Strength Training for the Martial Arts

Today’s martial arts’ approach to the strength and conditioning basicaly falls into three main camps:

  1. Strength Training for Martial ArtsNo strength and conditioning at all – because „we don’t need it, we get all from doing our sets, sparring sets, heavy bag and sparring.”
  2. (High rep) bodyweight exercises  (like pushups, squats, crunches) –  because “lifting weights will make you stiff and slow.
  3. Bodybuilding – bench press in Smith Machine and leg press, 3 sets of 10 and loads of supplemements – because “big muscles equals strength and power.”

What do we at Practical Hung Kyun think?

All wrong. Let me explain.

Strength Training for the Martial ArtsAd 1) Oldtimers have spent most of the time on getting stronger, using various methods and tools – bodyweight exercises, external weights (barbells, stone locks), “Internal Training” (Noi Gung, like “Golden Bridge” orTit Sin Kyun). Strength and conditioning exercises were not “supplemental”, but fundamental.

Note on the famous “Iron Thread Set” (Tit Sin Kyun): Works like magic when practiced properly, but – it works differently than most of the practitioners think. A lot of nonsense in the world of “Internal Exercises”.

What might suprise many Hung Kyun practitioners, we at Practical Hung Kyun use many of the “Iron Thread Set” (Tit Sin Kyun) principles right in the beginning – both in the so called “External Training” (Ngoi Gung) like bodyweight exercise as well as lifting weights.

Ad 2) More and more pushups, squats, burpees? High rep nonsense – that is strength endurance, one small piece in the puzzle, not real strength. How can you endure strength if you do not have any strength? How can you develope explosive strength if you do not have any strength?

Strength Training for the Martial ArtsIt is very easy to make your students tired. The question is – how can you make them stronger, faster, more explosive and better conditioned?

Ridicilous exercise selection and programming is another story – pushups, ok, how about pulling exercise? Squats? Of course we do them, but for a different reason. (You do not belive that squats hurt you knees, right?). How about training of your posterior chain? Neck – anybody? Crunches? Just kidding, nobody does crunches ( …Anymore. Hopefully). How about real bodyweight strength exercises, ie. really difficult ones?

Strength Training For Martial ArtsAd 3) “Lifting weights will make you stiff and slow” – absolutely true in case of bodybuilding (Hung Kyun has few warning examples), but strength training is a different animal.

The equipment and exercise selection as well as programming is the key. Practical Hung Kyun’s tools of choice are kettlebells (more universal and versatile than the traditional stone locks) and barbells;`we use difficult bodyweight exercises like single leg squats or one arm pushups as well.

Quit high rep nonsense, forget about bodybuilding and start strength training.

Learn the most important and fundamental strength training exercises – check out our PHK Intro Kit HERE

Recommended Training Resources

Note: Pavel Macek sifu of Practical Hung Kyun is a certified kettlebell (SFG), bodyweight strength (SFB) and barbell (SFL) instructor under Master Pavel Tsatsouline (StrongFirst) as well as Functional Movement specialist (FMS) under Master Brett Jones.

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