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In a process of one question begetting another, Meade Rubenstein made a comment about something I stated in my original question. It seems like an interesting enough question on its own, so here we are. The comment was:

Never Maintain, always increase intensity or change workout to keep your body from getting use to the workout, which reduces it's effectiveness.

If my goal for my strength training is more supplemental to my other fitness goals, and I am happy with the strength I've achieved, is there really any reason to keep pushing harder? For example, my initial goals support general health. An added bonus would be the ability to get back into martial arts which I've neglected for a couple years due to various health problems exacerbated by my weight at the time. In martial arts, absolute strength (i.e. what you can lift) doesn't really mean much. Your technique and your ability to flow from one movement to another is more important. In fact, your power is directly linked to your technique. That's what makes a small man with polio in one leg able to crush a coconut in mid air, while Arnold Schwarzenegger might have a hard time doing the same.

So instead of poling for your opinions on whether you agree or disagree with Meade's statement, I'll ask my usual mutipart question (hopefully I'll understand more):

  1. Are there any negative consequences to keeping the weight constant while you perform your workout? (assumption is that you are already where you want to be)
  2. If constant growth is important, how do you keep from becoming the overly muscular guy so you can still fit in your clothes? I worked hard to get down to the size I am, and replacing my wardrobe is expensive. I'd rather not go back up.
  3. How do you manage the demands of strength training when you only want it as a supplement to your other fitness activities? (cardio/running, martial arts, etc.)
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Interesting question, I reckon 'it depends' mostly on how much you workout, both in intensity and frequency. There's probably an optimum, where you need to do a little bit more every time, because there's too much time between the workouts, so you're not actually 'maintaining' your fitness between workouts. –  Ivo Flipse May 3 '11 at 13:13
    
I'm not near where I want to maintain yet, but I'm working out 4 times a week (one day is pure cardio work, while 3 are combined cardio/strength training). I'm pretty sure I'd be able to maintain with that routine. –  Berin Loritsch May 3 '11 at 13:31
    
Ah my comment was more a hypothetical remark, not specifically aimed at your case. But yes, in your case that would seem like sufficient exercise to maintain your fitness (if not improve it) –  Ivo Flipse May 3 '11 at 13:39
    
It's cool that there existed such a time that Berin didn't have enough karma for something! –  VPeric Sep 30 '12 at 22:40
1  
Example of a small man with polio actually crushing a coconut? Martial Artists make some extraordinary claims, often without proof. –  Robin Ashe Oct 1 '12 at 3:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Good Question (and thanks for the reference). I've been in martial arts (Isshinryu Karate) for 25 years and the discussion of strength training not helping is outdated. Anything that gives you the edge over the other person: strength, speed, reaction time, mental focus, etc. helps.
If your focus is in martial arts, then the area where you want to continually increase intensity is martial arts specific training as opposed to weight lifting. No two workout sessions should be the same, otherwise your body (and your mind) gets use to the specific drills and you lose the edge.

There's a great book about training – The Savage Science of Street Fighting – where the author bashes martial arts training (for a lot of good reasons) and talks about how the dedication and determination of weight training enhances a fighters base mental attitude. A book I would highly recommend.

Specific to your questions:

  1. Any negative consequences to keeping the weight constant? No, you can obtain improvement through body weight training alone, but I still recommend increasing intensity, shorter rest periods, changing exercises and – specific for martial arts – focus on more explosive movements.

  2. How do you stop from being muscle bound? A myth that comes true when the exercise program is not well rounded. Dynamic stretching, plyometrics, more reps - focus on strength and explosive power as opposed to 'body building' type routines that focus on size.

  3. How to integrate strength training with your main interest? Talk to your instructor or a experienced (and knowledgeable) trainer about the type of exercises that will help. Specific to martial arts (striking arts is different from grappling) I would recommend olympic type drills, such as squats, deadlifts and clean presses.

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Good answer. As a point of clarification, strength being less important than technique still applies, but applying the technique with strength will improve your performance even more. I think the key here is to maintain flexibility to make sure I can keep or improve my technique. Having read the Stronglifts 5x5 paper, it appears that becoming huge is related more to diet than strength. Since I don't want to be huge, but I want to be strong, I'll be keeping an eye on my diet. (Stronglifts is built around the exercises you mentioned in point 3) –  Berin Loritsch May 4 '11 at 13:18
    
@Berin - I was taught the most important area to develop in the martial arts was 'heart' - aka: it's the size of the fight in the dog not the size of the dog in the fight...strength, technique, speed all are secondary to that. –  Meade Rubenstein May 4 '11 at 14:39
    
touche. Of course, it really helps your heart when you are confident in your technique and that the technique works. But you are 100% right. I've seen (and sparred) some otherwise great martial artists, but they gave up too soon. –  Berin Loritsch May 4 '11 at 14:48
    
@MeadeRubenstein heart's great for one fight, but each fight that you win on heart means you took a toll on your body, and eventually it'll give out. if you didn't have to rely on heart, then it's more likely you came away without injury –  Robin Ashe Oct 1 '12 at 3:09
    
@Robin - at the end of the day all you have is faith and heart, no matter what you do or don't, the body eventually gives out –  Meade Rubenstein Oct 1 '12 at 11:20

I don't personally see a problem with maintaining as you put it. I'd throw in a few warnings though...

  • If your maintenance consists of the same workout(s) day in and day out, then you run the risk of getting bored and stopping altogether
  • Although strength and size are not completely unrelated, it's possible to increase your strength quite a bit without dramatically increasing your size. Even if strength isn't the most important thing in martial arts, I can't imagine it being a bad thing
  • Eventually you're going to start feeling the effects of aging. It might be a good idea to get used to pushing yourself so that you can keep up with any decline that you might experience from that
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