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Updated: Feb 2

Which Type of Weightlifting is Best for Martial Arts ?



When it comes to weightlifting and bodybuilding, there are so many misconceptions. Often it is assumed that lifting weights will make one too bulky and all those extra muscles will decrease flexibility and speed. And every martial artist knows that speed and flexibility are key skills that are honed and developed.


Hee Il Cho, Korean-American master of taekwondo once stated:


“Weightlifting can help athletes in any sport, including the martial arts. The more strength and size you have, the better you will perform. If two people weigh the same, the one with more muscle can hit harder.”

Ironically, by not weightlifting, the exact opposite problem occurs. When the martial artist does not weightlift, not only will they inhibit their ability to gain strength, that lack of strength will hurt their speed and cardio, lower muscle growth, and ultimately make less athletic gains. There is a reason for this misconception. And it is because weightlifting can both increase strength and speed of the martial artist when done properly. But when done improperly, weightlifting can increase bulk and size and slow one down.

Weightlifting as a whole has a variety of different end goals. Your goal will dictate the focus of your weight training. The goal of the martial artist should be to lift weights for athletic gains, in the same way a professional athlete weight trains. The exercise routine should be formulated to not only promote muscle growth but fast twitch muscle fibers for explosive movements, as well as endurance and strength.

By lifting weights, a martial artist is building a strong muscular and physical base, in order to perform technique more efficiently and in the most optimal way. Just a few of the many different methods for weightlifting include:


Just a few of the many different method for weightlifting include:


  1. Bodybuilding - this form of weight lifting focuses solely on aesthetics. Athletic performance and physical strength are not goals of bodybuilding. Each workout is constructed to increase size and appearance by routinely focusing on isolated muscle groups. The term “bodybuilding” is often used interchangeably with weightlifting which is partly why there is such a misconception regarding weightlifting. However, while weightlifting is clearly beneficial to the martial artist when one does bodybuilding solely for the sake of aesthetics and not athletics, this is not optimal training to improve the skills of the martial artist.

  2. Powerlifting - in terms of raw strength, powerlifting is ideal. It focuses solely on strength and size. This increased mass is developed through extremely heavy weightlifting. While strength is important for martial arts, powerlifting involves slow, heavy lifts that decrease the individual’s speed. This is the type of weightlifting that is commonly associated with the bulky, slow weightlifter. Because of the decreased endurance, the benefit of increased strength does provide a significant enough upside to be the ideal weightlifting option for a martial artist.

  3. Olympic Lifting - through explosive exercises, Olympic lifting helps build both power and strength through forceful, quick lifts. Most exercises in Olympic lifting requires a full range of motion of all joints in a small space. This helps the body to adapt not only strength and conditioning but control and flexibility. Olympic lifting exercises are extremely functional for athletic training while building a strong base for strength and fundamental athletic movements.



So what type of weight lifting routine should you be doing ?

In the weightlifting techniques listed above, Olympic style weightlifting reigns supreme. Through Olympic lifting, a martial artist can build strong, functional power through athletic exercises. Olympic lifting will provide the ability to explode quickly and powerfully, without losing speed or strength.

It is worth noting that Olympic lifting alone is not sufficient to developing optimal strength and speed. When weightlifting is combined with an explosive form of cardio like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) will improve the martial artist’s endurance, conditioning, and stamina even further by improving the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

It is also important to find the right program for your schedule and personal needs. Make goals, follow that plan and stick with it. You’ll be surprised at how much you will improve in the dojo or on the mat, once you’ve begun a consistent weight lifting program.


Don’t have a program? No problem, follow us online for more martial arts weightlifting and bodybuilding program to accelerate your learning while staying disciplined.

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