As a martial artist, your main focus should always be on the accumulation of skills and refining of technique, because that is what will bring excellence. It is also the way to be most efficient with your energy.
However, if you have the time to put other workouts into your regime to supplement your martial arts training, or you are unable to get on the mats and have to find some other way to get the heart pumping instead, then there are a multitude of exercises which will help to bring positive benefits. Also, when skills are equal, the stronger or fitter athlete can use that extra ammunition to sneak ahead.
Whether it is to get stronger, more powerful, or to go for longer, here are 10 exercises you should fit into your schedule.
Obviously, they are two different exercises, but we have grouped them together as the king of strength movements for martial arts, or indeed any sporting activity. Although the mechanisms are different, in essence they both help to build a strong posterior chain, and provide great functional strength for competition.
With these dual exercises, you will have stronger hips, greater force production from your feet on the ground (where power in your strikes comes from), and the base to build for more power. They are powerlifting staples for a reason, and that is because they are the most efficient way to get the job done. Squats and deadlifts are not easy, but they are effective.
If the previous exercise will build your strength, then sprints are the one to really take your fitness to the next level. Again, the driver of everything we do is the posterior chain, and that is what the sprints engage. They are key for building cardio and explosiveness.
Long-distance running has long been a staple for boxers and the like, but for time efficiency and overall gains, sprints are the way to go. You can have an intense, functional workout wrapped up in 15 minutes if you want to. Psychologically too, it will push you like no other.
Second only to sprints, burpees are the ultimate ‘no equipment necessary’ workout tool. Because it requires the whole body, it gives us a workout from head to toe, and the many ways they can be implemented mean they can serve a variety of purposes.
When you have got nothing else but a bit of space and a desire to work up a sweat, burpees can be used for conditioning, cardio, and weight loss. There are powerful pushes and explosive jumps that mimic many martial arts specific movements, so it will definitely get the right muscles firing.
Again, the versatility of the humble pull-up is one of the key reasons for its inclusion here. It can aid with your strength, your endurance, and specific traits needed for martial arts.
Going for higher reps will build up your conditioning, while adding weight will give you strength and help your punching power. For grappling arts, the grip strength element is crucial, and you can even hang your gi or a towel around your pullup bar to simulate a more competition-like scenario if you are a judoka or BJJ athlete.
If you want an intense lower body burner, then sled pushes are the way to go. It requires more specific equipment than the sprints, but the sled itself is extremely good for a wide range of other exercises too.
Lower body power, power endurance, and the mental ability to keep pushing through when the searing pain hits your muscles? That is what the sled will do for you.
The only Olympic-style lift in the list, though you could include more. We have gone for the power clean variation specifically, as spending hours nailing down a technical clean is often too much to ask.
A real power builder, it gets the fast-twitch fibers exploding like no other, in realistic scenarios where you would be moving a body, or your own body at high amplitudes. It is a wrestler’s favorite, and credited as the perfect double leg supplement.
How often do we hear “it is all in the hips?” All the time, and that is because it is true. For striking, wrestling, or submissions, the hips act as a fulcrum, and the connection between our upper and lower bodies make almost all movements related to this area of our body.
Kettlebell swings have low impact on the joints, unlike exercises such as cleans and squats, and they get weight directly moving from the hips. That means you will be bridging someone off with ease, and transferring power more effectively through your hips when punching.