I'm practicing Kyokushin karate, however I want to develop some muscle (weight training), speed and conditioning (punching tree, training shins too). And then there are the katas, very important.

How should I go about all of this? Is there a sequence like training your speed or condition after you gain muscle from weight training?

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    After the edit this looks like a solid question, though I think the OP will receive higher-quality answers if this were posted at fitness.stackexchange.com Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 12:03
  • It is generally good practice to wait at least 24hours before accepting an answer. It encourages others to add their own. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 12:47
  • Are you training at a dojo and under an instructor? As a fellow karataka I feel like these questions should probably be directed to your teacher. I would assume that a karate teacher has an itinerary of kihons that would help you develop the above mentioned.
    – Thien
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 13:44
  • @ChristopherLee Sadly, most martial arts instructors know approximately zero about effective strength and power training. Even the good ones. (Also, kihon don't develop much strength or power--they're meant to develop technique and conditioning.) Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 13:47
  • Well I do not really have much experience with many instructors. I train under a traditional Okinawan karate-do instructor, and my experiences are not like what you mentioned. My opinion would be to perhaps find a better instructor if that is possible. Perhaps someone more closely related to Okinawa.
    – Thien
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 13:56

5 Answers 5


Forgive me for my input here. 45 years ago when I started my training and was wrestling with the same issues, my Sensei took me aside and taught, Spend 2 hours on speed drills for every hour spent on weights. Weight training makes you powerful but slow.

To increase speed do the following:

A. Candles punches, stop 5" or 1 fist width short; kicks for at least 1/2 hour every day, No Gi Top for punches. If you are unable to put a candle out 10 of 10 punches, your speed and penetration are lacking. Start with a standard dinner candle, then when you can do this, add a second behind the first.

B., Practice your techniques in water. If you cannot punch and kick in water as quickly as in air, your techniques lack power or speed. Get into a pool or water, shoulder height, practice all your kicks and punches. Reading Oyama's book Advanced Karate, I picked up a couple tips. Instead of focusing on the fist going out, focus on the arm chambering like you plan on elbowing a guy behind you. You will be amazed how much more POP your punches have.

C, work on pure speed drills, Try to throw as many punches as possible for 15 seconds, rest and do it again, do this for at least 15 minutes daily.

For power, do Isometrics. The speed drills teach your muscles to relax, Isometrics teach them to become strong when impacting the target. Begin with 6 seconds as hard as you can push, work up to 1 minute. These will do what you want.

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    "Weight training makes you powerful but slow." This is not true for many forms of weight training. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 0:36
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    I have fond memories of the candle drill... I knocked a lit candle across a crowded restaurant once when trying to impress the girlfriend at the time with that technique. Good times :)
    – slugster
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 12:03
  • love the water reface!
    – YesTeacher
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 14:39

You should do basic strength training using progressive overload, at a slower rate than someone who is not simultaneously working hard at karate. After you've built a base of strength through weight training, you should add some explosive movements so you can utilize your newfound strength to produce speed and power.

Basically, this means you should do basic whole-body barbell exercises like the squat and deadlift alongside some combination of fundamental upper-body exercises like bench press, overhead press, Turkish get-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups, and dips. (Don't do all of those; just pick a few.) Start light, practice good form, and add weight regularly. A basic program might be:

  1. Warm up
  2. 20 barbell squats
  3. Alternating maximum sets of pull-ups and dips, 5 times through with little rest

or, try Jim Wendler's advice for combat sports athletes:

Day 1: squat, bench, any other minor exercises you feel like doing

Day 2: deadlift, overhead press, any other minor exercises you feel like doing

or, if you refuse to get a barbell and squat rack:

  1. Warm up
  2. 10 reps (each side) of Turkish get-ups with a dumbbell
  3. Two sets of 20 dumbbell squats
  4. Pull-ups, three maximal sets

or use a vetted strength (not bodybuilding) program like Starting Strength (progressing slower than usual, and maybe only lifting twice a week), or 5/3/1, or GreySkull Linear Progression.

After you achieve a 1.5x bodyweight squat or 2x bodyweight deadlift, look into power variations of the Olympic lifts (power clean, push press, and so on) to develop explosiveness and speed. You'll get your conditioning from karate class; don't worry about cardio.

Don't use lifting as an excuse to skip class or to perform poorly in class. Lift after class, or on the day after class, so that you have plenty of time to recover before your next karate class. Practice kata and hitting things (heavy bags, trees) whenever you like, but don't let it interfere with class or lifting.

  • Yea i used to do riptoes then I cut off excess fat and saw that I was doing much better in karate competitions, i stopped the weight training been 8 months to concentrate fully on karate ( day and night)...I think i'll get back to it. BTW how does rope skipping get into this? Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 12:27
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    @BeachSamurai Rope skipping would fit in with cardio--I don't see a tremendous need for it, considering you're training karate. If you feel like jumping rope then priority-wise it goes after karate and after lifting, alongside kata and bag work outside of class. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 12:30
  • OK more importantly whats the time period I should focus on this weight training? I stopped after 2 years (1.5yrs bulking + 5 months cutting (dirty bulk :( )) but im no more into body building..shoudl I stop after I reched my BMI? around 75kg-80kg ? if I stop will i lose muscle? Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 12:35
  • ok i checked over at the fitness section and came over this phrase "o the effect of if you can't deadlift 2x your bodyweight and squat your own bodyweight, you have no business training martial arts" from this thread fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/7347/… . I think it answers my questions. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 13:08
  • If you liked that, read this Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 13:12

Dave gave a great answer. I would add for speed training : you can practice your techniques (punching and kicking) shadow boxing with light weights in you hands. Say 3-5 pounds.

Don't forget to never fully extend your arms and legs when trainign with weights

So you can do a couple of rounds of : one round shadow boxing with weights and then one round hitting the bag as fast as you can.

I would not recommend hitting a heavy bag (ex : 200+ pounds) because you will naturally tend to try to push it with strengh instead of hitting it with speed. o a +- 60 pounds bag will do the trick.

Speed training and strengh training are really different because you use a different fiber in you muscles.

You can also do speed jabbing on a bag : throw 2-3 jabs as fast a you can. Move around a bit, work on your foot step for 10 seconds and throw anoter 2-3 jabs. Switch side after 1 minute.

It's basically what I did and worked pretty well. Keep in mind tough, we're all different so some methods won't work as well for you and some won't work for me.

Keep training ! OSU !

  • Osu! thanks for the input. whats the difference between jabs and hitting with speed? Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 2:09
  • No problem. The difference with hitting with multiple jabs instead of switching arms betweed each hits will help you developp speed with the same arm, making it faster rather than just speed when switching arms. It works on your explosiveness using the same muscle, thus allowing you to be faster when you'll switch techniques ( jab, punch hook for example) Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 15:07

Improve speed, technique and strength.

For speed!

Go through Kihon techs as fast as you can. For instance, throw out Jodan Masashi Geri while maintaining balance and technique in quick rapid succession.

For overall strength!

Lots of heavy bag work. Try different combinations.


Total body flexibility training. Spend a lot of your time stretching.

Combination training for overall speed, strength and tech.

Oi tsuki, yako tsuki, lead leg gedan mawashi geri, back leg Jodan mawashi, spinning ushiro Geri.

For strength training add really light hand weights for the punching techniques.


I prefer using (and recommending) isometric exercise for strength training. Anecdotally, I've experienced far fewer injuries using isometric resistance than I have using free weights (and I have been training for almost 30 years now). Speed is a function of several factors: raw synaptic response times, efficiency of movement, preparedness (mental and physical), and conditioned response.

You really can't do anything to improve your in-born synaptic efficiency. Either you have good reflexes, or you don't, but that is just a single factor when it comes to speed.

Efficiency of movement can be improved through repetition of a technique(s), and it's especially useful to practice one's techniques at a slow speed where you focus on the correctness of form (thus the adage - slow down to speed up).

Preparedness can be improved in several ways. Mental exercises can be performed just about anywhere. Methodically examine in the mind's eye how you would react if the guy passing you on the sidewalk suddenly turned and threw a right hook at you. Step-by-step, how would you move to defend yourself and disable the threat of further violence? Physical preparedness can be improved by free-form sparring. You don't need anything more than light contact to see the benefits of having to react on the fly to another person's combat decisions. The best benefits will come from utilizing a large sample size of sparring partners (and from differing disciplines if possible).

By conditioned/trained response I am referring to training your muscles to react more quickly and in an 'explosive' manner. This is as close as you can get to altering your inborn synaptic transmission rate, and it is really more about changing how quickly your muscles react than it is to altering your nervous system. The best way I have found to achieve this is through the use of 'explosive' and/or plyometric exercise. This includes things like clapping pushups, high-energy rope skipping, lateral box jumping, and medicine ball throws. These kinds of exercises can condition your muscles to contract faster, and thus move more quickly.

As for strength. Speed and strength usually go hand in hand. There are of course different measures of strength, but remember Force equals mass times acceleration (F = ma).

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