Strength Training for Karate

What do you MEAN when you say you are STRONG?


You must know this… it SHOULD be basic knowledge for every Karate Trainer

One of the most misunderstood subjects in Karate and Sports, in general, is the concept of “being strong”. Who is stronger:

  1. A Karateka that jumps higher or a Karateka that lifts more weight in a simple squat?
  2. A Karateka that makes 50 push-ups in a row or someone who punches an heavy bag with more power?
  3. A Karateka who is able to maintain a perfect Shiko-Dachi or Neko-Ashi-Dachi for 5 minutes or a Karateka who knocks you down with a single Mawashi-Geri to your leg or trunk?

These are good questions!!

And Karate Science Academy will explain it in a very simple way: they’re all strong but in different types of Strength and different kinds of muscle action. Look at the image below.


Types of Strength

  1. Maximal Strength: the biggest amount of weight you can lift in a single repetition. For example, in a squat at the gym.
  2. Rapid Strength: the ability to generate a strength impulse in a short period of time. For example, a quick punch that our opponent cannot defend.

Explosive Strength: the fastest impulse our neuromuscular system can produce in a short period of time. Here we’re not necessarily talking about movement, but neuromuscular impulse; in other words, if you try to push a wall as fast as you can, you’re not able to move it, but you activate your muscles in a very fast way. That’s Explosive Strength. And you’ve different kinds of Explosive Strength if you try to overcome less or more than 25% of your Maximal Strength

Muscle Power: Force X Velocity. It demands a fast muscle contraction and movement. With low resistance we’re talking more about velocity dimension of Power (a simple punch or kick); but if you have to throw a heavy training partner that resists, we’re now talking about force dimension of Power. To be called muscle Power must have movement.

Reactive Strength: the great majority of Karate movements are not pure and isolated muscular actions. Reactive Strength manifests itself in Stretch-Shortening Cycles of the muscles.

Karate Application: we’re talking about Kumite displacements or when you pull-back an arm before the major technique in a Kata (for example, the Shuto movement in Chatanyara Kushanku, where you pull the arm back before executing the defense – this give you much more power).

  1. Endurance Strength: the ability to produce strength for a medium or long-term period while keeping the muscular performance at a high level (fatigue resistance).

Karate Application: to perform longer Katas like Suparinpei or Chatanyara Kushanku or to maintain a good level of fighting for longer periods, you’ll need Endurance Strength.


Types of Muscle Actions

Dynamic Muscle Actions

  1. Concentric Actions: when the muscle contraction is higher than the resistance that it has to surpass, voluntary movement occurs. This is the main contraction type used by your muscles to produce movement and is responsible for acceleration.

Karate Application: the knee raise and leg extension in a Mae-Geri or when you move in Zenkutsu-dachi.

  1. Eccentric Actions: when the muscle contraction is lower than the resistance that it has to surpass. The muscles are producing strength, trying to shorten, but what is really happening is an extension of that muscle. This kind of action is produced by external forces and is relevant for movement brake and damping. 

Karate application

  1. when an opponent unbalances you trying to make a successful throw and you can avoid it by braking strongly with your foot on the ground;
  2. when you must change your body displacement direction to avoid a counterattack in Kumite;
  3. when you make a fast displacement in Kata and need to stop in a steady, stable and strong stance.

Static Muscle Actions

  1. Isometric Actions: when the muscle contraction is similar to the resistance. This happens when you have your muscles tense but there is no movement.

Karate application: the maintenance of a Shiko-dachi or any other leg stance while executing Te Waza or Uke Waza Kihon


I hope this was useful to you to understand better how you and your student’s bodywork, so you can plan the better exercises for your classes.

P.S. – Always remember that all types of Strength play their role in Karate. You must have a balanced training planning so you can reach the best and healthier Karate you can – for you and your students. You will learn all you need at Karate Science Academy…

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