7 Principles of Strength Training for Karate Kids


Learn what is the “PROCESS” method…

PROCESS defines the 7 Principles of Strength Training for Karate 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 Karateka tolerating 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 adult age.

PROCESS means Progression, Regularity, Overload, Creativity, Enjoyment, Socialization, Supervision. These are the Keys to a high-quality Strength Training program for Kids!!

We have 3 old, but fundamental Principles: Progression, Regularity, and Overload…

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

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



The Principle of Progression simply means that the demands of training should be increased gradually. Doing this over time allows achieving long-term gains in muscular strength.

Respect the pace of each of your students, ok?

Does this mean that you need to use heavier weights or more repetitions in every class? NO!! You even must have sessions where you decrease the training load with specific goals. But in the long-term, your kids should be able to workout with heavier resistances or make more repetitions. This depends on the exercise and of what type of strength you want to develop in a certain session.

To learn more about Types of Strength, click on What do you mean when you say you are strong?

The strength training, through time, should progressively become more challenging. Doing this your younger Karateka will continue to adapt and maintain interest in the classes.

How do you make Progression?

You can make it in 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



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

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

We all know that most of the Dojos in the World organize their Kids’ Classes 1, 2 or 3 times per week. That means that you should have strength training in every Karate session! The exception is if 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 that is perfect to describe this: “USE OR LOSE IT”!

Oh, and this is also true for adults…



Simple definition: To enhance muscular fitness, the body must exercise at a level beyond that at which is normally stimulated!

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 that, but if they can’t don’t beat them down – physically or psychologically. Maybe they are not lazy… Maybe they gave all they had!

You can manipulate training overload by changing the intensity, volume, frequency or the type of exercise.



This is fundamental to optimize the training effects and your Karateka motivation! How do you motivate a “PlayStation Kid”, an obese Kid, a low self-confidence Kid or an uncoordinated Kid to make strength training?

Don’t give up on them, when they are 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 that you have the capacity of influencing their Kids health and personality… We all know 99,9% of Karate Dojos charge money for the classes. Every Karate teacher has the right to be paid for their 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…

And they pay for Karate classes in your Dojo because they look at you as a qualified professional and person to help them…

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

Creativity is just planning your classes with novel exercises and new training equipment. Today, we have a bunch of equipment: hurdles, cones, medicine balls, elastic bands, dumbells, sticks, plyo boxes, balance mats and cushions, poles, balls, etc…



Enjoyment is so, so important for participation in youth fitness and sports programs (Visek el al, 2015)!! That’s why it’s not difficult to change Karate classes where the Sensei takes 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?!?

Man, Sports Science and Psychology show us that that is not effective!! Please, see the methodology that Sensei Aschieri 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. 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 Coach that justify all their Dojo’s dropouts with their students’ laziness.

Do you know what my opinion is? Every Dojo has dropouts. That’s impossible to avoid. But when a Dojo have a high percentage of dropouts the Lazy is the Karate Sensei, that doesn’t work and learn more so he can keep his 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 are teaching them and will achieve the goals that you want them to achieve. It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN situation: Your Kids-You-Their Parents-Karate (these are the 4 WINS).

Although encouragement from Karate teachers and support from family and friends can influence, the enjoyment a child feels during and after your classes can highly facilitate what we want from them.

But what is Enjoyment?!?

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 abilities of your Karate groups and 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 more simple task with the help of Science. And with time it becomes easier! I can speak for myself because I have 80 Kids and Adolescents (ages from 3-year and 16-year-old) in a small town with 15.000 people.

If you didn’t read it already in our materials, Karate Science Academy emerged from my own need for answers!! Science and Masters that follow and progress their own knowledge with Science are the best resources…



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 into Psychology Science (that’s for other articles).

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

If you pay more attention in your classes you will see what happens to the Kids that feel incompetent in their physical skills in front of others. Just think what are going to be the results of that student’s personality, motivation, and Karate development…



Resume it this way…

The safety and efficacy of Strength and Karate training are maximized when Karate Senseis are qualified professionals. Supervise every exercise, while providing meaningful and adequate feedback throughout the entire training session!! (Coutts et al. 2004)

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 on basic exercises before progressing to more complex movements.

Karate Trainers that teach Kids should be well versed 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.


If you want to know more about Karate Science, click here.

Karate Science Academy has a mission: to take Science into all Dojos in the world.


P.S. – Karate Science Academy wants to thank the researchers and teachers Avery Faigenbaum and James McFarland their fundamental work in Youth Sport’s Science… Now, it’s our turn, as Human Movement professionals, to apply all the knowledge they bring us with their dedication. In Karate words: ARIGATO GOZAIMASHITA!!

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