Saturday, June 4, 2011

Three Lifts for Martial Training

I often find myself modifying and experimenting with new forms of physical exercise, not only for martial training but for physical well-being in general. So far I’ve been especially fond of joint exercises, parkour, Indian club exercises, and weight lifting. In this post I’ll just briefly discuss three of my favorite lifts for building explosive strength, which is always useful for martial applications.

The One Hand Military Press

This is a good exercise for testing and building strength in the upper portions of the arms, and refining your sense of balance by working a bit on your core. This should always be done standing to get the maximum benefits of the lift.

The One Hand Snatch

Another one handed goody. I really enjoy this one because you use your whole body to lift and keep the weight aloft. It’s great on its own or with a slightly reduced weight in a circuit.

Arthur Saxon doing the one hand snatch courtesy of


You should be doing some form of squats in your exercise routine. Body weight squats, kettlebell squats, barbell squats, etc. they are all vital for your legs. Strong arms without strong legs are useless, so be sure to get some squats in as much as possible. To mix things up, consider doing a good amount of body weight squats and then hit a leg press machine immediately afterwards.

Now these are obviously not all of the lifts I do but I tend to think very highly of them and they are pretty easy for new lifters to learn. But why are they good? Simply put, they build functional strength. Are these lifts going to make you look really cut at the beach? Probably not. Are they going to give you strength you can use on a day to day basis? Hell yes. These lifts all contain the same motions you go through for lifting boxes or people, they strengthen your forearms and even wrist tendons, and as I’ve said before they will give you the skill to move explosively. All of these qualities are very important for weapon fighters, wrestlers, and strikers alike.

Want more proof? Check out this video of some folks doing some of these old-school lifts and try to tell me they lack functional strength.

As for some of the naysayers out there who would argue that strength isn’t required or important for martial arts: why are you even reading this? Shouldn’t you be doing Tai Chi or some other “internal” martial art that makes you shoot magical balls of energy at people? To those people I would remind them that strength is a skill, not merely an innate gift or something only huge people possess. I’ll let the anonymous author of the 16th century fechtbuch Codex Wallerstein speak for me on this matter:

“Although a weak fighter in a serious combat can be equal to a strong opponent, if he has previously learned agility, reach, fighting tricks, and killing tricks, in a friendly combat strength has always the advantage; in spite of this, the art of fighting is praised by knights and squires above all other things”.

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