Improving Your Control in Martial Arts Training pt. 4: Get Strong

by Carmelo De Leon, DPT

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In the last part of our Martial Arts series, we’re going to focus on something that has a more indirect affect on improving your control: strength. Strengthening not only betters your performance, but it's also a great tool in decreasing the risk of injury.


In simple terms, injuries occur when the stress placed on the tissue surpasses the tissue’s threshold or capacity. Imagine taking a punch from a 5-year old versus a punch from Frank Ngannou. This may be presumptuous, but I’m fairly certain a punch from a 5-year old won’t send you to the hospital. Now when you strength train, you are essentially breaking down tissues so that they can build back up with a much greater capacity to tolerate load. Thus, your body will better tolerate the hard sparring rounds, allowing you to be ready for the next training day.


When it comes to enhancing your performance, building strength helps all sorts of movements become less energy-sucking. Any sort of movement involves a certain percentage of our max strength, whether they're training movements or simply picking up a cup at home. If you build your max strength, the percentage gets smaller and the movements become easier to control. With that said, building strength is beneficial, however implementing it in the already taxing training schedule can be tough. Below are a few exercises that provide overall strength without taking too much time away from your martial arts training.


These following exercises will follow a strengthening protocol, which means fewer reps, longer rest periods and more weight. There are various ways to implement a strengthening rep scheme, so we’ll stick to a basic 5 x 5 (5 sets x 5 reps). Because the reps are low, pick a heavy weight. However, if this is your first time performing strength training exercises with squatting and pressing movements, start with a lower weight and perform 3 sets x 10 reps to get the motion down, then increase weight as appropriate.


Goblet Squat (5 sets x 5 reps)

  • Position: Feet about shoulder-width apart while holding the kettlebell in front of your chest.

  • Movement: While maintaining an upright position, squat towards the ground and come back up. As you are squatting, ensure that your knees do not collapse inwards.


Deadlift (5 sets x 5 reps)

  • Position: Feet hip-width apart, neutral spine and gripping the kettlebell under your chest.

  • Movement: While driving your hips forward and maintaining a neutral spine, lift the kettlebell off the ground until you are standing upright. Slowly, lower the kettlebell towards the ground, completing the reverse motion.


Unilateral Overhead Press (5 sets x 5 reps each side)

  • Position: Hold the kettlebell in front of the shoulder while standing in a neutral position.

  • Movement: Slowly press the weight upwards until your elbow is fully locked out with the kettlebell directly over your head, then slowly lower back to the starting position. Do not let your elbow flare out and do not hyperextend your back.


Bent Over Row (5 sets x 5 reps each side)

  • Position: One arm will be stabilizing over a chair or bench and the other arm will be dangling towards the ground gripping the kettlebell. The leg that is on the same side as the stabilizing arm will be forward and opposite leg backward.

  • Movement: While maintaining a straight back, pull the kettlebell towards the chest then slowly lower it back towards the ground. Throughout the entire movement, be sure to not let your shoulder drop towards the ground.


Feel free to reach out with questions or to expand your strength training and injury prevention program.


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