Strength training for fighters

 Mark Garcia Limbaga demonstrates a bent press with a kettlebell.

Mark Garcia Limbaga demonstrates a bent press with a kettlebell.

If there are teachers of fighting techniques, there are also teachers of strength. Certified under the legendary Russian Master of Sports Pavel Tsatsouline, Mark Garcia Limbaga is among the elite strength and conditioning coaches in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. Limbaga understands the strength training needs of martial artists because he is a fighter himself. He was trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay thai and Yaw Yan. Limbaga entered the Universal Reality Combat Championship University Challenge in 2009 and won via armbar. In an interview with FIGHT Times, Limbaga shares vital training tips as well as his philosophy of strength training.

 ABAP boxers under Limbaga employ suspension training.

ABAP boxers under Limbaga employ suspension training.

FIGHT Times: Please give us a brief account of your background; who are your mentors and how did you start as a strength and conditioning coach?

Mark Garcia Limbaga: My name is Mark Garcia Limbaga. I am the first ever Russian Kettlebell instructor under Pavel Tsatsouline based in the Philippines and one of only two in Southeast Asia (Azlan Zain Mohammed from Malaysia being the other), the senior coach of Eclipse Gym, the strength and conditioning coach of ABAP (Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines) and consultant coach to various performance based gyms in the country.

I first got a taste of training people fulltime in 2003 at a well-known commercial gym. Sadly, it didn’t last long since their views differed from mine. In 2006, there was an opening for apprentices in Eclipse and being a member then, I tried my luck and made the grade. The rest is history.

FT: How do you assess the strength training needs of a fighter?

MGL: As for assessments, I normally rely on not only strength but also movement. There must be a balance. So, basic movement patterns like crawling, rocking, rolling, skipping are also evaluated. As for strength standards, Dan John’s book Intervention gives a good baseline.

FT: You are knowledgeable in various strength training methodologies like free weights, kettlebell and bodyweight calisthenics, which modality in your opinion would provide the greatest benefits to fighters and martial artists?

MGL: In terms of tools, I say use what is available to you. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I just happen to prefer kettlebells and bodyweight due to portability but a complete barbell set is also a very useful tool.

FT: Can you give some advice on how to train safely and how to look for personal trainers or gyms?

MGL: Patience, attention to detail and focus are a must to maintain proper form. Also, don’t focus on the more is better mindset or keep chasing higher numbers. It always starts with clearly defining what you want. If you want to be a bodybuilder, it won’t be ideal to be training with performance focused coaches or powerlifting coaches. The gym must also have a good amount of free weights or other tools needed to achieve your goal.

 Limbaga (right) with ABAP boxing coach Roel Velasco        PHOTOS COURTESY               OF MARK GARCIA LIMBAGA

Limbaga (right) with ABAP boxing coach Roel Velasco PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARK GARCIA LIMBAGA

As for trainers, talk to them and ask and ask more questions. Don’t get blinded by how much they lift or how they look.

FT: Any final words on how really to become strong?

MGL: Strength is an attitude as Master SFG (StrongFirst) instructor Mark Reifkind would say, “Believe you can get strong, never settle and be consistent.” Strength has many forms, not just physical strength. Aim to cultivate all aspects of strength.”


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