April 06, 2014 | John Paul Catanzaro
Most strength training programs that I’ve seen for self-defense purposes are not truly strengthening routines but rather conditioning routines. They’re basically circuits filled with a mishmash of weighted self-defense movements. This approach is not only counterproductive, but it may lead to overuse injuries down the road. Use the weight room for strength training, and then as a separate entity perform sparring intervals for conditioning.
Specificity in training is important, but being too specific with additional loading can adversely affect performance. The more you mimic a movement with significant resistance, the more you disrupt motor patterns. You will never completely simulate in the gym what you could do in sport or when defending your self, for that matter.
Think of a baseball player swinging with an extremely heavy bat or throwing a shot put during training. You’ll mess up their swing so bad, they’ll barely make contact with the ball. And as far as throwing power and accuracy is concerned, don’t worry about it. You’ll destroy their elbows and shoulders first before you can gauge any effect on performance.
The same analogy applies if you practice kicks with heavy ankle weights or punches holding on to a heavy dumbbell or worse a strong resistance band, which promotes a disproportionate development of accelerator versus decelerator strength because the band is decelerating for you and really sets you up for injury down the road.
It would be far better to perform variations of squats, deadlifts, step-ups and lunges for the lower body, and presses, push-ups, pull-ups and rows for the upper body, which work many of the muscles involved with kicking and punching, respectively. If performed correctly, these movements will increase your strength and power, decrease the likelihood of injuries, and ultimately give you the best chance to defend your self during battle.