Bodyweight vs Weight Lifting Program in Martial Arts

Many martial artists worry about lifting too many weights, as it increases muscle mass, subsequently increasing muscle stiffness, which can negatively impact mobility and flexibility, thus affecting the ability to perform head kicks, punches, throws, etc. Today, we will outline the pros and cons of each program.

Weight Lifting


Compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, and pull-ups, are the best bang for the buck weightlifting exercises for martial arts. These exercises help to improve lean muscle mass, power, and strength, which can subsequently have positive effects on martial arts performance.


Incorrectly programming weightlifting exercises into your training schedule can have detrimental effects on performance. Doing high repetitions or high volumes can lead to too much muscle growth, making you heavy. Additionally, lifting too much can increase soreness and stiffness within the muscles, leading to not training as much. Finding balance is key.



Bodyweight exercises can build muscle mass if you haven’t weightlifted or done any exercises before. Bodyweight workouts are effective in building strength, power, and muscle endurance. Athletes who regularly perform these conditioning workouts can develop explosive power.


Bodyweight exercises do not create enough overload in the muscles. Essentially, you can do 200 bodyweight squats, which is good for muscular endurance, but this does not increase power or strength. It is also hard to apply the overload principle to the bodyweight program. Another issue with bodyweight programs is that it is hard to quantify progress. Lastly, it is very hard to improve strength in a trained athlete who has been doing this for many years.

What Should You Do?

Our recommendation is to incorporate both bodyweight and weightlifting programs into your sessions. Doing 1-2 weightlifting sessions a week incorporating compound lifts with high sets and low reps would be the ideal situation for martial artists. Adding plyometric training into the gym program, such as box jumps, countermovement jumps, and bounding, would also be recommended. If you are unable to access a gym, using free weights like kettlebells can help as well.

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Read more….

To learn more about hip pain in martial arts, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about common martial arts injuries, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about compound vs isolation exercises, check our our blog HERE

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