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Is there any research/evidence that would indicate that training (drills, katas, etc rather than sparring) for martial arts more broadly (striking arts like TKD, Karate and Muay Thai more specifically) while wearing weighted clothing/sleeves is beneficial in terms of speed, technique development, etc? Conversely, is there evidence that training in this way is detrimental?

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3 Answers 3

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There are a couple things that I would caution you about when using weighted clothing and/or bands.

  1. Distal placement - The farther out on a limb you place it, the more you increase the torque force on the joints. So if you put a 5 lb weight strap around your wrist, that 5 lbs of dead weight is going to produce a lot of snapping momentum at the end of a punch (Shoulder stress) or shear force (elbow) on techniques such as inner forearm blocks and lateral strikes (Backfist/knife/ridge hands)
  2. Balance - The further out the weight is, the more you have to work to compensate for balance. If you do this constantly when working out, then you may have some issues when the weight is not there, as your body is used to compensating.

If you use a vest or other close to the body clothing, you may notice slight balance issues, and you also increase the landing impact when doing jump techniques. The other consideration is that by weighting the limb, you may make the technique slightly stronger, but you may also impact the speed. They have done studies with baseball players showing that by swinging 2 or 3 bats (extra weight) or a weighted bat as a warmup, you actually slow down the swing speed of the batting session.

I know people that do train this way, and they do all right, so as long as you are aware and cautious and take the time to work weightless as well, you should be all right. I personally would just do supplemental weight training, but if you are time crunched I can see some benefit.

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Weighted clothing is not particularly useful since its benefits in terms of resistance are inversely proportional to how much it upsets your sport-specific movement. Put simply, it's not heavy enough to make you stronger, and if you do make it heavy enough, then you're practicing bad technique and making yourself tired without getting that much stronger or faster. Coach Izzy explains:

The late Dr. Mel C. Siff in his book Supertraining, along with Tom C. Purvis...warn about the fallacy of trying to replicate sport specific movement patterns under different circumstances. They make it clear there is an abysmal difference between sports specific training and mimicking.

Mimicking loads a motor pattern without care of the direction of the load or its nature, thereby deteriorating the very motor skills they are trying to enhance. On the other hand, true sports specificity addresses the mechanical demands of skills to ensure they are performed smoothly and efficiently.

The [martial artist] will fight another [martial artist], not a kettlebell. They will benefit from the problem solving skills the Turkish Get Ups impose, not from imitating a melee with an inert object. Ditto for other activities.

If you want to get stronger and faster, start a strength and conditioning program that includes power training. If you want better technique, do technique work under circumstances as close to application as possible.

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I train with 100 lbs distributed over my body once or twice a week, depending on if I have the guts to put it on a second (or first) time. I assure you that if done properly wearing weighted clothes will increase the speed and cleanness of your techniques as well as boost your endurance for the next two or three days. The long term benefits are increased tendon strength, tougher skin from friction, increased pain tolerance and even resistance to the effects of blows to the head.

If the training is done improperly you will shred yourself and possibly carry these injuries with you the rest of your life. This training is not meant for martial arts hobbyists or anime fans. If you are not highly skilled you most likely will not receive any of the benefits I listed and will likely only hinder your progress and even slow down your techniques, assuming you don't disfigure yourself falling down or rip a limb from socket by means of poor technique. Even 50 lbs can break you.

If you want to be good at martial arts there are no short cuts. Train technique and you will know when it's time to wear the weight. If you want to be fit, there are safer ways to get in shape. Hope this helps.

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