Is it true that bulky people can't be fast like Bruce Lee or flexible like "Superfoot" Wallace or tall like the great Khalil? I want to be big, fast, and able to fight all at the same time.

  • 4
    Have you ever watched American football, or heavyweight Olympic lifting? It's absolutely possible to be simultaneousl big, strong, fast, and flexible. Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 6:36
  • Because it is science. Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 7:50

5 Answers 5


Sure, you can be big and fast. That said, there's some important ideas to keep in mind about what your training is going to look like. There's basically going to be 4 factors you are training (as far as conditioning) - power, speed, endurance, and, size.

To quote Wikipedia on Bodybuilding:

Weight training aims to build muscle by prompting two different types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy leads to larger muscles and so is favored by bodybuilders more than myofibrillar hypertrophy which builds athletic strength. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is triggered by increasing repetitions, whereas myofibrillar hypertrophy is triggered by lifting heavier weight.[16] In either case, there is an increase in size and strength of the muscles (compared to if that same individual does not lift weights at all). However, the emphasis is different.

Right here you can see power and size are trained for differently. Then there's the issue of endurance (which varies on how you expect to use your martial arts and in what conditions).

Finally, speed. The usual adage of the slow bulky guy isn't a matter of too much muscle as much as result of bad training.

Here's where we go into neuromuscular science... your body has a natural reflex reaction when a part of your body is moved too fast - it tightens the muscles around the joint to serve as a braking action to stop the joint from getting injured. The extreme result of this is a muscle pull or muscle tear - the body decides to let a muscle take damage rather than a joint because muscle heals easier.

When it comes to resistance training, the advice to stretch after a workout is so that you can reset your muscle spindles back to normal full ranges - otherwise they will set their "default" at a shorter range - and when you try to move fast, your own muscles serve as a braking factor to your speed.

So it's not that more muscle slows you down, it's that muscle training that ALSO sets the muscle spindles to a smaller range of motion, done over long periods of time, slows you down. Stretching after resistance training isn't about getting more range of motion, it's about keeping what you have and making sure it's available when you move at speed. Reset the muscle spindles and you can keep your fast movement.

Beyond that, then it's really about developing your flow and ability to read the movements of an opponent in martial arts. There's plenty of folks who aren't fast, if you watch them, but when you're facing them they're a step ahead and sometimes you can't track their movements well - because they've figured out how to read you and not telegraph their own movements in return.


Have you ever watched American football, or heavyweight Olympic lifting? What about the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions of the UFC? It's absolutely possible to be simultaneously big, strong, fast, and flexible.

The key elements are getting big and strong, then incorporating a lot of power training into your strength and conditioning program, and maintaining that weight while working on mobility and explosiveness.

  • What about punching power or gymnastic training.
    – cameron
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 13:23
  • @cameron Punching power is developed with technique plus general power training such as the Olympic lifts like the power snatch, power clean, and push press. I'm not sure what you're asking gymnastic training. I mean, yeah, gymnastics is great, but it won't make you very big except in the shoulders, lats, and upper arms. (Which are great places to be big.) Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 13:50

One would need a picture to see exactly what you mean by bulky.
The more volume you have the more mass you have and thus the slower you are.
The more volume you have the less space (and tendon) you have for flexibility.
Look at the bodies of those who are the strongest, the fastest or the most flexible. Look at animals in nature it's even more speaking. You simply can't encompass all extremes, it's a physical limitation.

You can however reach an optimum where you develop the maximum strength in the minimum volume (lean muscles) that allows you to be fast and flexible enough. Martial arts isn't about force, as in brute explosive force, as you don't try to lift your opponent over your head or snap his bones in two. Excluding the actual fighting techniques, a fighter needs to have stamina (lean muscles) to keep up a long fight, speed to attack before being seen and flexibility to execute extreme movements without injuries.

  • "The more volume you have the more mass you have and thus the slower you are." Preposterous. Bulky NFL linemen can out-sprint most people who aren't accustomed to sprinting. A 1-ton bull can leap and rotate in the air. All it requires is sufficient muscle to move that mass at the desired velocity. Strong = fast (for that specific muscle group).
    – GHP
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 19:42
  • Ridiculous. Any sprinter will out sprint any bulky person. A tiger (not a cat) will jump 3 times its length in height and climb trees. Strong = Slow. You don't understand what you're seeing. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 23:10
  • "Any sprinter will out sprint any bulky person." - Come on now, you can't state absolutes like that and expect to be taken seriously. Bo Jackson ran the fastest 40-yard dash EVER RECORDED (4.12 seconds) and he was over 200lbs at the time. If you take Usain Bolt's record 100M run (9.63 seconds) and scale it down to a 40 yard dash, he'd clock in at about 3.97 seconds, only about 1/7th of a second ahead of Jackson, and most pro's don't even think a sub-4.0 40yd dash is even humanly possible anyway.
    – GHP
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 14:05
  • Based on pictures Bo Jackson is bulkier and based on your data Usain Bolt is faster, so you've proven my point. The strongest aren't the fastest and vice versa, it's a law of physics, nature proves it. Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 18:27

YES, so much yes!

I have seen big bulky people contend in races. I have also seen bulky people out-spar their skinnier opponents in a dojo. It is possible

The above answers your question but I would go on a bit, if I may.

To achieve this,

  1. You would have to understand the difference between bulky and overweight. Someone who is overweight has excess fat which which pulls them down; and by excess fat I mean extra body mas with neither function nor utility. However, someone who is bulky is made of larger muscle mass—may not necessarily be built or toned. Assess yourself and get into the bulky zone.
  2. Your training should have lots of running, with your full form in check: arms swinging, knees perpendicular and footsteps keeping a cadence. Pay attention to form more than anything else—once you break form, there's no need utility in continuing the training, take a break. And try to decrease your snap time.
  3. Master your weight. The bulkiness is yours. Know it, accept it, love it, master it. Once it's no longer a burden on your thoughts, despite your size, you could be lighter than a feather.

p.s: A little informal physics... velocity is caused by acceleration which is caused by jerk which in turn is caused by snap <— this is what you want to decrease. I should add, "it ain't easy". You mentioned Bruce Lee who, in my books, was the master of minimal snap time. His acceleration posed a problem for video cameras of his time. Try to beat yours.


Yes you can. But in general you need to train your muscles in a balanced way so that you don't overdo one and thus de-emphasize the others.

There are different types of muscles in the body. There are muscles for strength, power and speed, the latter is generally known as fast twitch muscles.

Those that are bulky in a muscular way, such as a very large body builder, tend to be slower because they've over emphasized one type of muscle over another. But of course it all depends on how bulky you are talking about.

Van Damme is a pretty muscular guy and also quite fast. My second Master was a very big guy and was faster even than Bruce Lee while his arms and muscles were over twice the size of Bruce and he was over six feet tall and come in at 280-300lbs.

So you can do it but you have to do some research and become educated on different types of working out and exercises for different effects and maintain a balance otherwise one type of muscle fiber will suffer over the others.

  • Interesting as in this article it describes on how Bob wall and chuck Norris easily did pull ups when van dammed had trouble, it seems that people who do different things on physiques, size, everything biological has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is the article: Bill “Superfoot” Wallace on Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Bob Wall and Jean-Claude Van Damme
    – cameron
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 19:13

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