There’s More Than lne tay to iift teights
Q: In the last issue, you talked about lifting conventional weights for enhanced martial arts performance. What about other forms of weightlifting? A: There is another type of weight training that deserves discussion. It entails attaching extra weight to your body — specifically, your ankles, wrists or torso — and then engaging in functional martial arts training.
Before I begin, let me say this about “functional training.” All too often, people use the term to refer to a hodgepodge of movements that in no way translate to improved functionality in their athletic endeavor. However, that doesn’t mean the concept is without value. There are many simple and advanced exercises that really can result in improved martial arts. Some look similar to the movements they’re meant to improve, while others are basic motions that enhance overall body function.
Now, on to the subject of the day: The problem with most exercises done to improve strength for any martial arts technique is it’s nearly impossible to move through the actual range of motion associated with the technique. For instance, a plyometric push-up can boost explosive power for a punch, but it doesn’t involve the same fullbody recruitment as the punch. That’s because the push-up doesn’t account for what happens throughout your body when you propel your knuckles into a target. To get the full chain of events, you must actually punch. How can you do that while adding resistance? By strapping on weights, of course.
WEIGHT VEST: Considered a safe method for incorporating extra mass into a workout, it loads your legs and consequently taxes and strengthens your lower body. Because much of your striking power derives from the rotation of your midsection, a weight vest benefits you by forcing your muscles to rotate the mass of the vest in addition to the mass of your body.
It’s important to note that deceleration — that is, stopping that rotation — is more challenging while wearing a weight vest because of the increased inertia. That will put your musculature under greater stress, especially if you’re trying to reverse a motion rather than just stop it. This may sound bad, but it’s actually good. Much of the benefit of resistance training results from the body dealing with the eccentric portion of an exercise. In this example, the eccentric portion is the “braking,” or the stopping of the rotation. As long as you use an appropriately weighted vest and don’t overdo it, you can increase your power output while keeping your joints and muscles healthy.
So how do you incorporate a weight vest into your training? Simply wear one while doing kata, drills, bag work and even sparring. The extra resistance will provide the necessary stimulus to augment your power output. To play it safe, limit the duration of your vested workouts to two or three sessions per week, with each one lasting 20 to 30 minutes. ANKLE AND WRIST WEIGHTS: Although they’re popular in the martial arts because they can be
strapped on before executing kicks and punches, caution is advised if you’re considering giving these products a try. Hyperextension of the elbows and knees can occur, especially if you attempt whipping arm movements (backfists, hand swords) or snapping or whipping leg movements (roundhouse kicks, front snap kicks).
Rather than regard ankle and wrist weights as a way to increase power, think of them as a means to improve muscular endurance. You can accomplish that by working through technique sequences at a moderate and safe speed for an extended time. The added weight will stress the involved musculature, causing it to become stronger and more resistant to fatigue.
It doesn’t take much additional weight at the end of a long lever such as your arm or leg to dramatically increase the work that’s done by the muscles at the base of that lever. In other words, even though you use light weights and train well below your maximum speed, you can condition your shoulders and hips using ankle and wrist weights. That will result in improved muscular endurance for punching and kicking. It’s worth mentioning again: Don’t attach weights to your wrists and ankles and try to move your limbs at high velocity. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Exception: You can decrease the risk of hyperextension by using a heavy bag to stop your weighted kicks and punches. If you decide to use this method, you’ll find that soft weights are more comfortable. KEY POINTS FOR WEIGHT TRAINING: First, use a weight that’s light enough. It should allow you to work through your standard range of motion for a given technique.
Second, pay attention to the technique. The entire chain of movement from the ground up should be done with precision.
Third, start slowly. Increase your speed only after you’ve become comfortable with the added resistance.
Fourth, attach the weight(s) firmly to your body. You don’t want the added mass to shift while you’re exercising, and you really don’t want anything to fly off and possibly injure someone.
Final caution: If you’re overweight, adding weight during exercise can exacerbate joint problems and lead to other injuries. In such cases, use of a weight vest, ankle weights or wrist weights is not recommended.
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