I've got a judo tournament in early May for which I want to be strong, quick in my reaction time and strength output, and in condition. Since it's still pretty far in the future, I'm working on strength for the moment. My judo training is year-round, so this is about my supplemental strength & conditioning training.

When should I switch from strength to conditioning? Should it be a slow transition, keeping some strength work, or an abrupt and total switch?


My high-bar back squat is my current primary strength project. I am currently squatting singles of 270 pounds (122.5 kg) at a bodyweight of 175 (79.4 kg), and triples around 250 (113.4 kg) , but would like to hit 300 (136 kg) if possible before transitioning. I'm deadlifting at 370 (168 kg) for a comfortable 1RM and 390 (177 kg) for a not-quite-good-form 1RM, and would like 405 (181.4 kg) before transitioning to other work. Upper-body work and the quick lifts are on rehab duty, so I won't bring them into this. I fully comprehend that the 300 and 405 goals are not necessarily possible in that timeframe, nor ideal for judo.

I can do a twenty-minute lifting or conditioning session on my lunch break, which I generally do two to four times a week (usually 10 squat singles or working up to a heavy 3 or 5 rep deadlift). I do longer lifting-plus-mobility sessions once or twice a week and can train judo one to four times a week.

  • How much more strength than your current would you like? What do you mean by "fast"? Reaction time? Running speed? How many hours do you currently have to distribute between supplemental strength/conditioning? LMK the answers to those questions and I can give you a better response.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 20:09
  • @JohnP Edited; let me know if I missed anything. Thanks. Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 20:16

3 Answers 3


Looking at your numbers, strength is not an issue if you are a local/regional level player, you are all set.

It looks like your biggest problem is the lack of mat time. 1 to 4 sessions a week is not enough and no amount of weight lifting is going to change that.

4 sessions a week is a minimum if you compete locally and you should be putting some serious randori time in those sessions.

If you are talking higher level, think 8-12 training sessions a week, incl. >10h of randori. Plus weight training.

Judo cardio is a different kind of animal. If you try to power through your throws, you will run out of gas fast, whereas the same throws with proper technique and timing are effortless and you might not even break a sweat. How long you will last in a contest is more related to your skills and ability to pace yourself than it is related to your cardio level. As such, if you want to develop a good "judo cardio" you have to put in the mat time, there is no substitute.

Bottom line, for Judo, you need the mat time. If your dojo does not provide enough session for you, look into training at another Dojo as well, or even cross training in BJJ, wrestling, or Sambo if that what it takes for you to get more mat time.


Judoka do not have as high V02max as other sports like bicycling, rowing. In this study LEVELS OF ANAEROBIC AND AEROBIC CAPACITY INDICES AND RESULTS FOR THE SPECIAL FITNESS TEST IN JUDO COMPETITORS. They have measured good judoka. They seem to be around 52 ml/kg/min . I think you can reach that in if your not already there in 45 days with Intervall/HIIT etc. They mention a special Judo fitness test in the paper.

I must stress although in the same article they mention that the competitors who increased the most in the Judo fitness test did not do as well in the competition. They think that this is due to not training enough judo or going pre matches before the national competition. Here is an study on overtraining judoka. But this depends on your goal: If you want to be the most fit judoka in the competion or the best.

  • You are correct. How fast someone can throw a non resisting opponent using his favorite grip means very little. The judo fitness tests do not take into account technique, timing, "instinct", strategy... at the end of the day, fitness is a minor factor.
    – Sylverdrag
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 11:41

Ok, given your program and what you would like to do (Along with the upper body restrictions), here's what I would recommend.

  1. Conditioning - I would concentrate on HIIT training for your lunch sessions, with an emphasis on agility and footwork drills. Leave the heavy lifting stuff for your lifting/mobility sessions. This will have the double effect of conditioning, as well as maximizing footwork and balance work in a short period of time.
  2. Reaction drills - Add in reaction training, much like hockey and other goalies go through. One example is a person standing behind you throwing a tennis ball at a wall in front of you, and you catch it on the rebound. This will help with response times as well as target tracking.
  3. Isometric training - As you get closer to the competition, I would work on isometric contractions and your ability to "root" yourself. Set yourself, then use a frame to pull yourself towards, and resist the pull as much as possible. I'm not sure how much of this you will get in regular judo training.

As you get closer to the competition, I would gradually dial back some of the intensity on the HIIT sessions, and step up the reaction time drills. While you are doing all of this, I would concentrate on recovery. I don't know how much time you have between matches, but for a 3-5 minute match, if you have to do 3 or 4 in a day (or more), then recovery will be paramount. Figure out what hydration/rest/cryotherapy strategy really enables you to recover the best between matches.

Once you drop the heavy lifting down a bit, I would add in plyometric and explosiveness exercises. Start working on rotation strength and torque strength for the throws. Keep everything towards the higher end on the explosive scale, with the caveat that it will also increase injury risk compared to the slower movements. You're going to have good strength and muscle mass, but you want to get the fast twitch fibers involved more than they will be with the slower, heavier movements.

(Disclaimer: I don't practice judo, I do a different martial art. This is how I would approach it from the outsider perspective.)

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