Saturday, May 9, 2009

Q & A - Strength Training for Self Defense/Martial Arts - By Bradley J. Steiner

Dear Professor Steiner,

What strength training program do you recommend for your self defense clients? Is it the same basic program and principles that you would give to most people or is there something different?

Thank you sir,

Scott Selvey

Hi Scott,

Thank you for your question.

You've pretty much guessed it, my friend! I urge all students of close combat and self-defense to follow an all round, basic weight training program. Working exercises in good form, and using weights that are heavy, but never too heavy to be properly manageable during exercise performance.

An example of the exercises I'd recommend (and any variations of these exercises, so long as they are basics, will do) are:

• A general body warmup — for example, one set of about eight floor-to-overhead pullups, or cleans and presses, or dumbell swings between the feet, etc. — using light weight.

• A basic curling exercise

• A basic press movement

• The squat (afraid there're no ways around this single exercise!)

• A bench press exercise

• A rowing movement

• Dead lifting (see comment for "squat", and note that a version of the dead lift that is close in every way to the stiff-legged style HOWEVER allowing for a SLIGHT flexion in the knees to protect the low back area from strain, is best)

• Leg raises with weight resistance (ie "iron boots" still work just fine for this exercise)

NOTE "A": I have indicated a program that anyone can do using the most basic weight training equipment. CHINNING, DIPPING, and the proper use of a LAT MACHINE and/or a LEG PRESS MACHINE, if such equipment is available, can be helpful — utilizing exercises with those items of equipment to add variety and interest to the program without sacrificing good, basic work for the major muscle groups.

If time, energy, and interest allow, there is nothing wrong with including lateral raises, shrugs, calf work, specific neck exercises, etc. ALL IN MODERATION AND ONLY WHEN/IF DEVELOPMENT, ENERGY, AND TIME ALLOWS. Otherwise, stick with core basics.

NOTE "B": Incorporating the excellent Nautilus Machines into programs so that free weights and the machines are employed together (if and when such machines are being taught and used correctly) is excellent.

NOTE "C": As for proper set/rep schemes I urge individuals to experiment a bit over time and find out what suits them best, individually. A good rule of thumb, in my experience, is: TWO or THREE sets, max, for general, all round development. Using 2 x 10 or 12, 2 x 8, 3x 6, 3 x 8, or using sets varying from light to heavy (ie 1 x 10, 1 x 8, and 1 x 6, etc.) might prove most efficient.

"How many workouts a week?" I recommend three on alternate days, and for many who train very hard three or more times weekly in martial arts, two workouts a week are plenty.

Be aware that physical training for all round development and improvement of skills performance will not replace PRACTICE OF THE SKILL. So never confuse the need to practice and to workout hard on TECHNIQUES with being interchangeable with the need to workout hard on DEVELOPMENTAL EXERCISES. I.e. A "hard practice session" does NOT eliminate the desirability of doing a "hard weight training workout". The two go hand in hand and have a reciprocally beneficial effect on each other; but they each serve a different purpose and must BOTH be followed assiduously as complimentary activities, for optimum results.

I hope that my reply has been of some help to you, and I wish you tremendous success in your personal training endeavors.

Best of luck to you, Scott!


Professor Steiner's American Combato Site
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