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Strength Training for Combat Athletes


Good night,

I have a question about a training template for fighters. I have categorized some exercises in four groups: 1) strength (back squat, bb bench press, bent-over row), 2) explosion (jump squat, hip thrust, thruster), 3) assistance (romanian deadlift, DB press, facepull), and 4) stabilization (overhead squat, ab-wheel, lunges).

I can train only 3x/week.

My question is: what template should I use?

Option 1) push day (strength + stabilization + assistance + explosion. *not in that order), pull day (strength + stabilization + assistance + explosion), legs day (...).


Option 2) strength + assistance day (push, pull, legs), stabilization day (push, pull, legs), explosion day (push, pull, legs)



Why not do a total body program combing all aspects from your list? Start with some explosive work (jumps, throws, O-lifts, etc... ( then move onto your strength work (squats, bench, weighted chins/pullups, etc...), then assistance work focusing on something other than your main lift of that day (on your heavy squat day you'd do higher rep db benching, on bench day you'd do lunges, etc...) then finish off with rehab, prehab and stability work (pushups, face pulls, ytwl's, etc...). You could set up your strength work in a 5/3/1 or RPE format and avoid failure, keep your assistance work a little reppy to build some muscles and make the rehab, prehab and stability work focused on weaknesses and keeping your joints/tendons happy.


There is a combat sub-forum where some pretty knowledgeable people post. Many of them don't spend much time in other sections of this site, so they might not find your question over hear.

If you threw this up over there you might get some more targeted responses from people with more sport specific backgrounds. If you can include a bit more info about what your actual fight training and conditioning schedule looks like, what your goals are, your current height, weight, age, time in the game etc, you will get even better advice.



Good point. I meant to ask what the op's discipline is as well.


Hi Batman730,
I posted in the conditioning forum because my question is about conditioning for a martial art, not a martial art itself. But I was in doubt about in which forum I should have posted.
How do I move my question to the combat forum?

Answering your question, I practice kung-fu (northern shaolin).

I am 27 yo, 5'10" and 180lb.

My lifts are:
Squat - 220lb (5 reps)
Deadlift - 212lb (5 reps) (my deadlift sucks)
Bench press - 212lb (5 reps)
OHP - 146 (5 reps)
Bentover row - 154 (5 reps)

I'm in a 12-week cycle Madcow 5x5 and, before that, I was doing a WS4SB template.
I also tried 5/3/1 for 8 weeks, but I had shoulder lesion.

My objective is become faster and stronger (speed is more important than strength). Also, I don't wanna any weight gain, but gain 7lbs of lean mass and lose 7lbs of fat would be great.



I go to the gym at monday, wednesday and friday, and practice kung-fu tuesday and thursday. I started lifting in 2010.


WhiteFlash, thanks for your answer. What is RPE?
I will make a template and post it here, so people can comment.


WhiteFlash, thanks for your answer. What is RPE?
I will make a template and post it here, so people can comment and give advice.


I don't now how you would get a thread moved. You could start a new thread over in Combat, or ask the Mods to move this one. Either way, before I suggest you take a moment and use the search function to review some of the many discussions that have been had over there regarding lifting/conditioning for MA/combat sports. Some great stuff has already been said on the topic. Forgive my ignorance, but does your style have a significant element of full speed competition/free sparring?

I couldn't help but notice that right now you are lifting more than often than you are doing kung-fu. Assuming you primarily want to get better at kung-fu, this seems bassackwards to me. Speed gains in striking are primarily a function of improved technique, relaxation, economy of motion etc and less a function of adding 30lbs to your bench. I'm not sure how advanced you are in your MA practice, but it seems like you would be better served by more time in the kwoon or doing shadow boxing, bag work, hand speed drills etc on your own than you would by spending more time under the bar. Not saying don't lift, just saying if you are lifting for MA, you should be doing much more MA than lifting.

I also notice that you don't specifically mention that you are doing any conditioning other than whatever you get in class (I know some WS4SB templates have plenty of conditioning included in the but others do not). If you were training more than twice a week that would be one thing, but as it stands I would say that this is also a mistake. Fight sports are obviously extremely physically demanding. There is much debate as to how to best condition for them i.e. HIIT, circuits, roadwork, or just lots of practice (again, see the search function) but little argument as to the importance of conditioning.

Lastly, weight gain/loss will be primarily a function of what you do in the kitchen as opposed to what you do in the gym. Unless you are looking to manage your weight for weight classes, I would focus on skills/performance and getting enough food to allow for quality training and recovery and let your weight regulate itself (within reason).

Of course, if you are lifting because you like lifting and getting stronger and you're MA practice is more just something else you enjoy doing for fun rather than something you want to be seriously competitive at, that changes everything...


Yes, we have free sparring. There are also some kung-fu competitions (including fights), but my primary goal isn`t compete.

I know that I am going to the gym more often than going to the kung-fu academy, but that is because my schedule. My kung-fu academy opens from 5pm to 23pm and my gym opens from 5am to 22pm. All my mornings are free (I work from 11am to 7pm), so I can go to the gym 3x/week without problems. But my nights are already full, and I only have those 2 days to go to the kung-fu academy. I also practice kung-fu at home in the weekends.

I dont think that I need more conditioning, because our fights at the academy dont last more than 1 or 2 minutes (we try to strike some points of the opponent. It is a sequence of attacks and counter attacks until one hit an important point of the other. I don`t know if I made myself clear in this; I am brazilian, and writing in english is not very usual for me). If I was a competidor, I would focus more on conditioning, but that is not the case.

I like the idea of letting my weight regulate itself. Weight is not my primary goal, anyway.
My primary goal is become better at kung-fu (I won`t compete, but I like to fight at the academy and I like to be always "prepared" in case of need), but I really enjoy lifting too.

I will look for other topics about this in the combat forum.

Thank you!


No worries bud. Here's an article on RPE training-





If you are short on time check out this article, "the rule of 10" by Tsatsouline is a great approach.

Would do Deadlifts/Zercher Squats, Clean and presses and PRows/Chinups on this programm.

I'd also recommend including Kettlebell/Dumbell Snatches for conditioning.
The Snap in this movement is somewhat related to the one in punching.
Other great choices for conditioning include pushing a prowler, dragging a sled or Strongman Stuff like Farmers Walks.


I like this and it's not dissimilar to some of my own training - http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_senior/fighting_at_forty

At present, 10 weeks out from a comp, this is what my own training looks like. Perhaps it'll give you some ideas?

Monday Lift Power Clean 5 x 5, Trapbar Deadlift (5/3/1 reps & sets), DB snatch 5 x 5, ab wheel
Tuesday Either BJJ/MMA 2-3 hrs or conditioning 'circuits'
Weds Muay Thai bagwork/Bas Rutten workout
Thurs Off
Friday Either wrestling/BJJ 2.5 hrs or Lift - Trapbar deads (light weight x high reps), swissbar bench (5/3/1 reps & sets) DB rows (heavy x high reps)Swissbar bench (light weight x high reps)
Saturday Lifting if I don't do it Friday or off
Sunday Sled sprints/distance or bagwork. Off if I do something Saturday

Quite often I'll throw in farmers walk finishers or a stone carry. I always warm up with shadow boxing, band stretching and DB swings.

This has got me in to reasonable 'fighting' shape able to spar MMA & Kickboxing for up to 6 x 2mins and to fight competitively for 3 min rounds.

The sparring is fantastic specific conditioning though, more tiring than anything else.

Hope this is of some use...

Good Luck!


Honestly, from what I know about Shaolin Kung Fu you would be better off performing either gymnastics style exercises (which will develop body control, flexibility, coordination, strength at poor leverage positions, and explosiveness at the more advanced levels better than traditional resistance training exercises), and/or Olympic Style weightlifting (which will develop power/explosiveness, flexibility, total body tension, and coordination better than traditional resistance training).

I say this because your style is more focused on acrobatic style movements (from what I've seen of Northern Shaolin anyhow) than combative effectiveness. So, even though something like strongman style training might benefit a fighter and somewhat mimic the type of strength that they will need to perform in their chosen discipline (combat), it's not going to transfer as well to your style.

I'm not saying that you can't get some benefit from traditional resistance training, you will. In fact you will probably gain some benefit from any kind of resistance training (bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman, gymnastics, partner resisted training, even dynamic tension will probably benefit you to some extent), so if you've got your heart set on traditional resistance training then go for it.

Like others have said though, increases in speed occur just as much due to improved neuromuscular control/skill (in terms of punching that means maximally contracting the agonistic muscles while simultaneously turning off the antagonistic muscles and then reversing the action. So, you really need to put in more time in the skill department if you truly want to get to where you want to be. There are also different types of speed, and while actual hand speed can be beneficial, it's usually not the most important type of speed in terms of effectiveness of a punch, and they won't be improved much (if at all) by any type of resistance training.