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7 Principles of Strength Training for Karate Kids

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Learn what’s the “PROCESS” Method…

“PROCESS” defines the 7 Principles of Strength Training for Kids established by the American College of Sports Medicine. More specifically by Avery Faigenbaum and James McFarland!


There is no doubt that Strength Training is very important to stimulate athletic development. It helps the Karatekas to tolerate the demands of long-term training and/or competition.

And above all, it’s fundamental to injury prevention, bone mass density, and to induce long-term health benefits, including in the adult age.

PROCESS means Progression, Regularity, Overload, Creativity, Enjoyment, Socialization, and Supervision.

These are the Keys to a high-quality Strength Training program for Kids!!

Looking carefully, we can identify three foundational Principles, regardless of age or training level: Progression, Regularity, and Overload…

Then, we have 4 New Principles that must be met to have results with Kids: Creativity, Enjoyment, Socialization, and Supervision.

Let’s see, more in-depth, each one of the 7 PRINCIPLES OF STRENGTH TRAINING FOR KARATE KIDS.

PRINCIPLE OF PROGRESSION

The Principle of Progression simply means that the demands of training should be increased gradually. Doing this over time allows to achieve long-term gains in muscular Strength, while preventing acute and chronic injury.


Respect the pace of each of your students, ok?

Does it mean you need to use heavier weights or more repetitions in every class?

NO!! You will have sessions where you should decrease the training load, if needed.

But, in the long-term, your kids should be able to workout with heavier resistances or make more repetitions… it will depend on the exercises and of what type of Strength you want to develop.

Strength training, through time, should progressively become more challenging. Doing this, your younger Karatekas will continue to adapt and keep motivated.

How do you manage Progression?

You can make it through 4 ways:

  1. Increase the Training Load (heavier weights, more resistant elastic bands, etc.)
  2. Increase the Number of Sets
  3. New Exercises that demand different movement patterns
  4. More Complex Movements

PRINCIPLE OF REGULARITY

First of all, this should vary according to each participant’s training goals and level. It’s different if we’re talking about a Karateka that wants to be an athlete, an obese Kid, or a young student who complements Karate with other sports.

But, generally speaking, two to three sessions per week on non-consecutive days are proposed for most Kids. This recommendation comes from the 2014 International Consensus on Youth Strength Training (Lloyd et al., 2014).

We all know most of the Dojos in the World organize their Kids’ Classes 1, 2, or 3 times per week. That means you should have Strength exercises, in every Karate session! The exception is when you have classes for the same Kids’ group on consecutive days.

Inconsistent training will result in modest muscular strength and periods of inactivity will result in a loss of Strength and Power!!

There is a common adage perfect to describe this: “USE IT OR LOSE IT”!

And that’s also true for adults…

PRINCIPLE OF OVERLOAD

Simple definition: To enhance muscular fitness, the body must exercise at a level beyond it’s used to!

If you don’t program your Kids’ exercises with this in mind, what happens? Your Karateka will not maximize training adaptations.

But, ATTENTION, don’t exaggerate!!

Your little dragons are not tiny adults… Stimulate them to go beyond their comfort zone, but ensure their posture is correct, for example. A loss of posture can be a sign of fatigue. Stimulate them to correct it, but if they can’t keep it don’t beat them down – physically or psychologically.

Maybe they’re not lazy… Maybe they gave all they had!

You can manipulate training overload by changing Intensity, Volume, Frequency, or Type of Exercise.

PRINCIPLE OF CREATIVITY

This is fundamental to optimize the training effects and your Karateka’s motivation!

How do you motivate a “PlayStation Kid”, an obese Kid, a low self-confident Kid or an uncoordinated Kid to make Strength training?

Don’t give up on them, when they’re not talented or stimulated by their parents to an active and healthy life. If you look carefully, most of the parents trust you their Kids so you can help them give their son or daughter a better life.

They think you have the ability to influence their Kids’ health and personality… We all know that 99,9% of Karate Dojos charge money for the classes – every Karate coach has the right to be paid for his/her time and dedication.

So, be a real professional and help those Kids and those parents. Sometimes, parents don’t make better because they don’t know how!! It’s not just because they don’t want to bother…
…they pay for Karate classes in your Dojo because they look at you as a qualified professional and the right person to help them…

SORRY, let’s get back to the Principle of Creativity…

Creativity is just planning your classes with novel exercises and new training equipment.

Today, we have a bunch of equipment at our disposal: hurdles, cones, medicine balls, elastic bands, dumbells, fitness sticks, plyo boxes, balance mats and cushions, poles, balls, etc…

PRINCIPLE OF ENJOYMENT

Enjoyment is so, so important for participation in youth fitness and Sports programs!!

That’s why it’s not difficult to exchange Karate classes, where the Sensei take the very same Kata and Kihon, months and months in a row, for PlayStation or hanging out with friends.

And why so many Karate teachers continue to push 8-year old kids to repeat the same technique hundreds of times in each class?!?

My friend, Sports Science, and Psychology show us that’s not effective!!

Please, see the methodology that Sensei Aschieri, for example, and his team developed for FILJKAM (Italian Federation of Wrestling, Judo, and Karate). Italy has several world class athletes in these Martial Arts/Combat Sports.

They make training fun but effective, in the long-term.

If you continue to use an old-school Russian, Chinese, and Japanese style of training you’ll create champions as well. No doubt about that!

But only with the natural borners and survivors!! And what about the 80% of the Kids that gave up Karate on behalf of PlayStation? What about their health and self-esteem?

What happened to your job as a Karate Sensei?

DON’T BE LIKE THOSE KARATE SENSEIS WHO JUSTIFY ALL THEIR DOJO’S DROPOUTS WITH THEIR STUDENTS’ LAZINESS.

Do you know what’s my opinion about this issue?

Every Dojo has dropouts. That’s impossible to avoid.

But, when a Dojo has a high percentage of dropouts, the Lazy one is the Karate Sensei, who doesn’t work and keep learning so he or she can keep his/her students motivated with the Karate Way…

If your young Karatekas enjoy the experience of participating in your classes, guess what happens… They will be more focused on what you’re teaching them and will achieve the goals you want them to achieve.

It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN situation: Your Kids-You-Their Parents-Karate (these are the 4 WINS).

Despite the encouragement you give and the support from their family and friends can help, the enjoyment a child feels during and after your classes can highly facilitate what we want them to achieve.

BUT WHAT ENJOYMENT REALLY IS?!? It’s quite a subjective concept, but I’ll give you a hint that may help you.

Enjoyment is, according to Csikszentmihalyi et al (2005) in their Handbook of Competence and Motivation, a balance between skill and challenge.

If the Strength training is too advanced, Kids may become anxious and lose interest. On the other side, if the training program is too easy, then they may become bored.

You must try to match your Strength training exercises with the physical skills of your Karate students.

It’s a hard job to do, isn’t it? But you want to teach Karate, right? And you want to be paid for it, right? So, you must do your homework.

And believe me… It’s a much simpler task with the help of Science. With time, it becomes easier!

I can speak for myself because I have more than 150 Kids and Adolescents (ages from 3-year and 18-year-old) in a small town with 15.000 people – and in the other Dojos, the students pay less than mine (but professionalism, empathy, and dedication must be rewarded).

Karate Science Academy emerged from my own need for answers!!

PRINCIPLE OF SOCIALIZATION

The Principle of Socialization teaches us that gains in muscular fitness will be greater, if your Karate Kids make new friends and work together toward a common goal.

Here, we are going inside Psychology Science.

Participating in your Karate classes can help youth feel Connected to other students… It’s fundamental each one of your students gains confidence, feel competent in their physical abilities, and work toward a common goal.

If you pay more attention to your classes, you will see what happens to the Kids that feel incompetent in their physical skills, in front of others.

Just think about the negative effects on that student’s personality, motivation, and Karate development…

Specifically speaking about well-designed Strength training for Kids and Teens, evidence shows it has a positive impact on “the self” of your younger Karateka… self-efficacy, perceived physical strength (highly significant among boys of all ages), physical self-worth, and global self-worth.

Think about that, when you’re planning your classes, even for those who don’t have the goal of becoming Kumite or Kata athletes!!

PRINCIPLE OF SUPERVISION

Resume it this way…
The safety and effectiveness of Strength and Karate training are maximized when Karate coaches are qualified professionals.

Supervise every exercise, while providing meaningful and adequate feedback throughout the entire training session!!

Your students will make greater gains in muscular strength and will reduce the risk of short-term and long-term injury.

Qualified supervision is a critical component of any Strength training program in Karate. Especially for beginners, who need to develop competence in basic exercises before progressing to more complex movements. Karate coaches who teach Kids should be well specialized in the principles of pediatric exercise science and should know how to teach, progress, and modify skill-based exercises.

Karate Science Academy was created precisely to accomplish that mission and help every Karate Sensei that want to learn and evolve to become a better professional.

Join our Telegram Community, where I share much more Evidence-Based knowledge related to Karate, almost every day!

Follow our KARATE ATHLETE ANALYZER, on Instagram, where I make Tactical and Technical Analysis of Top-Level WKF Kumite and Kata Athletes (generally, twice a day)

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