WEIGHT TRAINING AND THE MARTIAL ARTS
By Terry Giles
A Foreword by Bob Duggan
When I reflect on my personal training in martial arts beginning in 1968, I have two major regrets: One is, I wish that I had done more ground fighting and the Second, I wish I would have had a trainer like Terry Giles in weight training. I, like many martial artists, did not believe that weight training built speed or power. I thought that weight lifting was mainly a vanity exercise, and I avoided it (in favor of other vanities). When one looks at modern training regimens in all sports today, this view is clearly erroneous. Here is an opportunity to learn from a real master of the art of body building with a martial purpose. BD
It seems that the world is full of macho myths and legends as relates to sports and athletes. In particular I am referring to two specific disciplines. These are weight lifting and the martial arts, and their respective relationship to each other. Having been involved in the martial arts for well over 30 years and weight lifting for over twenty - I have experienced many of these "myths and legends" first hand. Just to give you some background - before we get started - my name is Terry Giles, I am a charter member of the society and have an extensive past in the martial arts (see charter member info for detail). I own and operate an 18,000 square foot facility in West Palm Beach, Florida - that has turned out more than just martial arts champions. I have and am currently training over 80 top national and professional athletes. Specific to this article - two power lifting champions including Krys Dean who currently holds four world records as a result of my training methods and ideals. Numerous national level bodybuilders as well as top IFBB professionals such as Vince Taylor, James Roberts, and Charles Clairmonte.
Additionally I am in charge of program and product development for a worldwide nutritional company. Needless to say - but I'm in the business and well known industry wide as an expert in the fields of training and nutrition. Done with the introduction - let's get back to the "myths and legends" and their relationship to the arts and weight training. We have all been told the myth of "muscle bound athletes" - big guys with big muscles and no flexibility and even less speed. We have all followed the legend of not weight training due to the fact you too would become one of these muscle bound freaks with no flexibility and no speed - probably no coordination either. Well sit back - I think you might enjoy this......or not - we'll see. As far as weight lifting goes; stretching is a very important element to success as a weightlifter be it a bodybuilder or a power lifter. The reason lies in the muscle fascia - the muscle fascia is the "envelope" that surrounds the muscle. By stretching the muscles - you are in fact stretching the muscle fascia - thereby allowing more "room" inside the fascia for muscular growth and development. Regarding the martial arts - stretching plays an all important role in increasing flexibility and protecting the muscle against injury while strengthening the adaptive tendon, ligament and connective tissue. These two go hand in hand. You see - stretching helps condition the muscle as well as providing an excellent atmosphere for muscular growth. The more stretch - the more flexibility - the more flexibility - the more you increase the range of motion of the muscles. The more you increase the range of motion, the more muscle fibers get stimulated - the more muscle fibers stimulated - the more increase in muscle - this increase in muscle equals greater strength as well as improved speed, balance and agility. You see by increasing the amount of muscle - you improve the body's balance thereby improving agility.
Muscle is fired or triggered by electrical stimulus, this is known as reflex action. The greater amount of muscle firing in unison - the greater the overall response - which equals an increase in speed as well as strength. Now what does all this have to do with myths and legends? Simple - you either integrate weight training into your training or you perpetuate the myth of muscle bound and you remain stagnated by old legends. Increase your speed, agility, balance and strength by adding weight training to your routine. Think about it like this - you and your opponent or assailant are of equal technical skills - you bench press 50 pounds - he bench presses 200 - you squat 100 pound - he squats 300. Who is going to have the stronger punch or kick - all skills equal - you are under powered for this confrontation - plain and simple - you are gonna' get your ass whipped. I'm not for minute suggesting that you go off on some full tilt "Arnold wannabe" training regime - just that you consider adding a good resistance weight training program to your martial arts training. At 5' 10" and a mere 298 pounds - I still do a full splits (and fit into 34 waist pants) and have what many consider very fast reflex speed and incredible agility - it will not hurt your martial arts training to do this - it will only enhance and improve your current abilities. Understanding the function of the muscle and it's response to stimulus as well as the result of different stimulus will ultimately help you when you set out to improve your martial arts with the incorporation of a weight training program. Let's look at your legs as a starting point as they are the most crucial in your martial arts training. Your legs are your foundation - they are the platform for all you do. All of your techniques require good strong stance - foot position - balance - everything you do starts at the legs - they are the base. When a fighter begins to tire in the ring - his legs are the first to go. When you lose your legs - you lose your ability to move, evade, attack or counter. So the need for a strong set of legs or should I say a "strong foundation" is obvious. Effective sweeps, leg checks and blocks all require strength - the strength in your legs equates to strength in all rotary torso movements, such as upper cuts, cross body movements and hooks. Now examine the movement and muscular involvement in an exercise like a squat - it involves the thighs, calves, tibia (front of the calf), hamstrings, glutes and abdominals. All of these muscles come into play in a major way (as do many others in a minimal way) just to execute the squat exercise. Now examine the components of a successful front kick - let's see......solid footing - stance and balance - all of which is controlled by the strength in the thighs, calves, and tibia. Now finishing the kick, we are relying on the power of the thighs, glutes and hamstrings for not only an effective penetrating kick - but we involve all of these muscles for mere stability and balance. Ever see a newborn horse - they can't stand up and they are very wobbly - they have no balance. As their legs become stronger - look at what they can accomplish - winning races and jumping obstacles - all of this from something that started out so weak and unbalanced. This is an extreme example - however think about the underlying meaning - how much better would you be if your legs were stronger - how much more effective would your arts be from a more powerful and stable foundation.
Try something simple - this will be the test for you. Do 100 deep knee bends (squats) holding a 10 pound dumbbell or plate against your chest. 100 repetitions - no stopping - do you feel the burn - are you sore the next day or even two days later. That is your muscles telling you - you haven't been using me....what are you crazy....stop this...don't do it. All of that soreness illustrates the need for better conditioning and increasing your training to include muscle stimulation or as it more commonly known - weight lifting. A great basic training routine for the beginner (new to weight training) that has access to a gym or weight lifting equipment would be as follows:
3 sets 15-20 reps Squats (feet shoulder width - toes facing straight)
3 sets 15-20 reps Leg Curls
3 sets 12-15 reps Leg Extensions
3 sets 25-30 reps Walking Lunges
2 sets 50 reps Standing or Seated Calf Raises
If you don't have access to a gym or to weight lifting equipment - you must improvise. You will need a heavy book or 10-20 pound weight. Hold the weight across your chest and perform 3 sets of 100 reps of Squats. Follow this up by doing 100 Walking Lunges holding that same weight. After you complete this - stand in a wide sumo stance - feet pointing out - and perform 100 more reps of Deep Sumo Squats. This will be a great start. I will be writing more on weight training and it's relationship to martial arts training - in future installments. Until then.....
The best of health,
Copyright Â© 1996, Bob