Why your current workout routine is bad
We all have our favorite workout routines. Some of us go to spin class, some yoga, power lift, or even take a martial art. And these routines get us fit, at least in the context of our sport of skill. It is sports specific training. A runner gets really good at running, a biker gets really good at biking. Each routine develops a specific set of muscles and works a particular energy system of the body. Joggers and cyclists (most commonly) improve their aerobic system while a sprinter improves their anerobic threshold. The jogger or cyclist staying at a consistent speed helps work a particular portion of their energy system by allowing them to improve their body’s conditioning at that pulse range.
But sticking to one discipline or modality does not improve your overall wellbeing. Martial artists who focus only on martial arts do a lot of pushing maneuvers while ignoring the pulling. This can lead to the same forward head rounded shoulders posture seen in office workers. Runners start to develop issues with their lower body from the repetitive motion. Construction workers who are hammering in nails all day even start to develop issues from overuse and holding their bodies in strange positions for hours on end.
So yeah, while your current workout routine is keeping you fit, it is also causing you issues if you are not offsetting your routine with equal and opposite actions. What should the martial artist do? More pull ups, squats and deadlifts. Maybe work in some single leg balance activities and rotational movement patterns as well. Add some core work. This is assuming that cycling or running is already being performed to help with the endurance heart-training portion of the routine.
Side note – When I started adding running to my martial arts routine (which I actually haven’t done in a while) I thought road work meant go out and run a few miles as fast as you possibly can a few times a week. I know Crom published a video I posted in one of my earlier blog posts where he suggests tossing in burpees and pushups to try and change around the intensity of the workout to simulate a fight. Spartan suggests a similar routine for one of their 10-minute run days. But after visiting the UFCPI and hearing Sean Fagan talk about road work in Episode 107 of his podcast I understand road work or cycling to have a different point. It’s to get your heart rate to a specific range and hold it there for awhiles. The awhiles varies depending on the athlete and the range varies depending on your energy system (carbs vs fats.) You are trying to improve specific things with specific actions.
You need a well-rounded workout routine. Train for your sport but offset it with other actions that will keep you healthy and nimble. A runner who constantly suffers from shin splints, runner’s knee, or ankle issues cannot run. Adding in a healthy stretching / yoga routine along with a strength-training program that incorporates in some exercises to help improve the strength / stability of all the surrounding muscles you are not working while running will keep you on task in your sport so you can do what you like doing – training for your sport.
Don’t forget about recuperation either. A vibrating foam roller or sports massage can do wonders for your body. You need to be able to move effectively while training to get the full benefit of the training. If you’re hurt don’t try to do the exercise. On my path to the SFG-1 weekend I was attempting to snatch with busted up blisters on my hand because I was afraid I wasn’t going to get my snatch down correctly in time (I passed the right, failed the left when I stopped at 3 reps due to newly open blisters during testing.) I would perform swings when my abs were sore from playing around too much with the ab wheel and taught myself (incorrectly) how to swing without engaging my core. You don’t want to teach yourself bad movement patterns. Do the patterns correctly engaging the correct muscles. You’ll strengthen the correct muscle groups and improve your strength, making you more resistant to injury. Bad movement patterns leaves your body in an unbalanced state, increasing the risk for injury. A funky movement pattern in your hip messes up your knee and ankle (and can work upwards towards your back and neck as well.)
TLDR: Find what you are passionate about and work that the majority of the time then find complementary exercises to offset the repetitive nature of that movement. If you do a lot of pushing exercises then go do some pulling exercises on your off days. If your main thing isn’t weight lifting then make sure you do some weight lifting that involves compound movements (squats, deadlifts) so you get the biggest bang for your buck in the shortest amount of time. If your thing is weight lifting toss in some mobility / flexibility work to keep you limber. Then rest, recover, and do it again.