Fitness & Conditioning Articles

Core Strengthening Exercises for Judo

"Nearly all Judo throws require you to rotate in order to complete the technique. Therefore It is crucial that all Judokas have rotational strength to finish throws and drive through any resistance you may encounter from your opponents defense. This rotational strength can also be labelled as core strength. Having good core strength will give you the ability to transfer power from the lower body into the upper body as well as protecting the spine from a potential injury. Throughout my years as an international competitor I always tried to have a good, strong core. To develop a good core u have listed some of the best exercises below.

Russian twists

Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Grasp a weight (a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell) and proceed to rotate the weight from your left side to the right side and back again. If this is too easy lift your feet slightly off the ground and repeat for 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

Wrestler twists

While standing grasp a round weight plate (or kettlebell) and begin to rotate around your head. Repeat in both directions for desired number of repetitions. Note: if you have or have previously had a shoulder injury the do not attempt this exercise.

Core hold

Ab brace, prone hold, plank or bridge. This exercise has so many names and most the time it is performed incorrectly. To perform a core hold properly simply assume a pushup position but rest on your elbows instead of your hands. Your hips should be parallel to the floor do not drop your hips or raise them too high. Concentrate on your abdominal and lower back muscles and slowly bring your shoulder blades together. Hold for desired time limit. If this becomes to easy slowly raise an opposite arm and leg off the flood resulting in you having to adjust your hips accordingly.

Hanging leg raises

This seems like a simple exercise but is actually very difficult. Hang off a chin up bar and hang your feet slightly off the floor. Contract your core muscles, slightly bend your knees and raise your feet as high as you can towards the bar. Try to avoid any excess swinging. If this is too difficult raise your knees to your chest instead. Perform 4 sets of 15 repetitons

Back extensions

Using a back extension machine perform 4 sets of 15 repetitions. It is important that you don't hyperextend you back, only go until you are parallel to the floor.

Spartan bench press

Lay on the floor and hold a barbell above you as if you have just finished a bench press. Be sure not to have your elbows locked out, keep them slightly bent. Contract your core and begin to raise your feet off the ground. Touch your feet to the collar on one side of the bar before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other side for desired number of repetitions.

Pelvic floor muscles

Your pelvic floor is something that has only flooded the fitness industry in the last decade. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that help you stop urinating mid flow. To get your pelvic floor muscles stronger you must consciously contract your pelvic floor muscles until they contract without you thinking about it. The best way i can describe your pelvic floor is to suck your belly button into your lower back or spine.

For more help on pelvic floor strengthening exercises you will have to see your local strength and conditioning specialist or Physio.

By consistently performing these exercises in your strength program will greatly increase your core strength resulting in you having a more powerful rotation when throwing.

6 Workouts that will help your Judo Fitness

It is very important that the workouts you are completing as part of your fitness and conditioning are catered towards Judo. Judo fights are 5 minutes in length and you need to be fit enough to be able to fight hard for five minutes, have 5 minutes off and then fight again. Therefore your training should be something very similar to this. Here are 6 circuits designed specifically for Judo. These circuits will dramatically increase your cardiovascular fitness quickly.

Metabolic circuits

Metabolic circuits are designed to simply wreck you metabolically. This simply means we get a particular muscle group and one minute of work on it. When the muscle is on the verge of failure we change to a different part of the body and repeat. I chose to do 7-10 minute metabolic workouts.

Metabolic circuit 1:

1 minute bodyweight squats 1 minute push ups 1 minute skipping 1 minute chinups 1 minute shuttle runs 1 minute scooping push ups (Hindu push ups) 1 minute sprawling Have a five-minute rest and repeat another 2 rounds.

Metabolic circuit 2:

I minute chin ups 1 minute squat jumps 1 minute skipping 1 minute farmers walk (walking holding dumbbells) Have a five-minute rest and repeat another 2 rounds.

Metabolic circuit day 3:

15 deadlifts 15 push ups And then Repeat 14, 13, 12, etc., all the way down to 1 repetition.

Circuit 4: Tabata intervals

A Japanese sports scientist Izumi Tabata studied and came up with the Tabata interval training system. It is pretty simple training session:

5 minutes warm up

20 seconds of a particular exercise at 100% effort (as hard as you can)

10 seconds rest

Repeat 8 times

2-5 minutes cool down

You may do Tabata intervals with:

Burpees, Sprints, Sumo Deadlift high pulls or Skipping (if you are a good skipper).

Running circuits

There are times when you cannot get to the gym or only have a skipping rope and a pair of shoes. If this is the case these next two workouts are fantastic.

Running circuit 1

Skipping 200 times

Sprint 200 meters

Repeat for 20 minutes

Running circuit 2

This workout is great if you have nothing but a pair of running shoes and nothing else. Run 1500 meters (or if you don't know how far you are running-run for 6 minutes) 5 mins Rest

Repeat for 2 more rounds

Run 1000 meters (4 mins 30)

Run 500 (2 minutes)

Repeat 2 more rounds

If you add these workouts as part if your cardiovascular training you will feel the benefits on the Judo mat

Explosive Movements for Judo

To participate in Judo you must have a lot of speed and strength, otherwise known as power. Here are 5 exercises that will build a lot of full body power resulting in you being able to be faster on the mat and have greater strength when turning in for techniques.


Powercleans are a fundamental exercise that will develop power in the legs, hips and back. You know the feeling when you are four minutes into a fight and you have nothing left but you must use your last bit of energy to explode for a technique but your body is not responding. This is the time when doing countless powercleans in the gym will pay off. Powercleans teach you to explode quickly pulling a weighted bar with you. To do a powerclean you must have rubber coated Olympic plates and a bar that will allow you to spin underneath it.

- Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and grip the bar just outside.

- Bend your knees and bend at the waist so your shoulders are just over the bar

- Maintain a slight curve in your lower back

- Straighten your arms so they are not bent

- Inhale

- Using your legs begin driving through the floor, lifting the bar off the ground

- exhale

- When the bar passes your knees continue the next part of the movement by thrusting your hips forward and simultaneously contract your trapezius muscles

- As the bar continues to travel upwards start the 'catch' by bending your knees to get under the bar.

- While keeping a grip on the bar rotate underneath and finish with the bar resting on your upper chest with elbows high

- Slowly lower the bar and repeat


Everyone who has done any sort of martial arts, boot camps or person training knows what a burpee is. Simply squat down, extend your legs out into a push-up position, perform a push-up, bring your legs back to a squatting position and proceed to explode upwards jumping as high as you can. Perform these as part of a circuit or a warm up at training. Burpees will not only develop tremendous leg power but also get your heart rate through the roof resulting in a higher vo2 max.

Sumo Deadlift high pulls

A killer full body exercise that will have your legs, back and shoulders screaming.

- With a wide stance, grasp the barbell in between your legs with palms facing towards you

- Make sure your back stays straight throughout the entire movement

- Using your legs, lift the bar off the floor and using your arms begin an explosive lift upwards

- Keep your back straight and weight on your heels

- As the bar passes your hips thrust forward to assist the bars movement upwards

- Finish by completing an upright row movement with the bar at shoulder height

- With a controlled movement return the bar back to the starting position.

- Repeat

Perform tabata intervals with Sumo Deadlift high pulls will definitely build tremendous full body endurance.

Medicine ball throws

High throws and shot puts are all explosive exercise that Judokas should be doing on a regular basis.

To perform a shot put simply stand 3-5 meters from a wall. Hold a medicine ball at shoulder height (like a shot put) and throw it against the wall as hard as you can. Retrieve the medicine ball and repeat for desired number of repetitions. This exercise will not only develop Upper body power but also get each of your arms working independently which is useful during grip fighting.


Flat or hill sprints should always be factored into a competitive judokas fitness and conditioning program. Sprints develop leg speed and power and are great as they simulate a competition match so closely. This is due to the fact that in a relatively short amount of time your heart rate goes from resting to through the roof.

Short sprints should not be performed year-round as they are very physically demanding and the Athletes will need a chance to recover.

Common problems for Beginning Judoka

The sport of Judo is a fantastic sport/art and many people that start soon stop for a number of reasons, these reasons could be that there were too many egos in the Dojo, too many people in the class or the feeling that there was no improvement in skills or techniques. Like most things Judo takes a while to get familiar with. If the Japanese terminology doesn't throw people off (pun not intended) then the idea of being thrown time and time again by someone may have influenced certain individual's decisions to cease in practicing Judo.

I was talking to a beginning Judoka the other day and he was having a few troubles when it came do actually doing Judo. This individual came from a Field Hockey background where it is a 'visual' sport opposed to 'feeling'. Hockey is a sport where your reactions and decisions are based on what you can see and anticipate through your vision. Where Judo is largely based on what you can 'feel' opposed to what you can see.

So what is the feeling of Judo?

Some examples of feeling include:

- Your opponent snapping your gi

- Your opponent's hands inching up your lapel

- Your opponent's subtle attempts at breaking a sleeve grip

- Your opponents pushing and pulling

I discussed with this individual that Judo is similar to the clutch in your car.

When you first drive a manual car you must use the clutch in order to change gears etc. But at first when you begin to learn how to drive you find that there is no feeling in the clutch. There is nothing. But as you continue practicing driving you soon start to feel something in the clutch and soon afterwards you are changing gears, starting off on hills and using the clutch exactly how it is designed.

Judo is exactly the same. When you first start Judo you don't feel anything. You don't feel the shift in weight in your opponent. You don't feel where their body weight is travelling. There is nothing. But don't get discouraged! As you continue to practice you will start to feel something. You will soon feel where your opponent is moving, what they are planning and when they are about to attack.

If you are a beginning Judoka and are struggling to get the feel of Judo, please don't be disheartened.

Just remember it takes time to feel the clutch.

Why you need Workouts for Judo

I have been competing internationally for eleven years now and I have seen so many Judo players lose matches purely because their fitness and conditioning wasn't up to scratch. People tend to forget that when you are too tired to stand up it doesn't matter how good your technique is, you are still probably going to lose. Luckily for Judokas being tired only means getting thrown, strangled or arm-locked opposed to boxing or other striking sports where you can get knocked out.

Therefore if you want to succeed in Judo you must have a certain level of physical fitness. Unfortunately the physical fitness needed for Judo isn't as easy as saying you must be able to run 15 on the beep test and bench press three times your bodyweight. Each Judoka has a different technical level and different attributes needed to succeed in the sport.

Workouts for Judo is designed to get you to that base level of fitness needed to be able to utilize your technique on an opponent who is fighting back.

Having a fitness and conditioning program designed specifically for Judo will instantly increase your fitness, strength, balance and agility which are all needed on the mat. Having these physical attributes will result in increasing your attack rate and help you become a fitter more pro-active Judoka.

I wrote Workouts for Judo because I love educating people. I have a YouTube channel and a blog where I have helped thousands of Judokas in all aspects of their Judo game, whether it is technical, physical or mental skills.

I have seen so many Judo players in the gym performing body building strength programs or programs designed for power lifting and although they have aspects that can benefit Judo it is not as beneficial as doing a Judo specific fitness and conditioning program.

I have a passion for teaching people how I train, what I do and the workouts I have implemented in order to achieve maximum results for my own training and Judo competition. As a result I have represented my country at the Beijing Olympic Games as well as competed in four world championships, nine continental championships and multiple world cups around the globe. I know how annoying it is to go to training and gas out and not get the most out of yourself. I know how important it is to be fit enough to keep on fighting, evading your opponent's attacks as well as getting in your own attacks and combinations.

I have found that many Judokas' don't know how to train for Judo. I saw many Judo players completing bodybuilding programs for strength or running long distances as part of their cardio training.

I was constantly telling people that:

"In order to attain the best results you must train specifically for your sport."

Therefore we must train like Judo players.

In workouts for Judo I have workouts designed specifically for Judo and if you implement these workouts into your weekly schedule you will be fitter, faster and stronger for Judo.


Matt D'Aquino

Author: Workouts for Judo

2008 Beijing Olympian

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