January 20, 2012

Essential Martial Art Core Strength Exercises: The Deadlift.

Essential Martial Art Core Strength Exercises: The Deadlift.
One of the biggest mistakes martial artists make in training is forgetting maximal strength training in their strength and conditioning regimen. This is usually skipped over in favor of some type of strength endurance or power endurance exercise, like burpees, pushups, high-rep kettlebell exercises, or more conditioning, like running or jumping rope.

The reason is because the primary energy system used during martial art training is strength or power-endurance. The temptation is to simply do more of this to supplement. I disagree.

If you are training hard in whatever martial art you are doing, you should be getting all the endurance and power-endurance work you need and can handle. You should be ready to puke during basic technique and forms training. If not, then you aren’t working hard enough.

Nothing will improve your ability to play your sport more than practicing that sport.

However, you can generally always use some maximal strength work to stimulate the nervous system and give you more maximal strength and power when you really need it. This might not get worked every training session. Maximal strength is the hardest to gain.

If I could only add one single exercise to supplement a martial art program, it would be the deadlift.

Very few exercises force you to engage your entire body like the deadlift does. It makes you generate force from the ground in an upright position – via hip and knee extension- while simultaneously requiring spinal stabilization, while under heavy load.

The deadlift works the entire posterior chain (the back of your body) from the ground up. These are the “rear wheel drive” power muscles you see in sprinters and throwers. They are not mirror muscles man-boys in tank tops puff up like a bantam rooster. They are all about performance, strength and power. Like a strong set of forearms and traps, you can’t fake a powerful pair of glutes and hamstrings. They are a sign of great health and a powerful body.

It also works the grip, as long as you don’t use any sissy straps like bodybuilders use.

When you break all that down, that starts to sound like a lot of martial art movements, such as a takedown, punch, kick, jump, choke, joint lock, or defense against any of these attacks. In short, it will make you hit harder, sweep and throw harder, choke and grip stronger.

Here are a few of the muscles brought into play by the deadlift (there are more, but this is a fast breakdown in plain English):
Hip flexors
Feet and ankles
Spinal erectors (low back)
Entire arm (including hands, fingers and forearms)
Middle/Upper back

As far as an abdominal exercise goes, the deadlift is king. The core is heavily taxed during this movement. Core strength has nothing at all to do with 6-pack abs. Abdominal definition is 100% nutrition.

Core strength is your body’s ability to stabilize the spine during a movement. There is no better way to exercise this than forcing it to stabilize during a deadlift up to double your bodyweight. No amount of situps is equal to a single deadlift at two times your body’s weight.

Specific programming and technique is a little beyond the scope of this article, and should be addressed by a legit strength coach in-person, but I think working your way to a double-body weight deadlift will pay off in every area of your strength and power development, in just a few minutes per day.

If you must go it alone, the text I recommend for deadlift coaching and programming is Power to The People-Russian Strength Training Secrets by Pavel Tsatsouline. I have used this program, and have seen it work well with dozens of other men and women.

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