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Leg Training for Martial Arts


Hi, I was wondering how people who train in martial arts incorporate leg training into their routines.

The problem I have is that any sort of serious leg training leaves me too sore and inflexible for a couple of days, which obviously hampers my martial arts. And with training/sparring 3 times a week I pretty much need to be limber all the time.

Soreness from upper body workouts doesn't have the same detrimental impact on my martial arts.

How do others go about leg training while also training martial arts?


What is your stretching routine like? If you're lifting heavy legs, in my experience, you need to be stretching your legs every day. I think for me, 30 to 40 minutes per day is not too much...

When you first start, don't expect to be kicking above waist level for a couple of weeks.


Are you training to failure or near it? I ask because I rarely experience severe muscle soreness these days and I avoid failure like the plague. Also, realize that once you accomodate a higher workload, soreness will subside. This should take a few workouts.

Stretching is a good tip. As is reading CT's 7 Secrets of Rapid Recovery



It depends on if you are trying to lift for martial arts (conditioning, power, speed, specific stuff) vs. bodybuilding or powerlifting or generic weight training.

If martial arts is your deal and you're not trying to put on weight then try combining weights and martial arts exercises, two days a week.

Like, speed squats with kicks to a heavy bag.
Or sled dragging and punching drills.
That's my favorite way.

But if you want to keep your lifting as something seperate then try and give yourself adequate rest, so legs monday, easy day in Class on Tuesday or Wednesday, Train Hard Thursday and Saturday. But it's tough to put on weight if you're doing lots of other activity, but it sounds like weight gain ain't your goal.


In an ideal world I'd like to keep making muscle gains, but realistically I don't think that 3 martial arts sessions a week is going to be conducive to that.

At the moment I stretch for 20-30 mins two or three times a week, so I guess I should increase the frequency. Avoiding failure when training legs could be useful too.


Also, there's a line of thinking that your training should give you what your sport doesn't. I know from my little experience with martial arts, there was lots of speed work and lots of endurance work and virtually no strength work to speak of.

So I would lift for strength. Use moderate frequency, low volume and high intensity, staying no where near failure.

I like 3x3's alot, but obviously that's not much volume if that's the only training you're doing. Maybe something like 5x5 one day, 3x3 another, 10x1 on another for a three day a week. Im no expert though. Read CW's set/rep bible and figure out how to get it done best for you.


Also, try Surge if you haven't. It does cut down on day after soreness for me.


Have you tried lifting after class? I know this may not be ideal since classes are usually at night and your legs are 'toast' by then.

You may want to skip one class per week and go lift heavy at the gym. A lot depends on where you are in your season. Right now is off-season(for TKD) so cut back on class and lift. Go back to the skills and sparring as your season approaches.



I've got to know what is going on in your avatar. It looks like a babe scratching her ass on a wall or post or something. What is it?


It's supposed to be Keyra of supertangas fame, but it looks kinda crummy. Although, it doesn't hurt to pretend you're the doorframe...


Or start with a really mild to moderate workload like the 3x3 or 5x2 or 2x5 once or twice a week, then add a set or rep every week until you're at 5x5 two times a week, and then you should be able to accomodate any volume shifts that might occur.

Dan "moderate workload" McVicker


20 to 30 minutes a few timew a week isn't much stretching for a martial artist, especially if you're also lifting. I think that could definitely make a difference in how fast you recover.

Try stretching when you're watching the news at night or doing homework or reading or whatever. Instead of sitting on the couch, put your back to the couch and just hang out in splits for a long period of time. Switch around here and there to other stretches and just completely relax into them so it doesn't even feel like you're doing them. Nice and slow, not forcing it. Do it like I used to practice sleight of hand coin tricks when I did magic -- while I was doing other things.

I'd also recommend doing pistols, the one-legged squat talked about in the Naked Warrior book. There's a program there that is called greasing the groove, where the idea is that you do the exercise frequently, but to notably less than failure. Just do five of them, or less if that's all you can do, and if you feel you have more energy, just do more sets, don't crank out more reps. "Strength is a skill" is the mantra, and you actually do have to use balance and body awareness to do a one- legged squat, so it fits pretty darn well into martial arts, actually. I'm an old time martial artist too, and I've been using the pistols to get back in shape again. They really are good strengtheners that you can do anywhere, anytime. And there's a kind of fun feeling of accomplishment in doing them, as there's some show-off value there to go along with the solid strength building.

The exercise is open-ended, too, because you can add weight to make them harder. Since balance is involved and you're using a lot of stabilizer muscles, and you're only using the one leg, every little bit of added weight makes it much more difficult. There's a guy named Steve Cotter who does them with two 88 lb. kettlebells at once. Pretty fiendish for a one-legged strength/balance/flexibility exercise. I'll be buying his kettlebell DVD's myself; he's a kettlebell trainer and full contact martial artist himself. His site is Fullkontact.com. (Yeah, with a K)