John Holt:

7-Top Training Tips for Combat Athletes

by: Abby Murphy


After having to retire from his undefeated Muay Thai career at age 26, John Holt has learned quite a bit about training and taking care of the body. When his own injuries forced Holt into retirement, he was not satisfied with being done.

Holt’s injuries drove him to find new safe ways to be active, as well as help others in their fitness journeys. Holt has gone on to become a fitness trainer with 9 different certifications, an author of the book Bodybuilding Has Failed You, and an entrepreneur learning new and safe ways to train. Holt shared with us his top seven key tips for combat training, training safely, and over all taking care of the body.

1. Develop strength for optimal positions

Whether it be picking up your kids or combat fighting, it is important to be ready for anything. Holt finds that strengthening optimal positions is the best way to do this. This way you can never get caught off guard or stuck in a situation that is dangerous for your body.
“In combat training, people can hold a leg up and train like that. Now if they got stuck on a kick they are prepared to fight on one leg. Developing strength at optimal positions, or odd angles, help people in athletic development as well as their day-to-day life.”

2. Specificity, train what will transfer

If you are a runner, you are not going to train arms as much as weightlifter would. Holt applies the idea of specify to his training. It is important to train what is going to give you return. Do not waste your time on things that will not help you.

“When I was fighting I never did a heavy bench press, everything I did was explosive because that transferred to fighting. Majority of the population has a strength deficit and are deconditioned. It is important to increase overall strength and do things that transfer to your sports, or needs.”

3. Dietary, listen to your body

Moderation and consistency are key in anything but especially in the way you eat. Holt does not recommend any kind of crazy diets or cutting out sugars or anything like that. He does not even do that himself. Holt recommends more sustainable lifestyles than diets.

“A lot of people diet for a specific goal. You are not changing your lifestyle, once you stop, your body will normally go right back to where it was before. I listen to my body and stick to basic principles. One bad meal won’t change the body nor will one good one.”

4. Joint mobility

Joints are very fragile, using them the right way is mandatory. Holt knows they can be under trained or over trained depending on what you use them for. He recommends mobility as a main part of training to keep from injury.
“Mobility is easy to do but gets overlooked. You can do mobility with just body weight and simple drills. Most people are strong in a limited range of mobility. It is a balancing act. Figure out what you need to train for, and be flexible enough for what you need. When training people I have baseline movements I start at and watch the way they move to determine what is needed.”

5. Address body awareness

Being in tune with your body and actually listening to it, is something many people forget about or simply neglect. Holt has studied many different breathing techniques and exercises and find them to be extremely helpful in body awareness.
“Many people do not address body awareness. It is important to work your internal stimulus along with external. Learning breath control is a good way to bridge the conscious to subconscious and change your psychology and physiology. Keep it simple.”

6. Invest in yourself

People go to school and trainings to study health and fitness, trust the professionals. Holt often has to remind people that YouTube is not a degree. It may have quick answers and be cheap, but risk of injury is much higher.
“Go and get a certified coach who knows what they are doing. You can google a lot but it is not the same as a degree. Spend the money and get a professional. Short term success from watching a YouTube video is not worth long term injury.”

7. Practice, don’t work out

If you are not there mentally, you will not be there physically. Holt cannot stress enough how important mind set is to training. Thinking about what your body is doing and how it is doing it will help prevent injury.
“I have studied Russian methodology and they are big on mindset. ‘Working-out’ is never used. ‘practicing’ is better for mind approaching each movement from a much more technical stand point. Make every rep mechanical and as perfect as possible.”

To use these tips in action compete in State Games of America August 3-6, 2017 in Grand Rapids, MI.
Check out Karate, Judo, and Tae Kwon Do for more information.


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