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What is the Best Exercise for Martial Arts?

fitness, martial arts, aikido, clearwater florida

Cardio. Weights. HIIT/Tabata. Yoga. Pad Striking. Kihon. Musubi. Kumitachi. Shiai. Machines. Gadgets/Gizmos.

This is a topic we generally avoid because we don't want to offend those who are not "in shape" but hold high degrees of rank. We all know these people and they exist in every martial art. At some level, we resign ourselves to "nature's course" assuming that because our chosen martial art doesn't give us the conditioning results we hoped for, we are doomed to feel, look, and perform the way that we do.

Obviously this is faulty logic based on a defeated mind.

There are generally two types of martial artists when it comes to these issues: 1) Those who are overweight 2) Those who are underweight

Overweight. This is an incredibly boring segment of martial artists, not because we feel less sympathy or empathy with them, but because the answer is obvious. No matter how you do it (macros, points, etc...), the simple math is: Calories In/Calories Out. (Don't worry, we'll get to "quality of calories" later)

Underweight. This group is phenomenally more interesting because their issues generally don't reside in their carrying too much weight, but the lack of elasticity, nutrition, and overall wellness in their bodies.

Most of us don't realize that no matter what martial art you begin studying, your body doesn't acclimate automatically with your existing fitness/nutrition (or lack thereof). We get away with this when we are young because our bodies are naturally more flexible and recover faster.

Exercise is critical in supplementing your martial arts lifestyle because it keeps your body strong enough to endure the rigors of training. Much like rock climbing may really work your forearm flexors, but result in issues because of the lack of extensor work, martial arts can do the same to our bodies if studied without supplemental exercise.

So what exercise is the best? Variety is the best answer here.

Relying solely on cardio, or weights will often result in the benefits of one to the lack of the other. No striking work? You'll probably have trouble if you're a grappler and you want practicality in your martial art studies (striking, whether used as a way to damage or distract your opponent, is an important part of training).

Here's a great 5/2 (5 days of exercise to 2 days of rest) routine (Monday - Friday):

Monday: Legs

Tuesday: Striking/Cardio

Wednesday: Upper Body (e.g., Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, etc...)

Thursday: Yoga

Friday: Upper Body (e.g., whatever you didn't work on Wednesday, like Biceps/Back)

The most important aspect of any supplemental routine is: Consistency over the long term. It's great to work out for a few days, but if you burn out after the first week and go back to ice cream and donuts, you'll quickly build a consistency of failure (and this routine reinforces itself via the sugar we often consume).

If you need an easy way to get into a good routine, find out if your dojo offers any supplemental training on-site. A good sign of a dojo is when the Sensei is training as hard or harder than the students - setting a good example at every age. This does not mean training like you are 20 when you are 60, it just means training at your highest level for your ability.

As always, remember that everything offered here and at our dojo is for your to examine, try, and ultimately decide to integrate or discard from your daily routine. The only time I consider myself victorious is when someone finds their path due in small or large part to my shared experience.

See you on the mat,


P.S. Our dojo offers daily routines that closely match the 5/2 schedule above. Students are always welcome to join Sensei during his training time at 5pm EST during the week and is open to all levels of fitness.

P.P.S. Remember - whatever your goal is - what you eat matters. For Sensei's recommendations on food/drink, ask at the dojo, send an email or call.

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