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      FITNESS TIPS FOR 8/23/2000                  

Weight Lifting and Strength Training For Martial Arts 
By Pavel Tsatsouline,
Master of Sports

"I have tried lifting weights to add power to my striking and 
grappling techniques. Since I want to build endurance, as 
well as strength, I do three sets of ten to twenty reps to 
failure on all my exercises. The problem is, I get so sore 
and tired, that I have no energy left for my martial arts 
practice! What am I doing wrong?" 

Everything. The punch bag who came up with the light 
weights/high reps formula for martial artists did not have 
a slightest clue about either strength training or martial arts.

The best strength training formula for a fighting man or 
woman is heavy, 80-95% 1RM, weights, and low, 1-5, 
repetitions. There are at least five reasons why:

1. Heavy weights build strength.

It is the muscular tension, not fatigue, that you should 
maximize in training if strength is your goal. There are 
plenty of studies, for instance Goldberg et. al (1975), to 
support this notion. The heavier is the weight you are 
lifting, the higher is the tension. It is that simple.

2. Strength endurance gained with ten, twenty, or more, 
reps is not specific to hand to hand combat.

You would be a lot better off doing a few rounds on a 
heavy bag or Thai pads. Iron is just for strength, period. 
Leave the sissy high rep stuff to aerobic instructors.

3. Low rep training causes minimal fatigue and muscle 

Strength endurance work of the kind that you and most 
martial artists favour takes a lot longer to recover from 
that one to five rep strength work (Roman, 1962). High 
repetitions also make you a lot more sore. Does not it
make sense to perform your conditioning in a manner
which does not interfere with the practice of your 
fighting art?

4. High reps build useless tissue and break down real 

One of the reasons some bodybuilders are generally a lot 
weaker than they  look is that their muscles ainít real. 
Repetition lifting of a submaximal weight promotes 
sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, or an increase in the
volume of worthless jello like filler inside the muscle, 
while breaking down the contractile proteins, the "real"
muscle (Nikityuk & Samoylov, 1990).

5. Heavy low rep training is the safest way to lift.

No, I have not been hit on the head a few times too many. 
I will give you at least two reasons why heavy, low rep 
weight training is much safer than lifting a light weight a 
lot of times. First, the stabilizing muscles get tired before 
the prime movers in high rep sets, which sets you up for 
an injury. When you do a set of twenty squats, your back
gets tired before your legs and sooner or later you will 
get hurt! On a five rep set your legs will be first to go. 
Second, when you lift a  weight which is heavier than 
eighty percent of your maximum, you can get 
superstrong without training to failure. Ed Coan who 
posted the highest powerlifting total of all time not 
long ago always racks his monstrous weights a rep 
or two short of his limit! If you want to know hows and 
whys, check out my new book "Power to the People!: 
Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American".

With all of the above in mind, here is the program of 
choice. Perform three core lifts: the squat, the bench 
press, and the deadlift. Squat and bench on Monday, 
then press again and deadlift on Thursday. Upper
body exercises tax your body less than leg and back
work, that is why you get to bench twice a week.

Do five sets of five, four, three, two, and, one reps. 
Add a little weight, 2,5-10 pounds after every set. 
Rest for as many minutes as the number of reps 
you have just done: 5 reps, 5 min, 4 reps, 4 min, 3
reps, 3 min, 2 reps, 2 min, 1 rep, go home.

Start the program with weights you can easily lift 
for the prescribed number of repetitions. Add a 
little weight every third workout until you can barely 
make your reps, then take a week off lifting. When 
you come back to the gym, start another power 
cycle with comfortable weights, and build up to 
your new personal best in eight to twelve weeks.

The results will be spectacular. You will build great 
strength without stealing time or energy from your 
martial art practice. Who can expect more from a 
conditioning program?

Pavel Tsatsouline, Master of Sports, is a former 
physical training instructor for Spetsnaz, the 
Soviet Special Forces. He has a degree in coaching 
and physiology from IFK, the Physical Culture 
Institute, in the Soviet Union. Pavel was nationally 
ranked in the Russian ethnic strength sport of 
kettle-bell lifting.



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