Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Martial Arts and Bodybuilding: Can the Two Co-Exist?

Can One Be Both a Martial Artist and a Bodybuilder?

     Both of my sons have recently taken more of an interest in martial arts—or, perhaps, I should say, just "fighting" in general.  My oldest son, Matthew, who writes regularly enough here, has gotten pretty serious about his martial arts training, with plenty of bag work, sparring, and conditioning, with a fairly high workload to boot.  (If you are going to take anything serious, then your work load should be high, by the way.  As in the above caption from the great Masutatsu Oyama—one must "train more than one sleeps".  That is Mas Oyama in the picture.)
     Yesterday, as we were finishing a sparring session, he remarked, "I just don't think I can do it."  And he seemed rather frustrated when he said it.
     "What can't you do?" I asked.  I generally don't like comments that are in the "negative" from my offspring.
     "I can't train in both martial arts and bodybuilding," he replied.  "It's just too much work."  I knew he was tired and exhausted.  His punches and kicks lacked their usual "snap" during training.
     Before our sparring and bag-work, Matthew had finished a hard "pull" session of back and biceps training, performing a more traditional bodybuilding workout comprised of 16 to 20 sets for both biceps and back.  This, of course, was one of the reasons his movements while sparring and hitting the heavy bag lacked "snap."  He had performed a lot of work not just yesterday, but throughout the past few weeks, not cutting down on his bodybuilding training, while also adding a lot of bag work, while practicing the basics for an hour or more each day.  His solution to all of this added work was to dramatically increase his caloric intake.
     "I ate over 7,000 calories yesterday," he said.  "And I've eaten a good 5,000 so far today, but I'm still tired.  I just don't think it can be done."
     And so the question is put forth: Can one be both a serious bodybuilder and a serious martial artist (whether traditional Karate-Do or more non-traditional fighter such as an MMA practitioner)?
     In short, the answer is NO!  I'm not saying you can't take one of them seriously while dabbling in the other, but what I am saying is that the amount of weight workouts it takes to be a really good bodybuilder, with the kind of physique one could compete with, cannot be combined with the amount of training it takes to be a great fighter.  Sure, there are some genetic anomalies, but for 99.9% of the lifting population, it just wouldn't work.  And this is coming from me, a trainer who often recommends, well, a crap-load of work for advanced guys.  I even let my son get away with hour-long workouts six to seven days each week, and he thrives on those workouts from a muscle-building perspective, and he's the one that also says it can't be done!
     Now, all of this is not to say that a martial artist shouldn't also do a lot of weight workouts.  He or she most definitely should.  But those workouts are going to be quite different from the kind of bodybuilding sessions my son is currently engaged in.  In fact, one could be a great powerlifter while being a great fighter.  The powerlifting and martial arts training actually compliment one another, and the amount of work it takes for many lifters to be a great powerlifter is in stark contrast to the amount of work it takes to be a great bodybuilder.
     Strongman training would also be an excellent choice of "training-style" for the fighter.  Once again, the strongman workouts would greatly compliment the sort of strength a martial artist needs in order to dominate in kumite or MMA matches.
     Honestly, most of the training I write about here at Integral Strength is also perfectly fine for the martial artist, not that I wouldn't make minor adjustments if I was working with an individual, depending on the style of martial arts the practitioner was performing.
When this picture was taken, C.S. was also routinely squatting and deadlifting around 600 lbs—the martial arts obviously didn't "hurt" his powerlifting regimen, which was his primary focus at the time.

     Personally, for the average lifter who is also interested in martial arts, 3 to 4 tough weight workouts each week, combined with 3 to 5 days of martial arts training—some days more intense than others—would be a perfect fit.
     In future posts, look for some serious "warrior workouts" that are just what I have in mind.

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