Combat Ready Training- Strength Training- Kenny Moyston


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Strength Training for the Combat Athlete…..


….as featured in Combat Network Magazine (
Strength Training- by Christian Vila

In my experience, no area is more neglected than strength training. Fighters and combat athletes always have great cardio, but few are strong pound for pound. Fighters will shy away from Strength training as they think it will put un-wanted muscle mass on their frame. This is incorrect- in this article I will show you how!

Last issue we discussed the importance of Periodisation for creating a perfect programme to have you peaking in time for a competition or bout. The base of your programme is Strength training. It will give you a foundation to build your power and endurance, and can make a huge difference in competition.

Until recently most combat athletes did not use Strength training as part of their training programme. Now all the sport’s greats have Strength & Conditioning coaches to ensure they have the complete package come fight night. 

Strong Champions
David Haye takes his strength training seriously. So much so that he built his own gym in an isolated scrap metal yard in sunny Cyprus, and had his trainers live with him. In his gym he has preacher curl benches, power-rack for squatting and pressing heavy barbells and dumbbells. Tools you’d usually associate with bodybuilding and strongman training.
Recently he spoke to The Times magazine: 
“The old-school trainers would pass out if they saw all of these weights, but I do a lot of weight training because it builds up strength and endurance if done in the right way,” Haye says. “I’m not looking for bulk but strength. Strong and fast, that’s the combination you want.”
Haye bench presses 145kg, squats 180kg and does chin ups with 45kg weights around his waist. Furthermore, he still has the cardio to spar in Miami for 12 rounds with Cuban guys, and do 50-minute runs.  Readers, this is the modern gladiator- the complete package!

This is by no means something revolutionary. Bruce Lee devoted a lot of time to his strength training. An article in Iron Man Magazine in 1996 exposed his weight training workout, which was performed three times a week alongside his cardio and karate training:

Clean and presses 2 x 8
Squats 2 x 12
Barbell pullovers 2 x 8
Bench presses 2 x 6
Good mornings 2 x 8
Barbell curls 2 x 8

The repetitions detailed are low, in the 6-8 rep range, which would mean the weight would have been heavy to cause failure at that many reps. 

According to Masutatsu Oyama strength and speed are more important than skill for Karate. His 1958 classic “What is Karate?” was one of the first books on the subject written in English, and designed to make the subject accessible to westerners.

What does this mean to you?
If you’re reading this article, you’re more than likely involved in a sport, which involves striking, punching, kicking, blocking, jumping, twisting, pulling, pushing, gripping , lifting or leaping. If you’re strong, you’ll be able to do this more effectively and with a better end result.

If you’ve every fought against someone who is the same size as you, but stronger- you know how disheartening this can be. It can make you lose a bout mentally, not to mention physically. It’s as if you’re fighting against someone of a heavier weight category than you. Often strength can overcome skill.

British Welterweight MMA Fighter, now UFC  star John Hathaway is often credited with his superior strength, which is described as that of a Heavyweight. This was showcased in his dominant win over Diego Sanchez at UFC 114.

Sol Gilbert, from ZT Fight Skool recognised this trend and brought me in as Strength and Conditioning coach to take his fighter’s fitness to the next level. We now produce strong, fit and skilled fighters, which win every time. 

So, what is Strength Training?
The beauty of Strength training is it simplicity. Think basic moves, heavy loads and low repetitions. 2-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions per exercise. Don’t worry, this won’t make you huge and muscular, the strength gains will come about due to an improvement in neural components.
Put simply, you’ll have:
More stable joints, allowing bigger and stronger signal from the brain to the muscles.
Improved co-ordination between all muscles, working together more efficiently.
Improved neural signal: from the brain to the muscles.
At Combat Ready Training we like to use basic lifts like Deadlifts, Bench press, tyre flips, squats and rows to build strength. You don’t need any fancy equipment- a barbell will do the trick! 

Most importantly, I like my fighters to master the basic bodyweight exercises. If you can’t manipulate your own bodyweight, you would be considered to be weak in relation to your bodyweight. 

You should be able to complete at least:
20 full bodyweight squats below parallel.
6-8 bodyweight pull ups (any grip)
6-8 bodyweight dips
8-10 full press ups (chest to ground, to full extension)

Try to master these in the first “Conditioning phase” of your training cycle. Keep nailing them until you hit the figures above.

The strength training programme that follows can be completed in any gym or home gym, and concentrates on the basics to get you started. If you’re familiar with these, you can add more complex moves to increase skill level, but the cycle remains the same.

Here we have a sample week with MMA fighter Kenny Moyston at ZT Fight Skool. He has just returned from Rampage Jackson’s training camp in the U.S. Now in the Strength cycle of his training, Kenny performs each workout in 60-70 minutes, with 1-2 minutes rest between each exercise. Sometimes we’ll have him skipping or something light between sets to keep him moving. This will be followed for four weeks.

(Here we use a JC Clamp for added grip strength)
2-3 sets of 3-6 reps
You can also see a video of this workout with Kenny here:

Remember to use a weight which has you failing between 3-6 reps. If you can do 7 reps: the weight is too light, if you can only do 2 reps: it is too heavy. Write down the weight you use and try to increase these each week- improvements in kg’s result in improvements in strength!

On your “off” days do come cardio, and technique, but ensure you allow adequate rest between lifting days. This is when your muscle repair takes place. Rest is as important as the training- remember this!

Next issue we’ll be looking at the next phase of your training: Power.

Lift heavy- get Combat Ready strong!

Christian Vila
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