Strength Training for Combat Sports

Article by: Finn Coleman

Strength training has in recent decades become an integral part of training for serious martial artists. From boxing to Muay Thai, nearly all professional combat sports athletes integrate strength into their specific training regime. While strength training should never overshadow sport-specific exercises, every martial artist stands to gain from implementing a few of these sessions into their weekly schedule. There are many questions surrounding strength training for combat sports: How often? What types of exercises? How much weight? 

Traditionally, strength training for combat sports has been thought of as only slowing down the speed of explosive movements. On the contrary, however, research suggests that strength training can seriously increase maximum strength output, strength endurance, and muscle power, which are all key to a hard strike. It is important that strength training focuses on low rep, high weight compound exercises that target numerous muscle groups specific to your sport.


How often should I be doing strength and conditioning?

As a combat athlete, it is important to keep in mind that you are not a bodybuilder. In other words, hitting biceps curls four times a week is not going to contribute to the type of results you are looking for.

Remember, strength training is supplementary to training your sport. A general sweet spot to aim for is around two strength sessions per week, while making sure to cover all the necessary muscle groups. Try to space out your strength sessions to give your muscles time to recover.


What types of exercises should I be doing?

Because you don’t have four to five sessions a week to work on strength training, it is important to focus on the most important muscle groups when you are hitting the weights. Focus on compound movements that engage multiple muscles – examples include the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. While these exercises also work your core, given the intensity of core activation in combat sports, make sure to incorporate some core exercises also, such as hanging leg raises and russian twists.


How much weight should I be using?

This is probably the hardest question to answer, as it completely depends on your level of strength. The safest thing to do is to start light and work your way up. 

The biggest thing for compound exercises is paying attention to your rep range and integrity of movement – focus on lifting heavier loads with less repetitions for compound exercises. Generally, the 4-6 rep range is ideal for building strength in movement such as squats and deadlifts. If you are a competitor, closer to competition you will lighten the load and increase your repetitions to maximise muscle explosiveness.

Pay attention to your body! While your first few strength sessions will be taxing if you are not used to lifting weights, strength training should not severely impinge on your sports-specific training. It is better to ease into lifting weights than to burn yourself out.

When implemented correctly into your training regime, strength training can give the modern martial artist a big edge. The Ironfist Gym Brisbane has a fully-equipped weights station with everything you need to take your strength training to the next levels, from kettlebells to a full squat rack.

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Phone: (+07) 0431 685 085

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