can martial arts build muscle

Can Martial Arts Build Muscle? (And Help Lose Weight)

Martial arts are a great exercise because they work on your entire body at the same time.

Different martial arts use various parts of the body more, and each will give you the ability to defend yourself better in case of emergency.

But, can martial arts build muscle or help you lose weight?

Martial arts can help you lose weight and build muscles, especially if you are just beginning to practice. But, as you advance, you’ll have to implement strength training to gain more muscle, and you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight.

That can be harder than you think because as you progress with your training and practice with higher intensity, you will need to take in more calories and protein to maximize the results.

Therefore, you’ll need more training and better diet management to get the desired results, be it gaining muscles, losing weight, or both.

Can Martial Arts Build Muscle?

To answer this question, first, you need to understand how muscle growth works. To increase muscle strength, you have to put that muscle through more load and work to make it grow.

Therefore, if you are just starting practicing martial arts, you will see and feel the results quite quickly to gain muscle and strength. [1]

That doesn’t mean you will become buff overnight, but you will progress as you continue training.

Almost every martial arts training contains a strength workout. Sometimes with weights, and sometimes using body-weight exercise.

All of that means you will gain muscles all around.

That works great for those who just want to get in shape and learn how to defend themselves with martial arts.

But, if you’re going to get over the hump, compete at a high level and continue building your muscles further, you will have to implement a more thorough strength workout plan.

Increasing your strength will give you a significant advantage in the ring, so it’s crucial to keep improving it all the time. So, how to do it?

To start, it’s always a good idea to use your body weight in training. That means push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, burpees – whatever exercise you can think of that uses your body weight to execute. 

As you progress, your muscles will get used to that particular weight, so you will need to add weight to continue your muscle gain.

Start adding weights to your training. Do bench presses, dumbbell workouts, etc.

If you combine these exercises with your martial arts training, you will be astounded by how quickly the results can come.

Martial arts can help you build muscles, but only to a certain level. When you reach that point, implementing strength workouts will be necessary to continue building muscles. 

The main reason that’s the case is that you do a lot of cardio in martial arts.

Burning calories and gaining muscles don’t go hand-in-hand, so you need to find the balance between how you train and what you want to achieve.

If you want to gain muscles, do more strength training.

But, if you wish to lose weight, commit yourself to cardio and endurance exercise.

Can Martial Arts Help with Losing Weight?

As stated before, martial arts can help you lose weight rather quickly, especially in the first few months of training. [2]

I’ve lost 16 lbs in three months when I started to do kickboxing, as it is a high-intensity cardio workout as much as it is a martial art and a combat sport. 

But, there are layers to it. Sometimes, practicing martial arts can cause weight gain instead of weight loss. It all depends on what you want to achieve.

Depending on that, your coaches will adjust your training to emphasize those goals better. 

If you want to lose weight and get in shape, you will do many more high-intensity workouts.

That includes weight-bag work, running, doing combinations, intense sparring, and other exercises that will get your heart rate up and get you sweating like crazy.

You have to burn calories to lose weight, and martial arts can be great to do just that.

However, it’s not rare to see professional fighters moving up in weight divisions because their training results in them gaining weight instead of losing it.

That can happen when you implement hard strength workouts into your plan.

Also, they eat a lot of protein and take in many calories to improve muscle gain, which results in them gaining weight.

If your goal is to lose weight, you have to make sure that you are burning more calories than you are taking in.

A high-intensity cardio workout burns a lot more than lifting weights, so you should focus your training on that kind of exercise more. 

But, if your goal is to gain muscle and be bulkier, you’re probably aware that you will gain weight as you do it.

There is a silver lining where you can do both by adjusting your workout plan gradually to find that balance.

In the end, it all depends on whether you’re practicing martial arts just to get in shape and learn self-defense or to actually compete in the sports.

Why Do People Think You Can Quickly Lose Weight with Martial Arts?

I wanted to share my thoughts on the general idea that martial arts mean losing weight and how that idea came to be.

We tend to see and hear a lot about martial artists rapidly losing weight before their fights, especially in MMA, where fighters drop as much as 20 lbs in a few days

While they do lose weight so rapidly, it presents a wrong picture about martial arts and weight-loss, because people don’t hear all of it. [3]

The fighters dehydrate themselves extremely to meet the weight limit of their desired category.

But, after the weigh-ins are complete, they regain as much as 15 lbs in 24 hours, giving them an advantage when fight-time comes.

That’s in no way a healthy way to lose weight, and you shouldn’t think that martial arts lead you to such a rapid weight loss.

It has nothing to do with martial arts but with dehydration, a unique diet plan, and a team of nutritionists and doctors watching you every step of the way.

What Next?

As you were searching for the answer to can martial arts build muscle and help you lose weight, I assume you are thinking of starting with martial arts training.

If you don’t know which one to choose, I highly recommend reading my in-depth guide to choosing your first martial art.

Once you start, here is a detailed 5 step process on how to lose weight with martial arts. Check it out!

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