Strength training for martial artists - Part 2

Is strength training for Martial Artists actually required?

The decades-old argument within Martial Arts community is whether Martial Artists need more strength (as well as strength resistance training) or if strength training makes us slower and bulkier – meaning that skill and body weight training are all that we need for better Martial Arts performance?

Let’s have a look at some principles that will help answer this question.

The commonly shared biomotor ability in all Martial Arts is Power.

Power is the ability to perform a movement in the shortest possible time – this ability translates to knocking your opponent out in a single strike or, in Grappling Arts, to perform an explosive throw.

Common sense says that we need more power for better striking and throwing performance, but to increase power we need to maximise two biomotor abilities: maximum strength and maximum speed.

This begs the following question: How much strength is needed for a Martial Artist and how is it measured?

The importance of relative and maximum strength for Martial Artists

Maximum strength is the ability to apply maximum levels of force regardless of time constraints.

Relative strength is the proportion between maximum strength and body weight. The higher your relative strength is, all the better your fighting performance will be.

It is correct as stated. Strength is force in Newton or kg.m/s2. So is Weight.

The recommended maximum strength for Martial Arts is from 1.5 – 2.5 times their body weight.

Keeping the recommended range in mind, it is enough to say that body weight training on its own is not enough to increase your maximum strength thus get optimal power results.

The 1.5 – 2.5 times body weight resistance is a wide range that includes most Martial Arts and although we should strive towards the higher end of this scale, that does not mean that we should sacrifice our skill training and other biomotor abilities purely for strength increase.

Strength determining factors:

nervous system diagram

Most Martial Artists are concerned with maintaining functional muscle size within their weight category while maintaining or increasing their strength.

How do you increase strength while maintaining muscle size ?

The answer is in Central Nerves System (CNS) training.

For years the increase in muscle size (hypertrophy)  was taken as the main strength determining factor, which is now known to be just one factor in strength gain.

The main factors responsible for strength gains are neural adaptations to strength training, which entails intramuscular and intremuscular adaptations.


(Fibre) Intramuscular –the ability to recruit as many motor units with-in a single muscle to perform an explosive movement.muscle fiber

Intremuscular – the ability to coordinate multiple muscle groups to perform a movement. An example of multiple muscle coordination, coordinating the glutes, quadriceps, hamstring, hip flexors, transverse abdominis and back extensors to perform a Squat.

Hypertrophy – increase in muscle size.

It is important to mention that beginners (training experience 6 – 12 months) who do weight resistance training are likely to have some muscle size increase.

This is due to anatomical adaptations to weight training.The intermediate and advanced weight resistance practitioners are less likely to have any muscle size increase. In fact intermediate and advance, weight training practitioners should not gain any muscle mass if their program is well structured.

For the Martial Artist interested in getting the best out of their training program from beginner to advance, keep an eye on MAM – C, which will be launching within the next 3 months we will be launching MAM – C.

Sumo squat

This portal will have Martial Arts, specific strength and conditioning training, info and advice from a number of experts in their respective fields – from Strength and Conditioning Coaches to Physios to Bio’s to Dieticians and so on.

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    Alexander Herr Ski Jumping World Champion 2001 and 2006. German Champion, Olympic Bronze Medalist in 2004
  • In my opinion, EMS training is the ideal supplement to conventioal strengthen training
    Nils Schumann Olympic and European Champion in the 800 metre sprint. Germany's Athlete of the year 2000
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