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Want To Get Strong?

Weight training is a staple exercise of sporting martial arts and yet is avoided by many traditional systems and that includes most Systema schools.  Why is there this divide and can our Systema practice benefit from a little weight training.

Many martial artists subscribe to the belief that weight training will make them immobile and that body weight training is a better way to get fit for their martial arts.  This belief stems from seeing over developed body builders and some of the myths that surround weight training.  I want to explore these myths and see if Systema training can benefit from resistance training with weights.


When we workout in Systema classes it is not uncommon to increase the resistance we work against by using a partner or using leverage to make the muscles work harder.  In my opinion weight training is no different to this and does not have to make you muscle bound and immobile. 


Muscle gain (or hypertrophy) is a result of the body adapting to training loads and in proportions seen in professional body builders very specific training methods.  To get to a size where muscle mass would get in the way bodybuilders have to go to crazy lengths adopting exercise regimes that most people would not have the time or inclination to take on, very strict diets and often use steroids or other dangerous drugs to push their size beyond what would be naturally possible.  


Now for a martial artist looking to supplement their training they are not going to have the time or inclination to get anywhere near big enough to impact on their movement.  To get that big you have to train far more than is possible for a martial artist who is also spending a portion of their time training skills.


Another factor that goes towards the poor mobility displayed by people who have lifted weights in the past is that they have followed a body building program that advocates isolating muscle groups.  This is great for hypertrophy, but modern training methods avoid this kind of work and now focus on developing strong movement patterns and not isolating individual muscles.


This means that the focus of weight training has become how well the different muscle groups work together.  After all strength gains are more neuro-muscular than physiological.    It is the coordination of muscles working together that makes us stronger than a person of similar muscle bulk.  By choosing movement patterns similar to what is used in combat we can super charge our systema.


Remember a goal of Systema is to use between 20 and 25% of our available energy to defend ourselves.  Now if the reserves we have are increased we can either generate greater amounts of force at 25% of our reserves or work at even greater levels of efficiency.


One danger of weight training is that we can injure ourselves by over loading the body.  These kinds of injuries usually occur when we do not prepare the body sufficiently.  The body is system and if part of that system is weak or out of balance with the rest of the body injury can occur.  That is why a training program should be balanced and not put too much focus on one particular movement or muscle group. 


In future Combat Lab Systema articles I will discuss some weight training exercises that I use to build a strong healthy body prepared for the rigors of self protection.


For more information on a scientific approach to training Systema and the principles that underpin it check out the Combat Lab shop.