Whether you’re a competitive fighter, or just a martial arts enthusiast, these combat strength training tips can help ensure you get the most out of your body.
#1 – Don’t Mix Skills Work and Strength Work
Many make the mistake of trying to replicate martial arts moves in the gym. A common example of this is a guy shadow boxing with dumbbells that are too heavy. The problem this often unknowingly creates is that when external resistance is applied to combat moves, technique ends up being drastically altered for the worse. This does nothing but mess up muscle memory built during skills work and actually trains the wrong muscles to work at the wrong time.
A perfect example of this is the guy shadow boxing in the gym while holding dumbbells that are entirely too heavy. instead of being loose and being able to punch quickly, the body is held too tight and there’s too much tension to punch quickly. Combat strength training isn’t about bringing martial arts to the gym – it’s about focusing on the general physical qualities you use in martial arts.
#2 – Focus On Strength-to-Bodyweight Ratio
The better control you have over your body, the more effective of a fighter you can be. This is why anyone interested in combat strength training will want to ensure that they have a good strength-to-bodyweight ratio. In Science and Practice of Strength Training, Zatsiorsky pointed out that absolute (or maximal) strength is great for improving coordination. Applying that higher level of strength to a body that doesn’t weigh as much makes you more agile, better on your feet, and so on. Read about the different types of strength training here.
#3 – Utilize Bodyweight Exercises
If you want to improve your strength-to-bodyweight ratio, it only makes sense to use bodyweight exercises in your combat strength training. Using exercises like weighted dips and weighted chins are more applicable than bench presses or pulldowns, and better build strength used in a combat environment. Doing these types of exercises for sets of 3-6 heavy reps works well.
#4 – Don’t Neglect Cardio
Although cardio seems the opposite of strength, no good combat strength training program would be complete without cardio being addressed. Many fights are lost due to a combatant getting tired – the strongest guy or girl in the world is weak as soon as he or she can’t catch a breath. Keep your cardio up so you can use all the combat strength you build. 2-3 sessions of 30 mins a week can do wonders.
#5 – Be Sure to Include Strength-Endurance
Strength-endurance is essentially the ability of a muscle to continue to exert strength on a repeated basis. While the term “combat strength training” might imply working on maximal strength, without the ability to use that strength repeatedly, you’re not going to last very long. Adding a simple bodyweight circuit to the mix for the sake of training your muscles to contract again and again will ensure proper combat strength.
#6 – Performance Is all that Matters
If you’re starting a workout that centers around combat strength training, it needs to be because you’re solely interested in improving performance. No part of your workout can be there for the sake of improving aesthetics or your physique. If an exercise doesn’t help your body move faster, better, or more efficiently, it doesn’t get added in.
#7 – Keep it Basic
One of the biggest problems of many combat strength training programs is that they become too complicated. Workouts consisting of a basic warmup, a heavy compound barbell movement, weighted bodyweight movements for assistance, then bodyweight circuits as a finisher are more than enough. Ensure some direct cardio (see point #4 above) is done, and you’ll be more than good to go.
Combat strength training doesn’t necessarily have to look a whole lot different than what might otherwise be considered a “general” strength and conditioning workout. Utilize all the same basic strength and conditioning principles with an emphasis on strength-to-bodyweight ratio and you’ll have an effective program.