Strength Training

Extra-Curricular Strength Training for Karate


Below is a short list of strengthening exercises particularly suited for Karate practitioners. I would first like to make a few general comments about this subject that should be considered by anyone wishing to add strengthening exercises to enhance his/her Karate techniques.

First of all, one should realize that Karate training is, in and of itself, one of the best workouts there is. Supplemental training is really not necessary. Some, however, may find that they would like to do a little more. I would suggest that these exercises be done in addition to regular dojo training, not instead of it.

Next, remember your goal. If your goal is to make stronger Karate technique, why bother with exercises which do not help those techniques (and in some cases may actually hinder them)? Try to do exercises which use the same kinds of motions found in Karate techniques.

The use of light weight has advantages. Heavy weight has advantages, too. Low weight allows for better form throughout the exercise, as well as speed. Heavy weight may force you to push your limits more and is sometimes a more efficient use of time. When in doubt, though, start out light and work your way up gradually.

Just like with regular training, don’t forget to warm up and stretch out before and after exercise sessions.

Finally, please note that this is a list of strengthening exercises. I am intentionally leaving off aerobic, and other types of exercises due to space restraints, not because I do not think they are important. I may include them in a future article, if enough people request it.

Tsuki / punch
Weight-training exercise: bench-press, preferably with individual hand weights, as this is a better approximation of the proper punching form. Keep elbows in throughout the movement. For a “twist,” try rotating the hands near full extension (if using hand weights).
Non-weight exercise: push-ups, keeping elbows tight against the sides of the body.

Gedan-barai / downward (sweeping) block
Weight-training exercise: arm-extension. This can be done several ways, including pulling downward on a lat-bar.
Non-weight exercise: dips. If you do not have access to anything better, try lifting yourself out of a chair that has arms.

Keri / Kicks in general
Weight-training exercise: hip-flexor, in various positions. Try pushing the pad with the thigh at a point just above the knee. Forward and to the side, as for front and side kicks. Also extending leg as in back kick, this time pressing with the back of the leg.
Non-weight exercise: press down on leg with arm. This can be done for most kicks, as an isometric exercise.

Zenkutsudachi / front stance
Weight-training exercise: lunge with weights on the back.
Non-weight exercise: from normal zenkutsudachi, bring back knee slowly to ground (but don’t touch) then return.

Kokutsudachi / back stance
Weight-training exercise: squat with weights.
Non-weight exercise: squat without weights, body weight on one leg at a time.
*Please note: there are additional good exercises for most techniques involving the use of bicycle inner tubes as resistance, tied to a support base on one end and the moving appendage on the other.

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published February 1999)