There is more than one way to skin a cat. That phrase is beyond cliche, but it is so true. Strength training and fitness are the same. Put another way: pick your poison, or pick your pain…
No one style or modality of fitness has a monopoly on what and how things should be done. With that said, it is always important to be clear on what your goals are. If you want to be a power lifter, it does not make sense to train for marathons. Although that example seems quite ridiculous, things like this actually happen. We need to be clear about what we want. If you want to be a bodybuilder, great! There are a lot of good bodybuilders. IF you want to be strong and healthy, there are many ways to do that. I personally do not enjoy the whole body building thing. I have always naturally had strong legs. Martial arts also helped develop my flexibility. When I use to practice martial arts, lifting weights significantly impacted my flexibility and practice, so I shied away from weight lifting thinking it would make me slow. I would learn later how false this notion is. Athletes of all kinds increase their lean mass (i.e. the amount of muscle they have) to improve performance. This is quite standard. The variability in sport specific training will lie in what areas could your chosen sport benefit from more or less muscle. This will also include mobility and flexibility drills and practice as well as a plan that is not so much volume that it will be a detriment to your normal practice.
Anyway, martial arts helped my pushing strength (lots of varieties of push ups) and leg strength. When I was 17 years old, I could leg press 300 pounds at a weight of 130 lbs (for those of you using the metric system, take the pounds and divide by 2.2 to get kilograms). I was able to do this because of the extensive leg training I had in martial arts paired with a genetic disposition towards leg strength. Upper body strength was not a given for me. I was quite below average, so I have had to work my ass off for every ounce of upper body strength, and it has led me different places.
At one point, not really believing I could really get stronger, which was beyond stupid, I did a shit load of cardio. I got like supermodel skinny. Not a good look for me, but it taught me many things. I adapt very quickly to cardio. At the same time, I explored Yoga and Pilates. Not many guys would spend any significant amount of time in these endeavors. Although I currently do not do much Yoga and Pilates, I truly believe these are great for everyone. I do indeed apply concepts from yoga as well as practice certain exercises from Yoga statically and dynamically, especially handstand and bridge work. I do not apply many concepts from Pilates, but it is a great experience for everyone to try. Personally, I feel many of Joseph Pilates exercises and system has similarities to Charles Atlas and his system of isometrics and dynamic tension.
Anyway, at one point in my fitness journey, I was running a 10k every week. I got to a point where I could sustain an 8 minute mile (for those of you using the metric system, 1 kilometer is equal to 0.6 miles). Once again, I learned that aerobic activities are easy for me to adapt to, but I did not want to do Ironmans, marathons, ultra-marathons, and other stuff like that.
I love martial arts, as it taught me that people can generate force and power in many ways and exact leverage without brute strength. However, as a little boy that looked up to superheros like Superman, and also looked up to guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, my quest to be strong would continue to burn strong.
I started seriously lifting weights when I was in grad school. I quickly made progress in lunges, squats, leg presses, and dead lifts. I made good progress on bench press, but was lacking in back strength. Anyway, as life would have it, I would get a job offer for china after going through a bad divorce and my mother dying at the same time. Not having access to a gym, I did P90X for almost 9 months. I maintained my leg strength, maintained my pushing strength, got a little better at pull ups, and got super model skinny again without really trying. I was not tracking calories, but I was wolfing down food. So as much as I enjoyed P90X, I also did not like that I did not make progress on my weaknesses, but as a general fitness program, it will help people generally get stronger and burn fat, depending on their dietary choices.
After that, I got back in the gym, with a basic routine. Trap bar dead lifts, elevated dead lifts, leg presses, bench press, close grip bench press, weighted chin ups, seated rows. I was making good progress. Oh…I forgot to mention that I tried one of AthleanX programs prior to this and did not get the results I wanted. I do not blame AthleanX for this. It was a fun program, but I did not make significant progress in my biggest weakness, which was my back.
After AthleanX, I did that other lifting routine until I injured my right big toe. I tore the capsular ligament. It hurt badly. Sharp pain every step! It took a freakin year to heal. So, I decided to focus on pull ups and push ups. Push ups I was pretty good at, and it was easy to prop my bad foot on my good foot and not get re-injured. And pull ups, well both my feet were off the ground. I just needed to be careful about coming down. So I started doing one pull up. I would rest one to two minutes and do another one. I would do this for 30-60 minutes. After 3 months, I could do about 100 pull ups in 30-40 minutes. Once my foot fully healed, I started doing a deep dive into Calisthenics. I read Convict Condition 1, 2, and 3. I also looked at videos by Al and Danny Kavadlo, and the Tapp brothers for progressions when I was struggling with Paul Wade’s system.
And although I was making steady progress lifting weights before I injured my foot, I learned to love Calisthenics. Learning to love this form of exercises has helped me to stay consistent in Calisthenics for a longtime now.
At one point in my life, I thought I would dedicated years and years to lifting weights, but as life would have it, one thing led to another, and I found myself getting deep into Calisthenics. Life takes us all different directions. So go where life takes you and be confident knowing strength means many things. We can all be strong in a different way. We do not all have to have the goal of lifting 1000 pounds (~450 Kg). If you ever come across Elliot Hulse, you might see him encouraging you to be the strongest version of yourself. I whole heartedly agree. Life is like water. Flow like water, be the strongest version of you while keeping a clear vision of your goal. But remember, at some point after you have experimented, you do need to commit to something, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy the journey and variety at the same time.
So go out there, explore, try things, and discover what you can commit to. Discover what you can do to add variety, and discover what strong means for you!