T Nation

At What Level Does Muscle Mass...

become detrimental to performance in MMA or martial arts in general? I’ve been doing Taekwondo for years, and I am currently an instructor in it. I’ve also been learning boxing, kickboxing, and muay thai in my Krav Maga class.

I’ve been lifting weights for about 6 months (I know it’s a very limited amount of time) and have put on a decent amount of size. I like the way the muscle looks, and I’d like to get bigger, but I’m curious if continuing on my strength/mass training routine would be detrimental to my performance in a sport such as TKD which is very speed/flexibility based. Is there any real way to know when I’ve reached a point in muscle mass where I should stop building muscle and simply attempt to maintain?

There is no clear answer to this. Generally, as soon as your muscle mass makes your relative strength, endurance or agility suffer, you’ve become too bulky. This, however, depends on the respective person.
Now here’s something you may not know: You can also lose muscle if you find it to be detrimental. If I were you I’d just keep gaining muscle until your growth slows down, you’re satisfied with what you have or you feel like you’re becoming a worse fighter. Then, adjust your diet and lower your strength training volume.

[quote]Silvance wrote:
become detrimental to performance in MMA or martial arts in general? I’ve been doing Taekwondo for years, and I am currently an instructor in it. I’ve also been learning boxing, kickboxing, and muay thai in my Krav Maga class.

I’ve been lifting weights for about 6 months (I know it’s a very limited amount of time) and have put on a decent amount of size. I like the way the muscle looks, and I’d like to get bigger, but I’m curious if continuing on my strength/mass training routine would be detrimental to my performance in a sport such as TKD which is very speed/flexibility based. Is there any real way to know when I’ve reached a point in muscle mass where I should stop building muscle and simply attempt to maintain?[/quote]

GENERAL

As a general rule being bigger and stronger is always an advantage. If it was possible to improve strength and muscle size forever, without giving up opportunity, most of us would. The real limitation isn’t “Damn I am too big” it is “I am too tired, I wish I would have spent some of my muscle building time on conditioning.” or “I wish I had more skill, I should have spent more time practicing.” Looking at K-1 there are a lot of big, strong, well muscled guys who have fantastic speed, power, timing, and balance. However, remember the K-1 Grand Prix is an open weight/heavyweight deal.

If you have to meet a weight class, than at some point extra mass means a harder cut. Moving up to a heavier class means bigger opponents. In striking this usually means TALLER guys, so while I said bigger and stronger is better, it may not be better than taller/longer. Being at least average in height for your weight class may pay higher dividends than being thicker/stronger.

Finally, it is worth looking at how much additional strength is going to be useful as opposed to spending the time developing other things/attributes. You mentioned Taekwondo and as an outsider looking in I peg Olympic TKD as pretty much Olympic Fencing, but with kicks. That means hitting first is going to carry greater advantage than hitting harder. Furthermore, the high level TKD guys look different than the high level grapplers. I know both are serious/dedicated, so I think there may be a lesson there. I suspect it is that a TKD fighter might hit diminishing returns on strength building/muscle mass sooner than a wrestler/judoka.

WHAT THAT MEANS

I cannot do better than kmcnyc’s advice that:
SKILL is more important than
CONDITIONING, but that is more important than
STRENGTH

And that the way to work with this is to work all of them, until they start to interfere with one-another. When this occurs, decrease the one lowest on the list.

So, keep working on getting big and strong. You like it, plus you like the way it looks. However, when you notice that you are getting gassed too easily, or that you are neglecting skill work it is time to back off in the gym.

I will also link to a fantastic article by Dan John that gives some goals/levels for strength in sport/athletics. IF you are looking to improve a sport/activity that doesn’t require a ton of muscle(look at the high level guys, and notice what they look like/lift like) than the “Expected” category is a good goal. If you want to continue, or if strength has a hell of a lot of benefit than shoot for the “Game Changer” levels.

NOTE: If you want an easy way to assess how important strength/lifting would be in your sport ask “Can I just grab the fucker and muscle him under these rules?” If the answer is “Yes, that is allowed.” than strength will help a lot. You should still be using skill/technique to do it though. Do not break kmcnyc’s rules. If the answer is “No”, like it would be in boxing, TKD, Fencing, Kendo, Practical Shooting, or even Golf, than you are going to hit a point where working hard to get stronger yields diminishing returns sooner.

I hope part of that was at least helpful.

Dan John article that you should read

Regards,

Robert A

Agree with him. Your flexibilitty and speed you can train to main tain. Hell, ronnie coleman can do the aplits, so can Kai, …there is no truth to the “musclebound” myth IF you train to keep it or lift with it in mind. Speed is a function of how you train, not necessarily size either. There are plenty of big strong fast athletes. You can even become very conditioned at a heavier weight as well. The big question is, is it worth the time to you to train in the manner and devote the neceesary schedule resources to do it? The commitment it requires is sizeable after a certain point–up to this point you can do it fairly easily, after you need to devote resources to recovery, dedicated attribute work, etc.

That is a question only you can answer. When it becomes too much of a drag for you to train and recover properly, you should pick your focus.

Thanks for the qoute Robert A

Aragon makes it sound good-

I always say - train how ever you like til it interferes with either your
ability to train your skill work or your recover is impaired

This also depends on your fighting style.

I think these very good points so far. By Robert A, and kmcnyc in the past. Since muscle and skill can be quantified, I think an appropriate answer is always that you can never have too much Skill, but at some point size becomes irrelevant.

Robert A referred to the K1 Grand Prix, and in that competition Bob Sapp getting PWND by Mirko Cro Cop in 2003 (I think?) is a perfect example of the “diminishing returns” size yields. I wont link that video because everybody has seen it. I like the tangible evidence that actual ring performances present to us. And while Cro Cop literally kicking Sapp’s head in isn’t necessarily a demonstration of Sapp’s lack of skill, it certainly proves that his size meant shit all.

I stumbled on this video a few days ago, and you can see by it that Bob Sapp and his trainers have made a conscious decision to focus on his massive size and relatively good conditioning (for a dude his size) at the expense of technique training. His kicks are sloppy, his foot work is awkward and flat footed, and I don’t believe those things are true of him JUST because he is clearly exhausted. This video was posted in 2009, and Sapp hasn’t really got any smaller or any better.

[quote]Pigeonkak wrote:
I think these very good points so far. By Robert A, and kmcnyc in the past. Since muscle and skill can be quantified, I think an appropriate answer is always that you can never have too much Skill, but at some point size becomes irrelevant.

Robert A referred to the K1 Grand Prix, and in that competition Bob Sapp getting PWND by Mirko Cro Cop in 2003 (I think?) is a perfect example of the “diminishing returns” size yields. I wont link that video because everybody has seen it. I like the tangible evidence that actual ring performances present to us. And while Cro Cop literally kicking Sapp’s head in isn’t necessarily a demonstration of Sapp’s lack of skill, it certainly proves that his size meant shit all.

I stumbled on this video a few days ago, and you can see by it that Bob Sapp and his trainers have made a conscious decision to focus on his massive size and relatively good conditioning (for a dude his size) at the expense of technique training. His kicks are sloppy, his foot work is awkward and flat footed, and I don’t believe those things are true of him JUST because he is clearly exhausted. This video was posted in 2009, and Sapp hasn’t really got any smaller or any better.

[/quote]
He still beat Ernesto Hoost… twice.

[quote]sardines12 wrote:

[quote]Pigeonkak wrote:
I think these very good points so far. By Robert A, and kmcnyc in the past. Since muscle and skill can be quantified, I think an appropriate answer is always that you can never have too much Skill, but at some point size becomes irrelevant.

Robert A referred to the K1 Grand Prix, and in that competition Bob Sapp getting PWND by Mirko Cro Cop in 2003 (I think?) is a perfect example of the “diminishing returns” size yields. I wont link that video because everybody has seen it. I like the tangible evidence that actual ring performances present to us. And while Cro Cop literally kicking Sapp’s head in isn’t necessarily a demonstration of Sapp’s lack of skill, it certainly proves that his size meant shit all.

I stumbled on this video a few days ago, and you can see by it that Bob Sapp and his trainers have made a conscious decision to focus on his massive size and relatively good conditioning (for a dude his size) at the expense of technique training. His kicks are sloppy, his foot work is awkward and flat footed, and I don’t believe those things are true of him JUST because he is clearly exhausted. This video was posted in 2009, and Sapp hasn’t really got any smaller or any better.

[/quote]
He still beat Ernesto Hoost… twice.[/quote]

Meh…

[quote]Pigeonkak wrote:
I think these very good points so far. By Robert A, and kmcnyc in the past. Since muscle and skill can be quantified, I think an appropriate answer is always that you can never have too much Skill, but at some point size becomes irrelevant.

Robert A referred to the K1 Grand Prix, and in that competition Bob Sapp getting PWND by Mirko Cro Cop in 2003 (I think?) is a perfect example of the “diminishing returns” size yields. I wont link that video because everybody has seen it. I like the tangible evidence that actual ring performances present to us. And while Cro Cop literally kicking Sapp’s head in isn’t necessarily a demonstration of Sapp’s lack of skill, it certainly proves that his size meant shit all.

I stumbled on this video a few days ago, and you can see by it that Bob Sapp and his trainers have made a conscious decision to focus on his massive size and relatively good conditioning (for a dude his size) at the expense of technique training. His kicks are sloppy, his foot work is awkward and flat footed, and I don’t believe those things are true of him JUST because he is clearly exhausted. This video was posted in 2009, and Sapp hasn’t really got any smaller or any better.

[/quote]

However, how much prior training did each have.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

[quote]Pigeonkak wrote:
I think these very good points so far. By Robert A, and kmcnyc in the past. Since muscle and skill can be quantified, I think an appropriate answer is always that you can never have too much Skill, but at some point size becomes irrelevant.

Robert A referred to the K1 Grand Prix, and in that competition Bob Sapp getting PWND by Mirko Cro Cop in 2003 (I think?) is a perfect example of the “diminishing returns” size yields. I wont link that video because everybody has seen it. I like the tangible evidence that actual ring performances present to us. And while Cro Cop literally kicking Sapp’s head in isn’t necessarily a demonstration of Sapp’s lack of skill, it certainly proves that his size meant shit all.

I stumbled on this video a few days ago, and you can see by it that Bob Sapp and his trainers have made a conscious decision to focus on his massive size and relatively good conditioning (for a dude his size) at the expense of technique training. His kicks are sloppy, his foot work is awkward and flat footed, and I don’t believe those things are true of him JUST because he is clearly exhausted. This video was posted in 2009, and Sapp hasn’t really got any smaller or any better.

[/quote]

However, how much prior training did each have.
[/quote]

I think that was my point. Unless you mean something else? But don’t get me wrong, I used to train with freaky muscular AND athletic AND skilled fighters and there are more out there, watching us from the treetops waiting for their chance to pounce. But they are certainly an exception to the general rule.

I feel the need to say that i am a firm believer that generally speaking recovery ability takes a hit before the ceiling is reached on weights interfering with needed technical skill improvements. And in my experience most fighters that i have talkdd with do not understand the basics of how to improve recovery through nutrition and supplementation.

I firmly believe that although the ceiling definitely exists it is far higher than most people believe, and this is in large part because they do not understand how to use supplements and nutrition to help recover. I have literally seen night and day differences in how people feel recovering just doing basic common sense things. This is one of those areas fighters could lesrn from physique athletes IMVHO (or other strength and power based athletes)

Bigger is always better in fighting, and brute strength always beats technique. So what if some guy can do aikido throws if you can make his skull shatter into his brain with your grip?

It’s probably beneficial to focus on getting as big and strong possible, spending more time on size and strength than fighting technique.

[quote]alternate wrote:
Bigger is always better in fighting, and brute strength always beats technique. So what if some guy can do aikido throws if you can make his skull shatter into his brain with your grip?

It’s probably beneficial to focus on getting as big and strong possible, spending more time on size and strength than fighting technique.[/quote]

There are, generally speaking, two types of fighting to prepare for: combat sports and tactical/self defence. IN the first one, you have weight classes so getting as big a possible comes with all sorts of issues. In a self defence scenario, the big guy simply gets stabbed or they come at him with a baseball bat when he isn’t looking. IN these cases - when you have to fight someone who is the same weight or carries a weapon - technique, speed and conditioning are way more important than size. There’s a reason the average special ops guy will weigh less than 200.

[quote]kmcnyc wrote:
Thanks for the qoute Robert A

Aragon makes it sound good-

I always say - train how ever you like til it interferes with either your
ability to train your skill work or your recover is impaired

[/quote]
I am getting a ton out of your quote.

I cannot remember which thread, but it even got the Xen Nova Seal of Approval in one of his far too rare drive by posts.

Regards,

Robert A

RE: K-1

I was just pointing out that guys like LeBanner and Overeem didn’t seem to be “too big”. Both of them are bigger than the majority of guys training for “size”, while being more accomplished fighters than more than 99 percent of the world’s kickboxers.

Sapp is interesting because he sure as shit didn’t out technique Hoost, and Mirko didn’t out muscle him. Sapp also gave Big Nog hell in their MMA fight, until he gassed.

Regards,

Robert A

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
I feel the need to say that i am a firm believer that generally speaking recovery ability takes a hit before the ceiling is reached on weights interfering with needed technical skill improvements. And in my experience most fighters that i have talkdd with do not understand the basics of how to improve recovery through nutrition and supplementation.

I firmly believe that although the ceiling definitely exists it is far higher than most people believe, and this is in large part because they do not understand how to use supplements and nutrition to help recover. I have literally seen night and day differences in how people feel recovering just doing basic common sense things. This is one of those areas fighters could lesrn from physique athletes IMVHO (or other strength and power based athletes)[/quote]

That is everyone.

One of my friends remarked “It would be a different world if every night everyone would just wash down a handful of fish oil capsules with a pint of water, and then for a walk as long as it takes them to peal and eat an orange.”

He wasn’t wrong.

Regards,

Robert A

Robert–

He wasn’t wrong at all. It amazes me the simple little things everybody could do like that which would fundamentally change their lives.

In regards to fighters it has a lot to do with going “no supplement”, or in other cases avoiding csrbs and eating in a completely unhealthy fashion ala borderline eating disorders (i do not actuslly believe that the majority really have an eating disorder, only that they live in a way that has many similarities)

In life there are no weight classes. The best piece of advise, run 5mi every other day like your being chased. From there I don’t care what you do, just do something everyday. After 3-4 years you will find yourself pretty far up in the natural order.

[quote]And in my experience most fighters that i have talkdd with do not understand the basics of how to improve recovery through nutrition and supplementation.

I firmly believe that although the ceiling definitely exists it is far higher than most people believe, and this is in large part because they do not understand how to use supplements and nutrition to help recover. I have literally seen night and day differences in how people feel recovering just doing basic common sense things.[/quote]

Can you please elaborate? I know the basics of diet and workout nutrition, but not really anything about supps and recovery…