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So, I've started doing Judo again after 8 years abstinence (I'm 28 now) and I really suck fitness wise and technical wise. Unfortunatly we only have training once a week which is probably not enough to keep the momentum going.

I'm looking for ideas how to brush up my skills.

Some points I'm struggling with at the moment:

  • I really really suck at chins (I'm hardly be able to finish 1). Looking for ideas how to train that (I don't want to go to a fitness studio, body-weight, DIY training is prefered)
  • Technical wise I feel I need to refresh some stuff (I've done weekly traing from age 13 to 20 so I'm not starting from zero) but I'd like to train for myself but I'm not sure how to correct myself because more often than not I'm not getting the technique at the first tries.
  • I'm running about 10kms 2x a week, is this enough? Should I push here harder?
  • What would be a good daily routine for Judo?

If that matters, I'm rather large (1,90m, 95kg) guy. 2nd Kyu.

Any Ideas are welcome.

edit: Wow. I'm overwhelmed by your great responses. Would like to mark everything as correct answer. Thanks to all!

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Excellent question. –  Dave Liepmann Jul 15 '12 at 1:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Disclaimer: I am a beginner in both judo and physical culture. My views on strength, conditioning, and technique should be viewed with skepticism.

You're right that training once a week is insufficient. Most people won't see much progress in either physical condition or skills at less than two days a week minimum. I'll address solutions in the context of the "struggle points" that you mentioned.

Chin-ups and a Workout Routine for Judo

You are right to be concerned with strength, and chin-up strength in particular. While judo is a sublime skill and technical art, it relies on the body being strong and agile. Pulling strength is of particular use in judo. (The first movement of nearly all uchikomi practice is "pull your partner off balance", is it not?)

I recommend an all-around strength training program for judo, such as described in this answer. For further technical reading on this topic, see Practical Programming by Rippetoe and Kilgore. If you're training judo once a week and running twice a week, and assuming you're eating right and getting enough sleep, then two lifting sessions per week is probably about right.

You might not feel ready for that yet, or you might want to focus on the smaller goal of chin-ups, in which case my advice in this answer is relevant: train your strength as generally as possible, but pull-ups with a gi are king. (A towel will serve admirably in a pinch.) Since you can't yet do a pull-up, a goal of three in a row is a fair one.

  • Start with a bar and work up to gi or towel pull-ups
  • Remember to get a full range of motion: arms fully extended and relaxed at the bottom, chest touching the bar at the top.
  • Start with negatives: jump up to the top and lower yourself down as slowly as possible. Keep trying to resist the downward movement all the way to the end.
  • One method that I've seen espoused, but have not tried, is holding the top of the chin-up for a 10-count before lowering oneself down.

At-home technical training

My biggest concern for training for judo at home is to avoid ingraining bad habits. To that end, most of my solo training is for strength, power, conditioning, mobility, or agility. That can include lifting weights (squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, power cleans, presses), sprints and unusual exercises to make myself tired very quickly, morning warm-ups and stretches, yoga, and "pre-hab" exercises. So I am not very well acquainted with at-home technical training, such as discussed in this question.

That said, I have tried the following, which may have been marginally productive:

I have heard that grappling dummies are fun, but I have not used one. My understanding is that they are better for drilling well-known technique, rather than figuring out new possibilities or trying to turn a technique one barely knows into a technique one is good with.

Running for Judo

Running twice a week is great, but consider switching to or adding sprints. Distance running is good stuff, but judo (and most athletics in general) benefit greatly from the power and metabolic training of short-duration, high-intensity bursts of effort. My method, adapted from my coach's advice, is a brief dynamic warm-up followed by a half-mile run. I then sprint two to six times on the way back, with the distance of the sprints inversely proportional to the number I intend to do: 50 yards each if I'm going to do 5 or 6; 100 yards each if I'm only going to do a couple. I let myself recover completely or almost completely between sprints. I'll throw in some lunges and karaoke runs and the short workout is over.

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Thanks for your detailled response, I'll definetly add sprints to my workout routine. So much good ideas here! –  mt_ Jul 16 '12 at 19:09

Fitness for martial arts doesn't mean just strength or aerobic capacity. It also requires flexibility and agility. Please don't ignore stretching--both in order to be better, and also to train safer. Injuries often inhibit, even preclude, eager training. (Said by the guy who's not trained seriously for a month while nursing a shoulder injury.)

When I moved from judo to eskrima and kung fu, I was astounded how much more time and attention practitioners of these other styles spent on stretching than any of the judo clubs I'd trained in (including great ones like Oishi and Columbia University in New York).

Without doing a complete "how to stretch for judo" spiel, I'd suggest stretches emphasizing the groin, legs, wrists, neck, and back. Also, don't just drop down into stretches cold. Warm up first, and start with light stretching, deepening as you get warmer and more limber. It also helps to do your final, deepest stretching set after the main part of your workout, when you're at your warmest. There is a lot of how-to material already out there, including some good videos on YouTube and blogs on specific techniques.

I also found that holding stances--a practice of Chinese martial arts that many judoka I trained with openly mocked--dramatically improved my ability to execute pretty much every sweep and throw. The "bow" and "horse" stances are the most immediately applicable to judo, though "crane," "crossover," "tiger," and others have all helped me. The biggest trick of using these is not just to hold them with strength, but to use them as stretches and "relax into them." Focus on proper posture rather than how low you can go. To go lower and get a deeper stretch, relax rather than using muscular force. If you're not used to doing them, they're not comfortable to hold and you'll being thinking "Relax?! WTF is he on about?!!" But as you stretch more--safely and mindful of your body's current flexibility, please!--they really, really improve your martial arts.

You might also consider cross-training in a discipline such as yoga, Pilates, or dance that focuses on stretching, posture, flexibility, and limberness.

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+1, stance work is very important for throwing strength. we judoka find ourselves needing to produce force from strange positions, and stance work is helping me not suck at that. –  Dave Liepmann Jul 15 '12 at 17:20
    
Thanks for your detailled response! –  mt_ Jul 16 '12 at 19:08

For chin ups, do as many as you can (starting with the one) from a dead hang, then jump yourself up to the top and hold yourself as long as possible, and then slowly lower yourself down. Assuming you give yourself enough rest (in days), you should be able to see an improvement of 1-2 per week.

Squats will be hugely useful for a lot of Judo techniques. If your body has a hard time physically doing the action (generally you'll not be able to get low enough), it'll look like your technique is crap. The hip drive on squats and deadlifts is also quite applicable to a lot of throws. If you don't want to sign up at a gym, buying yourself a set of dumbbell handles with some plates to adjust weights would still be advisable. Most weight routines are designed with barbells in mind, and you need one to do back squats, but I've found dumbbells to be plenty to start with. Bodyweight only routines are great if you don't have the money for any equipment, but given Judo costs money, I'd assume you could afford to spend some one-time money on equipment you'll use for a long time.

I don't think running is that applicable to Judo, you could cut it back to 10km 1/week if you like, if you're fine with 2/week no reason to stop doing that though. Only way I'd suggest upping it is if you're running a greater distance in the same time, there's really no point in drawing it out to the point that you're going on 2-3 hour runs on a regular basis (unless you enjoy it so much that it feels more like recreation than a workout). I'd suggest rope skipping as being more applicable to Judo training than running, while being in the same general category of exercise.

I'd avoid actually doing a daily routine, rest days are really important, so the most frequent you'd want is every second day. For starters, 2-3 times per week working on weights (deadlifts, squats, presses, chin ups) would be good, and as you get stronger you'll probably find it useful to cut back to 1-2 times per week - as you get stronger your body needs more time to recover.

Also, grip strength is pretty useful, so once you're good enough at regular chin-ups, start doing towel chin ups instead, or do as many reps to failure with the towel and then switch to a normal grip and do those to failure, followed by the assisted up to hang and then lower. Getting yourself a grip trainer, like the Ivanko Supper Gripper might also be a good idea. For the price I think it's a good investment given the importance of grip strength in Judo.

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Thanks for your detailled response. I've looked into hindu-squats but I'm always a little bit afraid of doing too much squats because they are probably bad on your knees? This grip-trainer looks good too, another weak point of mine. –  mt_ Jul 16 '12 at 19:11
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Poorly done squats are bad for your knees, well done squats are good for your knees. I'd lean towards bodyweight squats being potentially worse because of the higher reps you need to do to get any results from them, so any effects of poor form are amplified. –  Robin Ashe Jul 16 '12 at 19:29

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