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5 strength training myths in martial arts





I have a great love and respect for the world of martial arts. Ever since I first saw Bruce Lee as a child I have always been fascinated with the combat arts. Of course when I would see those rather skinny movie martial artists on screen, I believed that one had to be lean and fast rather than strong to be good fighter. It was only later when I myself started weight training that I learned that even the best martial artists lift weights and strength train.

Yet even today we have a section of martial artists who stay away from strength training by lifting weights believing that it is not essential. So here are 5 major myths about strength training for martial arts that I wish to break with this article.



1) Strength is useless, only technique counts- there is some validity to this claim, however the fact is that this myth was created by a very successful marketing scam by martial arts instructors during the time martial arts started to gain worldwide popularity. The idea was to attract skinny guys who were picked upon to join the classes despite their weakness. Now I do agree that if a strongman who has never trained in martial arts were to fight someone who is weaker but trains regularly in martial arts, there is a high chance that the latter would win. However if you take two guys who's skills and conditioning levels are similar, and one of them is stronger, then 9 out of 10 times the stronger guy will win. So what I am trying to say is that if you want to be a complete martial artist, then you must also develop your strength to be a complete fighter and give yourself the best chance to win.

Also it should be noted that the difference in strength is the major reason why fights are scheduled in weight categories. A trained 200 pound fighter will in most likelihood be much stronger than a trained 130 pound fighter, and likely to win. Thus to make them fight would be unfair to the lighter fighter. This is why it is essential to have weight categories to ensure that the fights are fair. As the saying goes "pick on someone your own size".


2) Strength is useless only endurance counts- ever heard the popular saying "in a fight it does not matter that you can squat 400, if you cannot kick several times". As true as it maybe, it is also true that what is the point of being weak and having great endurance. Are you trying to maintain low levels of strength and impact in your kicks? While it maybe true that squatting more does not always ensure harder kicks, it does however in my opinion give you a good base of strength from which you can develop stronger kicks by working on your technique and conditioning. The same applies for punches, takedowns, elbows, etc.


3) The old time martial artists did not lift weights- as far as I know barbells were not even invented till the year 1849, so how can one expect a martial artist in China to lift barbells in the year 200 B.C.? Yet that does not mean that the martial artists avoided lifting heavy objects to get strong. Everyday objects like large pots, heavy stones, etc were lifted by them to build strength. Unfortunately the martial artists took a long time to adapt to weight training in the form of barbell, dumbbells as they continued to believe that weights are bad.

However the ones who adopted a weight training regimen often benefited. Two of the best examples that come to my mind are Bruce Lee, and Evander Holyfield. Of course Lee was always way ahead of his times in most respects, but Evander who started his career as a light heavyweight, hired the services of former Mr.Olympia Lee Haney to move upto heavyweight category and become a world champion.


4) Weight training will make me musclebound- How many MMA fighters are there today who do not lift weights, and how many of them who lift weighst are musclebound and too inflexible to fight? Remember those awesome kicks of Bruce Lee? Did you see a hint of inflexibility in those legs ever because he lifted weights? Of course not. As long as you continue to do your flexibility work, you will not become musclebound. On the other hand even if you do not lift weights, with age your flexibility will diminish if you do not do your stretching exercises.

Lifting weights did not make Lee inflexible to lift his legs


5) Weight training will make me heavy for my weight class- since Evander Holyfield moved upto heavyweight category by lifting weights, all those who fight in combat sports will be in trouble if they lift weights and become too heavy and are forced to move up a weight class, right? Well not exactly. You see to put on weight you need to eat big, and if you eat big that is eat more than what you burn then you will put on weight even if you did not lift a barbell. So its not the weights which by itself will make you add weight, its lifting the spoon too often which is to be blamed.

To give an example take a look at Olympic weightlifters. Yes those skinny, ripped guys who lift double or more than their own bodyweight. These guys too compete in weight categories, and cannot afford to move upto heavier weight classes since that will put them at a disadvantage. Yet these guys lift weights as part of their job. They ensure that they keep their food servings small to keep their weight down and stay in their weight category, just as you should do when you lift weights and are not interested in getting heavier. Besides that also keep the number of working sets low and the reps low to not induce muscular hypertrophy and to gain strength.


Ultimately the fact of the matter is that strength training is tough just as martial arts is. If you spend time getting stronger in the weight room, your martial arts will benefit. The only thing is to be careful and not overtrain as it is easy to do when combining the two. Otherwise make sure that you mix the two and be the best that you can be.


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