Why to Incorporate Strength Workouts into Your Boxing or MMA Program
Boxing and MMA are among the toughest sports in the world, and to succeed it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. While learning correct boxing and wrestling technique, and working on your stamina is essential, many still overlook strength training.
There are many reasons why strength training is ignored. Some believe gaining muscle slows you down, making athletes less nimble and ‘bulkier’ in the ring or cage. While others believe that proper technique is all that matters, and strength comes as a result of that.
However, the truth is that both are equally important for any aspiring combate athlete. Strength training not only increases muscle mass, but can also enhance striking power, making you more explosive and resistant to injury. In sports as dynamic and dangerous as MMA and boxing, these are all essential qualities a fighter must possess.
In this guide, we’ll delve deeper into the benefits of strength training, and how to incorporate it into your combat training program:
Strength Training Can Increase Punching Power
Boxing purists will always say that punching power is solely based on technique and timing. However, having a stronger core and leg muscles also contributes to punches being more effective and powerful.
When you punch, force is generated from the floor, transferred to your core and then to your shoulders and arms. This is known as the kinetic chain. If you have weak core and leg muscles, that chain won’t be as strong and your punches will be weaker. By training your core whether it’d be directly or indirectly i.e deadlifts or squats, you build up strength, making your punches more forceful and powerful.
Strength Training Helps Improve Endurance
You’re probably thinking:
“How does lifting a weight up and down improve my stamina?”
Contrary to popular belief, long-distance running and other forms of cardio aren’t the only way to build stamina; strength training can do this too.
According to studies, strength training improves short and long term stamina in endurance athletes. These results applied to new, trained and elite athletes, where the latter made the smallest gains (which is understandable as they are already so well trained).
But before you get too excited and begin to compare neighborhood gyms, remember that strength training is diverse. If you go excessively heavy and in the low rep-ranges, you may only increase power output and not your overall endurance. You should train different aspects of your muscle fibers, and the best way to do this is combining different rep ranges and exercises.
Strength Training Makes You More Resistant to Injury
Your joints, ligaments and other soft tissues are all connected to your muscles. When you increase strength, you’re also strengthening the muscles, ligaments and tendons that keep your joints in place. This can reduce the risk of injury due to blows or falls, as well as moving in awkward positions during training or in a fight.
When training for a fight, you want to maintain injury-free to consistently train at your best. When you have niggling injuries, you’ll instantly notice a reduction in power and speed, which can be detrimental to your performance. Fights are won in the training room, so make sure you look after your body and incorporate strength training into your program.
Being Stronger Helps your Ground and Clinch Game
If you’re an experienced grappler or are learning the art of ground-and-pound, then having better strength can atleast give you an edge over your inexperienced opponents. However, when being strong and having great technique are combined, you’ll become a dangerous force that no one can stop.
Strength training will improve your power and explosiveness on the ground, enabling you to control your opponent and transition more easily. For boxers, being stronger enables you to control the clinches between punches, stopping your opponent from pushing you around or constantly leaning on you.
Lastly, there’s a misconception that weight and strength are identical, and thus getting stronger will force you to move up a weight class. However, this isn’t entirely true; you can gain strength and actually be lighter than before. If you increase muscle mass but lose a lot of fat, you will gain strength and reduce your weight.
Strength Training also Strengthens Your Bones and Ligaments
Did you know that strength training increases bone density? This means they’ll be able to withstand more force, reducing the chance of breaking bones if a blow lands in an awkward area. And it applies to all parts of your body – if you rely on heavy kicks then strengthening your leg bones is essential.
The same goes for ligaments; if you’re just beginning to learn a martial art, then you should definitely start strength training to protect your tendons. While engaging and learning your martial art will do this anyway, adding in a strength training routine will give you even more protection.
Helps to Manage Your Weight
If you find yourself fluctuating up and down in weight, you may want to consider strength training. By building new muscle tissue, you increase your metabolic rate and therefore burn more fat. This means you’ll be able to control your weight easier, and still have plenty of energy for the fight ahead.
Muscles require more energy or calories to exist than body fat, meaning you can actually eat more to maintain your weight. Just be sure not to add too much muscle, as you may be forced to go up a weight class.
Helps you Go Up the Weight Classes
Back in the day, many combat athletes (boxers in particular) would just rely on their boxing program and a higher calorie intake to bulk up. The result? They just got fatter and lost most of their speed and agility.
Strength training can help you gain mass in the right places, with little to no fat added on your frame. Instead of becoming just heavier, you’ll become stronger and more explosive. This will give you an edge when it comes to going up a weight class and competing against larger opponents.
In summary, there are many reasons to include strength training in your boxing and MMA program. You’ll reduce the risk of injury and become more powerful, making you a superior athlete compared to your previous self. No matter what martial art you practice, strength training should be an integral part of your program. So make sure you get in the gym and start lifting!