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By Bradley J. Steiner, American Combato
While physical strength and condition will never, alone, guarantee that you will be prepared to react well to violence, there is no doubt whatever that strength and condition—and internal good health—are assets in any physical encounter. They may enable you to survive an attack.
In order to be in the best possible all round condition, and be as strong as your genetics permit, you must follow a physical training program in addition to your close combat and self-defense program. 
Take particular note here if you train in a classical art that has students devoting anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes or so to stretching, limbering, and calisthenic strength building at the outset of each class: this is not an adequate or even necessarily relevant routine of exercise for the purpose of supplementing and bolstering unarmed and armed close combat and self-defense skills.
What you need is some seriously demanding routine of progressive resistance exercise. This usually means the tried and proven approach to strength development and super-fitness through training with plate-loading barbells and dumbbells. Nautilus machines are also excellent, as are pulleys and portable “chest expanders”.
The important thing is that your exercise program enables you to gradually increase the amount of effort required of you to do the exercises. Our hands-down preference is for simple, plate-loading adjustable barbells and dumbells. They can build a person to the limit of his genetic potential; they are safe, they are relatively inexpensive, and they can be done at home.
There is no need to join a gym or health club. This is especially important because of the need for regularity and consistency in exercising. Having your equipment at home makes training at any time and on any day possible, despite inclement weather, and possibly not having the time to travel to and from an exercise facility on some scheduled training days. There is certainly nothing wrong with joining a good gym, but we believe that training at home offers many advantages over gym training.
You decide . . . but make sure that you do one or the other!
One of the great advantages of weight training is its efficiency. In 30 minutes you can give your body a workout that is harder than an hour and a half of calisthenic exercise. And ultimately, no matter how far you advance along the road to strength and conditioning, building up with weights, you need never exceed one and a half hours per workout, three times a week—even if you have developed world class power!
Weights don’t wear out. They require no maintenance. They can be stored under a bed. And the exercises you should do are simple, easily learned, and will serve you for a lifetime. 
We will add a couple of serious cautions for anyone starting out in weight training as a program to supplement combatives work: 

  • You must practice your combat and defense skills. Weight training augments and bolsters the physical qualities that you need in order to render combat techniques with maximum authority. But weight training does not serve as an alternative to combat skills; it merely ensures their optimum effectiveness.
  • Pay no attention to the nay-sayers in and outside of the martial arts field who may attempt to discourage you from weight-training. The “strength is useless” myth still persists among many in the martial arts field. And as far as “muscle-boundness”, “muscles slow you down”, or any of the other long-disproven nonsense myths just smile and walk away when anyone attempts to sell you that crap. 
  • Never, ever use steroid drugs. Rely upon good, hard, sensible exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep and rest, and a positive, healthy attitude to build yourself up and to maintain optimum condition and strength. Those in the UFC or MMA (or any other martial arts sport or activity who use steroids are self-defeating fools). The use of these drugs can kill you. 
  • The best way to workout is to train your entire body at every workout. Three such workouts a week, on alternate days, is plenty. In some cases two such workouts (one every four days) will be sufficient. This will be determined by your experience and your time in training. 
  • Weight training, exactly like unarmed and armed combat/defense skills, is for life. You do not “retire” from training . . . you merely adjust it as age and your varying life and physical conditions change over the passing years. 
  • Do not compete when you train; except with yourself. Your objective is to become as strong, fit, resilient, tough, and ruggedly healthy as you are able to become. Your goal has nothing to do with how you compare with anyone else. How much less or how much more anyone else has developed is irrelevant. Judge your gains by how much you are improving, and how much stronger you are becoming. 
  • Omitting certain exercise movements when and if you have an injury makes sense. Train as your condition permits, but NEVER train when you are ill! When you are sick your strength and development must then be thrown into assisting your recovery, as you rest and get well, and follow whatever advice your physician has given you. 
  • Always train on the key, basic exercises.
  • If you are already warmed up from physical work or perhaps a combatives training session, then go right into your weight-training workout. Otherwise, spend some minutes doing simple twisting, bending, and turning calisthenics to prepare your body for the efforts of weight training. 
  • Remember that there are no “weight training for martial arts”- specific workout routines! You want an all round general physical training workout. All of the major muscle groups should be worked hard using presses, squats, bench presses, rowing, curling, and deadlifting. One or two abdominal exercises should also be included in the training schedule. 

A book that we wrote quite some years ago, Complete Guide To Effective Barbell Training, has been reprinted and will teach you everything you might need to know and use in order to reap all of the gains you are after from your weight training. 

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