Can you lift weights and train martial arts at the same time?

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Training martial arts and lifting weights have often been the centre of controversy, with many old school coaches saying no you cant lift weights and train martial arts at the same time. There are many reasons for this, from; you need more recovery time to bigger muscles will slow you down. But almost all new coaches will tell you that lifting weights is a great addition to your martial arts training as long as you train intelligently. In this post I’m going to talk about the old stigmas against weight training and talk about some of the benefits to be gained from weight training while also practicing martial arts.

What are the old stigmas?

many old school boxing coaches have been seen to be vehemently against their boxers weight training and until recently, many would advise against it. Their belief was often a mix of thinking that more muscle would slow you down and that you wouldn’t be recovered enough from weightlifting to be effective in the ring. Boxing is also a sport that is steeped in tradition and as their coaches didn’t train weights, neither did they. The interesting thing here is that with regards to muscle slowing you down and recovery being a problem, the old school coaches were kind of right, more muscle mass can lead to you moving slower and recovery will take much longer than if you were just doing your Boxing training. However, the problem with that really lies in what time are you training, how hard are you going in the gym and have you eaten and slept enough to recover. 

Science to the rescue!

Now there is so much scientific evidence that shows that weight training boosts performance in all sports, such as this study from Sports Med which states that not only does strength training increase athletic ability, it also decreases likelihood of injury, there  really isn’t a reason as to why you shouldn’t train with weights. With regards to more muscle mass slowing you down, its more like,  if you have TOO MUCH muscle you will be slower, picture a body builders level of mass, if that mass was built without the explosive movements that martial arts training provides, so muscle built solely for aesthetics, then yes you will be slower and your muscle mass will be a detriment to you training. With that being said, there have been a few successful bodybuilder fighters. fighters like Bob Sapp and Mariusz Pudzianowski have had some success. these fighters are also  known for tiring quickly, so there really is some truth to old school boxing coaches claims. so where does that leave us with regards to weight training? well some fighters are known for their use of weightlifting to help them in the ring, fighters like Antony Joshua, the heavyweight champion of the world, who has used weightlifting as part of his training routine for years. the truth is most if not all professional fighters now implement some form of weight training. the benefits for it are just so numerous. by utilising weight training you can gain:

  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Agility
  • Resistance to Injury
  • Explosiveness 
  • Increased Power
  • A tougher more robust body

Train Intelligently!

Training intelligently requires some level of planning and thought, you don’t have to be Einstein in order to have success with it, but it is important that you take some time to really think about the options you have available, how much time in your week do you have to allocating towards strength training? what goals are you trying to achieve, strength? explosiveness? endurance? or even a mix of all of them. In these cases if you aren’t sure how to achieve your goal its best to find a plan online that fits your needs, in some cases its even better to purchase a training plan, for instance Mark Rippetoes Starting Strength is a good tried and tested plan to use. The training guide I use is Tactical Barbell, which is well worth the money, as it has many different plans and modalities for all your training goals. 


One important thing to remember is that weight training is just another tool in the toolbox of your martial arts training, it should not take precedence over it. It is so important to remember why your lifting the weights, just lifting weights and getting big doesn’t automatically make you some alpha male warrior savage, so don’t start thinking your skills will suddenly skyrocket and you’ll be flipping bison on their heads or that you can beat a car up till it explodes like in Street Fighter 2, your weight lifting will complement your skills, your throws will be a little easier, you’ll move lighter on your feet and your blows will land harder, which is  a pretty good trade off for a little bit of extra time in the gym. 

In Conclusion

Weight training can be an important aspect of your martial arts training, however like all aspects of your training, you don’t have to do it! if you want to focus solely on callisthenics and training that is directly related to your style, that is absolutely fine. Martial arts has always been about the journey and how you choose to complete it, if weight training isn’t in there then that is fine, but if you really want to get the most out of your training and really push yourself, weight training is great way to help you reach your martial art goals. Remember to train hard and stay civilised. 



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