Why Fighting Athletes Should Strength Train
The most important thing you can do as a fighting athlete is practice. The second most important thing is strength training; but why is it important?
Besides honing your skills, strength & conditioning training is the most important aspect of your training for improving your strength, getting better leverage over your opponents, gaining muscle when trying to change weight categories, maintaining muscle while trying to cut weight, increase the power behind punches and kicks, and giving you a bigger gas tank so you can keep going, round after round after round.
Strength & Leverage
- The capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure
Weight training is unquestionably THE best way to get stronger. Technical skills aside, becoming stronger is one of the best ways to get an edge on your opponent. Punches and kicks hit harder, and holds have much more leverage and are much harder to get out of. Being stronger means that even if you’re pacing yourself through the rounds, those lighter hits and holds are stronger as well. Not only are you multiplying the amount of muscle fibers you can use, but you are making the neuromuscular connection stronger; your mind-muscle connection becomes more efficient and powerful.
Not all fighting athletes strength train, but you can bet your ass all the best ones do
Hypertrophy & Mass Retention
- excessive development of an organ or part
specifically : increase in bulk (as by thickening of muscle fibers) without multiplication of parts
Weight training is also unquestionably the best way to gain and retain muscle mass. If you are trying to go up a weight class, you want to be sure that most of the mass you put on is effective mass–AKA: muscle. If you are trying to go down a weight class, you want to make sure you hold on to as much muscle as possible, while maximizing fat loss. A high protein diet in combination with weight training can help you retain as much muscle as possible while you go down in weight.
- ability to act or produce an effect
- possession of control, authority, or influence over others
- physical might
A mighty knockout punch is not only strong, it is powerful. But what’s the difference?
Strength is the ability to produce work (picture of an ox plowing a field)
Power the the ability to produce work quickly (picture of a dragster taking off)
Strength training–in combination with your technical training–is the best way to become more powerful. To knock your enemy down before they even knew what hit them requires tremendous power, and you will likely never get there with technical training alone.
- the process of training to become physically fit by a regimen of exercise, diet, and rest
Everyone always says “Strength and Conditioning” and people pretend to know what that means…but what is conditioning? Everyone wants to be fit, but what is fit? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to be fit means to be “acceptable from a particular viewpoint”. In fighting, that means you not only need to be strong and powerful, but you need to be conditioned.
Conditioning for our purposes means building a bigger gas tank. This means being able to sustain hard work for longer periods of time, recovering faster, and outlasting your opponent.
Sure you can run, you can jump rope, and that will get you part of the way there, but that only builds an aerobic base–your ability to last a long time at a low steady state. Fighting doesn’t only happen low and slow, it’s often fast and hard. So you need to be able to ramp up and down your heart rate, quickly and on demand so that you can meet the demands of the fight and outlast your opponent. And there is no better way to train this than with a well thought out, professionally made strength and conditioning plan by an experienced coach that includes aerobic (with oxygen–think jogging) and anaerobic (without oxygen–think sprinting) training.