I know, I know, if you lift weights you’re going to get HUGE and muscle-y. Seems like every female believes this, as if somehow they are biologically unusual. Ironically, the truth is that lifting weights will allow you to reshape your body in a good way that very few other regimens can touch. More importantly (for this blog), lifting weights is a great way to complement your fight training and prepare “the machine” for endurance as well as intense bursts of power.
Resistance training can help burn away unwanted fat effectively and any muscle that’s added will be lean mass that actually takes up less space - one pound of fat reportedly bulges about 18% more than a pound of muscle. And you really needn’t worry about bulking up: women have a fraction of the testosterone, a necessary component of building muscle mass, that men have - typically about 1/20th. Plus an average woman may have only about 70% of the muscle density of a man of similar proportions. Yes, men naturally have a head start when it comes to muscle development.
There are so many ways that weight training can benefit you as a fighter.
Sister, you’re out of your beautiful mind if you’re avoiding the weight room.
Okay, so once you get over the misplaced idea that you’re going to turn into female Schwarzenegger we can begin to talk about how developing lean muscle could transform your fight game.
You maybe have heard of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers? Most people have a fairly even mix of the muscle fiber types. This is good if you’re a fighter. For fight endurance, you’ll want well developed slow-twitch fibers, and to prepare for the intense, fast action of fighting and quick change agility, you’ll want to work on the fast-twitchers!
Women tend to have equal or superior muscle stamina compared to their male counterparts due to the lack of testosterone and lesser overall muscle mass. Still, you can beef up your “endurance muscles” simply by taking part in any prolonged, moderate intensity aerobic activity - walking, swimming, jumping rope, et cetera. On the other hand you’re going to need to do some work to build up your “power and speed muscles,” and fast-twitch muscle fibers will develop nicely with weight training.
Since you’re not interested in adding muscle size, there’s not a lot of point to doing isolation type exercises unless there’s a particular area you want to improve. Mainly you’re going to want to emphasize lifts that require full body activation. Think deadlifts, squats, etc. Be sure to include routines using dumbbells and free weights, especially exercises where you're not sitting, to further challenge your body to stabilize. It's okay to throw in little extras like using balance trainers and such, but try to stay old school as much as possible.
There are all sorts of set/rep schemes for lifting and there’s tons of advice online. Try different schemes and approaches. You should probably be aiming to hit 20 - 30 total repetitions spread out over 4 - 5 sets with about 20 - 30 seconds rest between sets. We suggest going relatively light on each first set and adding more weight through subsequent sets. This “ramping up” will allow your nervous system to prepare for the increasing workload and also give your muscles some time to warm up to the movement. As you lift, “explode” through the raising portion of each rep in order to develop power and then resist the weight somewhat on return to the start position to develop strength. And like everything else you do in a gym, start out slow and let your body adjust to the new stress that comes with a new workout.
There are so many ways that weight training can benefit you as a fighter - improved strength, power, balance, bone strength and even injury prevention and speedier injury recovery. Sister, you’re out of your beautiful mind if you’re avoiding the weight room.