I’ve always had bit of a dilemma. As you may know I love martial arts. And I’m talking all forms of martial arts from Boxing to Jujitsu and everything in between.
In the UK people are football crazy (soccer). As a child, I never really joined in the conversations people made at school about football, as I never watched it. To be honest, I never really gave a crap. Street Fighter and Tekken was enough to keep me happy after school.
I knew very well that body building and martial arts mix like oil and water.
However, I’ve always wanted to build a muscular body. So, I was stuck as what to do and how to train. I have come to learn there are exercises that will develop a well built body without hindering physical movement ‘much’.
As I don’t fight professionally, I figured that it would be okay to train in a strength/body building way to gain some muscle anyway.
I learned a very important lesson that helped me stay athletic as well as training for muscle gains. It’s an aspect of training that people tend to forget about and neglect; Speed and Explosive Power.
What’s the point in being strong if you’re as slow as an asthmatic snail?
Fighters have known this from the start and train in a specific way to gain strength, speed and explosive power; so that their muscles actually add to the performance of their bodies.
Lifting a heavy weight can be of little use if you do not posses speed. Speed leads to explosive power. The two areas most neglected by normal bodybuilders and gym goers related to athletic performance are;
- The ability to develop force behind a load that moves.
- The ability to develop maximum external force in a short amount of time. This I have mentioned in the previous post 5 fundamentals to throwing a devastating knockout punch.
These two aspects are very important for fighters when it comes to throwing strikes and taking an opponent down.
The fighters physique is probably the best all round physique to attain when it comes to strength, athleticism, speed and explosiveness not to mention fighters are usually shredded to the core.
The balance, flexibility and agility of a fighter make fighters one of the best all round performance athletes. A fighters training regime consists of strength, conditioning, cardio vascular and agility work.
It would be beneficial for the everyday person to utilize some of the training methods fighters use to build up the areas that might be lacking from the conventional body building regime.
There are many different exercises that fighters use to keep themselves fighting fit. Here is a list of my top 7:
1) Jumping Box Squats
Jumping Box Squats are excellent for developing speed and explosive power. This exercise trains you to create a large amount of force from a static isometric position. The body starts in an isometric state where you are supporting the weight of the body, then you forcefully overcome the inertial weight of the body.
As well as being extremely fun (by challenging yourself to jump higher as you progress), this exercise will also burn a lot of fat and develop muscle mass in the legs. Box jumps also improve agility, balance and flexibility.
The video above is of natural movement expert Ido Portal who has worked with MMA champions like Conor Mcgregor.
Note that you do not have to go as low as he does before the jump until you get better at the exercise. Also do not attempt to jump beyond your capability as this could lead to you missing the platform and busting your ass… not fun.
How it’s done;
- Stand in front of a secured and stable box or bench at an appropriate height for your ability. It’s always better to start lower and work your way up. Don’t forget the higher the box is, the further away you need to stand.
- Get into the lower end of the squat position; where your thighs are parallel to the ground or you can assume a quarter squat position.
- Keep your arms relaxed beside your body.
- Push your feet into the floor and explode forcefully to propel yourself upwards onto the box. Swing your arms upwards to create momentum.
- Land on the box as light as possible and then jump back down lightly (like a cat would land). This is one rep.
- Repeat for 10 reps of 3 sets.
Deadlifts are awesome for overall strength. They give your whole body a workout and are also great for fat burning. I’ve written in depth about how to deadlift correctly and the awesome benefits in this article.
3) Towel Grip Pull Ups
If you find pull ups difficult, read this beginner pull up guide first. Towel grip pull ups are slightly different to the usual pull up. Towel grip pull ups improve your grip strength dramatically which is very important in martial arts.
Good grip strength will add to your grappling strength and also improve the landing of your punch; as your fist will be tight and compact.
A part from being excellent for building the back and shoulders, towel grip pull ups build your forearms immensely. You will need to towels for this exercise (incase you didn’t know!)
How it’s done;
- Hang a towel over the bar just outside shoulder length and grab the two ends in your hand. Do the same with the other towel.
- Proceed to perform a pull up
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
4) Sledge Hammer Swings (SHS)
The SHS training technique has been around for many years and it is used by some of the best fighters in the world.There are a vast range of great benefits from SHS for everybody, not just for fighters. Here are a few;
- Enables you to maintain explosive power in the upper body.
- Dramatically increases core strength which is an essential component to martial arts training.
- Enhances wrist stability.
- Strengthens the forearms and grip.
- Increases explosive power.
- Builds the whole upper body.
- Burns fat.
- Builds stamina.
- Improves flexibility.
How it’s done;
- Stand a few feet away from the tire with the hammer to either side in front of your body.
- Grip the hammer handle firmly.
- Pull the hammer back and up, swinging the hammer diagonally across your body to strike the tire.
- One hand should remain stationary on the hammer handle.
To start for beginners I suggest repeating intensely for 20 second intervals 10 second rests in between. 3 sets on each side (total of 6 sets).
There’s an excellent website called Ross training with an in depth article on choosing the right hammer and tire to train with.
5) Standing Barbell Russian Twists
This is an excellent exercise for developing the core. It creates core stability and strength as well as training the twist motion a fighter would use to throw a punch. Besides developing the core muscles this exercise is an intense fat burner.
How it’s done;
- Grab an unloaded barbell and position one end of the barbell wedged in a wall corner; alternatively you can also position the end of the bar in the centre hole of a heavy weight plate.
- Hold the other end in both hands, with arms outstretched.
- Bend the knees slightly and bring the bar down to one side of your hips. Twist your chest, shoulders and head in the same direction.
- In one motion, swing the weight back to the start position and then across to the opposite side hip. Turning your chest, shoulders and head in the same direction.
- The arm on the side you are swinging to will be slightly bent to allow maximum range of motion. Whilst the opposite arm to the side you are facing will be fully locked out and stretched across your body.
When you have twisted to both sides, that is one full rep. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps. You can add weight to the bar as you get stronger with the exercise.
6) Lever Press
This exercise is a great way to build explosive strength in the shoulders. It allows for a great range of motion whilst putting you in a punching position.
How it’s done;
- Wedge a bar into the corner of a wall just like with the Russian twists (you can also use a heavy weight plate and put one end of the bar resting in the centre hole so it doesn’t move about).
- Assume a staggered stance with your left foot forward and knee’s slightly bent.
- Hold the other end of the bar in your right hand so the bar is near your right shoulder.
- Explosively push the bar upwards into the air whilst turning your hips to the left.
- Repeat on the other side and swap your feet around (so now the right is in front of left).
Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each side. As you get stronger you can load the barbell with weight plates.
7) Plyometric Push Ups A.K.A Jumping Push Ups
Plyometric push ups are an excellent exercise which is a slight adaption to the regular Push up. Here is a list of just a few of the great benefits from plyometric push ups;
- Increases upper body speed.
- Builds explosive power.
- Increases strength.
- Builds arms and chest.
- Burns fat.
How it’s done;
- Begin in push-up position with hands on the floor, placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your feet together.
- Keeping your back flat, slowly lower your body toward the ground.
- In one explosive movement, push-up and away from the floor as quickly as possible, bringing your hands off the floor.
- Land with your hands back on the ground.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
To start with focus on keeping your hands in the same position when doing the push ups (you don’t wanna try a hard variation and fall flat on your face). After you have developed more strength and technique you can focus on changing the positions like in the above video.
Some people may find these push ups a bit advanced if they have not yet mastered the regular push ups. However you can still get the benefits of the plyometric push ups with a slight adjustment.
If you find them too difficult, instead of resting your hands flat on the floor use an object that is higher so your body is on more of an incline.
For example you can use a kitchen work top. This incline will make the exercise a lot easier allowing you to be able to work your way up to doing them flat.
If this is still a bit difficult, you can also do them by putting your hands in front of you on a wall and pushing away from the wall. Just remember, the steeper the incline the easier it is.
Do you use any other exercises that I haven’t mentioned for speed or explosive power? Leave your thoughts, opinions or comments in the section below. Don’t forget to share this with anyone who can benefit from it, Thanks!