Ok, going along the vein of a man who coaches himself has a fool for a client, I am looking for recommendations on a training cycle to support competing in martial arts forms and weapons competitions, possibly sparring (Although I am not that fast, which is death in our style of point sparring). Edited to add: My style is ATA Tae Kwon Do, and I am currently a 4th degree.

I will take care of my own cardio fitness and flexibility training (Although if you have pet exercises for flexibility {esp legs}, please share), and I will have 30-60 minutes (possibly a little more on certain days) every day to be able to devote specifically to weight training. I am not looking for "Oh, you should do some lats", if you have a suggestion for exercises, I would also like the rationale behind it.

Here are the mitigating factors:
I have spent the last 3-4 years stripping upper body mass and weight, since I competed in triathlons during that time, so upper body is much weaker than it used to be. It's not overly weak, but definitely weaker in comparison to where my lower body is at. I am also in the early stages of rehabbing a right Achilles tendon rupture, but don't let that stop you recommending, I just may not be able to do some leg stuff right away. I plan to spend the next 11 months rehabbing and prepping for the next tournament season which starts next June.

Here is an excellent example of the form I am currently competing with. (Note, this is at the Worlds tournament which follows the World championship rings, first tournament of the new year.)

(I wavered between here and the martial arts SE site, I could be convinced to post there, but I thought it had a bit more relevance here.)

  • I looked at the video, impressive form. One thing that I start thinking about is how weight-lifting will impact the practice & execution of the form itself. From my basketball playing days, I remember that too much weightlifting (legs and/or upperbody) was bad for my long distance shots. Sort of touches on this question about Neural Adaption vs Hypertrohpy, fitness.stackexchange.com/q/7235/3778
    – FredrikD
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 10:57
  • 2
    I think this question belongs here instead of MA.SE; that SE has a strong anti-modern-training bias. Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 14:17
  • Have you considered a basic strength training programme, aimed at novices, like the currently popular Starting Strength or Stronglifts? Per your post, I guess you'll be able to make very decent gains.
    – VPeric
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 13:00
  • This is a great question, but unfortunately I'm not familiar enough with the strength/mobility needs of a TKD competitor to speak knowledgably about programming. Any answer of mine would veer towards' VPeric's good point about general and basic strength training (perhaps with an upper-body emphasis?). Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


These guys are in the Swedish national team in Shorinji Kempo. They compete in Embu (sort of form) In this video they won the European competition. They are now practicing for the world championship next year. They only do exercises for speed. They want to be faster since the Japanese are smaller and faster then they are.

They do thrusters at about 60% of max and they do knee box jump. They do few reps with just 60% of 1RM and rest for minutes between sets. They try to be relaxed and concentrated before every rep. They do every rep as fast as they can. They have the feeling after the weight training that they should have done more. That they are energetic, full of energy afterwards. They only focus on the explosive muscle exercises. Only typ IIb fibers. I train with them and they seem to know what they are doing.

IMHO opinion in the video that showed the form you are training for the person who showed the form was very flexible and strong. But he could have been faster. Especially his hands were slow when he did his fast punches. But I do no know what the judges prefer in this sort of competition.

Since you are practicing flexibility and cardio already I believe you should focus on speed and developing explosive muscles. Since this has to do a lot with the nervous system you should take special concern and not just do as many reps you can.


I don't have the book with me at the moment, but in Tom Kurz's book Stretching Scientifically, he says something to the effect of if you can't deadlift 2x your bodyweight and squat your own bodyweight, you have no business training martial arts. I think that's good advice, so we're there with the old stand bys of deadlifts and squats for strength training. Honestly, squats are my pet leg flexibility exercise - I've had incredibly tight hamstrings since what feels like forever, and with various stretching routines, yoga and the like, only squats (initially deadlifts to get to where I could do squats) have helped me.

It's been ages since I've done forms, but looking at that video, I would think cable exercises could be useful. Wood chops and reverse wood chops, and supine grip rows off the top of my head would likely help. Also, some kettlebell floor to standing lifts, like Turkish get ups look like they could also be of use for transitioning.

Also, I couldn't say if this would help for forms, but it should definitely help for sparring. Buddy Lee has a book on rope skipping out that should definitely help with the quickness and being light on your feet that's necessary to get in, score, and move out before getting scored on yourself.

  • Hrm, yoga, I hadn't even thought about that. My local gym-in-a-box has yoga classes. I think I have Kurz's book somewhere, if not I'll have to pick it up. Oh, and any recommendations on training days? Legs mon, chops/rotation tues, etc?
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:38
  • I like doing it all on one day, high intensity, minimal reps, one set. That leaves me feeling fine the rest of the week. I've gravitated towards that specifically so I can train martial arts 2-3 times a week. If I'm lifting weights 2-3 times a week and doing martial arts 2-3 times a week, even if I alternate days, I'm still having consecutive work days, and maybe as low as only 1 rest day each week. I don't think that's sustainable.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:59

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