View Full Version : Weight Training for Wing Chun

04-18-2000, 01:45 AM
Hello I owuld like to post an article on Wing Chun Weight Training which I found on www.wingchunkuen.com. (http://www.wingchunkuen.com.)
Weight Training & Wing Chun

by Mike Parriski

On the Wing Chun Mailing List there has been much discussion as to the veracity of weight training and Wing Chun. Common mythology often states that weight lifting will slow you down, make you tense, and a whole host of untruths. Since I have been a performed Wing Chun throughout most of my 11-year powerlifting career, I find these statements laughable at best. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that combining Wing Chun with weight training will enhance every facet of physical execution for the Wing Chun practitioner.

While the use of isometric and dynamic tension exercises are fine for warming-up or mild body maintenance conditioning, these exercises fall short in providing the health benefits and connective tissue strengthening that comes from resistance training. To fully promote increases in strength, flexibility, or even hypertrophy (muscle size), you must pay your dues in the gym and be willing to push yourself to near maximal strength exertion.

Oddly enough, not much time is required for this. An average workout should span 45-60 minutes with 1-3 minutes between sets. Workouts that exceed 90 minutes tend to become counterproductive and the hormonal releases that occur during your training fall drastically. When you come to the gym it's best to "get in and get out" and keep socialization to a minimum.

I have provided some sample workout programs below, but this is by no means doctrine. Understandably, time constraints due to family, work, etc. will affect when you can train. Use the programs below as a guideline and start out slow. If you have never trained with weights or are restarting after a considerable layoff, take your time. Even after 11 years, I still feel I have a long way to go to achieve my goals.

A note to beginners: don't try weight training on the same days that you have a Wing Chun class. It took me several years to obtain the physical conditioning necessary to power train competitively on the same days that I teach Wing Chun. Also, if you do decide to weight train on your Wing Chun days, practice your Wing Chun first and then do your weights. Trying to do the reverse is frustrating, fatiguing, and can result in joint pain.

Weight Training

Squat - Start & Bottom Positions
Regardless of one's current body type or size, everyone can benefit from strength training; be it for Wing Chun or for overall physical conditioning. The benefits of strength training are numerous: explosive power development, tendon and ligament strengthening, increased bone and muscular density, and an increase in longevity. Since power movements are performed explosively to a full extension or lockout, the Wing Chun practitioner will find considerable gains in the neuromuscular firing mechanisms that initiate muscle contraction.

As in every training program, starting out slowly and increasing intensity over time is important, but this aspect becomes extremely relevant when training for power. Attempting to progress faster than the body can adapt will only result in serious injury such as strains, tears, or even blunt trauma (this will happen when the weight is dropped on a body part!). Ego-lifting while power training is a surefire recipe for disaster.

As a competitive powerlifter, I strongly advocate the three core lifts: squat, bench, and bench press. The squat is the ultimate exercise for overall physical development as it will stimulate an anabolic response throughout the entire body. Furthermore, from a Wing Chun standpoint, the squat is excellent for increasing coordination, balance, and kicking power. The advantageous relationship between squats and kicks cannot be stressed enough. The legs are the foundation, and strong legs (even in a relaxed state) will enhance a rooted structure.

Let me digress a moment to dispel a common misconception about squats. I'm sure everyone has heard that squats are bad for the knees, but this is laughably wrong. In fact, squats are far more efficient in restoring mobility and strength during rehabilitation than the commonly used leg extension. Leg extensions are fine for adding definition to developed quadriceps or as a warm-up exercise but can actually place stress on the ligaments running over the kneecap due to pressure on the rear of the leg. Of course, a person recovering from any joint injury such as the knee should consult a sports medicine professional before engaging in any type of resistance training.

As with any exercise, the secret is form. Power squats should be performed to parallel, which is approximately indicated by the top of the thigh being parallel with the floor. Once this point is reached, the body accelerates out of the "hole" back to the standing position. There should be no sudden drops or bouncing at the bottom of the movement-failure to pay heed to these warning will result in injury to the knees, back, etc.

The bench press is the most commonly known and popular lift. "How much do you bench press?" is the question asked to and by anyone who has ever dabbled in weight training. Since Wing Chun is composed primarily of upper body movements, the bench press and other variants are ideal for increasing upper body strength and punching power. One point of mention that cannot be reiterated enough is that a strong upper body will not slow your movement execution. Also, a strong upper body combined with strong legs and rooted structure will allow you to easily collapse the structure of your opponent and capture the centerline. A person who consistently trains in the bench press (or similar exercise) will find that their punches and blocks/intercepts are faster and more powerful.

There are many variants of the bench press and for Wing Chun training, I subscribe to medium and close-gripped bench presses or heavy dumbbell presses (see my previous article for more detail on using this exercise). As always, form takes precedence over weight. The bar is lowered to the chest and pressed upward in an explosive manner, locking out at the top of the motion. Do not bounce the bar off of the chest, as it will only result in bruised ribs and pectorals as well as making you look ridiculous in the gym.

Deadlift - Conventional & Sumo

The final core lift is the deadlift. Second only to the squat, the deadlift is an incredible exercise for promoting an anabolic response and increasing strength and muscular density. Depending on the type of deadlift performed, this exercise will primarily strengthen the legs and back or the hips, gluteus, and back. Again, think foundation when asking yourself how this is applicable for Wing Chun and consider the spine and the supporting muscles around it.

Basically, there are two types of deadlifts: sumo or conventional style. Sumo is performed with the legs wide and a grip between the legs, while conventional places the legs close together and the grip outside of the thighs. A sumo-style deadlift will strengthen the hips, gluteus, and back and the conventional deadlift works the muscles in the legs and lower back.

Below is a chart showing sample programs for various levels. The core lifts should be present in any training program since they provide the most benefit by utilizing large muscle groups as well as muscle tie-ins, but feel free to substitute and add as necessary and according to your level of expertise.

Sample Power Training Program
Beginner Mid-Level Advanced
Day Exercise Sets x Reps Exercise Sets x Reps Exercise Sets x Reps
1 Leg Curl 3x8-10 Leg Extensions 3x10-12 Leg Press 1x15-20
Leg Extensions 3x10-15 Squat 1x8-10 (Warmup) 1x12-15
Squat 2x8-10 (Warmup) 1x10-12 1x10-12
1x10-12 1x8-10 Squat 2x8-10 (Warmup)
1x8-10 1x6-8 2x6-8
1x6-8 1x4-6 2x4-5
1x4-6 1x2-4 2x2-3
Stiff-Legged 4x6-8 Leg Curl 4x8-10

2 Incline Flyes 3x8-10 Incline Barbell Press 4x6-10 Barbell Bench Press 1x8-10 (Warmup)
Barbell Bench Press 2x8-10 (Warmup) Barbell Bench Press 1x8-10 (Warmup) 1x8
1x10-12 1x8-10 1x6
1x8-10 1x6-8 1x5
1x6-8 1x4-6 1x4
1x4-6 1x2-5 2x3
Pushdowns 4x8-12 Lying Triceps 2x8-10 Dips 3 set w/ Body
Extensions 2x6-8 Pushdowns 4x6-10

3 Pulldowns 3x8-10 Pullups or 4x6-12 Good Mornings 2x8-10
Deadlift 1x8-10 (Warmup) Pulldowns Deadlifts 1x8-10 (Warmup)
1x8-10 Deadlifts 1x8-10 (Warmup) 2x6-8
2x6-8 1x8-10 2x4-5
1x4-6 2x6-8 2x2-3
Barbell Curl 3x8-10 2x4-6 Pulldowns 3x6-8
Dumbell Curl 3x8-10 Ez-Bar Curl 4x6-10 Ez-Bar Curl 4x4-8
Dumbell Curl 3x8-10 Dumbell Curl 3x8-10

Aerobic Conditioning

Although I am not a big fan of aerobics, I believe that if aerobic conditioning is to be performed, it should be sport specific. As a powerlifter, I receive a tremendous amount of cardiovascular supplementation through numerous sets of squats performed with minimal rest (1-2 minutes). This may not follow the typical paradigm of powerlifting, which advocates a rest of 3-5 minutes between sets, but I feel the endurance gained offsets the loss in strength at each set. This endurance is undeniably helpful when you consider that the usual powerlifting meet lasts about eight hours.

In the version of YKS Wing Chun that I perform and teach, we begin each class with a series of Wing Chun movements that reinforces execution and develops cardiovascular conditioning that we call the Basics (NOTE: Rene's book Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen provides a similar description of this). Performing the Basics provides an excellent aerobic workout while strengthening the mind-muscle link for each movement due to the number of repetitions.

For an aerobic workout, we first begin the class with 500-1000 punches in the YJKYM stance for warming-up the upper body. Also, this helps remove tension and force relaxation by fatiguing the muscles slightly. Next we begin our sets of shifting movements in which we perform lan sau, tan sau, lop sau, etc. with a punch while shifting either left or right.

Let me further explain with an example using tan sau. We start with the hands pulled back into inverted fists at nipple height of the chest (YJKYM stance). We then shift about 45ยบ to the left, performing a tan sau with the left arm and a strike with the right. Next, we shift to the right and tan sau with the right arm and strike with the left. This left-right shifting motion is executed fluidly, and we draw our hands back to the centerline in a double wu sau during the transition between the left and right shifts. Altogether, we will perform 100+ of each of the 15 basic moves without stopping.

A note about intensity: to be an effective aerobic workout that both burns fat and increases cardiovascular endurance, the Basics are executed in a moderate-paced manner that takes approximately 20-25 minutes to finish. Ideally, you should not be so winded that you are unable to hold a conversation; otherwise, the exercises will sap the glycogen stores for energy and cause the muscles to be overly fatigued.


The synergism between weight training and Wing Chun (or any martial art) cannot be overstated. I believe that Wing Chun is a excellent form of self-defense as well as physical conditioning, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. A holistic approach should involve repetitive practice of Wing Chun techniques and a balanced weight lifting regime. Ideally, experiment with what works best for you and your body type. The exercises and sample training program are only an example for providing a basis for incorporating weight training with your Wing Chun.

04-23-2000, 06:47 AM
As always...good post sihing...

Its all fun and games til someone loses an eye. Then its just fun.