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Kickboxing Muscle


Hi, newbie here and making my first post so any and all advice welcome. I have been doing karate for a few years now and have moved on to mixed martial arts. The most recent venture has been into Muai Thai kickboxing. Now I realize that I will have to add some muscle for power and some muscle for speed. The question is what type of muscle is best for absorbing damage? I can expect to take a severe beating in the form of kicks, punches, and knees to the chest and legs. So what stands up the best? Am I looking for deep toned muscle or big muscle for more surface area to absorb? I train with a guy who ways 350+ lbs who takes a shot to the gut like you wouldn't believe but... well that?s not the road I am looking to take :stuck_out_tongue: So any suggestions as to what muscle type I am looking for or exercises I can do are welcome.

Also, I have to wrestle this big guy. Is it possible to develop explosive power combined with endurance to shrimp and bridge this guy? Can I do both or will I have to pick? Thanks for reading


Well I know what a big muscle looks like, not sure what a deep toned muscle is supposed to look like though?

Are you perhaps asking whether you should build muscles that are small but hard or big but soft? If so then I believe the answer is that you dont have to choose. Big (body builder/power lifter) muscle is just as hard as that found on small endurance athlete trained muscle. I have big muscles myself and they are quite hard. Fat levels may give the illusion of one type of muscle being harder than the other (and perhaps water content) but it really is a myth that the endurance athletes muscle is somehow harder than the strong mans muscle.

Perhaps what you are really asking boils down to should you build big muscles or not when your aim is to win martial arts/boxing tornaments? Im not an expert on that area never the less I was reading a post the other day (maybe different forum) saying that most boxing coaches recommend against weight training to gain too much muscle mass and putting you into a higher a weight class. But I dont know if that is true or not.

What I do know is that when I was 67kg (and got a couple of silver medals in NSW Australian open Taekwondo championchips, though Tkdo is BS for self defence but thats another story) I was much more agile than I am now (could punch fast enough to blow out candles, not that fast now). I also know that if I were to go back in a time machine and fight my 67kg self, my current self at 105kg (5'9") and age 38 would absolutely slaughter my 67kg self (except that if I went back in a time machine I would not attack myself 19 yo 67kg self as then my 38yo 105kg self would also cease to be but that is a different issue, you get my point I hope).

Point is I can punch a hell of a lot harder and take more punishment now at 105kg than I could then at 67kg (when I started working out at 67kg I was having trouble bench pressing 70lb while at my peak as a weight trainer I was benching 365lb and even know can press 315lb, could probably still do 365lb if I worked out more often than 2.5 hrs once a week).

My advice for what its worth (and despite my three years of Tkdo training I dont claim to be any expert in the field) is that if you want to be able to take on and win against the largest pool of people on the street (not that you should be doing that) then I believe you should be aiming for a substantial muscle size increase.

On the other hand if you want to win medals in kickboxing/martial arts tornaments then maybe staying and fighting at your current weight might be better or maybe not? I think the issue is more one of speed and agility verses strength power and the ability to absorb punishment.

(Don't get me wrong by the way, you can still be fast and big, I can still move my limbs quite rapidly but just somehow don't feel quite as fast or agile as I was when I was 67kg. Like I said I can't do the blow out candle with a punch trick anymore - it was a requirement for black belt in Tkdo then - but could do a hell of a lot more damage with my punches than I could then - just have to hope I'm not attacked by a rabid candle).


Thanks for the reply and I should clarify my statement a bit more. "Should I be attempting to build fast twitch or slow twitch muscle" is more what I was aiming at but had forgotten the terms.

Many of the fighters I see look absolutely ripped. But a trend that I am noticing more and more are fighters who have more of that swimmers build. I was not sure if this was just because of their preference in exercise or if it played an additional role in terms of function.

Also weight class isn't an issue for me. I'm already about 215lbs so heavy weight it is. But we don't really divide ourselves up by weight classes, where I train everyone must take on everyone. That's another part of the reason I am finding training to be a challenge. There is no set standard for my opponents, I run into something a little different each time. I have to adapt as I go but I?m looking for that little edge :slight_smile:


OK your question is much more sensible now.

Yeah were I trained everyone took on everyone too (I was talking about official tornaments to win official titles and medals and such).

If I remember my school phys ed classes rightly I think you have three energy systems (phosphate, anaerobic and aerobic). Phosphate lasts for around 10sec (and recovers fully after 3 to 5 mins rest), anerobic lasts for a minute or two (fuzzy on the exact numbers) but builds up latic acid which requires hours (long time at any rate) to fully recover from while your aerobic system can run for hours without fatiguing (to a degree it obviously gets tired after a while).

What my phys ed teacher was calling phosphate, anaerobic and aerobic energy systems I now know corresponds to different fiber types i.e. fast, slow, IIA, IIB what ever you call them. Whatever we call them (energy systems, fibre types etc) the priciple is one system/fibre-type gives us high strength for around 10sec but then dies on us, while the other has much lower level maximal strength but keeps up longer.

Training for maximal strength (i.e. fast twitch, though all fibers types are used on maximal effort lift) means that you might eventually get to bench press 315lb or more (if you?re not there already) which if your average sendentary guy has trouble doing say 105lb (and I?ve seen plenty in that range) then you are about three times stronger than said sedentary guy. However this huge strength advantage only lasts for around 10sec. Wrestle with the guy (with maximal effort) for longer than 10sec and the 3:1 strength difference will tend to disappear (you?ll likely still be stronger than said sedentary guy but maybe not in quite 3:1 ratio).

The point is when you are continually punching kicking, wrestling someone you need strength that lasts longer than 10sec so you need fibres other than just fast-fast twitch (actually there are different types of fast twitch not sure what the 10sec bit corresponds to). However I know in Taekwondo our bouts went for only two or three minutes (depending on level) and I?m pretty sure boxing bouts etc are similar duration. In other words you are still in the anaerobic energy system duration and someone correct me if I?m wrong (and I?m sure they will) but I believe that is still fast twitch territory (at any rate you exercise it by strength training I believe).

So if your fights last a minute or two (because a referee makes sure that they do) then training fast twitch is probably still the way to go.

That?s OK for controlled fights but what about the street you say. Well I was reading on another site that your average street fight lasts around 12secs. I thought that?s BS but then after downloading several videos of street fights I note that that seems to be roughly the length of said videos so yeah 10sec phosphate system may be all you need for street fighting (not that I condone street fighting).

Certainly in my one and only serious street fight (as an adult- I was sticking up for a woman albeit a stranger) I did not find exhaustion the slightest problem in the least (unlike in my Tkdo fights were my hands always felt like lead in the last minute of the round). My one and only street fight, which I won, the guy ran off bent over clutching his ribs (to keep this a family forum won?t go into all the gory details, oh hang on this is the T-man forum, whatever) also proved to me there is nothing like a weight and power advantage over your opponent (he was quit a bit taller than me and used a standard boxing guard but I was able to power right through it). (I know a martial artist when I see one and he was obviously trained, fight started with him doing a round house to my gut, he looked like he expected it to drop me yet I didn?t even feel it, I was in a state of shock at first but when I got going I really ripped into him, but in the initially stage of shock it was my superior ability to take punishment that protected me).

Another interesting effect I experienced was the adrenaline effect because both during the fight and after it I didn?t feel the slightest bit of pain except for a sore corner of my left jaw after the fight. (I also experienced the no pain during the fight phenomenon in Tkdo bouts but would be so sore I could hardly move after them but not in this fight, maybe again due to superior ability to take punishment with more muscle bulk). Sorry we are getting of topic into me reminising about past glory days..

Anyway point is I really think muscle size and power is something to train for but maybe concentrate on the longer duration anaerobic system (whatever fast twitch fiber type that corresponds IIA or IIB or something, sorry to lazy to lock up the details). Point is maybe train for higher reps (10 to 12 maybe even more, but not too much more) of heaviest weight you can do with those reps (and high number of sets, i.e. high volumn). Maybe also keep rest between sets minimal (so you are training anaerobic system). (As opposed to say eight sets of 5 to 8 reps with 5 min between sets which is how I train for bench press because I am going for phosphate energy system). Though if 10 sec street fights are what you are training for maybe phosphate system is way to go.

How about this, if you are training for street train phosphate and if you are training for controlled two to three minute official competition bouts do anerobic (but in neither case do I think full on aerobic/slow twitch fiber is the way to go- because both in the street and in the ring your fight probably won?t go that long ? except sparing in the dojo from my experience the fight can go for many minutes albeit at a slower pace but ultimately that is not what you are training for).


I'm a former 2 time sambo champion myself and currently just came back from training and fighting in japan. For me the key issue was developing more exlosive power along with vast amounts of endurance. Once again the key for ME was and always will be the olympic lifts i.e. snatch, clean and jerk my advice on creating a training progam around these lifts is to read anything and everything from Dan John on T-Nation and his free website.

Now as far as the endurance issue goes. Being able to run for 10 miles has no real carry over to mma what i was taught growing up in russian training camps was to train specific for your sport so in the case of mma high intensity intervals work great.

For an example our evening fight training sessions start with doing a 5 minute round punching and kicking etc on the heavy bag then during the usual 1 minute rest instead of resting we do wrestling and submission work with a partner. We cycle this for about 10 rounds or so let me tell you i have never been in this good of shape in my life.

Last piece of advice i like is always train harder than the fight is going to be so that way you'll be prepared. Hope some of this helps.


ScrambyEggs.. I have some suggestions for you. One of the best ways i've found to increase striking power/speed was to use an extra heavy heavy bag (200+lbs)... Use compound movements with weights done in explosive fashion. Choose as many bodyweight type exercises as possible. Vary your rep sceme so your muscle are ready for anything. The faster you can move your body through space, the faster & stronger you will be sparring...

Also, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link so make sure you train neck, rotator cuffs, wrist/hands/grip, abs, & shins (toe raises). As for aerobics i prefer running cause they help my kick speed..


I agree.. Running 10 miles isn't necessary unless you've got to chase'em before you beat'em! I find i only need about 1 to 1 1/2 miles to increase my aerobic conditioning, GPP (general physical fitness), & kick speed.

At 35yrs old i've been grappling for 22yrs, kickboxing for 15yrs & will take any advantage i can get! I also don't compete anymore, but due to my job (law enforcement)i prefer to stay in fighting shape... If you want to get better at fighting than practice fighting! The suggestions i gave are supplemental to this principle & have been effective in bringing my weight up to 210 from 150lbs. I'm 5'8''.



Skip the thought of "absorbing damage" by building up muscle. Switch your thoughts to develop muscles to "get me out of the way". Or "muscles that can be used as sheilds". The targets that I throw for can not develop massive muscle for padding(i.e. head, side of the legs, low ribs). Work on off axis movement.

On the offensive side, power in your strikes comes from technique and timing. Strength training can supplement fight training but not substitute. Yes all things being equal the bigger and more committed fighter will most likely win. But do not sub mat time for iron time.


Neither. Your goal is to become a better fighter. Don't get hung up on muscle fibers and the intricate details of anatomy.

Maintain your skill practice (sparring, hitting the bag and pads, etc.), and focus on lifting heavy weights for low reps (for pure strength), as well as moderately-heavy weights for low reps, lifted explosively fast (for explosive strength).

To paraphrase something I read by Dan John once: Beware of athletes who "Look like Tarzan, and hit like Jane." A nice beach physique and a ripped look is a side effect of proper training, but shouldn't be the specifc target of training. Lifting heavy weights, often and fast, combined with quality protein and carbs, will develop useful, "functional" muscle, not fluffy, pretty beach muscles.


A good example is the UFC fighter Jeremy Horn. He isn't ripped, he looks like a skate punk, but he has won 85 MMA fights with 13 total loses.

The multi-joint exercises (dead lift, squats, power cleans, suspended cleans to press, etc) will give you all the explosive power you need and some extra muscle.

Mix in GPP involving sled dragging and sledge hammers and you will be stronger, faster, and probably leaner.


Hmm... this is a new term for me but it sounds interesting. I am certinly not the lightest guy on my feet and could definately use some dodging skills. Could you give me an example of some exercises that fall into this category please?

Haha also some new terms for me. Could you please explain what do you mean by GPP?

Thanks again for all the help guys.


GPP is General Physical Preparedness. Basic kick ass exercises that increse you ability to explode, build strength, recover, and build volume to your work outs.

There are a few really good articles on GPP here on T-Nation. Do a search on GPP and you will get a pretty big list.

Good luck man. I'm going to be starting some martial arts training soon. I used to wrestle in high school and have also enjoyed that level of competition.