Strength Training for Judo

by Matt D'Aquino

Strength training for judo, I believe, is one of the best ways to improve performance due to the fact that judo has so many components to it. The reason I say this is because in order to be an elite judo player you must have a lot of every athletic component, therefore when we train we have so much to choose from. Just as a triathlete has three sports to choose from, we have so many components to our judo practice.

To be elite you need to be:

-Aerobically fit; to be able to complete a 2.5 hour randori session

-Anaerobically fit; be able to fight for a 5 minute fight

-Explosive; have the ability to explode at any second for a throw

-Agility; to defend your opponents attacks and escape throws

-Technically sound; have good competition execution of throws, submissions and pins

-Full body strength-endurance; to be able to last a 5 minute fight using all your muscle let alone lungs

-Maximal strength; have the strength to execute a pick up

-Flexible; be flexible enough to bend your way in and out of throws and escape pins

-Mentally strong; be able to put up with tough sessions as well as training day in and day out everyday

-Tactical mind; must be able to analyse your opponents and competition tactics on and off the mat

In this report I am going to talk about the type of strength training a judo player should be doing in order to become a more powerful, explosive judoka.

We need change:

Many modern judo players don't really know how to weight train properly. I believe this is due to two reasons:

1 –     There are many schools out there that give strength and conditioning qualifications and the instructors holding them donÕt even know how to teach a power clean let alone write a program for a judo player tapering for a competition.

2-      The older generations of judo players competed in a world without the physically strong countries that dominate the world today.

A lot of our older generations started weight training at the end of their careers and like many recreational people stick to what they were taught. These older judo players then go on to coach junior Judo players and teach them the same weight training techniques they did 20 years ago.

The problem with this is science has now tried and tested a lot of the ÔOld schoolÓ methods and have found them more harmful than good.

For example: it used to be common practice to train athletes until they vomit. Studies show that by training that hard you are filling your body with a poison and the only way to rid the body of poison is to vomit. Due to the fact that because you have filled your body with an acid the recovery is as much as 30% longer than if you went a bit easier and didnÕt vomit, without sacrificing results. This is a very important find and many coaches need to take this into account when running judo sessions.

What exercises should judo players do?

Judo players need to complete full body exercises (preferably in a standing position.) they also need grip strength, pulling strength, power and explosiveness. Along with this they need strong core muscles focusing on rotation above all others.

There are many fundamental exercises that are good for all levels of judo players. Some exercises are just too hard to learn so donÕt bother, eg Snatch, High pulls etc.

Below is a list of all the exercises I believe should be done by all competitive judo players. Most of these exercise I would prescribe 5 sets of 5 one week and 3 sets of 5 on the 2nd week. With a maximal lift once every 2 weeks.

I have chosen these exercises and perform them myself due to the power and explosive component of them all

The essential weights exercises:

Power Clean                Deadlifts                      Dips                            Rope climb

Bench press                 Push press                   BB Thrusters               Bar Dips

Gi Chin-ups                Pull-ups                       Farmers walk              1arm lat pulldown

Complexes                  BB squat jumps           Squats

I believe that when doing any abs you must use your upper body as well. This is because when doing judo you donÕt do a crunch or leg raise on the floor. When doing Judo your abs rotating and activating simultaneously with your upper body. Therefore when doing core exercises you should be using your arms at the same time.

Below is a list of exercise which simulate this type of simultaneous action.

NOTE: Crunches (I believe) are a waste of time for judo because you are never on the ground crunching up you are always standing and rotating.

Essential abs:

Windscreen wipers      L – Sits                       Wrestler twists          Spartan bench press KB Swing (or DB)           Dragon Flags             Hanging leg raises       Barbell twists

SA Shoulder press      Decline rotations

The following exercises are just good for judo. They require full body co-ordination and can be used as part of a training session (especially circuits.) Please note that the nature of these exercises makes them not maximal -- these should only be used in conditioning.

Miscellaneous exercises:

Shot putting (or db throw)      Sledgehammer             KB stuff                      Sandbag

Turkish get up                         Car pushing/pulling     Sled pulling                 Box jumps

MB Slams/Throws                  Clapping pushups

Cardio exercises

Rowing machine                     Elliptical                      Burpees                       Skipping

Hill Sprints                              Grinder                        Turkish get ups           agility runs

Boxing                                   

Below are some good strength exercises that are great as part of a judo session. They are also all good agility, explosive and strength exercises. Everything a judo player needs.

Single Judo exercises (ones you can do at the dojo buy yourself)

Bear crawls                             uchikomi rubbers        rope climbing          Wheelbarrow

Shadow uchikomi                   Cartwheels                  handstands               rolls

Dummy throws                       Squat jumps                hopping/bounding      

Crash mat flips                        Crash mat sprints        ne waza sit throughs

I hope this info sheet has helped you understand a bit more about the exercises I recommend when training for judo. Too many personal trainers in gyms and coaches donÕt quite understand what strength training is all about and prescribe exercises that are a waste of time.

For competitive judo you need full body power and strength and you cannot get that by doing a set of bicep curls or seated rows. You must be doing compound movements with heavy weight and low reps. This is the only way to build strength.

As for core strength, I donÕt know how much to stress that 50 floor crunches is not core strength. Complete the AB exercises listed above and your abs will be screaming the next day.

Good luck with your training I hope I have opened your mind to more specific training for judo utilising proper strength exercises instead of the usual program that so many players do on a regular basis.