Strength and Conditioning


Whether you’re a tactical specialist, a serious competitor, or a weekend warrior you know the many benefits of martial arts training. If you’re reading this, you’ve already committed to the discipline of training your mind and body. You work up a sweat during your martial arts classes every week. You are mentally tough. Why should you consider supplementing strength and conditioning? Here are three great reasons, along with some tips to get you started.

1. Get an edge

As a martial artist, you are always training to be better than your opponent. Oftentimes, the greatest enemy is the limitations within yourself. You may have all the tactical techniques mastered, but how will that help if the match drags on and you run out of energy to keep going?

Get a leg up on the competition by choosing metabolic conditioning routines that include

a variety of work to rest ratios. Some examples include; low-intensity interval training (LIIT), high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and supramaximal intensity training (SMIT). Try hill repeats, sprints, or bodyweight exercises like burpees and battling ropes.  This will torch fat, preserve lean muscle, and give you the upper hand.

2. Performance Gains

Each of your martial arts sessions is primarily devoted to skill acquisition. If you have developed a well-rounded routine off the mat, you can focus on technical development and incorporate techniques more quickly.  Do this by adding in a resistance training program two to three times per week. First, build a base foundation of strength for three to six weeks. Then, alter your training to focus on strength endurance for four to six weeks. Finally, devote 3-5 weeks to power.

3. A Better Defense

Many injuries are non-contact in nature. For example, if one muscle group is uncharacteristically stronger than another, it may overpower the assisting stabilizer muscles, which can cause injury.  To prevent injury, work on flexibility and build strength through range of motion. If nothing else, more flexibility will make it more difficult to be submitted!

When you strengthen opposing muscle groups equally, you are less likely to develop an overuse injury. Build a well-rounded body by training push, pull, and rotational movements. For example, the opposite of bench press (push) is a back row (pull), and the opposite of the deadlift (pull) is the squat (push).

Stiffness in the hips and shoulders is often caused by a poorly functioning core. Focused work on anti-extension, anti-flexion, and anti-rotational stability will translate to faster reaction times and the ability to change direction more quickly. More powerful kicks, throws, and punches are other common side effects.

Tip: Foam roll before and stretch after every workout to improve your strength through range of motion and reduce soreness and recovery time.


Before you strategize to compete against your upcoming opponent (known or unknown), develop a strength and conditioning strategy to fight your limitations and give you a competitive advantage in your discipline. Go on the offense with cardiovascular interval conditioning and holistic strength training. Prevent injury and improve agility by dedicating time to core training, foam rolling, and flexibility work. By using these strategies, you will develop into an unstoppable martial arts athlete.

Written by:

Annaleis “Katie” Woodsum, CSCS
Soon after receiving her bachelor’s in Kinesiology, Annaleis worked for the United States Marine Core as a personal trainer, health instructor, and gym manager. She built her dream gym at Camp Pendleton and then moved on to work as an adaptive sports coach to active-duty and veteran wounded, ill and injured Marines and Sailors.

Annaleis believes that the body is a tool that can be fine-tuned to express the true individual. She takes a holistic, functional approach so that you may see and feel the personal training benefits in every aspect of life and is currently the active Health and Fitness Director for the Martial Arts Unlimited Association.