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Weight-Training Routines for Martial Artists

author image Frederick S. Blackmon
Frederick S. Blackmon's love for fiction and theater eventually led to a career writing screenplays for the film and television industry. While living in Florida, Blackmon began exploring issues on global warming, health and environmental science. He spent two years as a Parkour and free-running instructor as well. Now he writes everything from how-to blogs to horror films.
Weight-Training Routines for Martial Artists
Weightlifting can give you a competitive edge in martial arts. Photo Credit: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Martial artists lift weights to gain power in their punches and kicks and to increase muscular endurance. Spending time in the weight room may not be the main part of your martial arts discipline but weight training can certainly enhance your fitness levels and help you reach your martial arts goals.

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Scheduling Your Routines

Divide your weight-training routine into two or three separate sessions per week. Schedule one day for your upper body and one day for your lower body. Also add a day or two for cardio-specific workouts that involve weights. Be sure to take a day off between each session to rest and recharge your muscles. If your aim is to get stronger, than you should lift heavy weights in low sets of four to six repetitions. For muscular endurance, lower the amount of weight and lengthen your set duration to 15 to 20 repetitions.

Working the Upper Body

To strengthen your upper body, use exercises that target your chest, shoulders and upper arms. Start with the toughest exercises and work your way down. For your chest, do four sets of traditional bench presses with a plate-loaded barbell. Then, raise the bench slightly and do four sets of inclined presses with two dumbbells. While you're still seated, use the dumbbells to do a few sets of overhead presses. Next, move to a standing position and use the barbell to do four sets of military presses. Use the same barbell to do shrugs. To cap off your upper-body day, use a dumbbell to do triceps extensions over your head or do a few sets of dips if you have access to a dip station.

Working the Lower Body

Make sure your lower-body routine has a variety of exercises that build explosiveness and endurance without compromising flexibility and range of motion. Start with barbell squats to strengthen your quadriceps and glutes. Do four sets and then move on to 45-degree leg presses. This exercise also targets your quadriceps and hamstrings. Next, grab two dumbbells and do three sets of walking lunges. This is a total leg workout and emphasizes muscular endurance. Hold onto the dumbbells and do three sets of lateral or side lunges. Alternate between legs. For martial artists, this movement mimics many of the stances used in your particular discipline. Finish your leg routine with four sets of calf raises. You can use the dumbbells again and be sure to alternate each leg.

Getting in Some Cardio

A day or two of cardiovascular exercise provides balance to your weekly weight-training routine. If you are new to martial arts, don't use weights on your cardio workout days to give your body ample time to recover. Start your cardio day with a 10-minute jog. After the warm-up, if you need extra resistance, use a weighted vest on the track or run short sprints with a weighted sledge harness. Then, grab a set of light dumbbells and shadow box for three sets of two-minute drills. Run through all of your hand strikes, the cross, the jab, the hook and uppercut. Next, use light ankle weights and do three sets of two-minute drills for just your kicks. Use the front kick, side kick, mule kick and any other leg strike that is inherent to your particular martial arts discipline.

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