10 Best Free Weight Exercises For Martial Artists

Nowadays, it is not enough for martial artists to be skilled in their chosen martial art. Every combat athlete must incorporate strength and conditioning into their training as it dramatically improves efficiency, power, and output. This article will talk about the best free weight exercises that will help you become an ideal martial artist.


Why Is Resistance Training Important?

Training martial arts is repetitive. This makes martial artists susceptible to injuries relating to overuse. Resistance training allows athletes to strengthen muscles, work on muscle imbalances, stabilize joints, improve mobility, correct posture, enhance hand-to-eye coordination, and learn new movement patterns.

The body must be in great condition to perform well. It is important to keep the muscles and joints healthy for longevity. Joint weakness and muscle imbalances may lead to injuries, making resistance training integral to injury prevention. As the famous saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Likewise, it is easier to prevent an injury than to recover from one.


Best Free Weight Exercises For Martial Artists

Strength is a technique multiplier. It is without a doubt that technique is important, but combined with strength and power, you will excel in your chosen martial art. Below are the 10 best free weight exercises for martial artists.


1) Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell may be the most convenient free weight for martial artists. Dozens of exercises can be done with it with little space required. The kettlebell swing is one of the best exercises that can be done with the kettlebell. The movement is also beginner-friendly, so anyone can do it with some practice. 

It works the posterior chain, especially the back, hamstring, glutes, hips, and core. Aside from the posterior chain, the kettlebell strengthens the forearms and grip, especially when using a heavier load.


2) Barbell Squat

When thinking of an exercise for the lower body, the first thing that comes to mind is the squat. The barbell squat is an exercise that martial artists of all disciplines will benefit from. It works the core, glutes, hamstring, and quads. It also significantly improves power.

The great thing about the squat is that it can be done with all types of free weights, even with bodyweight. There are variations of the squat, such as the front, back, pistol, and the Bulgarian split squat. Each has its benefits; it is a matter of finding what suits your discipline and goals best.


3) Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best exercises to increase the pushing power you can generate in your upper body. It is an essential exercise for grapplers, as many essential movements in BJJ require pushing to create space. This exercise works the shoulders and triceps, not just the chest.

The bench press can be performed with a barbell, dumbbell, even a kettlebell. This exercise can help with muscle imbalances if you use dumbbells or kettlebells for unilateral training. It is important to perform the bench press with proper technique to avoid shoulder and elbow-related injuries.


4) Deadlift 

The deadlift is the type of exercise that martial artists can benefit from as it works the whole body. This exercise works the posterior chain and is a way to strengthen your grips. There are different deadlift variations; the trap bar deadlift is the most beginner-friendly as it requires less technicality than other variations.

The deadlift can be done with any type of free weight but will be performed differently. Keep in mind to perform this exercise with proper technique to avoid injury.


5) Overhead Press

The overhead press is an excellent exercise that works the shoulder, triceps, and core (including the serratus anterior, famously known as the boxer’s muscle). This exercise can be performed with any type of free weight and is not as technical as other exercises. A tip when performing this exercise is to keep your core and glutes tight and your feet in a tripod position.


6) Barbell Row

The barbell row is an exercise that helps strengthen the upper back, lats, rear delt, and grips and is mostly performed by grapplers. This exercise can be performed with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell and is just as effective when performed alternately on each hand.


7) Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a great exercise to work on forearm strength, grip, and wrist stability. The wrist stability, forearm, grip strength, and endurance that this exercise offers will significantly help martial artists, especially in the later stages of their matches, prevent the lactic acid buildup, especially in Jiu-Jitsu during an attempt of submissions.


8) Power Clean

The power clean is a dynamic exercise that requires mobility and practice to perform but is effective in improving your explosiveness from the ground and overall power output and athletic capacity. This exercise mainly works the posterior chain, especially the traps. It is generally performed with a barbell, but it can also be performed with a dumbbell or kettlebell.


9) Barbell Hip Thrust 

The barbell hip thrust is an excellent exercise for striking and grappling martial arts. This exercise helps with building core and hip strength. Hip strength is significantly helpful when performing bridging motions in grappling; it is also useful when throwing punches or kicks. It works the hamstrings, as well as the glutes.


10) Power Snatch 

The power snatch is one of the best exercises that improve athletic performance. It is considered a technical exercise when performed with a barbell, but the good thing is that the power snatch can also be performed with a dumbbell or kettlebell. The power snatch works many muscles, namely the quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulder, triceps, and back.


Final Thoughts

It is important to add strength and conditioning to your program as a martial artist. Science has proven that supplementing your technique with physical exercise is one of the best ways to increase athletic performance. If you are new to weight training, it is recommended to talk to a coach to build the best training plan for you. Stay with the program, and you’ll see a definite improvement in your martial arts practice. 


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