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How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
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Dalaran1991 Offline
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How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
Whats up fellow sportsmen,

I finally found a combat sports that I love, so I’m doing HEMA/Historical Fencing 3 x 4h per week. For those who are not familiar with it, it’s basically sparring-focused MMA with weapons, wrestling, punching, all while wearing up to 8kg of armor. Up to 20 if it’s steel-on-steel contact.

Without saying too much, suffice to say that by the end of every night I sweat enough to fill a lake.

Now, I have never felt this good during the last 2 years so I’ll keep doing it. However, with this 3 x 4h schedule plus 4h of Aikido per week (non-negociable because I’m training for my black belt), I have absolutely no time for the gym at all. Especially since it’s nowhere next door.

I’m really concerned about losing my muscles with so much cardio. I suppose this will help me get the abs more visible, but I can’t stand losing my pecs and arms.

Took a look at the HEMA clubs and the people are either extremely skinny or extremely huge (without any muscle at all), and I have no desire to look like that.
I have a set of dumbbells at home but nothing above 20kg / 45 lbs.

Would bodyweight training and other home exercise with the materials I have be enough to, at least, keep the muscles?

Would eating more protein helps?

Thanks guys,

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09-27-2017 04:15 AM
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Post: #2
RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
You'll definitely need to get comfortable with the idea of losing a little bit of muscle, but one thing you can do to help save your muscle mass is eating a lot more protein, taking BCAA supplements and throw in some strength training 2-3 times a week. Nothing crazy but enough to keep your muscles engaged.

You also will just need to eat more in general. You will be burning a fuck ton of calories with all the martial arts that you do, so the calories necessary to maintain your current mass will be a lot higher.

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09-27-2017 04:30 AM
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H1N1 Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
Diet will help enormously. Unless you're a real mass monster, I personally think you're unlikely to lose too much muscle. Combat sports build decent physiques by themselves. Do some dips, chins, and pushups and you should be fine. If I remember rightly you're not an overly muscular guy for your height anyway, so you ought to be able to maintain what you have.
09-27-2017 04:30 AM
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
A couple of years ago I trained combat sports every day, ranging from 2 to 4 hours every evening. At that point I only managed to lift heavy weights one time a week - while I wasn't able to progress, I could maintain my strength in that period. I did a long whole body workout.

However, since it's popular to do bodyweight excercises and calisthenics when doing Martial Arts I had other stimuli. I don't consider them ideal, though. I think it's a bad habit that doing Martial Arts in a club always means exhausting your body - I would prefer training technique first and foremost and leaving fitness to personal choices. But I guess casual people just need to feel completely smashed after every training. This however was a problem recoverywise. Every 2 weeks or so I needed to take a couple of days of, because I felt completely destroyed.

Recovery wasn't a problem when doing Escrima, for example (as long as we didn't spar heavily), so I lifted weights on the same day. In the long run I toned down my training since I didn't want to compete in MMA, which left me enough time and energy to lift weights at least 3x times a week.

Realistically, you have to lift weights at least 2x a week to be on the safe side, or having even the chance to make some progress. I have found its always a question of priorites. Are you willing to sacrifice some time you could have spent with your friends to go to the gym? Are you willing to get up earlier in the morning?

Next problem is the lack of a gym in your vicinity. You can absolutely do calisthenics and bodyweight excercises. There's a lot of ressources out there on that topic. But progressiv weight training is the most effective and controllable way to getting stronger, or, in your case, maintaining a status quo. Especially when it comes to squats you have only limited options. I am currently at the other side of the spectrum: I would love to do HEMA 4 times a week even if it meant being depending of body weight excercises...
(This post was last modified: 09-27-2017 05:17 AM by reciproke.)
09-27-2017 05:16 AM
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zatara Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
(09-27-2017 04:30 AM)Fortis Wrote:  You'll definitely need to get comfortable with the idea of losing a little bit of muscle, but one thing you can do to help save your muscle mass is eating a lot more protein, taking BCAA supplements and throw in some strength training 2-3 times a week. Nothing crazy but enough to keep your muscles engaged.

You also will just need to eat more in general. You will be burning a fuck ton of calories with all the martial arts that you do, so the calories necessary to maintain your current mass will be a lot higher.

^this.

BCAAs and a protein and calorie dense diet will help reduce muscle loss, but if you're going from a decent weight training regime to essentially just doing cardio / weighted cardio all week as it sounds theres no way to avoid losing a lot of muscle mass. You need to find a way to fit in weight training at least twice a week.

It depends on what sort of weights you were moving previously, but for any reasonably sized man 20KG DBs won't be anywhere near heavy enough to maintain a decent amount of muscle mass. For the bigger lefts like shoulder presses, db bench presses etc you'd be needing to move far heavier weights than that.
09-27-2017 06:40 AM
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not_dead_yet Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
(09-27-2017 04:15 AM)Dalaran1991 Wrote:  I’m really concerned about losing my muscles with so much cardio. I suppose this will help me get the abs more visible, but I can’t stand losing my pecs and arms.

I've been coming at this same problem from a different angle. I want to pick up a sport, but I don't have a lot of free time right now between work and everything else.

I'm in the gym for about 5-6 hours a week doing MadCow, and I've been thinking about switching to a HISST/Slowspeed/"Body By Science" routine right before bedtime on Sunday.

The one thread about that sort of thing on the forum has mixed opinions on it (https://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-58583.html) but I've been listening to the "Corporate Warrior" podcast and it seems like it definitely works, at least for some people. Genetics may be the key factor here.

Either way, please keep us posted on what you decide on and how it works.

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09-27-2017 07:56 AM
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H1N1 Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
(09-27-2017 06:40 AM)zatara Wrote:  
(09-27-2017 04:30 AM)Fortis Wrote:  You'll definitely need to get comfortable with the idea of losing a little bit of muscle, but one thing you can do to help save your muscle mass is eating a lot more protein, taking BCAA supplements and throw in some strength training 2-3 times a week. Nothing crazy but enough to keep your muscles engaged.

You also will just need to eat more in general. You will be burning a fuck ton of calories with all the martial arts that you do, so the calories necessary to maintain your current mass will be a lot higher.

^this.

BCAAs and a protein and calorie dense diet will help reduce muscle loss, but if you're going from a decent weight training regime to essentially just doing cardio / weighted cardio all week as it sounds theres no way to avoid losing a lot of muscle mass. You need to find a way to fit in weight training at least twice a week.

It depends on what sort of weights you were moving previously, but for any reasonably sized man 20KG DBs won't be anywhere near heavy enough to maintain a decent amount of muscle mass. For the bigger lefts like shoulder presses, db bench presses etc you'd be needing to move far heavier weights than that.

If we're talking about maintaining a reasonable level of musculature without being heavily muscled, then I would have thought 20kg dbs would do the trick. For example, a shoulder/chest/triceps workout that did the following exercises would allow one to maintain a high degree of strength and muscularity:

Handstand pushups
followed by
5x20 DB strict press
followed by either
200 total bodyweight dips
or
50 total reps (dips) with 20-40kg of dbs between your legs or in a backpack
followed by
DB flies on a bench, or even better, rollout flies from a pushup.
Finish with a few max sets of pushups.

Personally I think you could build/maintain a reasonably impressive physique with a push workout like that.

Pull would need to be mainly chins, weighted chins, and bodyweight (plus db plates) rows.

Legs could be one leg DB deadlifts, goblet squats, split squats, pistols, sprints, snatches & swings (one and two arm), etc etc.

I think it would be possible to put together a routine that let you build a powerful, strong, and athletic physique with those exercises. Obviously you'll never win a strength or bodybuilding competition, but that doesn't sound like it's the goal.
09-27-2017 07:58 AM
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Dalaran1991
Dalaran1991 Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
Thanks a lot gents, I knew there are fighters/gym goers with the same dilemma here.

@H1N1 is correct, I'm certainly not on the huge side but more the lean and ripped side. I have a V-shape with OK pecs and arms, visible abs. When I lift I focus mostly on compound exercise and bumping the pecs. Pecs and shoulders are huge for me. Will post pics after I get off work;

I'm 5"4 at 57 kg, so currently I think I'm at the ideal weight though I would love to pack on some more muscle. My max bench is 60 x 10, 1RM is 85.

With 20kg dumbells the only thing I can do while still feeling decent weight is pecs/shoulder flies, but those are more isolation exercise. I'll have to look into some serious bodyweight exercise though. Will try H1N1's suggestion for a week and see how it's like.

About priorities:

I'm not sure I'm willing to sacrifice more time to fitness. I work a 9-7, and with combat training taking up 12h and martial art 4h, add in cooking etc. and I barely have time enough to see my girl and go out. Already I go out a lot less than I would like. No point having a nice body if it means you become an incel.

I have to get 8h sleep else I feel like a zombie, so early morning gym is gonna be hard. I will try out other home exercise options first and if none really work I will see if I can make the sacrifice.

About diet:

So just packing on loads of meat and protein can help? I would love nothing better, except that I'm even more pressed for time now.
I'm also a sucker for sugar since Paris is the kingdom of pastry. I'm thinking I might allow myself a bit more carbs given this intensity?
A rather big guy at the club said he fainted one day because he had a blood sugar drop, forgot to eat before training. That sounds legit to you?
What about shakes? I'm not sure if protein shakes are meant to be consumed daily.

For what it's worth I've been doing this for 2 weeks now, and strangely enough I'm not exhausted. Maybe I'm burning through my reserves?

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09-27-2017 08:53 AM
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zatara Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
(09-27-2017 07:58 AM)H1N1 Wrote:  If we're talking about maintaining a reasonable level of musculature without being heavily muscled, then I would have thought 20kg dbs would do the trick. For example, a shoulder/chest/triceps workout that did the following exercises would allow one to maintain a high degree of strength and muscularity:
/snip

Thats a solid workout, but 20KG dbs will only get an average sized male somewhere between a soccer player style physique and a crossfit physique. Better than 90% of the population? Yes. Some muscle mass? Yes. But definitely not a high degree of strength or muscularity. Without benching, squatting, deadlifting and shoulder pressing properly heavy weights the strength and size just won't be there. And to do those big compound lifts for most men you're looking at weights required ranging from 80KG-200KG.

The OP mentioned losing his already existing muscle mass so I presumed he was a heavier size. However since hes just said hes 5ft4 57kg and with a 60KG bench hes a bit more unusual. I assumed he was closer to an 'average' lifters build in the UK/US of around 5ft 11 / 80KG, benching 100KG etc at which point the 20KG dbs would be a lot lighter and more limiting proportionally.

TL;DR I guess I disagree with you about the 20KG dbs being enough for most guys. But for Dalaran1991 you're right. His 20KG DBs should allow him to maintain a similar build to the one hes already got at that height/weight/strength ratio.
(This post was last modified: 09-27-2017 10:23 AM by zatara.)
09-27-2017 10:22 AM
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Dalaran1991 Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
I forgot about this thread as training all week long takes up all my time. Feel really great though.

What I didn't take into account was injuries. Combat sports lead to injury MUCH often than bodybuilding.
The other day I took a full thrust from a steel longsword to my upper right pecs, still hurting now every time I breath in. Took several hits on the fingers too, those babies got all bruised and swollen but nothing too serious.

Of course there goes training for at least a week, as well as any home exercise that involves upper pec.

Anyone has some tips on fast recovery from these kinds of injuries? It's nothing like gym sore where the more you work out the more it goes away to the point you dont get sore anymore. These kinds of injuries prevent you from regular training.

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10-11-2017 05:11 AM
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Nordwand Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
I think you're worrying too much. Going back many years now, I went on an extremely intense three week course, that involved a huge amount of cardio, along with bodyweight strength training, log runs, stretcher races, and so on. To my amazement, I had a net gain of 7 lbs, which was undoubtedly considerably more in the way of lean muscle mass when you consider how much fat was lost as well. Just make sure you eat very well, and don't neglect your protein intake - I went through what I would describe as a financially unsustainable amount of supplements.
10-12-2017 12:48 PM
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The Stronger Sex Offline
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
Guys thinking they will look like skinny nerds if they do anything other than pumping iron and stuffing themselves with steroids remind me of chicks thinking they will look like bodybuilders as soon as they grab a 2 kg dumbell.
10-12-2017 02:30 PM
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RE: How to maintain muscle while doing intense combat sports?
icing and allowing proper rest for the recovery are what speeds it up, there is magical healing secret to that.

I myself have a small injury and can't train at the level I'm used to and want to, but I'd rather feel upset over not being to go 100% then become actually unable to go 100% because I didn't let my healing process run it's course.
10-14-2017 06:21 PM
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