu, his avatar shows him doing an Olympic squat I believe it is, yet we never hear him complaining that he's slow or inflexible, ok maybe high kicking isn't his bag but I'm sure he can kick and I'd bet my last euro the lifting doesn't slow him down.

    The benefits of lifting weights are numerous, increased strength improves striking power, grappling becomes more effective as holds etc are stronger and harder to escape from (ok I'll admit I know very little about grappling). Speed can be increased with weight training (although I wouldn't substitute it for more specific speed training) endurance can also be helped, I know this because mine improved when I first started lifting and anyone who wants to argue it needs to do 5 sets of 20 squats with an appropriately heavy weight, see how much you're panting by the end of that and if you don't puke the weight wasn't heavy enough. Flexibility can also benefit from strength training :D

    For me bodybuilding is a lifestyle which is completely compatible with martial arts, the discipline required would benefit any serious martial artist, it's a 24 hour a day hobby so you have to live, eat, sleep and breathe it. Even if you don't want to look huge like a pro (and you'd need a shit ton of food and juice to do that anyway)
    remember diet determines results so if you don't eat enough you won't get too big,
    working out your daily caloric requirements isn't hard and as long as you don't go over that too often you won't get too big. Your body will recomp, muscles will become harder and stronger and your bodyfat will drop some. Weight training can be tailored to any desired goal.

    As for kids lifting,
    Looks like Enkidu has no problems letting his boy get to grips with some iron ;)
    (Hope you don't mind me using your pic bro, but it's a great photo :))

    I really don't see the fuss, body weight exercises are ok but a barbell or dumbell of similar weight isn't? Press ups use roughly 60-70% of your bodyweight, so a 50kg teen would be pushing 30-35kg yet somehow a bench press of the same weight isn't good for them? I don't get that, personally I'm not a fan of bench pressing, I feel that wide grip dips are a far superior exercise for pectoral development.. and that's a, wait for it, body weight exercise. Handstand push ups are better than overhead press IMO and pull ups are also fine fir young uns and there again in both you're pushing/pulling nearly your entire body weight.... Training has a tremendous impact in your body, I started lifting when I was 14 and I developed a larger rib cage and shoulders than my brother who did nothing but TKD as a result his rib cage has always been much smaller than mine his legs and lower back however are much longer than mine, ok we're not identical twins but we do have very similar genes. Of course this is just my theory the only evidence I have to support it is the differences between my brother and me I just described. However I do know that lifting weights not only strengthens and builds muscles it also strengthens bone and I believe causes them to grow some as well.

    I'm not saying every martial artist HAS to bodybuild or lift weights, although Bruce Lee did a lot of weight training, I just wanted to dispel some myths and give my opinions. I've been bodybuilding longer than I've been doing martial arts although I'm a better martial artist than I am a bodybuilder!
    At the extremes of bodybuilding it maybe isn't compatible with competitive martial arts, it's hard to compete in two sports at the same time although it CAN be done, at the moment I'm trying to drop down a weight category for Savate so I'm eating less and obviously not training for hypertrophy. But I can't see myself ever competing in bodybuilding anyway, I did a physique contest a couple of years back but I got my ass handed to me lol!

    So there we have it. My take on picking things up and putting them down as it relates to martial arts. :)

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  3. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    Nice post, Judah!

    You are close, but it isn't just eating that causes hypertrophy, it is also how heavy you lift. If you do lighter weights (more than 10 reps per set) you are training for endurance more than strength or size (bodyweight exercises generally fall in this category). If you do between 6 and 10 reps you are going for size, and if you lift real heavy you are going for strength. These reps can vary a bit from body part to body part, but that is a good reference. Also, if you are in the 6 to 10 rep range and you dont eat enough, you will be wasting your time. Actually, whenever you do strength training you will need to increase your intake, as you are tearing down the body and building it back up. My rule for my clients when I was a personal trainer is don't worry so much about how many calories you are eating, as long as you are eating good food you will be fine, just eat smaller more often.

    As for the idea that lifting weights slows you down, I generally see it as true. You need to train your muscles in the manner in which you are using them, and punching and kicking is a dynamic excercise, whilst weight training is not. It may not make you slower, but it won't really make you faster. Some people are born with a higher density of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and a little weight training, whether for strength or size, can awaken them a bit, but not nearly enough as dynamic training. The slow you down myth comes from the fact that you only have so much time to train, and if you are doing weight training you generally don't have enough time to do quality dynamic training, half because of time and half because your muscles need to recover from the weight training. So if you had been doing more dynamic excercises and then switch to weight lifting, you will see a decrease in speed.

    As far as flexability is concerned, the more strength you have in the approprate muscles, the MORE flexability you will have. Your range of motion is suppresed by your body because you don't have the strength to support it there. I think this myth comes from the huge body builders who can't even put their arms all the way down, and have to shuffle sideways through doors!! You are totally right, though, strength training will not hurt if done correctly.

    If anyone has any questions, you should definitely talk to a certified personal trainer, even if you have to pay for it. Weight training is very effective, but only if you know exactly what you are doing. Tell the personal trainer your goals and what other training you do, and have them give you a blueprint for success.

    Man, I would LOVE to spar/fight Flex Wheeler!
  4. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

  5. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    I think you misunderstood me, I didn't mention anything about how much weight to lift, I was talking about body building so lifting big was taken as read, it doesn't matter how heavy you lift or what routine you follow if you don't give your body enough food esp protein you won't build muscle. You can't create something out of nothing. The weight training tells your body it needs to adapt but without the building blocks it has nothing to work with.

    As for speed weight training is dynamic as you're moving, it's not static unless you're doing static holds. Pushing against any resistance with the intention of moving it fast will work fast twitch fibres.
  6. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Flex Wheeler couldn't get to Flex Wheeler's size without fuck loads of juice! No matter what his genetics are like Lol!
  7. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    I was just trying to clear up a common misnomer, not saying you were wrong. Body building is a subset of weight lifting, as is strength training, but they are different. Most people in martial arts who weight train want to build strength, not size. Body building is for hypertrophy. You do get stronger when training with body building, but strength training is superior for that.

    This is true, i should have clarified, except that your body will mimic the actual speed you train at. You can achieve some speed increase while lifting weights, but for the most part, the velocity is too slow. The body is really specific in what it advances in, if you want to punch faster, you have to punch fast. The main advantage of weight lifting is that you will also toughen/strengthen the connective tissue, allowing you to train with less injury.

    There are many good reasons to weight train, especially to build a solid muscle base. But for most other goals, there are much better ways to achieve them. Bodyweight excercises are also very good, you train your neuromuscular system to handle it's own weight better, giving you agility and strength.
    Judah likes this.
  8. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    I just posted a lengthy response and then somehow lost it. I am not going to retype the whole thing again. Suffice it to say that, despite a few very minor quibbles (and those quibbles are mostly technical or based on terminology) Judah's post is pretty much spot on.

    I will add this, when talking about the efficacy of weight training as an adjunct to martial arts training, it is important to use the right exercises. What are the right exercises? For the most part, the right exercises are multi-joint exercises (with the exception of "hinge" movements at the hips). They are free weight exercises and don't use machines (that means things like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, tug-toners, etc.). The sorts of exercises that fit this bill are squats, presses, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, cleans, push-presses, jerks, snatches, front squats, weighted dips, glute-ham raises, kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, and other exercises that are similar to these or major variants.

    If more than about 20% of your training volume is spent doing exercises other than those listed above (and similar exercises and variants of these), then you probably need to rethink your training. Most people probably need fewer different types of lifts in their training program and to focus more on what counts. There is nothing wrong with doing as little as 2-3 lifts per session. It is rare that more than 4 are needed (or for that matter, helpful).

    The programs I follows, and the ones I design for others (which include for many combat sport athletes) don't look that impressive on paper. They usually involve (on each training day), 1 explosive lift from the floor, 1 squat or squat variant, 1 push, and 1 pull. I often write in a fifth exercise (which I refer to as an auxiliary exercise) which is done at the discretion of the lifter based on whether he or she feels up to it.

    Here is a typical template I might use with someone:

    Monday (medium intensity, high volume day)
    1. Cleans
    2. Push Press
    3. Squats
    4. Pull-ups
    5. (optional) Weighted Dips

    Wednesday (low intensity, low volume day)
    1. Snatches
    2. Presses
    3. Front Squats
    4. (optional) Turkish get-ups

    Friday (high intensity, moderate volume day)
    1. Squats
    2. Bench Presses
    3. Deadlifts
    4. Chins
    5. (optional) Kettlebell swings

    For many, even this many exercises is too much and they would benefit from an even more abbreviated program. For some, training 2x per week with ultra abbreviated programs is enough. Here is an example of the extreme end of an ultra abbreviated program:

    Weighted Pull-ups

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  9. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Generally speaking, lifting weights that only permit 1-4 reps build primarily strength without much in the way of hypertrophy. Weights that only permit reps in the 5-8 range build a bit of a balance between strength and hypertrophy. Weights permitting reps in the 9-15 range are more hypertrophy oriented and build muscular endurance on the shorter end of the scale. Weights permitting more than 15 reps increasingly become more muscular endurance based. Obviously these are general guidelines and can be skewed based on how you lift, but they are reasonably good guidelines. Lifting in the 6-10 rep range without eating a lot isn't worthless, but it will limit the degree to which you gain muscle (you will however gain strength-endurance of the short duration).
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  10. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    I agree with that. Noticed I said that if you don't eat enough, you will be wasting your time. Then I followed with...
  11. what i am doing is chin up pull up push up power cleans.....eating more to build the muscle.....then once a week dojg functional full body cardio to cut anh fat i may have.......working great for me

    until i started the martial arts training i thought lifting was i love it
  12. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies


    Agree & disagree. Improving strength increases the potential to display that strength through power and speed. While it is true that strength built at slower speeds doesn't transfer as well to high speed movements, the converse is not true, strength built at high speeds does transfer to slower speeds. But it should be noted that there is a transfer and the transfer is even higher when you train at many different points along the force-velocity curve. I disagree that punching power/speed cannot be improved by weight training. Movements like the snatch, clean, jerk, plyometric bench press, etc. can and do massively improve punching power and speed. Indeed, the highest power (force x velocity) ever recorded in sporting movements have been recorded in the snatch movement. Studies done of professional boxers show an incredibly high correlation between punching power and the power clean (and I suspect the correlation would be even higher if the power snatch were studied, but since it is a much harder movement to learn, fewer people know how to do it so it isn't the best subject of a study).

    I won't knock bodyweight exercises, since gymnasts are the most flexible agile athletes in the world. BUT, Olympic lifters are second only to gymnasts in flexibility, highest on the power scale (including having the highest vertical leaps and the fastest 25 yard sprint times).

    Properly done, resistance training is nothing more than natural human movements with added external resistance.
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  13. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    I say this with all due respect, but...

    If your lifting program doesn't include squats, odds are it probably sucks monkey balls.
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  14. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    I think you mean, Agree. If you re-read my paragraph, I do say that you can achieve some speed increases.
    Totally agree with you here, people work on their "t-shirt" muscles waaaay to much, when squat is, in my opinion, the single best weightlifting excercise. Pull ups are great, though, keep on them too!!
  15. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    Sounds like you have a good start.
    I do cardio about 7-9 times a week, running at least 3 times, and HIT training the rest of the time. Not sure I would classify HIT as cardio, per se, but it seems to help my cardio a good amount.
  16. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    HIIT training is more specific to combat sports/martial arts than traditional steady-state cardio training.
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  17. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    This! :)
  18. Gone

    Gone Guest

    Bodybuilding is compatible with everything.

    It is, as you say, an entire lifestyle in and of itself.

    I use weight training and flexibility training to supplement my martial arts, to improve overall health, and to improve my overall physicality.
  19. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    For those who don't know, HIT or HIIT is high intensity interval training.
  20. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Agree AND ROTFLMFAO!!!
  21. Eric Dufurrena

    Eric Dufurrena The Iron Fist of Fun

    Bodybuilding or weight training?

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