When performing any strength exercise, besides the strength component, you would like to address the mobility and stability of the joint where the movement occurs. For this reason, those exercises are usually done with small or body weight, allowing control of the movement. To have control means you can perform the movement with different speed while being in control of the body through the full range of motion.
In this post, I’ll cover a few bodyweight exercises that will make you stronger and supple, improving your range of motion and efficiency of your karate techniques. With these exercises, you will develop good movement patterns which later can transfer to karate. Good movement patterns are a precursor to good movement.
Before we get to the activities, I would like to point out that most of the exercises mentioned in this post are unilateral (one-side), which means the movement occurs by moving only one limb (one arm or one leg). The other side is not passive, usually having a role of a stabilizer supporting the movement. BTW karate is a unilateral activity. Although strength developed in bilateral training offers improvement in the performance, when it comes to its specificity, it is mainly related to events such as weightlifting.
So, let’s see what’s on the menu.
All the exercises mentioned below come in a package with an integrated mobility exercise. After you perform the main task during your rest time you do your mobility exercise. For example, after a set of Cossack Squat, you do a set of Twist Squat. Integrated mobility exercises are something I got introduced through Gymnasticbodies program, and I think they perfectly fit into this story.
The number of repetitions and whether you are going to use additional weight or not depends on your fitness level and goal. Usually, for muscular endurance, you would like to keep the reps in a range of 12-15 rep per leg. Of course, you might need to build it up slowly if you have a lack of ankle and hip mobility and inadequate muscle strength.
Great name for a great exercise. Because of the nature of the activity, your leg strength and flexibility, hip mobility and core stability get challenged at the same time. Another thing I like about this exercises is the scalability in the intensity, which allows to make it as easy or hard as you want without adding lots of weights on your shoulders.
- Stand with your feet in a wide stance and with your toes pointing out to the sides.
- Squat to the right, going as low as it feels comfortable. Keep your feet on the ground.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
- The non-squatting leg remains straight;
- Stand up fully in between repetitions;
Twist squat – 5 repetitions after each set
Use the outside edge of the ankle to begin standing. Each rep twists in the opposite direction.
Side to side squat
Whether being in a Kiba Dachi or Shiko Dachi, this exercises activates the same muscles and challenges your hip and ankle mobility.
- Similar to the Cossack squat, your feet are wide apart and lower your glutes to the ground while on one side and keep your heel on the ground.
- Start moving from one to the other side while keeping the glutes as close to the ground as possible. (this time you do not go up)
- Keep the other leg fully extended.
To dig deeper into the hip socket, push your knee outside with your elbow.
Inside squat – 5 repetitions after each set
Usually when it comes to squat techniques knees need to go outside, not inside. However, this is an exercise that will challenge and increase your knee stability, and prepare for the fast transitions and change of direction during kata or kumite.
Goblet squat (with kettlebell)
People usually, with time, lose their ability to get in a full, deep squat position, without support and discomfort. Of course, unless you live in China where this is a random thing. Goblet Squat will help you to regain this innate ability. How many times you’ve seen a 3-year-old playing in a squat position.
- Start tall and hold the KB in front of your chest. Start moving down while keeping your back straight.
- Push your knees outward and keep the heels on the floor;
- Get as deep as possible and put your elbows inside your knees;
- While being in a deep squat position push your knees out and keep your back straight;
- Try to open your hips as wide as possible and make space in the hip joint sockets. Breath.
Natural leg extension – 5 repetitions after each set
- Keep the hips flat at all times;
- Do not allow the back to arch;
This is a mobility exercise as much as it is a strength. While strengthening one side of your glutes, you stretch the other side and put your hip in an externally rotated position.
- From a standing position put one ankle across and above your opposite knee.
- Descend until the hamstring of your standing led in parallel with the ground;
- Raise and press the arms forward to counterbalance;
- Laying down, start curing your feet and bring them under your knees. Push your hip up.
- Get is a full shoulder bridge position.
Wrapping it up
Karate practitioners can use the above exercises as part of their regular karate practice or strength routine as part of the warm-up while focusing on their mobility or increasing the muscular strength. Start slow, and do not add any weights until you develop a good range of motion and control over the movement.
What about you?
What is your favorite bodyweight exercise that you do on a regular basis? Please leave your thought and ideas in the comments.
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