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[EXPLAINED] 4 Best Martial Arts For Bodybuilders

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Want to add some martial arts to your fitness routine?

Bodybuilders have a large number of martial arts options available to them.

Many take up martial arts to improve their flexibility, learn self-defense, or simply study a unique art form. 

In this post, we’ll be looking at which martial arts are best for bodybuilders.

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4 Best Martial Arts for Bodybuilders

Obviously, there are a number of great martial arts out there.

But some are simply better suited to people with larger frames.

The four best martial arts for bodybuilders are:

  1. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  2. Judo
  3. Wrestling
  4. Tai Chi

This list might surprise you, but let’s look at why I’ve decided to narrow it down to these martial arts.

First, we need to consider which martial arts bodybuilders should avoid.

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What Types of Martial Arts Should Bodybuilders Avoid?

Bodybuilders can excel at many different types of martial arts.

However, they should avoid certain types as it could affect their bodybuilding gains.

Some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a martial art includes:


Bodybuilders are used to performing intense workouts at the gym for the added gains they provide.

However, such intensity in martial arts may be detrimental to their muscle gains.

High-intensity martial arts such as boxing make you burn calories at a rapid pace.

Bodybuilders who take up boxing without increasing caloric intake could end up losing muscle mass relatively quickly.

Therefore, it’s vital to choose a martial art with an intensity that fits your workout and body goals.

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Training Frequency

Some martial arts such as Taekwondo require you to practice frequently.

This is necessary when learning their fundamentals and refining their techniques.

However, this frequent training can be detrimental for bodybuilders.

Bodybuilders must take rest days in between their gym workouts.

These rest days give their muscles time to recover and grow stronger.

Engaging in martial arts on such days interrupts the healing process and can affect their gym performance on workout days.

Therefore, bodybuilders should always choose martial arts that do not require frequent training.

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Striking martial arts, in general, are the least suitable for bodybuilders.

They tend to burn more calories while training and offer no opportunity for muscle growth like you get with grappling martial arts.

Grappling offers the benefit of strength training because you’re constantly fighting someone else’s resistance and strength.

A unique form of strength training that’s nearly impossible to replicate, even in the gym.

Now let’s look closer at the 4 top martial arts for bodybuilders.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a popular martial art derived from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Kodokan Judo.

Fighters learn to take a hold of their opponent and bring them to submission on the ground.

BJJ centers primarily around grappling, focusing on a high level of control that leads to submission.

Achieving submission through joint locks, hyperextension, chokes, and strangles.

If you’ve watched an MMA fight, you’ll recognize BJJ when opponents are fighting on the ground.

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bjj for bodybuilders
Credit: Timothy Eberly

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Great for Bodybuilders

Grappling-centered martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are great for bodybuilders.

Your finger strength and muscle mass allow you to grab your opponents easily and bring them down, controlling them using your weight.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also helps to build various muscles groups, especially your core.

Consider learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu if you want to learn one of the most popular martial arts in the world, and get more toned muscles.

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Judo is a Japanese martial art that focuses on getting an opponent to the ground.

It’s a popular martial art that’s practiced by many different countries across the world and has featured in the Olympics since the 1964 Tokyo games.

The core techniques of Judo include:

  1. Nage-waza: Throwing techniques
  2. Katame-waza: Grappling techniques
  3. Atemi-waza: Striking techniques

Judo fighters are taught to throw, sweep, and trip their opponents depending on their position.

This martial art is well suited for people with small frames as it teaches fighters to use leverage against larger opponents.

However, large fighters like bodybuilders with significant strength certainly have an advantage in this sport.

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Credit: AP News

Why Judo Is Great For Bodybuilders

Like with BJJ, Judo places a large emphasis on grappling.

The strength bodybuilders possess helps them grapple opponents and take them down with less effort compared to weaker fighters.

Their added upper body strength also makes it easier for them to lift and throw their opponents.

Judo may teach a number of physical techniques that are useful for self-defense.

However, it also teaches  “gentleness” by training fighters to maintain their presence of mind during each fight.

Such mental training can be useful for bodybuilders who would like to complement their muscle gains with mental discipline.

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The sport of wrestling requires no introduction.

This martial art has been practiced in many different cultures around the globe for thousands of years.

Modern wrestling is all about taking down your opponent using different techniques. 

Wrestlers learn various stances, motions, and lifting techniques to get the best of their opponent.

This activity uses your entire body and offers a short but intense workout.

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Credit: Reuters

Why Wrestling Is Great For Bodybuilders

Many wrestlers in the modern era have backgrounds as bodybuilders.

Such wrestlers can use their added muscle mass to their advantage when facing opponents.

They also possess a strength advantage when competing with others in a similar weight class.

Wrestling can also help increase your lung capacity and improve cardiovascular health.

These advantages are useful for bodybuilders who need their organs to function at their best when training.

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Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a unique martial art that originated in ancient China.

It stands out from the other martial arts on this list because of its low intensity.

This martial art is also considered a “graceful” and meditative type of exercise.

The art of Tai Chi has approximately 108 moves, some of the core ones include:

  1. Beginner posture
  2. Horse
  3. Single whip
  4. Brush knee

You’ll often see Tai Chi practiced in a peaceful environment.

Because it’s as much a mental exercise as it is physical.

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Credit: Heaven Man Earth Internal Arts

Why Tai Chi Is Great For Bodybuilders

Many bodybuilders may be reluctant to take up Tai Chi due to its seemingly gentle nature.

However, this martial art offers many unique benefits.

It includes many moves that improve your flexibility.

Such moves are useful for bodybuilders who are suffering from poor flexibility due to gaining unbalanced muscle mass.

Tai Chi is also referred to as “moving meditation”.

It teaches you to focus on each motion and its impact.

This can help reduce some of the stress that bodybuilders build up during intense gym workouts.

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Final Thoughts

Each of the martial arts in this list can help you in some way, so consider finding the one that you can incorporate into your fitness routine easily. 

Bodybuilders who would like to learn a new martial art should review this list, and keep in mind the types of martial arts to avoid.

Either way, martial arts is definitely worth getting into if you’re looking for a new challenge as a bodybuilder.

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