Do Martial Artists Lift Weights?

An asian man lifting weight

While strength is essential for the effective execution of most martial art techniques, you might be wondering if martial artists lift weight to achieve this desired strength. So do martial arts lift weights?

Yes, martial artists lift weights to build a stronger physical and muscular base which helps them perform techniques more optimally and effectively. However, martial artists don’t need to lift weights.

Martial artists, through strength training sometimes lift weights to improve their overall strength.

However, they do not subject themselves to weight lifting routines that powerlifters subject themselves to.

The goal is to improve the strength of the body and not to build up.

This means that martial artists find only a moderate amount of weight lifting beneficial.

Remember, martial artists still need their flexibility and speed intact, and excess weight lifting can take that away.

It is generally not necessary for martial artists to lift weights since martial art training generally provides a full body workout.

Consistent martial art practice has been shown to develop overall mobility, improve pressure response of the body, and increase muscle.

Many martial arts involve repeat muscular actions over time, so expect to build strength and burn fat.

Although heavy weight lifting is generally not needed, it can be highly beneficial to some martial art styles.

For example, people who compete in high-impact martial arts like wrestling, boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, and BJJ lift weights religiously.

They might be allowed to break the general rule since their style requires raw strength to execute certain techniques.

While some martial arts (like the above) require raw strength, some mainly require flexibility, and some require cardio.

So, depending on your martial art style, you might need to do some strength training outside of practice.

Even though most martial arts do not generally require weight lifting, there are some benefits to lifting weights:

  • You are less likely to get injured – Most martial arts injuries are caused by overtraining or pre-existing weaknesses. So, strengthening the skeletal muscles that support your joints will make you physically stronger.
  • It improves your performance – Lifting weights will make you stronger and improve your muscular endurance, so you can train harder, for longer, and improve more.
  • Improves your strength and size – Even though martial art is primarily focused on techniques, size and strength matter as well. Strong athletes enjoy their training more and win more matches.

Should Martial Artists Lift Weights?

Depending on their martial art style, martial artists may occasionally lift weights to improve their overall strength. However, weightlifting should not be done in excess in order not to reduce their speed and flexibility.

Weight training is a commonly overlooked aspect of martial arts training.

Martial artists assume that lifting weights will make them bulky, decrease their flexibility and speed, and lower their overall skills.

This common misconception can hurt their strength, cardio, and speed while also lowering their muscular growth and athletic gains.

Weight lifting can be helpful to any athlete in any sport including martial art, which is why it is an integral part of a martial artist’s exercise regimen.

So, martial artists should lift weights to maximize strength and leanness in their current weight class.

Since martial artists can do both martial art and strength training, they need a good blend of both.

Strength training ensures that the martial art techniques learned are of maximum impact to an opponent when launched.

For example, in my early days as a taekwondo player, my kicks and punches were very light and not effective enough to score points or knock my opponent out (KO).

My technique was great, but there was little power behind those kicks and punches.

My instructors had to make me undergo some strength training which included weight lifting.

The weight lifting session was however light enough not to take away my flexibility and speed.

After about 1 month, the impacts of my kicks and punches became obvious to opponents.

So yes, strength training should supplement your martial art training, but avoid training like a bodybuilder.

A little weight lifting should be enough to make you an all-around martial artist who is not lacking strength.

The goal of the martial artist should be to lift weights for athletic gains, in the same way, professional athlete weight trains.

The exercise routine should be formulated to not only promote muscle growth but fast twitch muscle fibers for explosive movements, endurance, and strength.

Lifting weight can help martial artists because the more strength and size you have, the better you will perform.

Where two people are equally skilled and weigh the same, the one with more muscle can hit harder.

How Do Martial Artists Weight Train?

The weight training routine of martial artists is entirely different from that of powerlifters or bodybuilders.

Since weight lifting is not the only way to improve one’s strength, it usually forms just a part of the overall martial art strength training routine.

These exercises help to improve kicking power, punching power, and grappling techniques.

They are designed to enhance the lower body, upper body, and core strength.

There are different methods of weight lifting, and while some methods are perfect for bodybuilders and powerlifters, others are a great fit for martial artists.

Olympic Lifting, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or a combination of both is the best weight lifting routine for martial artists.

Through explosive exercises and learning how to generate force quickly, Olympic Lifting will help build power and strength.

A strong base of strength and fundamental athletic movements is built through Olympic lifting exercises.

Exercises in Olympic lifts require a full range of motion and the use of joints in a small space, so they not only build strength and conditioning, but also muscle control and good technique.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) on the other hand emphasizes short bursts of exercise.

HIIT builds endurance, conditioning, stamina, cardio, and burns fat, rather than building strength like Olympic lifting.

It builds the strength of your heart, lungs, and muscles by alternating exercises and performing them until you either fail or the time runs out.

To better understand how martial artist weight train, here is an article from SportsRec on Weight-Training Routines for Martial Artists.

How Often Should a Martial Artist Lift Weights?

A martial artist should lift weights 2-3 sessions a week preferably on “off days” when they do not have regular martial art class. This should form part of their overall strength training routine.

In addition to other strength training drills, weight lifting only twice or thrice a week should be enough to achieve the desired strength and explosive kicks and punches.

Lifting weights every day might seem tempting, but you should space them out.

It’s generally not a good idea to work the same muscle twice in a row.

After a workout, give each muscle group at least one rest day.

To achieve good results, it is usually enough to target each area once a week.

The key to building full body strength is to build a program that includes squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, and bent-over rows.

The frequency of your training is also important.

Which Martial Art Builds the Most Muscle?

Grappling martial arts such as BJJ, wrestling, or Judo builds the most muscle in martial artists since they are often required to use their strength and size in the execution of certain techniques.

Generally, grappling martial arts such as Wrestling, Judo, and BJJ are the best martial arts for powerlifters.

For example, powerlifters excel in takedowns and explosive movements like guard passing.

They are also able to lift and throw their opponents with ease.

If a powerlifter was to pick striking over grappling, they would be wasting their natural talent since you really can’t do this in striking.

Powerlifters are explosive, making them good at grappling martial arts since this style requires the most explosive strength.

So, a martial artist in a grappling style might need to add up some muscles.

This is because grappling martial arts requires you to use your size and strength on your opponent at all times.

When grappling, you are allowed to grip your opponent and put your body weight on them.

Do Martial Artists Build Muscles?

Martial artists build muscle to improve their overall strength.

Martial arts can help you lose weight and build muscles, especially if you are just getting started.

However, gaining muscle requires strength training, and losing weight requires burning more calories than you take in.

So, you’ll therefore need more training and better diet management to get the desired results, be it losing weight, gaining muscles, or both.


Martial artists generally shouldn’t spend three hours in the weight room as the side activity (weight lifting) need to be a little bit minimalist.

They are already beating their body up during practice (martial art training), so overdoing it doesn’t make sense.

They should instead focus on improving their full-body strength and control to a level where they can safely recover.

Finding that level often takes expert guidance or practice, or both.

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