Do You Even Lift Bro?
How much lifting should I do? Not an uncommon question I get from students, especially those that are “more seasoned” like myself. Martial arts like jiu jitsu, judo, and muay thai tend to be more physically demanding on a practitioner’s body. Muscle aches, joint soreness, and general fatigue are all very common place when regularly training. Add in some traditional weight training and conditioning and those issues can quickly be amplified and compounded.
When asked the question of how much lifting should I be doing it usually is on the heals of expressed increase in joint tenderness and muscle soreness. The first thing we need to remember is the body doesn’t recognize differences in activities. It’s simply doing something. Our body doesn’t distinguish between martial arts training and traditional strength and conditioning. It responds to a stimulus, the nervous system fires, and muscles contract. Running, jumping, kicking, wrestling…it’s all the same to our body.
When we double up activities…martial arts and lifting…we can put the body in a position without enough time to recover. Add a non-supportive diet and lack of sleep we have a nice recipe for overtraining and even injury. We must allow our body ample time to recover from any physically demanding activity. This is what permits growth and increases in strength or endurance.
Strength and conditioning are very important for several reasons. The most often sought after are muscle size, strength, and endurance for improved performance and aesthetics. Often overlooked are the injury prevention and longevity benefits. A stronger body is a more stable and resilient body; one that can withstand the harshness of grueling grappling or sparring sessions. Numerous studies have shown intense resistance training staves off age related impairments. Such training can and generally will correlate to improved performance, it’s greater benefit is the ability to train day in and day out while reducing the likelihood of injury and permitting a person to enjoy martial arts much later into life.
So what answer do I give? I ask the person what the goal is. Do you want to be a bodybuilder? Do you want to be a power lifter? Do you want to be a martial artist? Decide your goal and train accordingly. For the purposes of martial arts I suggest sticking to a very simple program of compound movements. Deadlift, Squat, and some kind of upper body push/pull routine (ie. pushups and pullups). Sessions should be short and intense; get in and get out.
Doing each once per week will maintain an overall general physical preparedness complimenting your martial arts practice without over taxing your body. Compound exercises like the deadlift have been shown to naturally increase hormone levels such as testosterone and growth hormone influencing muscle growth, body fat loss, and bone strength. As always, a solid diet along with ample rest and sleep are important factors as well.