The worlds of bodybuilding and martial arts have been influencing one another for decades—from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan.
But until recently, few people had the tools to bridge these two worlds together. Over the last few years, people from all walks of life have started training in disciplines like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai to improve their minds and bodies while honing their most lethal weapon: themselves.
In many ways, this seems like the perfect union. Bodybuilders want the chiseled chest, bulging arms, and rock-hard abs that come with training literally every move under the sun.
And martial artists want to train in a way that complements their already stellar fighting abilities. But, both disciplines also require top-notch conditioning that takes many years to harness.
This is why martial arts and bodybuilding have become like oil and water. However, there’s no doubt that serious martial artists or bodybuilders can eventually reach their goals—but they’ll often sacrifice years of their lives.
That’s why many bodybuilders and martial artists resort to less-than-ideal training practices.
4 Martial Arts for Bodybuilders
If you’re interested in using martial arts for your fitness or self-defense as a bodybuilder, here are some of the best options.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. At its core, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about learning how to use leverage to get the upper hand against an opponent who is bigger, faster, or stronger than you.
Viewing the fight from their perspective, it’s easy to see why BJJ is such a perfect martial art for bodybuilders.
How Can BJJ help Bodybuilders:
- Perfect your Squat Technique
If you want killer quads, then you’ve got to get into the gym and squat. But too many people overlook one of the most critical aspects of this move: form.
While you’re squatting, your hips and calves are going through a series of actions that have to happen perfectly.
This accomplishes two things: it strengthens your back and helps you to maintain good posture.
Most people don’t work on their squats because they focus only on how much weight they can lift. They never think about the effects of their movements on their bodies.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will fix that. It encourages you to focus on your technique while fine-tuning your ability to balance and move in all directions.
- Develop a Strong Core
All this constant movement in a gym means you must regularly engage your core muscles. But if you don’t work them properly, you won’t have the stabilizing effect necessary to perform even simple moves.
BJJ helps bodybuilders develop strong muscles and adds stability in other areas of their body—especially through the core—so that they can perform more complex lifts and moves with the same amount of effort.
Tai Chi is a martial art that focuses on the body’s internal energy or Qi. This is different from your muscles and cardiovascular system and is controlled by breathing.
As a result, Tai Chi allows you to get the most out of your energy levels for every workout. You won’t push as hard, and you can tap into that internal energy to produce more muscular power and force when you need it most.
How does Tai Chi help you as a bodybuilder?
- Gain more flexibility
There are a lot of different ways that Tai Chi improves flexibility. As you learn to move, you’ll discover all types of subtle movements that improve your range of motion and loosen up tight muscles.
You’ll also start to notice some strange things happening when you move and breathe properly. For example, you’ll be able to bend backward without any pain.
- Improve Confidence
Because of Tai Chi’s focus on learning how to move, confidence becomes an important aspect of this practice.
Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable and confident in your own body when you perform moves that other people consider difficult or risky.
Karate (Krav Maga)
Karate is a martial art that emphasizes the use of both your hands and feet. It’s believed to have originated in Japan but has spread to parts of Europe and America.
Karate is a total body workout that works both your mind and body, which makes it perfect for bodybuilders who want to achieve greater strength and conditioning while also raising their confidence.
Why do Karate as a Bodybuilder?
- Learn to control your mind and body
It’s easy to focus on the movements of your arms, legs, and hips in Karate—but that’s only half the battle. You have to learn how to control your mind too.
By learning how to relax and focus, even in stressful situations, you can develop mental toughness that helps you win any fight. When your mind is controlled, your body will follow suit.
- Work Your Core
When you work out with Karate, the emphasis is on movements that work your core. These movements increase your awareness of your body and how it moves.
In turn, this allows you to learn how to use and control these movements when you move in dangerous situations.
You also get some great upper body and arm techniques as well, which can be extremely helpful for bodybuilders who want to develop their size and strength.
Judo is a Japanese martial art that focuses on throws, trips, and takedowns. It’s also one of the martial arts in which you learn how to fall properly by rolling with your opponent.
This sport is all about momentum. It teaches you how to transfer your weight and momentum into a fall so that you can take advantage of your opponent’s momentum in order to gain the upper hand.
Why practice Judo as a Bodybuilder?
- Work the Legs and Hips
Because Judo focuses on throws, you’ll have to get in close to your opponent when they’re standing.
Because of this, you can use your hips and legs during each throw. In turn, your hip flexor muscles will become much stronger than ever before.
- Develop Real Confidence
A good Judo opponent will force you to your edge and always keep you there. This is so that they can learn how to use your weaknesses against you when both of you are on the ground.
In turn, this develops your confidence. You’ll discover a new level of confidence from being forced to move beyond your comfort zone and use more than just brute strength to win.
Can bodybuilders do martial arts?
Yes, they can. The two main reasons why most people say that martial arts are too physical for bodybuilders to learn are:
They think it’s too difficult to get results with martial arts as a bodybuilder.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Martial arts are about learning how to use your body properly in order to get what you want out of life. Once you have this knowledge, you’ll be able to do almost anything possible with it.
They think that they won’t have time to do all the martial arts they want to learn.
This is also completely unfounded. Martial arts are great at keeping you fit by working your entire body, so you can do them when you have free time.
Once you break down the movements and learn them properly, you will be able to work them into your plans and routine easily because they give a great workout while also making a huge impact on your confidence and life as a whole.
Which martial art is best for building muscle?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Judo, and Tai Chi are great for building muscle. Each one requires you to use your upper body and core muscles to consciously attack an opponent.
When you work out with these four martial arts, you’ll not only be able to build huge hips, and legs like you’ve always dreamed of but also develop a new sense of confidence that will allow you to do anything else in life.
Can a bodybuilder be good at fighting?
Yes, of course. When you spend your time perfecting these martial arts, you’re developing a skill set that will put you at the top of your class when it comes to fighting.
You won’t be able to fight with anything more than just brute force. But, when you combine martial arts with bodybuilding, you’ll learn how to move your body and carry yourself in ways that don’t allow your opponent to use brute strength against you.
The best part about learning martial arts is that it offers a new way for bodybuilders to work out and gain confidence in their lives.
Once you’ve learned how to move right, you’ll be able to do anything in life more easily than ever before.
Bodybuilders are often misunderstood for their buff looks and muscular size. However, when they do martial arts, they’re able to use all their upper body strength and power effectively, which helps them develop into a dangerous opponent as long as they know how to apply this knowledge properly.
This is why bodybuilders, who have some experience with martial arts, are always a threat to everyone around.
Being able to master these martial arts is not only for people who want to learn self-defense skills but also for those who want to take their bodybuilding experience to a new level.