This article originally appeared on Evolve-MMA.
Martial artists must develop their bodies to operate at peak performance under a wide array of conditions and in a wide range of positions. Martial artists who compete within certain weight parameters must develop as much muscle as possible while limiting bulk and excess fat. This results in an incredibly toned or “shredded” look that is hard not to envy.
For those who are not planning on getting in a ring or a cage, there are still a number of great lean muscle building lessons and strategies here that you can implement into your own workout regimens.
Today, Evolve Daily explains How Martial Arts Builds Lean Muscle For A Shredded Physique.
1) High-Intensity Interval Training
A HIIT workout is a form of cardiovascular exercise where you push your body to the point of exhaustion (think along the lines of sprinting for 30 seconds). This level of exertion and lack of oxygen pushes your body into an anaerobic condition that elicits a variety of metabolic adaptations that a low-intensity workout cannot. Research has shown that HIIT workouts are great at “controlling abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat” as well as being advantageous for those attempting to lose weight, specifically body fat.
There are multiple benefits to HIIT training outside of simply conditioning your body to handle a more intense workload. HIIT is very efficient – you can complete a short HIIT workout in a short amount of time. HIIT also helps your body burn fat at a higher rate than other exercise methods.
Martial arts classes spend significant amounts of time hitting pads, practicing techniques at a high level of intensity, shadowboxing, heavy bag drills, even doing some light sparring and ‘rolling.’ These are all often forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are just a few of the many great examples of martial arts that require participants to undergo regular HIIT sessions to maintain any competitive edge. This translates into the classes. Going to a Muay Thai or BJJ class a few days a week is one of the best ways to develop a practical skill set while participating in a regular HIIT workout. You don’t need to match the intensity of a professional sparring session or competition BJJ match of course. Very often you need only to practice at a fraction of the speed and intensity of the pros to achieve a very efficient (and fun) form of HIIT training.
2) A Focus On Full-Body Workouts and Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are exercises that activate more than one muscle group. Kettlebells, burpees, pushups, pull-ups, etc. Exercises that utilize a more complex series of motions provide many additional benefits for martial artists and those looking to cultivate lean muscle. Like HIIT training, compound exercises are more time efficient since they activate multiple muscle groups at once – these are the types of movements you see in all of those “Summer Shredded Plans” out there.
For the martial artist, compound exercises are doubly important since they help build the kinetic link in the body – that is, it trains the muscle groups to work better together. This is vital for building striking power and the strength of explosive movements. For this reason, many martial arts classes will rely heavily on compound exercises.
Building all-around muscle mass like a martial artist not only makes you stronger but it also leads to your bodies ability to shed pounds more quickly. Get through your first wrestling or BJJ class, and the next day you will feel the effect in muscles you never even knew you had. There are numerous benefits to this sort of training that extend into both the medical and cosmetic.
3) Eat Like a Fighter
Martial artists who are active fighters will typically be forced to stick to a rigorous diet of one form or another. This is often the most challenging aspect of training for many to adhere to. A good diet is key to having the energy to exercise as well as necessary for giving your body the material it needs to build muscle – without layering on unwanted fat.
Clean Eating and Lean Muscle Building Foods
Try and focus on the unprocessed foods and focus on nutrition dense items like lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables, and fruit. Staying away from chips, soda and all the obvious guilty pleasures goes a long way towards keeping your energy levels high, your calorie intake balanced, and ensuring you have enough protein and nutrients to recover and make muscle gains.
You also need to make sure you are drinking water, A training session will cause you to sweat quite a bit, and ensuring you replace that water and still have enough for your body to properly function and maintain and build your muscles requires you to drink much more water than you think.
To give you an idea, it’s recommended that a 140-pound athlete consume 280 grams of protein and drinks 1.5 gallons of water per day.
4) Dedication and Routine
You can accomplish the hardest workout ever seen but if you only do it that one time there is little point in it. Cutting fat, building muscle, and transforming your body takes a great deal of dedication. This requires the establishment of plans, routines, and schedules to ensure that you are adequately capitalizing on all of your hard work. Training frequency often plays a prominent role in developing significant lean muscle.
Signing up for some weekly kickboxing classes (or whatever martial art catches your attention) is a great way to both get in a regular HIIT workout and find like-minded people and/or workout partners. Not only do classes hold you to a regular workout, but they also put you into contact with similar individuals who are also very often into physical fitness. On top of that, you will be led by World Champion martial artists who know what it takes to get in fighting shape. Classes help you quickly build a support network that can motivate and assist you in pushing yourself to workout and improve.
Good martial arts gyms are amongst some of the most supportive and generous fitness communities there are – regardless of your skill or fitness level.