Mixing Bodybuilding with Martial Arts Training

I’ve recently stumbled upon a new love and addition to my workouts. I’ve integrated some martial arts training. One of the questions I’ve heard more than once is ‘Can you mix bodybuilding and martial arts?

The core of this question is based around martial arts requiring you to have more flexibility. Another theory many have is that having bigger muscles could seemingly get in the way of the martial arts moves and slow you down.

The above may be true if you were at an extremely high level of bodybuilding. But for most of us gym rats, I don’t find these to be concerns. And that’s speaking from my own experience, which we’ll get to here.

Martial arts indeed requires you to be flexible. And when I first started this training, I found that my flexibility sucked. But I realized that it had nothing to do with muscularity. It was simply because I was new to this type of training. I was also new to the type of stretching that comes along with it.

Stretching is something that us bodybuilders often forget about. I’m guilty of it. In theory, we should be stretching the muscles we train after our workouts. And there’s another level of stretching that comes with martial arts training, if you want to be good at it.

Martial Arts Training Style

I’m not going to claim to be an expert at martial arts. In fact, I’m an extreme newbie at all of this. I’ve always had this interest but never fully pursued it until earlier this year. I haven’t even taken professional lessons yet, but plan to start soon. I wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be a mere phase. And it hasn’t. I’ve been consistent with this training for several months now, and I absolutely love it.

So what martial arts style am I practicing, and where am I learning? Like most things, I’m watching YouTube videos. I’ve gotten some great stretching exercises as well as kicks to practice. Most of the instructional videos I’m been watching have been based on Shaolin-Do Kung Fu. I’m also interested in Muay Thai, and perhaps some types of Karate. I have yet to nail down which one I want to take classes on. If I had the time, I’d do them all! These freakin’ adult responsibilities tend to get in the way! 

Right now I’m just practicing specific kicks. I apply my weight training principles to martial arts with sets and reps. I have do anywhere from 4-6 types of kicks, 2-3 sets of 7-10 reps each. After that, I kick on the heavy bag at my gym. I do another 2-3 sets of several kicks on the bag.

**It’s important to note that I spend 15-20 minutes of deep stretching before I start my martial arts training. This involves deep stretching of the lower back and hamstrings. 

Bodybuilding and Martial Arts Workout

I want to provide a sample of my morning workout schedule, which includes both weight training and martial arts. Although I change up my weight training workouts from time to time, they’re catered to a bodybuilding style.

At a high level, this is what my morning workouts look like:

Weights > Stretching > Martial Arts > *Cardio

*Cardio isn’t necessary as you get plenty from martial arts training. But I will often do a 10-20 minute walk as a cool-down. I also use this time to study/listen to Thai language. 

Here’s a typical workout schedule for me below, in detail.

*I’m going to use this morning’s chest workout as an example for the weights.

Weight Training Workout

  • Incline Dumbbell Press
    • 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Bench Press
    • 4 sets x 10, 6. 6. 5. reps
  • Pec Dec Flyes
    • 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Triceps Single-Arm Cable Pressdowns
    • 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated Calve Raises
    • 5 sets x 12 reps

My workout for back, shoulders, and legs are similar and follow this basic format, though I may integrate different techniques for some workouts (ex: drop sets, rest-pause, supersets, etc). My weight training schedule is usually: Monday – Back, Tuesday-Chest, Wednesday-Legs, Thursday-Shoulders and Traps, Friday-Arms. I’ll sometimes do a second leg workout over the weekend.

Stretching

  • Toe touches
  • Seated toe touches
  • Abductor stretch
  • Seated hamstring stretch (front, and both legs)
  • Glute and lumbar rotation stretch

I spend at least 15 minutes stretching and I hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds (more on some stretches). These are my core stretches and I may add more at times. This list actually started out with only 3 a few months ago; I covered those in a prior blog talking about how stretching eliminated my lower back pain: Jason’s 3 Stretches to Increase Flexibility

Martial Arts Workout

  • Front straight kicks
    • 3 sets x 7-10 kicks
  • Front snap kicks
    • 3 sets x 7-10 kicks
  • Side kicks
    • 3 sets x 7-10 kicks
  • Modified round house kicks
    • 3 sets x 7-10 kicks
  • Heavy bag kicks
    • 3-9 sets x 7-10 kicks

Again, I am not an expert in martial arts, and do not claim to be! So I’m sure my form on some of these kicks are not the greatest, but I am progressing. More importantly, I love this type of workout.

The Ultimate Workout

I call this mix of bodybuilding with martial arts training the ultimate workout. You get the muscle building benefits of weight training, the increased flexibility with the stretching, and tactical and cardiovascular benefits from martial arts.

I do plan to take some type of professional martial arts lessons in the near future. And I will continue this type of workout in hopes of becoming more proficient in martial arts.

Train with Passion,

Jason

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