Weightlifting has always been a bit controversial in the martial arts community. For the longest time, it was believed martial artists should just focus on calisthenics and that would be enough. This belief is perpetuated by the fact that most martial art schools do not have a weightlifting area (No weights? Must not be necessary). Slowly, but surely, weightlifting is making its way into martial arts circles as not only a viable -but a crucial- training aspect for serious competitors to focus on. So why the stigma with martial arts and weightlifting? Here are some of the main reasons:
It will make me big and slow
Get the bodybuilder image out of your head. Bodybuilders get that massive for one reason…steroids. If you’re not juicing, then you will never get that big. Lifting heavy weights activates your fast-twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. These are the muscle fibers that are responsible for explosive, powerful movements. The key is to lift very heavy weights for low reps. Rep ranges are important and determine how your muscles will react/adapt to your training.
It won’t benefit my training
Hah…hahaha…oh wait, you’re serious? HAHAHA! Spend a few months doing heavy squats and deadlifts and tell me you don’t kick like a Clydesdale. Stay away from the isolated exercises and machines. They won’t do as much for you (unless you have a specific weakness you’re shoring up). Focus on the big compound lifts and you’ll notice huge improvements.
Calisthenics are all I need
Can you get strong doing calisthenics like pushups and bodyweight squats? Sure, but it requires MANY reps to get near the same results as weightlifting provides. The limiting factor is your body weight. If you’re trying to get stronger, you have to do more and more reps until it is no longer time efficient. The problem is exacerbated if you’re losing weight in the process. That means you’ll have to do EVEN MORE reps to make up for the reduction of bodyweight from when you started training. As far as consistency, efficiency, and arguably effectiveness, is concerned, weightlifting wins hands down.
It will leave me too sore and tired for my other training
This is another misconception brought about by the bodybuilding community (Not bashing you bodybuilders. Just noting a difference in training principles). If you’re not trying to pack on size then you do not need to focus on getting a “pump”, working to failure, supersets, etc. Power training is intense, yes, but it is also very brief. With the low reps you’ll be performing, you typically will not be sore nor will you be too tired to continue training. At the time of this post, I will be into Day 5 of a little personal experiment. I have been doing bench presses (5×5 routine) while adding weight to the bar each day. I plan to continue performing this experiment until I am too sore/fatigued to continue. So far I feel fine. No soreness. No fatigue. I have even participated in normal classes with no issues. Just goes to show that weightlifting and soreness don’t have to go hand in hand.
Weightlifting, when properly applied to your training routine, will benefit you regardless of what martial art you compete in. Who doesn’t want stronger punches, faster kicks, and more powerful throws?
Check back for future posts on how different rep and weight ranges will affect your training.