Strength & Conditioning for the Martial Arts/Combat Sports

Shai Hulud

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The title subject of this thread is something we all have to live with as martial artists/practitioners/combat athletes. To some, it's a supplement to increase performance; to others, it's the end goal (fitness & health).

So how do you do it? How do you train for strength, endurance and/or cardiovascular health for your chosen martial art? What's your attitude or philosophy in approaching it?

I practice Sambo at a proper gym/school here in St. Petersburg, so my S&C routines are usually fixed and at the very least adjusted by my instructors to suit the art. I train 3x a week (M/W/F; 7pm onwards), with each session roughly 2.5-3.5 hours long (3.5 if I'm feeling 100%). Each session opens with 10 minutes of static stretching, and another 10 for joint mobility exercises. [EDIT: breakfalls and rolls are drilled before isolated drills. That takes about 10-15 minutes too!] Approximately 30-45 minutes is then spent drilling different grappling techniques (I'm still something of a novice in the sport, and striking techniques are taught in the higher ranks, so I don't worry about those yet) in isolation with light to medium resistance. The next 30min to 1hr is devoted to sparring and having instructors observe and sometimes step in to correct me in the process.

What follows is about 15-20 minutes** of conditioning work to gas me out for endurance. It's heavily structured so I can break it down here:

- 3 min sledgehammer training
- 8 min Kettlebell workout (Tabata Protocol; mostly pulls e.g. swings, snatches, high pulls and cleans; HIIT)
- 2 min sandbag work (fireman's carries and dead-lifts)

I wrap it up with stretching. I don't really do anything on Tuesdays and Thursdays to let myself recover (I still have graduate school and part time work on the side). I do work out at my flat on Saturdays and Sunday though. Saturdays are for endurance and strength, and on Sundays I have a simple active recovery workout.

Saturdays: (long session consisting of 3 workouts each called "stations"; 15-30 minute breather between stations)

Station 1: "Noble Iron Burpees" by Patrick Jernigan, RKC II

- 2x 16kg kettlebells
- double clean+double jerk+double renegade row
- 5 sets of 5 reps

Station 2: "The Speed Triple - Fatigue Management" by Mark Toomey, RKC

- fatigue management workout consisting of snatches, pull-ups and modified push-ups

Station 3: (this last station I'll sometimes take hours to finish. I like to spread it out throughout the day, unlike stations 1 and 2 which I do first thing in the morning before breakfast)

- One-Hand Push-Ups: 1 set of 15 for each arm
- Pistol Squats (1-legged squats): 1 set of 20 for each leg
- Tactical Pull-Ups (no use of thumbs): 5 sets of 5
- Hanging Leg Raises (3 sets of 15) [leg raises done hanging from pull-up bar]
- Full Back Bridges: 2 sets of 10

Sometimes, especially if I feel like mixing it up, I'll use alternative bodyweight exercises. They're not replacements though - just temporary alternatives to keep things from getting too stale. I'm usually back to the basic 5 by the following weekend.

Sundays: (Active Recovery)

"Sunday Swings" by Chris Holder, RKC

- snatch w/ right hand
- DARC transfer swing to left hand
- snatch w/ left hand
- DARC transfer swing back to right hand

* It stops at a total of 40 snatches. This is one round. I do 4 rounds total.

I have a set of simple movement through awareness exercises from Thomas Hanna and Personal Growth exercises from Moshe Feldenkrais I do every morning and evening. Somewhere between meditation and cooling myself down every morning and evening. Helps keep my nervous and immune system from caving in from the strain I put on them throughout the week.

My diet is simple: little to no processed food, low-carb, high-protein and high fiber. Liver, Kale, Garlic and Broccoli feature heavily. :) Currently my body fat level floats around 15-17%; every month I like to take one workout day out (usually Saturday volunteers) to set PR's for myself just so I can log them and keep track of my progress. As of March 7 I can cover 100m in approx. 28.6 seconds, deadlift approx. 150% of my body-weight, and have no problem pressing 100lb for a max of 5 reps.

Your turn, MT!

**1-2 minute breaks in between stations
 
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K-man

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Wow! I'm impressed. Truly.

I have a life outside martial arts so mine is nowhere near as impressive. I do a gym circuit class 6 days per week which consists of aerobic work, machines and dumbbells.

Then I have my standard classes, 3 x 2.0 hours, 2 x 1.5 hours. That's a total of 15 hours per week which keeps me fit, healthy and active.
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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Wow! I'm impressed. Truly.

I have a life outside martial arts so mine is nowhere near as impressive. I do a gym circuit class 6 days per week which consists of aerobic work, machines and dumbbells.

Then I have my standard classes, 3 x 2.0 hours, 2 x 1.5 hours. That's a total of 15 hours per week which keeps me fit, healthy and active.
Thank you!

15 hours a week is still a lot! I reckon I spend only about 11-12 hours a week. I make up for that over the weekends.

What kind of aerobic work do you do? :)
 

Kung Fu Wang

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So how do you do it? How do you train for strength, endurance and/or cardiovascular health for your chosen martial art? What's your attitude or philosophy in approaching it?
It depends on what skills that you want to develop. You first define your goal. You then find the path to reach to your goal.
 

Tgace

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My WO changes through the year. I currently mix circuits of bodyweight exercises, burpees, burpees w/chins, deadlifts (355lb max single currently), weighted lunges, planks, back extensions, dumbbell lifts of various sorts, kettle bell on occasion.

Come warmer weather running will replace some of that...some xfit style circuits of running combined with KB, DL, chins etc.

I like variety....
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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My WO changes through the year. I currently mix circuits of bodyweight exercises, burpees, burpees w/chins, deadlifts (355lb max single currently), weighted lunges, planks, back extensions, dumbbell lifts of various sorts, kettle bell on occasion.

Come warmer weather running will replace some of that...some xfit style circuits of running combined with KB, DL, chins etc.

I like variety....
By chin you mean chin-up? A burpee and a chin-up? Going to have to try that one. Sounds ungodly. I sometimes substitute my push-ups or leg raises with planks, but I try to stay away from dumbbells and barbells because I don't want to get too big by lifting heavy. I do have a 24kg kettle bell though that I sometimes use for Get-Ups. :)
 

Tgace

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Yes. Burpee under a bar....chin on the jump.

IMO the martial arts meme about "musclebound-ness" is vastly overplayed.
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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Yes. Burpee under a bar....chin on the jump.

IMO the martial arts meme about "musclebound-ness" is vastly overplayed.
It's not so much about me having anything against being musclebound. I have nothing against it. I just don't want to have to change my wardrobe. I have blouses and dresses to fit into too you know!:)
 

Kung Fu Wang

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It's not so much about me having anything against being musclebound. I have nothing against it. I just don't want to have to change my wardrobe. I have blouses and dresses to fit into too you know!:)
When I worked on my leg muscle by putting tight pressure on my indoor bike, my leg muscle got so big that none of my pants could fit me. I had to buy new knitted pants. Did that help my MA training? I don't think so.
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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When I worked on my leg muscle by putting tight pressure on my indoor bike, my leg muscle got so big that none of my pants could fit me. I have to buy new knitted pants. Did that help my MA training? I don't think so.
My concern with muscle size is mostly aesthetic. :) I can do up to five pistol squats while holding a 16kg kettlebell, and the cellulite's all long gone. Enough tension in the hamstrings and quads to get me by in Sambo, my knees are fine and I'm sure my patella tendons are shored up quite nicely. No need to bulk up.
 

Tgace

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Bulking up is more a result of diet and weight and rep choice than it is a feature of weight lifting in general.
 

jezr74

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I've just started doing Stronglifts 5x5 3 times a week (dead lift, squats, bench press, overhead press, barbell row) (3 hours), I run on the treadmill three times a week - 5 minutes brisk walk speed to warm up, then I jog-run until burnt (1.5 hours).

I practice soccer with my son (10) and netball with my daughter (8). Around 6-12 hours a week, this is cardio work for me!

HKD training is 3-5 hours a week.

I also have a b.o.b, pads, kettle bells that I will spend time with when I have spare time, and a chin up bar in the hallway that I do 1-4 chin ups every time I walk under.
 

Buka

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Shai...

Damn, girl! Keep on keeping on. I mean, like, please. That just rocks.
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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I've just started doing Stronglifts 5x5 3 times a week (dead lift, squats, bench press, overhead press, barbell row) (3 hours), I run on the treadmill three times a week - 5 minutes brisk walk speed to warm up, then I jog-run until burnt (1.5 hours).

I practice soccer with my son (10) and netball with my daughter (8). Around 6-12 hours a week, this is cardio work for me!

HKD training is 3-5 hours a week.

I also have a b.o.b, pads, kettle bells that I will spend time with when I have spare time, and a chin up bar in the hallway that I do 1-4 chin ups every time I walk under.
That's a lot of cardio! Great to see that you're balancing it all out with the strong lifts. :) How taxing would you say HKD is?

Shai...

Damn, girl! Keep on keeping on. I mean, like, please. That just rocks.
Gee, thanks Buka!

I normally go through 2-3 bottles of Gatorade on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.That number can go up to 4 on Saturdays.

Do you have a weekly routine that you follow?
 

Jenna

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So how do you do it? How do you train for strength, endurance and/or cardiovascular health for your chosen martial art? What's your attitude or philosophy in approaching it?
I have not ever trained for strength beyond what gains I make from practicing my art - and this I do daily when I am able.. to me practicing my art *as I intend to use it* is the only training.. i understand this is not the way for each different person and but I should like to ask why is it a good thing to go beyond the training gains made while practicing the art??

For me targeted strength work (above what comes from practicing my art) is disturbing to the physiology and dysfunctional to me or to my art as I practice it.. Jx
 

K-man

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Thank you!

15 hours a week is still a lot! I reckon I spend only about 11-12 hours a week. I make up for that over the weekends.

What kind of aerobic work do you do? :)
Mainly skipping and exercise bike plus some group aerobics, step work etc (burpees I hate and they aren't good for my knees). Over a week I have four different instructors taking the sessions so every session is different. I used to jog as well but these days with all my friends having joint replacements I'm protecting my knees from unnecessary stress.
 

Tgace

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Martial Artists seem to be among the few (excepting some arts of course) athletic practitioners who routinely think conditioning beyond their sport is detrimental.

I think too many people confuse bodybuilding with resistance training for athletic improvement.....
 
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Shai Hulud

Shai Hulud

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I have not ever trained for strength beyond what gains I make from practicing my art - and this I do daily when I am able.. to me practicing my art *as I intend to use it* is the only training.. i understand this is not the way for each different person and but I should like to ask why is it a good thing to go beyond the training gains made while practicing the art??

For me targeted strength work (above what comes from practicing my art) is disturbing to the physiology and dysfunctional to me or to my art as I practice it.. Jx
How is it disturbing to the human physiology? Even outside the martial arts, practicing quick ballistic-style lifts coupled with slow, grinding presses has been proven to transform the average joe into someone superhuman when practiced diligently and progressively over time. It burns fat, builds muscle, improves cardiovascular health, is good for your heart and does wonders for tendons, ligaments and bones.
Mainly skipping and exercise bike plus some group aerobics, step work etc (burpees I hate and they aren't good for my knees). Over a week I have four different instructors taking the sessions so every session is different. I used to jog as well but these days with all my friends having joint replacements I'm protecting my knees from unnecessary stress.
I was under the impression you were in your 30's, at the most early 40's.

I can imagine though that the Karate routine's something of a cardio workout in itself. Kihon, Kata, Bunkai, Kumite and all.
Martial Artists seem to be among the few (excepting some arts of course) athletic practitioners who routinely think conditioning beyond their sport is detrimental.

I think too many people confuse bodybuilding with resistance training for athletic improvement.....
It might be due to the myth that resistance training slows you down. I'm always having to explain to people I coach or instruct why that isn't the case.
 
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