Strength and Conditioning for Judo

Judo is a dynamic Olympic sport that requires a wide range of physical attributes and skills. It is the second largest p

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Strength and Conditioning for Judo

  • Commentary
  • Judo, Strength and Conditioning, Martial Atrs

Table of contents :
Cover Page
Cover Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
1 Introduction
2 Needs Analysis of the Sport
3 Robustness
4 Building Strong Judoka
5 Delivering Power
6 Fitness for Judo
7 Co-ordination, Speed and Agility
8 Planning the Training Process
9 Youth and Adolescent Development
10 Basic Nutrition for Judo
11 Maximizing Recovery
12 What the Experts Say
13 Further Reading

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First published in 2017 by The Crowood Press Ltd Ramsbury, Marlborough Wiltshire SN8 2HR

This e-book first published in 2017

© Mike Callan and Andrew Burns 2017

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978 1 78500 257 1

Photographs by Joda Callan



















Iam pleased to write the foreword for this first collaboration between Andrew Burns and Mike Callan. I met both authors during my study in England. Knowing both of the authors, I am pleased that they have been able to share their expertise through the production of this book. Particularly, I note the correct use of Japanese terminology throughout this book, which combined with the excellent photographs and technical content, means that this is a valuable reference work for any coach wishing to increase their understanding, or athlete wishing to improve his or her strength and fitness. Of course, judo is both a Japanese educational method and a modern Olympic sport. The use of strength and conditioning for judo was pioneered by a Japanese former Olympic champion, Mr Isao Inokuma, who is well known for his powerful technique. I can recommend this book for use by all judoka, athletes, teachers and coaches. I have no doubt that this book will be of great use in helping achieve greater success on the mat, and also a greater understanding of the educational value of judo.

Kosei Inoue, Olympic Champion, 3 × World Champion, 3 × All-Japan Champion Head Coach, All-Japan Judo Team. Lecturer, Tokai University



The idea for this book came about while studying for my MSc in Strength and Conditioning at Edinburgh University. I had to undertake a lot of research into judo specific studies, and came to the realization that not much of the updated science of training for judo is filtered down to club coaches. There appeared to be a need to disseminate the data and studies into a text that could be read and understood without the need for higher education degrees. I would like to thank first and foremost my co-author, Dr Mike Callan, for his guidance and expertise in putting thoughts, research and experiences on to paper and for his continued guidance throughout my sporting, academic and professional endeavours. I would also like to thank my many mentors past and present including the late Roy Inman OBE, Darren Warner and Jürgen Klinger for spiking my interest in the science of training. Thanks to Mateja Glusac for being such a willing uke. Last but not least, I have to acknowledge the support I received from my wife. I gave up a lot of time we could have spent together to complete this project, and without her facilitating the work it would have been a much more difficult task.


I first published on the topic of strength and conditioning for judo more than thirty years ago, as a contributor to the British Judo magazine, and I was asked to advise the national squad. Whilst scientific understanding has progressed, the fundamentals of strength training remain timeless. What is also unchanging is

the unique and complex challenge of balancing gains in physical training with the technical and tactical requirements of a judoka. I would like to thank Ben Rosenblatt, Jürgen Klinger, Greg Valentine, Kate Howey, Danny Williams and Allan Macdonald for taking the time to contribute to the concluding chapter and offering their valued expertise. Also thanks to Joda Callan, a great photographer, and former judoka, whose efforts made a significant impact on the quality of this work. I pay tribute to my co-author, Andrew Burns. He committed to this book whilst competing on the IJF World Tour, catching opportunities to write on airplanes and in warm-up rooms and hotel lobbies. I dedicate this book to the three men who have taught me about judo, and therefore about life. Roy Inman OBE, Syd Hoare and Nobuyuki Sato, thank you.


‘Judo is the way to the most effective use of both physical and spiritual strength.’ Jigoro Kano

This book is written for the judoka , the judo coach and the strength and conditioning coach. For the judoka , the book aims to help the reader to improve his or her effectiveness in the modern Olympic sport of judo. For the coach this book will help in the understanding of ways to achieve the small percentage advantages that can contribute towards a successful result. For the strength and conditioning coach, this book talks to you in a language you understand, helping you to apply your craft to judo in an effective way. The guide is written in a way that is easy to navigate, to allow the reader to jump straight to an area of immediate interest. However, we have split each chapter and sequenced them in a logical order that means if you have time it would make sense to read the book from introduction to the end. This way you can pull all the knowledge and understanding you gain together at the conclusion and gain a clear picture as to how to plan the physical preparation for judo. Perhaps for yourself, for an athlete you coach or a whole team of players you will have a much greater understanding of the process and theory as well as example programmes and practical tips on how to implement them. As strength and conditioning professionals we see four clear outcomes to our work:

To prevent injury To promote professional standards in training and coaching To improve sporting performance

To empower athletes with knowledge

The aim to improve sporting performance is lower down the list than you may have expected; this is because in judo as in many other sports, a key element of improved performance is time spent in the sport. So for judo, athletes will improve if they are fit and healthy and injury free, therefore allowing them ample time to be on the mat learning and developing all aspects of their abilities. It is the job of the coaches and strength and conditioning team to maximize the time spent training and to be as efficient as possible. Judo has a huge variety of attributes that need to be improved if we are to be successful. Preventing injury and promoting professional practice will allow the athletes the direct training time needed to get better. By working smarter rather than harder, the athletes can apply one of the fundamental principles of judo: seiryoku zen’yo, often translated as maximum efficient use of power.


The UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) define the term strength and conditioning as: ‘The specialist area encompassing the physical preparation of athletes for performance in sport, while aiming to prevent or minimize the risk of injury. It includes processes that result in physical adaptation. Strength work involves all forms of resistance training. Equally the conditioning element can include work on agility, endurance, speed and flexibility and other areas, which can impact on the athlete’s performance.’ This book covers strength work, including building the robustness and strength required to develop power for judo. Later the topics related to conditioning are covered, including co-ordination, speed, agility and nutrition. We look at how to plan the training process, and how to maximize recovery. Our final chapter is a

series of interviews with well-respected judoka, coaches and strength and conditioning professionals, to give the reader a range of perspectives about the subject.


There is a long history of the use of strength training by wrestlers. Perhaps the most famous is the story of the six-time winner of the ancient Olympic Games, Milo of Croton. An extraordinary wrestler from the sixth century BC, it is said that Milo developed his great strength by carrying a calf every day until it grew into an ox. One of the earliest examples of progressive resistance exercise. Sumo, the traditional wrestling style of Japan, is also well known for the gruelling series of exercises performed by the wrestlers during training. This traditional training enables them to develop the enormous strength and explosive power required for success. Judo was developed out of a number of traditional ju-jitsu styles by Jigoro Kano, who founded the Kodokan in 1882. Despite being a small, slight man, Kano recognized the importance of strength training and conditioning in the development of his pupils. ‘Apply just the right amount of strength, never too much, never too little,’ he said. This idea underpinned the concept of seiryoku zen’yo, the concept of maximum effective use of power. Kano founded the All-Japan Judo Federation in 1932 to organize the national championships, and one of the famous early champions was Masahiko Kimura, three-time winner of the All-Japan Judo Championships in the 1930s. His legendary training methods included his ‘Triple Effort’, whereby he undertook to train for nine hours every day, because he had heard that his rivals had increased their training to six hours per day. The importance of strength and conditioning in judo was recognized even by those who espoused a traditional, technique-based approach to training. Writing

an article entitled ‘Weight and Strength in Judo’ in the October 1954 issue of the Budokwai Bulletin, Trevor Leggett said, ‘If the elephant moves as quickly and flexibly as the tiger, he’ll beat him, every time.’ In 1959, the All-Japan Champion was a 21-year-old student, Isao Inokuma, who was later to be appointed as coach at Tokai University. In 1964 he won the +80kg category at the Olympic Games. Following that victory many looked to his training methods, as Inokuma was seen as non-traditionalist, and the use of training with weights became more widespread in judo. Inokuma and American Donn Draeger, authored Weight Training for Championship Judo, first published in 1966. This was the first book to outline the use of weight training in judo. The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games saw the introduction of weight categories in the judo event. They were introduced by the hosts, Japan, in part to ensure there were Japanese victories at the event as the leading heavyweight judoka in the world was the Dutchman, Anton Geesink, the first non-Japanese to win the World championships in 1961. A colossus standing 1.98m, Geesink was known for using weight training, and log carrying, and was in superb physical condition, which he combined with excellent technique developed under the tutelage of Yasuichi Matsumoto at Tenri University. It could be seen that the introduction of weight categories was a recognition of the importance of weight and strength in achieving contest success in judo. Today, some fifty years after the first Tokyo Olympic Games, the use of strength and conditioning training is a fundamental part of the programme of every competitive judoka across the world. Establishing the menu of supplementary training alongside a diet of judo technique and randori is the challenge of the coach. We hope that this book can help coaches to meet that challenge.



Prior to delving into the actual preparation for performance element of this resource, it is first essential to gain a deeper understanding of what performance in judo actually looks like. The first stage in developing training and competition programmes is to perform a deep analysis of the attributes needed to be successful. The sport of judo is ever evolving and successful coaches and athletes need to reanalyse what winning looks like on a regular basis. By reassessing the sport, teams can maintain their current understanding and attempt to prepare ‘ahead of the curve’ for changes and trends that are developing (such as scoring techniques, rule changes and tactical nuances). Once a deep understanding of the sport is achieved, then coaches are in a much stronger position to assess where their athletes are in regards to where they need to be (technically, tactically, physiologically and psychologically). Only then can a programme be put in place to help bridge any gaps and make the necessary improvements to increase the chances of success. This chapter is dedicated to building an understanding of the sport and its demands. It assesses the demands of the sport in general, then addresses the traits of successful athletes. Finally, the focus turns to how to create and manage the testing of athletes so that evidence-based evaluations can inform the training process.


Judo in its modern form is defined as a combat sport and has been included in the Olympic Games since 1964 in Tokyo. In judo, weight divisions separate the athletes (seven for men, seven for women). The weight classifications are important as they have a bearing on the technical, anthropometric and physiological profiles of competitors within each division. The rules of judo are ever evolving and therefore it is difficult to discuss current specifics. There are various rationale as to why the rules are changed including adhering to Olympic classification issues, spectator friendliness and keeping with the tradition of the sport. The methods of winning, however, are altered very rarely and these include:

•Throwing techniques (nage-waza)

•Hold-downs (osaekomi-waza)

•Strangles and chokes (shime-waza)

•Arm-locks (kansetsu-waza)

Throwing Techniques (nage-waza)

Fig. 1 Ippon (winning throw) (a).

Fig. 2 Ippon (winning throw) (b).

To throw the opponent with real impact on to their back with considerable force and speed results in an ippon and an outright win (equivalent to a knockout in boxing). This is the most spectacular and explosive method of winning in judo. There is a list of sixty-eight defined potential techniques (Kodokan go-kyo) that can be used to achieve this end point, however the variations can be as individual as fingerprints and new exciting techniques are developed, old ones lost and reintroduced on a regular basis as the sport itself evolves. Throwing for ippon is one way to win a fight while standing up (tachi-waza), or by sacrificing your own balance (sutemi-waza). Additionally, scores are given for throws in which the criteria for ippon are not fully met. The smaller scores are waza-ari and yuko. Waza-ari is given if one of the elements required for an ippon of impact on the back, force or speed is missing (at the referee’s and video analysis referee’s discretion). The scoring of two waza-ari equates to ippon and the end of the contest. Yuko is the smallest of the scores with the score not meeting two of the criteria required for ippon. A yuko does not equate to any other score regardless of how many one achieves, and a single waza-ari beats any number of yuko scores at the end of the contest.

Hold-Downs (osaekomi-waza)

Fig. 3 Osaekomi-waza (hold down).

Alternative to throwing techniques that can be used to win a contest; there are numerous grappling techniques (katame-waza) that can be applied to achieve victory. The first is the hold-down or pin; this is where you hold your opponent on their back in the absence of any leg entanglement for a period of time in which they cannot escape. To score ippon the time period is twenty seconds, waza-ari is fifteen seconds and yuko is ten seconds. As with throwing techniques, if you score two waza-ari then it equates to ippon. There are a large variety of techniques that can be applied to execute a holddown and various methods to turn an opponent on to their back. This is an aspect of judo that requires large volumes of training and is physically demanding in regards to flexibility, strength, power and spatial awareness.

Strangles and Chokes (shime-waza)

Fig. 4 Shime-waza (strangle or choke).

Applying pressure upon an opponent’s neck in order to achieve submission or until they lose consciousness is an additional method of winning in judo. This is a technically challenging method that can require full use of one’s body to apply correct technique and appropriate pressure to cause a submission; it is also exciting to observe.

Arm-Locks (kansetsu-waza)

Fig. 5 Kansetsu-waza (armlock).

The final method of winning in judo is via the arm-lock, this is applying pressure to the elbow joint again to force submission from an opponent. Successful armlocks result in ippon and an outright win, and can also be exciting to observe.


A note to mention in regards to the rules in judo. There is an ebb and flow in the time allowed for participants to attack in groundwork (ne-waza). Sometimes referees allow more time to achieve a score in ne-waza, and there are times in which they appear to favour tachi-waza, throwing techniques. It is also a subjective decision made by the referee of the match depending on whether he regards the attacker to be active and looking to score as opposed to trying to waste time or rest. This means that coaches and competitors need to be responsive to the constant rule interpretations of the refereeing hierarchy in order to use the nuances in the rules and hopefully become more successful. A judo match is scheduled for five minutes for men (four minutes for women); with a stopstart clock for breaks in the action (defined by the referee with action words hajime for start and matte for break). The match ends if one of the judoka throws the opponent flat on his or her back with force and speed, holds down for twenty seconds, arm-locks or strangles their opponent until submission, or a combination of two high scoring throws that aren’t quite regarded as ippon scoring techniques. This can happen at any point in the contest from the first second to the point in which someone executes the winning technique, however a combination of small scores (more than your opponent) over the course of the match will also result in a win. If after five minutes of the match the scores are identical in actual scoring techniques and number of penalties, then a period of golden score is entered.

This period of golden score is theoretically endless, in that the match will continue indefinitely until one of the judoka either applies a scoring technique or receives a penalty for a rule infringement. The complex rules make it difficult to create conditioning programmes for athletes, as there is a great deal of variation in how long contests last. For a judo athlete, it is vital that he or she is powerful enough to explode with techniques at the start of the match, but also have the stamina to continue to produce force well into golden score. This is why a thorough needs analysis is important: in order to understand the dynamics of the game so that the coach can plan, prepare and execute effective and efficient programmes that provide the best opportunity for success for the judoka.


Fig. 6 Contributing physical qualities that aid performance in judo.

A typical medallist at an international tournament will have between five and seven matches (see Further Reading if you wish to explore research on judo contest), and an average international contest lasts between three and six minutes. This average is a good starting point, however we must understand that a contest can last anything between a few seconds whereby an ippon is scored straight away and an unlimited amount of time in which two athletes are evenly matched deep into golden score. An average working ‘exchange’ from hajime to matte lasts approximately twenty to thirty seconds with two to ten seconds recovery; judo athletes often operate in a tournament at approximately 90–100 per cent of VO2 max so high anaerobic and aerobic fitness is required. Additionally, being able to tolerate high levels of fatigue inducing intensity, as well as effectively recovering in preparation for the next match or randori, is extremely important for international judo athletes, aspiring competitors and even recreational judoka. These demands will be explored in more depth later in the chapter. Research on blood lactate concentrations in a judo contest suggests that during competition the accumulation of lactate (a measure of fatigue used by sports scientists and also that burning feeling you get when you have gone two minutes with someone much better than you) concentrations can reach up 20mmol.L, this is extremely high and comparable to a 2km all-out race on a rowing machine. Conversely, in training the same intensity is rarely reached and research suggests many judoka achieve averages of 8–9mmol.L during training, albeit for a whole ninety minutes as opposed to a single five-minute effort. Obviously each person is individual and even among elite athletes taking part in the same training programme there can be a large variation in blood lactate markers. This information is vital and training programmes should be designed with the findings of these studies in mind as they provide an indication of the loading that is achieved in competition. However, a lot can be said in regards to these markers as some people may be more efficient in the way they fight on the mat, and therefore it is not a valid measure of how hard the person is working unless

you have an individual data profile collected over the long term. Collecting data such as blood lactates is a useful tool to aid coaches to develop training programmes, but ultimately it is the coach and athlete that understand the inner working of the sport and must use this data as well as other information to improve their practice. A coach should be able to amend the timing and rest periods during training to increase or decrease the intensity and ensure the programme is targeting the correct energy systems at the right time. This book will provide you with the tools and knowledge to be able to manipulate the training to get the appropriate adaptations depending on your goals and phase of training.


Judo is a multifaceted and physically demanding sport, placing various stresses on the athletic system. Judo is an explosive power sport, requiring great reserves of anaerobic power and capacity while running an efficient aerobic system. Judoka need to have the anaerobic ability to work through extreme levels of fatigue into the last minutes of a contest, but additionally they need a strong aerobic base in order to aid recovery between exchanges and in between matches or randori. Getting the balance right is a huge task and there is no secret winning formula. As you will see in this chapter, there are so many aspects of performance in judo that are purely physical that make training challenging. When coaches’ look at how complex judo is technically, tactically, physiologically and psychologically, the realization of how difficult it is actually becomes apparent, which is part of the dilemma and challenge and also why the sport is such an intriguing activity. There are a multitude of physiological factors affecting the performance of elite judoka, some of which are detailed below. To better understand the requirements, the major attributes that can be affected by the strength and conditioning specialist have been included in the analysis.


Aerobic Factors

Although mainly anaerobic in nature, judo athletes require aerobic fitness as a means primarily to aid recovery between bouts or exchanges. The test to determine aerobic fitness in judoka is the VO2 max test. Elite judoka demonstrate moderately high VO2 max results, with a range of approximately 50–55ml/kg/min and 55–60ml/kg/min for senior female and senior male athletes respectively. The training programme for an elite judoka includes aerobic base conditioning at the beginning of the season to better prepare the athlete for higher workloads at later stages, to aid in injury prevention and build a good recovery base for in between bouts and sessions and allow the athlete to get more benefit out of technical training sessions. In addition to aiding recovery, aerobic fitness is essential for judoka as a contest can last more than five minutes. The contribution from the aerobic energy pathways increase in percentage with each exchange, and towards the end of a five-minute match the aerobic energy system is the dominant source of energy substrate. Therefore, the need for judoka to have a high level of aerobic fitness is apparent and a key factor for success.

Anaerobic Factors

The high intensity intermittent nature of a judo contest suggests that the anaerobic system is the primary energy used during participation. The major actions within a judo contest are powerful movements and rely on both alactic (ATP-CP) and lactate (anaerobic glycolysis) sources of energy. Various tests have been used to determine the level of anaerobic capacity and power, including upper and lower body Wingate tests. However, a judo specific anaerobic test is yet to be validated and various national teams have created bespoke tests to monitor the effects of training programmes on fitness levels. It

is a key point to note that a high level of anaerobic capacity is a vital marker for performance in judo as it is directly correlated to performance in training and competition. There is a huge demand on the anaerobic system during high intensity judo training, and a well-developed anaerobic energy system is likely to increase the chances of competitive success.


Muscular Strength

Maximal muscular strength can be defined as the maximal torque that a muscle or group of muscles can generate at a given velocity. Strength is a key component in executing judo throws, and also in applying ne-waza techniques and in gripping exchanges. Muscular strength is listed by many judo coaches and sports scientists as one of the key factors in determining international success and is tested via a one to three repetition max (1–3RM) lift over various exercises. Some of these include bench press, bench pull and back squats. A high strength per unit of body mass is of importance in winning in judo. It is worthy to note here that although strength is a great measure of performance and increases in strength can sometimes be seen to correlate with higher performances in judo, that correlation does not equal causation. There could be many aspects that can affect performance and there are numerous ‘strong’ people in the world and in a judo-specific population that are not high performing judoka. Not being strong may limit your potential to win but being the strongest definitely does not guarantee success and in some cases an over-reliance on strength may be detrimental to a judoka’s overall development.

Muscular Endurance

There is a high demand for muscular endurance in judo; judoka display high levels of muscular endurance, especially in the muscles of the forearm, trunk and chest. A simple way to measure muscular endurance is to test how many repetitions an athlete can perform at 70 per cent of their 1RM for a given exercise. These exercises include bench press, bench pull, back squat and chinups (pronated position) and are used as a benchmark for muscular endurance. There are many variations of this type of test; this is just one practical example and more will be covered later in the chapter in the discussion of assessment and monitoring. Precaution should be taken when using this form of assessment that there are appropriate professionals on hand to supervise and support by spotting the lifts and policing the technique.

Power Requirements

In judo, research suggests that power has the greatest transference in regards to performance, and should be the main focus of an effective resistance training programme. With specificity in mind, exercises involving explosive movements are the most transferable for performance in judo. Testing for power in judo is characterized by free weight exercises such as power cleans and snatch, and vertical jump tests. As judo is an explosive sport and throws happen in a split second, this attribute must be addressed and a large emphasis is placed on power training, especially towards the competition phase of a performance programme. Later in this book we will investigate how to develop each of the above areas inside judo-specific training and supplement this with gym-based sessions. Additionally, this book addresses how to structure and sequence the training programme, so that an appropriate period of time is spent to develop and gain the necessary adaptations in each aspect before progressing.



In addition to the above physical qualities required to be successful in judo, the sport itself demands an extremely high level of skill, experience and technical ability, including timing, co-ordination and balance. Developing these abilities takes time and effort, just as gaining strength and metabolic endurance require focus and planning. An appropriate amount of time needs to be used to address the development of spatial awareness, agility and balance as these can be limiting factors to performance. Having a kinaesthetic awareness of the body in relation to the ground and an opponent may increase an athlete’s capacity to escape from throws, complete his or her own techniques and understand more effectively when to change direction of attack. So it is wise to incorporate the time to enhance these aspects. As well as understanding the physical demands of judo, it is prudent to also investigate the physiological profiles of elite judoka so that we can better understand what body type profiles are needed to help athletes achieve the success they want.


Lighter weight category athletes demonstrate high levels of agility and speed with very low levels of body fat. On the other end of the scale (literally) are the super heavyweight athletes who demonstrate very high maximal strength outputs. However, they maintain a higher percentage of body fat and lower strength to mass ratios, although their absolute strength may be much higher than the lightweights. Each category throughout the divisions combines an eclectic array of physical traits and body compositions and creates a challenging scenario for defining an ideal composition for elite performance. It is important for international level athletes to maximize their strength to mass ratio therefore maintaining large quantities of lean muscle tissue and low body fat. Note that aspects such as limb

length, height and somatotype are not predeterminants for success in judo as there are examples in each weight category of short, tall, skinny and stocky athletes demonstrating high levels of success. The key point is that in judo you can use whatever physical qualities you possess to your advantage. For example, the short guy may not be able to compete with the reach of the tall athletes but is more than capable of getting under their centre of gravity to execute a seoi-nage technique. In order to understand this topic more in depth there is a need to conduct studies in each individual weight category to attempt to ascertain an effective physical profile for that division, and even then there is a general consensus that there is no perfect or determinable winning formula; and this is the beauty and conundrum of judo. The diversity of the attributes between weight classes is beyond the scope of this book. On completing the needs analysis of the sport a coach must then assess the athlete they work with critically in comparison with the attributes required for success. The level of expertise and standards demonstrated by an athlete are affected by the number of training years, quality of coaching and many other factors; including receptiveness to coaching, prior sporting endeavours, kinaesthetic awareness and natural physiological markers. Assessment refers to a battery or single instance of testing whereby the athletes are examined using a variety of methods. Athletic assessment is used to identify potential strengths and weaknesses.


A critical aspect in the preparation of elite athletes, and in being able to replicate the success with future generations, is to monitor and evaluate the athletic capacities mentioned earlier. By monitoring and documenting the evaluations of key attributes, the coach can not only effectively improve the physical parameters needed for performance but reflect on training programmes that bring about results in order to continue improving the training process. Other uses for monitoring include using the information to compare athletes to normative data, and to create individualized training programmes.

A key rationale for athlete assessment is the creation of an athlete profile by which the strengths and weaknesses are identified. Understanding of the sport is essential, and by using the needs analysis in this chapter as a starting point the coach can create an accurate picture of the successful judo athlete. Once the key attributes are identified then appropriate valid and reliable testing methods must be selected that can be administered with limited expertise and cost. Finally, the results of the testing protocols must be presented and used effectively in the correct way to adapt training programmes around the outcomes and to individualize the training as much as possible. As judo is such a complex sport, it is extremely challenging to devise a test that assesses judo-specific abilities effectively. In fact, competition is a great marker to be used for sport specific development. Many researchers have created various tests in an attempt to identify judo-specific abilities with varying success; therefore the most efficient method is to assess individual and synergistic attributes in the least time consuming manner in order to ‘paint an athlete profile’ of the current strengths and weaknesses, developments and regressions based on the previous training phase.


The greatest test in the development of the judoka is direct competition, and a large portion of the evaluations made must come from these results, in addition to the essential expert observations made by the coach. The coach’s eye method of evaluation is often overlooked as this is not directly quantifiable, however experienced coaches can have a clear understanding of an athlete’s stage of development and what it takes to be successful in the sport. For example, watching his athlete lose regularly in the final seconds of matches due to fatigue is a prime example of recognizing the need for increased endurance, leading to an investigation into what methods are needed in training to increase the chances of winning. However, in order to supplement the coach’s opinion and to be specific as well as accurate about which areas of training are going well, or need addressing, the creation of a testing protocol is essential. There are some considerations that need to be made when deciding on a testing

protocol, including how often to test, which tests to include, what equipment is needed and what expertise is required to operate the testing. Two key concepts are also important when deciding on testing: validity and reliability. Validity essentially means that the test is actually measuring what it intends to measure; for example, is the test for aerobic endurance specific to the sport in regards to timing and muscles used? Reliability refers to how repeatable is the test; for example, if the same test was conducted more than once could we be sure it was the change in the athlete’s ability that affected the score rather than an error in measurement or faulty equipment. There are many versions and varieties of assessment methods available to coaches, and the choices create their own challenges. The level of access to equipment, expertise and the performance level of an athlete must be taken into consideration when deciding on methods. What is essential is that, once decided upon, the same testing methods are used each time. Some considerations related to the testing methods include:

•Time of day for tests

•Sequence of testing (if more than one test on one day)

•Level of activity for the athletes in the hours or days leading into the tests

•Nutrition prior to testing

•Knowledge of previous scores or competitors’ scores (showing scores of direct competitors can enhance motivation, although it can reduce effort for those who score above the group norm)

•Number of tests per year (testing can be stressful for athletes and being aware of this can aid the coach to decide the right time to include it)

With judo being such a complex sport there are a significant number of attributes that can be tested, such as strength, power, muscular endurance, aerobic and anaerobic endurance, flexibility, and agility. The coach needs to decide which qualities are most important, which are both accessible in regards to testing (some require more time and effort than others), and which are likely to aid in the decision making process for training programme design.


It is well established that strength and power are critical components of judo performance. Assessing these capacities needs to be specific to the athlete or team and not just be testing for the sake of testing. Strength testing can take many forms and the process can become time consuming and challenging. Each muscle can be tested individually and over a multitude of loads, which could provide an extremely accurate prolife of an athlete in regards to muscular imbalances and strengths or weaknesses. For the purposes of sport specificity and to reduce the time cost of testing these parameters, the focus for strength testing with judo athletes is to assess key compound movements that cover a wide range of muscle groups. This compound movement philosophy not only saves time but follows the technical profile of judo, of which many muscles act synergistically to produce movement against resistance (opponent). Included in strength and power testing are a variety of methods including:

Maximal Strength

This is the maximal force producing capability of the muscle or a particular

movement. The repetition maximum represents how close to absolute strength the test determines 1RM is the maximal amount of weight the athlete can lift. The level of 1RM comes with an inherent injury risk, as does anything that is 100 per cent maximal of a person’s potential. However, with elite or well-trained athlete it is possible to safely test at this level. When working with lower level athletes, younger ones or those returning from injury, a reduced percentage for more repetitions is a safer and effective method to measure strength. There are equations available online and in applications that can calculate 1RM based on the following percentages – 3RM, 5RM, 8RM and 10RM. The rationale for calculating one’s 1RM is to establish the loading to be used in training and to evaluate the effectiveness of training programmes. The exercises typically tested for judo athletes are included below:

•Back squat and variations such as the front squat

•Deadlift and its variations

•Bench press and its variations

•Bench pull or pull-up


Power testing evaluates an athlete’s ability to apply the force rapidly. Jumps either loaded or unloaded are good examples of this type of test, as well as bench throws. Throwing medicine balls to maximum distance is a reliable method to assess the extension capabilities and ability to generate force through the whole

body from toes to hands (which is essential in judo).

Strength Endurance

Strength endurance tests measure the repeated effort ability of the muscle or movement. A good test for this would be similar movements to the maximal strength test but at 50–70 per cent to failure. Strength endurance is a good indicator of how the judoka manages muscular fatigue, which is inevitable in competition and training.

Rate of Force Development

Rate of force development measures the slope on the force-time curve and demonstrates the ability to produce force rapidly under varying loads. Examples of this type of test are static jumps (without countermovement) and isometric tests such as a mid-thigh pull (with the bar fixed, measured through a force plate).

Aerobic Endurance

Similar to anaerobic endurance there are many tests that can be used to assess this quality. The most used is the VO2 max test, which requires some expertise and expense with laboratory equipment. The more specific form of exercise for judo is rowing as it is a full body movement, requires bursts of power and creates fatigue in the arms and upper back (also seen in judo). A 2,000m row time might range from approximately six and a half to eight minutes, depending on the athlete; similar to judo with its intermittent nature. This test is also specific to judo as it requires the athlete to set a pace of effort that is high but

maintainable, except for the last 300–500m in which the athletes exerts a huge effort to push to a good time. This is comparable to a contest in which the athlete needs to pace the fight accordingly to the scoring situation and often requires a large increase in intensity towards the end while under heavy fatigue.

Anaerobic Endurance

Assessing anaerobic endurance is typically done using a famous method named the Wingate test, which is essentially a thirty-second all-out effort on a stationary bike. While this is a reliable test, it fails slightly for validity in judo due to the repeated bout nature of the sport, as well as the full body exercise that the sport involves. Strength and conditioning coaches in the UK have recently devised a method for testing more sport-specific anaerobic endurance using the rowing ergometer. The test involves six thirty second maximal bouts with fifteen seconds’ rest between efforts, taxing both the ability to produce force anaerobically and the ability to endure fatigue. Measure of average power (w) over each thirty second bout is recorded and the coach is looking for a high first thirty seconds with resistance to fatigue across the subsequent five efforts.


In summary, this chapter investigated the demands of the sport of judo, and the qualities and attributes demonstrated and required by athletes for success. It also examined the methods of assessing and evaluating the qualities of current athletes, ensuring the tests used are valid, reliable and enhance the training process based on their results. Coaches can now determine which physical qualities are common among elite judoka, and have a clearer understanding of what the level of the athletes they are working with demonstrate in comparison to this standard. Judoka need to be strong, powerful, agile, and anaerobically and aerobically fit. This must be

coupled with a high resistance to local and global muscular fatigue, great balance, spatial awareness and co-ordination. The chapter discussed simple tests for each of these attributes and how we can use the results of testing to create an athlete profile in order to establish where we are strong and which areas need addressing. The practice of testing, implementing and retesting allows coaches to be evidence-based with their training programme prescription and ensure the interventions they put in place are creating the appropriate adaptations. Using the information in this chapter to create a baseline understanding of the needs of the sport, the testing protocols to create initial athlete profiles to enhance training planning is a great starting point to creating a successful judo training programme. This platform could be used and refined, re-evaluated on a regular basis in order to establish the effectiveness of training interventions, and used to focus the coach’s resources on developing areas of weaknesses in the training group or individuals.



Robustness is an overarching term used to describe various components of preparation for performance. Other volumes have labelled it ‘total athlete management’ and many other names, but for judo ‘robustness’ is judged appropriate terminology as this is a key requirement to a successful career in the sport. Robustness covers areas such as injury prevention, which is an important aspect of training due to the nature of the sport. In addition, it details effective warm-up protocols that are built around enhancing movement capabilities as well as preparing the athlete for training and competition. Managing the cool down also comes under robustness because of how this can aid the recovery and enhance the adaptations from training. Finally, robustness incorporates a flexibility programme, which both increases performance and reduces the likelihood of injury. The goal of a solid robustness programme is to increase the general and sportspecific athletic capabilities, prepare the athletes physically and mentally for training and/or competition, and to manage the prevention of injuries through a sound mobility/flexibility programme. This chapter discusses each of these in detail and provides examples of how to implement them into a holistic training approach.


Fig. 7 Effective warm-up responses.

To achieve optimal performance, athletes must be properly prepared. This statement is true both in the short and in the long term. Long-term preparation refers to the enhanced capabilities that are developed through systematic training and adaptation. Abilities that are essential to judo performance include skill, speed, agility, strength, flexibility, power, endurance and many more. These attributes are built over the course of weeks, months and years of dedicated training and require gradual progression. When discussing short-term preparation, the preparation is focused upon the individual event. That may be metabolic conditioning, resistance training, technical training, randori or competition; each one demands that the athlete is physically and mentally prepared to work in an optimal state of readiness. The warm-up mentally prepares the athlete to train, as well as physically. There are some key physiological responses to an effective warm-up, these include: There are more responses to warming up that create the optimal environment for performance, hence creating an effective protocol is so essential to judo players. The warm-up is broken down into its key components, which are delivered sequentially to gradually increase the readiness to train and compete. These include foam rolling, raising the core temperature through games, activation of the key muscle groups, and mobilization of the joints and potentiation of the component movements. The best warm-ups can serve further purposes including being used as a diagnostic tool, whereby the coach can observe the energy level, functional capacity and movement efficiency of the athlete prior to the actual training content beginning. Traditional judo warm-ups were typically spent jogging around the mat and maybe included some light stretching, however with the scientific evidence to support it, a well planned and executed warm-up can achieve so much more and be integrated as part of the build up to the main content of the training. For example, if the session planned involves explosive nage-komi, then the warm-up can incorporate dynamic movements. These can be followed by gymnastic and agility-based exercises, and finished with some jump-based drills to potentiate

the throwing power (more on this later). Each session may demand a different warm-up: for example a randori training session, which is a strenuous effort involving high levels of co-ordination, needs a thorough warm-up, whereas a light conditioning session of forty minutes’ cycling will require significantly less effort in the warm-up as the skill, co-ordination and physical readiness needed is a lot lower. There are two phases to an effective warm-up: the general warm-up and the specific warm-up. However, they are not split in regards to completing one before moving on to the other; more it is a gradual progression through the phases to reach the point whereby we can move into the actual session. The warm-up is started with a period of time assessing and managing tissue quality.

Foam Rolling

Anyone who has taken part in judo to a certain degree will understand that training creates muscle damage and soreness; this is increased when we then include resistance and endurance training into the mix. Elite athletes have to live in constant battle between creating and managing this soreness; one of the tools in an athlete’s or a coach’s toolbox is the foam roller. We use this for a couple of reasons: firstly, it is a lot cheaper and accessible than a massage therapist (it would be difficult and expensive to fly one all around the world for events), and secondly it enables the athlete to take control of his or her own preparation and provides some autonomy so they develop as professional athletes. The soft tissues in the body such as tendons, fascia, muscles and nerves tend to stiffen up with training; using the foam roller effectively can help to alleviate this tightness and begin to attune the athlete to his or her body ready for the session. The term used to describe this is self-myofascial release (SMR), and the majority of the world’s top athletes carry a roller in their suitcase everywhere they go. It works by applying pressure to the tissues using body weight to release tripper points and tight tissues, usually by spending around sixty seconds on each body part and staying slightly longer on particularly tight areas. Below are a few areas of focus for use in foam rolling:

Upper Back/Thoracic Spine

Fig. 8 Upper back rolling (a).

Fig. 9 Upper back rolling (b).

Fig. 10 Upper back mobilization (a).

Fig. 11 Upper back mobilization (b).

To begin with, perform some general rolling by placing the roller in the middle of your upper back and increase your body weight by lifting your hips off the floor. Move your back up and down on the roller, paying particular attention to any areas of tightness. The foam roller can then be used to mobilize the upper back. Simply place it just below the shoulder blades and, bracing through the core, raise your arms as far above your head as comfortable (gradually increasing).

Fig. 12 Peanut.

Fig. 13 Peanut rolling (a).

Fig. 14 Peanut rolling (b).

When looking to mobilize the upper back, mainly the thoracic spine, the foam roller may not be able to reach the small muscles and areas being focused on. The peanut is essentially two tennis balls taped together, as in the image below. Place the spine in the gap of the two balls and roll as if it was a foam roller to pay individual attention to each vertebrae.

Latissimus Dorsi

Fig. 15 Latissimus dorsi (a).

Fig. 16 Latissimus dorsi (b).

The latissimus dorsi is one of the widest muscles in the body and can generally be quite tight and stiff, particularly in judoka due to the bent over and internally rotated shoulder position when fighting. It is also one of the more sensitive areas to roll out. Start by keeping your hips on the floor until you are comfortable with putting more of your body weight through the roller.

Upper Legs and Hips

Fig. 17 Quadriceps and hip flexors (a).

Fig. 18 Quadriceps and hip flexors (b).

There are a few ways to increase the pressure on the quadriceps muscle group. Start by spreading the weight over both legs and rolling up and down. Stay over tight areas until they release and try to relax and breathe deeply. To increase the pressure, lean more on one side or take one leg off completely, then attempt to travel the length of the upper leg.

Iliotibial Band (IT Band)

Fig. 19 Iliotibial band (a).

Fig. 20 Iliotibial band (b).

The iliotibial band is a ligament that runs down the outside of your upper leg and attaches at the knee. This is a particular area of tightness and an important area to spend some time releasing. As with other areas of the body, increase or reduce amount of pressure dependant on the level is discomfort.

Gluteal Muscles

Fig. 21 Gluteal muscles (a).

Fig. 22 Gluteal muscles (b).

Sit on the foam roller, cross one leg over the other and bend your knee, as in the image below. Grab your shin of the leg on top and lean forward; the more forward lean the greater the pressure.

Calf Muscles

Fig. 23 Calf muscles (a).

Fig. 24 Calf muscles (b).

Managing the tissue quality of all the areas of the body is important; your legs are vital as any power generated in throwing actions transfers from the ground through your legs, to your hips, and finally through your upper body. Your calf muscles are important and when you are in heavy training they are usually the first to feel the fatiguing signs. Again, the goal is to release and loosen the muscles using foam rolling, and to increase pressure you should place one leg over the other. If there still needs to be more pressure a partner can lean on your leg. With rolling the calves, as well as all the other areas, try to change the angle so that you cover the whole muscle and not just a single plane of movement. To achieve this with the calves simply turn your foot out or inwards to change the angle of pressure. When including foam rolling into the warm-up routine there are a couple of strategies to be used. Firstly, it is a great way to start the training session as it allows the athletes to gauge how their bodies are feeling prior to the start of the main session and to work out any potential tightness. One strategy is to spend sixty seconds on each area, and a total time of around five to ten minutes working on the whole body each day. An alternative strategy is to select, for example, the quadriceps or upper back as the priority and spend the whole five to ten minutes on the single area, selecting a different area each day.


One of the key aspects of an effective warm-up is what is traditionally called the pulse raiser. This simple section once normally involved jogging or light calisthenics that neither challenged the athletes nor excited them physically or mentally. The premise behind the pulse raiser is more than just to increase the heart rate (although that is part of it). Muscles and tendons are much more pliable (flexible) when they are warm, so increasing the core temperature through this part of the warm-up helps reduce the risk of injuries and tears. A

typical pulse raise part of a warm-up lasts five to fifteen minutes and can be achieved in a variety of ways; some coaches like to introduce games such as football, netball or touch rugby, others like to be more creative and create challenges or include games that the athletes would have played when they were younger, such as cat and mouse or stuck in the mud. The content of a pulse raiser can be altered to match the main session focus. For example, if speed nage-komi was the main content and focus of the session then the warm-up could consist of a pulse raiser that includes speed ladders, hops, jumps and gymnastic movements. However, if the main session was randori then the pulse raiser could be light wrestling-based games, or whatever the coach believes to be appropriate. The coach needs to take into consideration the level of fatigue and motivation of the athletes. Sometimes a gamebased pulse raiser can be the perfect way to drive some energy into a session, whereas on other occasions the athletes may already be excitable and games may become too energetic. This may lead to fatigue and reduce the quality of the main session. A note of caution with pulse raisers: the goal is a positive trade-off between increasing temperature, muscle pliability and the motivation of the athletes, and minimizing the fatiguing effects of the exercise. If a coach permits fifteen minutes of football and the players go all out for fifteen minutes and enjoy it but are too tired to complete the main part of the session, then it hasn’t been an effective warm-up.

Activate and Mobilize

Activation refers to exciting the muscles and nerves responsible for the movements and action required in our sport. Mobilization refers to increasing the range of movement in and around the joints we are using in our sport (so for judo that means all of them). These are two separate goals that can often be achieved in a short cohesive programme. When creating programmes for activation and mobilization, sometimes the ‘boring’ stuff has no alternative. However, the scope and variety of exercises are as limited as a coach’s imagination, and often the exercises are fun and engaging

to get the most athlete ‘buy in’ and subsequently the most improvements. Working with professional high-performance athletes is often the easiest as they understand the reasons for this type of practice, and are willing to do anything that even remotely improves performance. Younger developing athletes may see this part of a warm-up as boring and pointless, however seeing coaches use ‘bear crawls’ and other animal-based movements to engage children is an ingenious way to teach the basics of movement mechanics while mobilizing and activating the muscles and joints required for performance. Activation programmes are developed around ‘awakening’ the smaller less used stabilizing muscles such as the rotator cuff, gluteus medius and core muscles. The small muscles mentioned are often not firing in the same way as the large overpowering muscles, and after long periods of training the movement chain starts to break down and a reconditioning of these essential muscles is needed. The aims of a sound activation programme are to ‘awaken’ the muscles to prepare them for the upcoming session. In doing so, they provide stability to the movements and help with force generation (important for throwing techniques such as uchi-mata), but also to train them so they require less reconditioning in the long term. Mobilization forms part of the process of preparing athletes for the upcoming session; traditionally static stretching has been part of a warm-up and research now suggests that including this type of mobilization can reduce power output. Flexibility is discussed in more detail later in the chapter, however mobilization of the joints is a large part of the exercises included in an effective warm-up. Dynamic stretching is the preferred method as it mimics the actualities of sport whereby athletes are in a state of movement. Mobilization exercises for a judo session may look like the list below:

•Heel to butt flicks

•Leg swings (front to back and side to side)

•Stepping over hurdles sideways and backwards (think of mimicking avoiding an ouchi-gari)

•Sumo kick outs (lift one leg out to the side as high as possible while leaning to the other side)

•Frankensteins (marching forward kicking your leg out in front, gradually increasing height)

•Walking knee hugs

Below are some examples of exercises that can be included in a mobilization and activation segment of the warm-up. Bear in mind that some exercises may achieve both goals, such as the lunge with a twist. The lunge activates the glutes which help stabilize, at the same time the lengthen the hip flexor dynamically on the back leg as well as awakening the balance (proprioceptive) muscles in the lower leg and foot.

Lower Body Exercises


Fig. 25 Lunge with twist.

The lunge should form a staple part of most warm-ups, it achieves the outcomes mentioned earlier as well as allowing the athletes to self-assess any imbalances/weakness as part of their warm-up. There are many variations of the lunge, including backwards, forwards, sideways and clock face (whereby from a standing position you lunge out at 45 degree angles around the face of a clock). There are also lunges with twists and with weights. The variations are many so play around to keep athletes guessing and developing different movement patterns. When using this as part of the warm-up for a judo session it is easy to prescribe lengths of the mat, allowing the coach to watch for any balance issues or similar. Key coaching points to be on the lookout for in the lunge are:

•Front knee tracking over foot (any inverting of the knee could highlight weak glutes)

•Keeping back knee off the floor

•Maintaining an upright posture

•Feet are hip width apart

Single Leg Circles

Fig. 26 Single leg circles (a).

Fig. 27 Single leg circles (b).

Fig. 28 Single leg circles (c).

This exercise is all about control. Have the athlete bend his or her standing leg to a quarter squat, as in the illustration below, then get them to track their other foot around in as wide a circle as they can (lightly touching the mat/floor) while maintaining good knee position on the standing foot and an upright posture. Aim to increase how far they can reach in each one; three times on each leg is an appropriate exercise prescription, however begin with one if the athlete struggles to complete. A key point is control, so each repetition should take at least five seconds to complete.


Fig. 29 Arabesque with quarter squat (a).

Fig. 30 Arabesque with quarter squat (b).

An arabesque is essentially a well-controlled uchi-mata movement, whereby the athlete balances on one foot and hinges at the hip to raise the other leg behind them. The goal is to activate the stabilizing muscles in the leg and hips as well as lengthen the hamstrings in the standing leg. This is a great exercise for judoka as it directly mimics the actions that may be used in a session but also teaches correct body positioning and movement patterns. There are varieties and progressions for this type of exercise such as:

•Basic arabesque

•Arabesque into quarter squat

•Arabesque into twist (particularly good for engaging the ‘core’)

•Advanced athletes could work towards forwards roll into arabesque and many other variations

Similar to single leg circles, the aim is to develop control so slower movements with good posture are the key.

Hops and Jumps

The following exercises are designed to progressively increase the demand of the warm-up by adding in light plyometric-based exercises. These are designed to test, develop and activate the agility, balance and control mechanism of the lower body in preparation for training and competition.

90 Degree Hop and Hold

Fig. 31 90 degree hop and hold (a).

Fig. 32 90 degree hop and hold (b).

Fig. 33 90 degree hop and hold (c).

In this exercise the challenge is to control rotation torque through the knees and hips. The athlete jumps in the air, turning 90 degrees in one direction and controls the landing with good posture and as little noise as possible. The landing is held for two seconds before continuing to hop and twist until a full turn is completed on one leg. The athlete then reverses the direction and jumps a full turn in the opposite direction (clockwise/anticlockwise). There should be eight hops in total for each leg. Coaching cues for this exercise include landing by bending simultaneously at the hip, knee, and ankle and aiming to reduce the noise made upon landing. The athlete should aim to look straight forward and maintain an upright posture with his or her upper body, in addition to limiting the readjustments and bouncing in order to balance. This exercise activates the proprioceptive capacities of the lower body and teaches the athletes good jumping and landing mechanics, which are needed in most sports.


Fig. 34 Speed-skaters.

This exercise is designed to challenge the lateral control and change of direction ability. The simple explanation for this exercise is jumping side to side, however there are many aspects involved and various progressions/regressions that can be made dependent on the athlete. The basic version of this exercise is predominantly about control; as the athlete jumps sideways the aim is to control the landing by using the same methods as in hops. By bending at the hip, knee and ankle at the same time the athlete is exhibiting good landing mechanics and building body awareness. The progression from this is to ask the athlete to increase the distance he or she covers laterally (sideways). By increasing the distance jumped the athlete increases the challenge of landing from the jump properly. This skill can be built up over time and the athlete needs to select a distance he or she can cover. With practice the landing can be controlled without losing balance. The third progression for speed-skaters is to challenge the plyometric ability (this also potentiates but we will cover that later) of the athlete. In this version of the exercise the goal is to continuously jump from side to side for a given number of repetitions or distance travelled. The goal here is to awaken the fast twitch muscles and get them firing ready for the session. Coaching cues involve stressing to the athletes that the time spent on the ground should be as short as possible. In a sport such as judo where there are so many attributes to train it is difficult to dedicate a session to each individual trait. Plyometrictype exercises need a smaller stimulus for judoka than say a sprinter (being explosive is one of the key factors in sprinting performance) so when considering how to programme these aspects, the warm-up can be an effective tool to develop these qualities.


Fig. 35 Bounding.

There are many versions of bounding that can be used in a warm-up situation; the type and intensity is at the discretion of the coach. Some coaches working with younger athletes may see how many people lying down side to side an athlete can jump clear of, others might include bunny hops over a partner’s back. The innovation of the coach is really the only limitation and we have included one version that is used with senior athletes with some success. In this exercise the athlete has a specific number (determined mainly by the mat area) of single leg bounds to cover as much distance as possible. Athletes can hold a cone or marker and leave it at their final position to create a fun, competitive environment. The main stipulation is that the final bound must be landed correctly, and that falling forward or over completely results in a failed attempt.

Upper Body

Press-Up with Twist

Fig. 36 Press-up with twist (a).

Fig. 37 Press-up with twist (b).

Fig. 38 Press-up with twist (c).

The press-up is a fundamental movement that incorporates core stability, good shoulder control and upper body strength. Most athletes will have no problem with a standard press-up, however the goal of this exercise is not upper body strength development. The twisting action at the top of the press-up is designed to challenge and develop the smaller stabilizing muscles in and around the shoulder, as well as some core strength. The athlete completes a normal press-up and at the top of the movement takes one hand off the ground and slowly (with control) twists so he or she is 90 degrees to the ground. In the image sequence you can see the core is braced and hips and shoulders move together in alignment.

Four Point Touches

Fig. 39 Four point touches (a).

Fig. 40 Four point touches (b).

Fig. 41 Four point touches (c).

Fig. 42 Four point touches (d).

This is a progression from the press-up twist and requires large amounts of core bracing, however the intensity of this exercise is dictated purely by the athlete and the distance covered relates to shoulder stability and general mobility. The exercise involves starting in a press-up position (wider stance with feet for more support) and the athlete leans his or her weight on to one side more and raises the other arm. The raised arm must not have any weight put on it until the repetition is completed. The athlete then reaches as far forward with the raised arm as possible, then out to the side, in between the legs and finally under the supporting arm. The aim is to touch the floor briefly as far as possible in the direction in which you are aiming; torso bending is allowed but the legs must remain straight. This is a challenging exercise for the core and shoulder stabilizing muscles and may require rest in between repetitions. Aim to complete one to three repetitions for each arm, with good control and good shoulder position.

Press-Up Partner Battles

Fig. 43 Press-up battles (a).

Fig. 44 Press-up battles (b).

Fig. 45 Press-up battles (c).

This is a continuation of shoulder stability enhancement, however with a more functional element to it. In this exercise both partners face each other while in a press-up position (feet slightly wider). The goal of the exercise is to pull your opponent’s arm away from the floor to take away their base of support so they fall over. The fun and competitive element is important for this exercise, however its main reason and purpose is to create dynamic stability in the shoulder region, as well as teaching good organization of the upper body. The coach must emphasize good posture and in order to reduce any injury risk must instruct the athletes not to strike or apply direct pressure to the elbow joint of their opponent.

Y, T, W

Fig. 46 Y.

Fig. 47 T.

Fig. 48 W.

Y, T, W refers to the shapes the athlete makes while performing these exercises and is done in various ways. The basic version involves the athlete lying face down in the prone position; the engaged phase of the exercise lasts at least five seconds and the goal is to lift the shoulder blades off the ground and into a good position. This type of exercise promotes optimal posture and strengthens the smaller stabilizing muscles around the shoulder area (see Figs 39–42 for the actual shapes to aim for). The inclusion of shoulder/postural exercises are of vital importance for judoka as the fighting stance and gripping strategies usually involve the athlete being in a rounded shoulder position. This coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle and lots of time sitting down in a slouched position have created laxity in the shoulder girdle, and this type of exercise is needed to aid performance as well as reduce the risk of sudden or overuse injuries for the shoulder. Aim for five holds of five seconds in each of the positions.

Partner Y, T, W

Fig. 49 Partner Y.

Fig. 50 Partner Y single arm.

Fig. 51 Partner V.

Fig. 52 Partner V single arm.

This version of the Y, T, W complex involves using a partner, and relies on trust as well as co-operation because if the partner lets go the athlete will fall over. The exercise is completed in a standing position with the partner behind the athlete. This is more challenging for the shoulder stabilizing muscles than the prone version as you can use your body weight to add resistance. The partner plays a key role in this by controlling the athlete’s weight (see images). The basic version involves double arm exercises; the more the athlete leans towards his or her partner then the more resistance is added to the shoulder complex. An additional progression is to remove one supporting arm at a time to further challenge the shoulder stability. A good addition to the Y, T, W is to add a V (see images), which allows the athlete to put more weight through the shoulders.


Fig. 53 Wheelbarrows.

Fig. 54 Wheelbarrow into handstand (a).

Fig. 55 Wheelbarrow into handstand (b).

Fig. 56 Wheelbarrow into handstand (c).

The wheelbarrow is a more functional progression from the Y, T, W and can be used in many ways. Some coaches use wheelbarrow type exercises as conditioning tools, some have used it to develop power. There are many variations of the wheelbarrow such as the direction (forward, backward, sideways), and the type (walking, sprinting, jumping, up/down stairs). For the purpose of the warm-up and injury prevention, which is the goal of this chapter, we will focus on a more controlled version of the wheelbarrow. In this version the athlete moves into a press-up position and the partner takes the ankles and holds them at his or her side so one foot is on either side of their legs. The athlete maintains a retracted shoulder position with fingers pointing forwards and a braced core (an easy coaching cue is to instruct him or her to be like an ironing board) and then moves forward to cover a given area (usually a mat length of about 20m). The technique normally breaks down around the hips and coaches can look for swinging of the hips as a sign that the core is not braced correctly. A simple coaching cue is for the athlete to imagine he or she has a pint of water on the lower back and is not allowed to spill any, or the coach could actually place a cone on the back and if it falls the athlete has to start again. Progressions for this exercise are many, however one that is used with elite athletes and is particularly challenging is the wheelbarrow into handstand pushups. This is done at the end of the length of mat/gym travelled, and is again aided by the partner. The athlete raises one leg for the partner to take hold of and uses this to lift themselves into a handstand position; the partner facilitates this by helping to take some of the weight and aids in balancing the athlete. Then the athlete performs a handstand push-up with the aid of the partner, and the level of support provided depends on ability. If the athlete can do three push-ups without the aid of the partner then he or she can just provide balance, otherwise the partner can help the athlete by pulling up on the ankles to take some weight away from the shoulders.


Potentiation or post-activation potentiation is traditionally a term used when describing the process and effects of increased speed and power following a maximal or near maximal effort. A normal example of this would be performing five front squats at 90 per cent 1RM prior to completing a triple jump. Jonathan Edwards, the world record holder for triple jump, was famed for lifting incredible weights in the clean prior to his longest jumps. When examining potentiation for the purposes of a warm-up, it is with the goal of creating the neural stimulation to prepare the athlete for the upcoming training or competition. A simple explanation of potentiation used in judo is uchi-komi; we do lots of this type of exercise at the beginning of sessions to sharpen our technique and warm-up. What is happening physiologically is the motor neurons are experiencing this movement and building faster firing sequences to increase the efficiency of the movement. Think of cable internet: the signals travel from our brain to the parts of the body that need to fire and move in order to do the technique. When we practise this in training or in the warm-up the cable gets thicker and is able to transmit the signal faster. Hence this is why including this type of sport-specific warm-up is essential to high performance. It is also why we do so many drills in judo; the thicker the cable the more automatic and fast the signal travels and the quicker our body moves in complex ways to create kuzushi and to eventually throw our opponent. An example of post-activation potentiation is three-person nage-komi, in which the athlete tries to throw his or her partner while a third person provides resistance using body weight and strength. After a certain number of maximal efforts in which the athlete cannot complete the throw due to resistance, the partner moves away and the potentiation effect facilitates a more explosive throw than was previously possible. Non-judo specific potentiation may involve some of the exercises that are described in the activation early in the chapter; those that are plyometric in nature have the capacity to potentiate the nervous system. However, for judo the sport specific versions have been shown anecdotally to have greater performance enhancement potential.

Cool Down

The cool down commences as soon as the training session or competition ends. Unfortunately, this is one of the most disregarded aspects of training and many an athlete simply just gets changed and leaves thinking the training is over. We discuss later in this book the concept of the 24-hour athlete as someone who not only is professional in training but is also operating as an athlete for the other twenty-three hours of the day when not training. This means the athlete eats the right foods, gets the right amount of sleep and takes care of his or her body. The cool down is effectively the start of the regenerative stage in preparation for the next session and how this is managed can have a drastic effect on how recovered the athlete is at the next training. A typical cool down consists of five to ten minutes of light stretching, although research suggests the nervous system is too heightened to have any really positive adaptations to static stretching here. The more appropriate method of starting the recovery process is to take on board the appropriate nutrition depending on the type of training that took place. An active recovery of jogging, light games and relaxed uchi-komi could be a more beneficial method to help the restoration process. Flexibility work can be performed as a separate session or after really light training, such as aerobic training.


Flexibility is an important factor in judo due to the nature of throwing and escaping. Those athletes who are able to lift their leg higher than their opponent can usually come out on top in, for example, uchi-mata. Also, the flexibility required to drop under an opponent or to win in ne-waza is vital to the success of the techniques. Therefore we must consider how we increase our flexibility.

Flexibility has a few definitions: while dynamic flexibility refers to the range of motion (ROM) during either fluid or explosive movement, static flexibility is more concerned with ROM in a fixed position. Dynamic flexibility was covered in the mobilization section of this chapter, therefore this section focuses more on increases in static flexibility. Having good flexibility is not just important for sporting performance, other benefits of flexibility include:

•Reduced risk of injury

•Reduced risk of lower back pain

•Improved posture

Traditional static stretching involves holding a position at the edge of comfort for fifteen to sixty seconds, this usually done on a joint-by-joint or muscle-bymuscle basis. Muscle is most compliant for stretching when it is warm, hence that is why we feel looser at the end of the training session. However, a light warm-up pre-stretching is preferable to a full training session, due to many factors such as adrenaline, nervous system excitement, fatigue and so on. Other methods of achieving increased flexibility include attending yoga, having soft tissue massage, foam rolling (releases fascia) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).


In this chapter we covered the benefits of an effective warm-up, and how to

construct the session to gradually bring the athlete to a state of readiness, whether that be for training or competition. A good warm-up deals with enhancing tissue quality through foam rolling, massage and so on, followed by a pulse raiser in which the goal is to raise the muscle temperature to increase pliability and reduce injury risk. The next step is to ensure activation and mobilization of the joints and muscles, as well as correct any movement inefficiencies or imbalances. The warm-up can then move to more plyometric or sport-specific exercises, which are designed to potentiate the upcoming training by stimulating the neuromuscular system and priming the muscles ready for the session. The coach can use the warm-up to address weaknesses and imbalances by adapting the exercises to suit the athlete, and creating a solid framework for warming up can enhance athletic capabilities as well as prepare the athlete for training/competition. The cool down is the ideal time to take on board the appropriate nutrition as well as gradually reducing temperature and heart rate by active recovery. Static stretching is best done as a separate session or a few hours later by including yoga, PNF or individual static stretching routines.



The objective of this chapter is to explain the philosophy of strength training and highlight its merit as a method for improving judo performance. The chapter will provide a useful resource for coaches and athletes of all levels, enabling them to design, implement and evaluate training programmes to achieve their strength development goals. Sample programmes and progressions are provided to give a clearer picture of how training to increase strength regardless of previous level of activity can be beneficial and how to manage the process.


There is large body of research that demonstrates a strong correlation between strength and sporting performance; however, these studies are usually conducted in linear and more physiological-based sports such as sprinting and throwing or jumping events. More recently there has been investigative and interventional research conducted on sports such as rugby, tennis and various martial arts including MMA and judo. The suggestions from the research highlight the benefits in sporting performance from increased strength. In simple terms, when you have to overcome a resistance of any type then the body as a system performs this action more effectively when it is stronger. An illustration of this is when attempting to lift and throw an opponent who weighs 70kg; this effort would be made easier if 70kg was a lower percentage of your maximum strength. If your maximum squat strength is 140kg then this is only 50 per cent of your max effort compared with if your max squat was 70kg and lifting your opponent was a maximal effort. Obviously, judo techniques require large degrees

of skill and use of mechanical levers/timing. This is purely an example of how being stronger can increase our efficiency of effort. In judo tournament situations, whereby two judoka are matched for skill and fitness, the person who is more able to overcome the resistance of their opponent is more likely to win the match. There is an old coach’s saying that lifting weights makes fighters slow and heavy, however more than fifty years of studies and advances in strength training practices has completely dispelled that theory. Higher levels of technical mastery usually wins over strength; this is one of the underlying principles of judo. However, there are more cases of strong judoka at the top level defeating those who are highly skilled with their superior physicality. The goal of strength training for judo is to increase the ability of the judoka to execute their technique, and deliver their strength at the appropriate times during a match more efficiently. So if we are agreed that to be successful in judo we need some element of strength, what is it? How do we build strong judoka? Much of what is read in popular magazines is focused on muscle size development and aesthetics (of which there is a small part to play in this chapter, see Hypertrophy). As coaches we are in danger of not looking at the bigger picture in terms of building a better athlete who doesn’t just ‘look the part’ but is functionally strong. In addition, they can use the muscle they have developed to increase their chance of winning and reduce their susceptibility to injury. Injury prevention plays a large role in the development of world-class athletes and one of the main tools for building robust competitors who are less prone to injury is through strength training. If athletes’ robustness is developed through this type of training they are more likely to complete whole blocks of training injury free and will also be better equipped to recover from injury in a shorter timescale. This is done through building muscle that supports the body in its movements and in dealing with outside stressors, such as falls and so on. Robustness is also improved through minimizing the muscular imbalances created through sport that are not symmetrical (think of the level of control on a player’s supporting leg during uchi-mata compared to the action leg). In this chapter, we will look at the various modalities of strength training and how and when they are best used to maximize their effectiveness. Throughout there will also be case study examples of programmes that can be used for various levels of athletes, although please bear in mind these are not prescriptive

but merely an example of the type of programme that may be appropriate for this population.


It is a logical argument to make that being stronger increases ones chance of being successful in sport in general, and in particularly in judo as was described earlier in this book; just look at the Olympic motto ‘faster, higher, stronger’. However, some consider there to be a point of diminishing returns when it comes to strength training. It is important to state that for most people, who are outside the top 1 per cent of athletes who are very close to their genetic potential, this may never become a reality and there will always be ways of increasing strength without affecting the actual practice of the sport. The aim for strength and conditioning is to allow the judoka the capacity to complete the volume and intensity of actual judo practice to the best of their abilities in order to make the progress needed to succeed. Once the judoka is close to his or her genetic potential, we will use an example of a 90kg judoka who can back squat 250kg to illustrate the point. This is a very strong benchmark for this category of athlete and when looking at what he or she can do to improve judo performance, increasing the back squat another 10kg may help but the volume and effort in strength training to achieve this will start to have negative effects on judo practice in terms of time and fatigue. There has to be a point when the cost benefit of being stronger is no longer worth the investment it takes to make those gains and in fact maintenance is a better use of that person’s time. This is a rare occurrence, however, and with the benefits of both increased performance and injury prevention there should always be an element of strength training in any judo programme, be that basic development exercises, explosive power or maximum strength is all dependent of the stage the judoka is at in that particular phase in time. Providing a structured strength-based development programme that is timed around judo training efficiently is essential to maximizing strength increases, while minimizing the fatigue that may affect technical and randori-specific

training. In order to achieve this goal, careful consideration has to be taken when designing a periodized programme, taking into account recovery and fatigue rates for each type of training. This is why a coach needs to understand or work with a specialist who has knowledge of these key processes when structuring the training week cycle. The next section will deliver a brief overview of the key timings and adaptations in relation to strength training.


Periodization of training is covered in more detail later in this book; however for the purposes of understanding how strength training is managed a brief explanation is provided here. Periodization is planned distribution or variation of training methods and means on a cyclic basis. The aims of the sequencing of training are to optimize various training effects or adaptations at a specific time, along with managing fatigue, preventing overtraining and avoiding boredom and stagnation. The purpose of these aims is to prepare an athlete for major competition at a critical point whereby fatigue and fitness differences are maximized to achieve optimal performance results.


Prescribing a strength programme for athletes takes careful consideration on behalf of the coach and must take into account the following parameters:

The Sport and Weight Category

For some sports, such as the high jump, long jump, gymnastics and so on, a great deal of body weight control is required and this possibly should be prioritized in training. In sports including rugby, wrestling and judo, which deal with large external loads, heavy weight training may be a key factor in the programme design. In judo there are a large variety of attributes that are weight categoryspecific, for example lightweight −60kg men tend to display high levels of agility and speed compared with +100kg men, who tend to rely to a larger degree on maximal strength to overcome opponents. Each weight category does rely on all the attributes mentioned in the needs analysis to varying degrees, and omitting any area completely is unwise. However, taking into account the profile of successful athletes in these divisions as well as individual strength and weaknesses should lead to creating programmes that are designed to minimize areas of weakness while enhancing the advantages of attributes that are deemed as strengths.

Availability of Equipment

Programme design must take into account the available resources; there is no point in creating a programme that includes Olympic lifting and sophisticated testing when there are not the facilities, funding or expertise to manage it. A key factor should be using the equipment and coaching expertise to its fullest, as well as managing the development of athletes; a goal should be to provide the best training possible within budget or space constraints.

Number of Athletes

The general logistics of programming individual plans for a large group of athletes would take considerable time, effort and expertise. Creating a wideranging individual programme for a small number of athletes is more feasible. Coaches should take into consideration the number of athletes they are working

with and how much contact time they will have with them when designing training programmes.

Level of the Athlete

Consideration needs to be given to the age and experience of the athlete. Training age vs. biological age was explained in more detail in ‘developing young athletes’ and the same issues are prominent when designing programmes for seniors; the level can dictate the goals of the training programme. For example, peaking a team of international level athletes for the World championships would look very different to a programme designed to enhance the general athletic capacities of a group of twelve to fifteen-year-old club level judoka.


Included in the weight category-specific demands and attributes there is a variety of individual traits that can be apparent, for example two players in the same division may elicit massive variations in strength. One may be a more efficient and aerobically dominant competitor who likes to wear opponents down before throwing them, whereas the other one may be powerful and likes to throw big from the start of a match. Both traits can be successful, but both need to be trained in completely different ways. With larger groups of athletes it is difficult to manage this, however the general trend is that as the athlete progresses from cadet to senior the programme design becomes more individualized. In order to prescribe the appropriate training we need to take into consideration all the above factors. The most efficient method of determining the programme design is to start with the ‘big goal’ in mind, for example the Olympic Games, and work backwards from there. A brief example would be to look at qualifying

for an Olympic Games. Let us imagine the player in question is currently number one in the world: this means he is capable of winning a medal at the Olympics. He needs to peak for this event, however he must also ensure he qualifies and to do this the World championships offers the most points available for qualification. Therefore we now have two events in which to perform well; a training programme that has two peaks is relatively simple to manage and is discussed later in planning the training process. The athlete will first look to complete a block of strength endurance or hypertrophy depending on his weight in relation to the division, followed by a period of strength development. As the amount of sport-specific training increases leading to the event the strength programme would move into a power phase ensuring the player can turn the strength he has built into useful power to increase explosiveness in throws. The next section will go into more detail into each phase of strength training and what they entail to better help us understand how to structure training around events and development.


This phase of training can be very individualized due to the nature of judo being a weight class sport, and many competitors will shy away from any training that increases muscle size and body weight. This is not to suggest that this phase should be completely missed out by those who are close to their fighting weight, rather it means they will need a modified programme that increases the working capacity of their muscles without gaining any muscle mass. Alternatively, for those who are either moving up a category or struggling to make strength gains (people closer to their potential) this phase is essential to aid the development of muscle but also as a base for increases in strength and power later on in the calendar. Increases in strength can largely be attributed and correlated with increases in lean muscle mass, so at the beginning of a programme and where possible a period of time building new muscle can later enhance strength or power capabilities. The traditional method that most people think of when they consider hypertrophy is the bodybuilder workout that focuses on individual muscles

through isolation-based exercises such as the biceps curl or calf raise. It should be apparent that although this type of training is effective it is not the most efficient way for judoka to train. We need to use our time in the gym efficiently and follow the maxim of ‘minimal effective dose’ in order to minimize fatigue while getting the necessary adaptations in order to improve performance. The mechanisms for muscle hypertrophy are complex and beyond the scope of this book, however it is important to understand the basic principles that allow it. Resistance training induces increases in muscle size through mechanical loading that leads to growth through the contractile proteins actin and myosin. The mechanical loading creates an environment hormonally that increases gene expression and muscle anabolism, and when combined with appropriate nutrition promotes growth of muscle tissue. In a more simplistic explanation, resistance training creates the perfect environment for muscle growth and when the correct foods are eaten at the right times then your muscles grow. When targeting muscle growth, the following programme variables need to be considered.

Muscle Action

The full range of eccentric (muscle lengthening), isometric (static) and concentric (muscle shortening) actions are recommended for muscle hypertrophy. In addition, it is beneficial to work the muscles through the full range of movement to maximize the muscle breakdown and incite an anabolic hormonal response.

Load and Volume

Novice and intermediate trainers – for those who have limited experience of

resistance training then a programme using 70–85 per cent of their 1RM is best suited. Eight to twelve repetitions for each set, with one to three sets per exercise is the most appropriate prescription for this type of training. Advanced trainers – when designing hypertrophy programmes for more advanced lifters, the stimulus needs to be more challenging as their bodies will have adapted to the novice/intermediate programmes. Recommendations for this group are 70–100 per cent 1RM, for one to twelve reps and three to six sets per exercise. The aim is to increase the stress the muscles are put under as well as the metabolic strain in order to force the body to adapt.

Exercise Selection

Both single and multi-joint exercises can elicit significant gains in muscle hypertrophy. However, as the goal is to get the maximum results from the least amount of time we favour the multi-joint approach. This is due to the compound nature of these lifts, which are closer to judo-specific actions; the multi-joint approach taxes the neural functions, which also increases the hormonal response and this aids in promoting muscle anabolism.

Rest Periods

The amount of rest taken between sets significantly affects the metabolic and hormonal responses to hypertrophy-based training. The main goal of this type of training is to manipulate the body to create an anabolic environment; therefore managing the rest period is of paramount importance. Novice and intermediate trainers should aim for one to two minute rest periods in between sets, and for more advanced lifters two to three minutes’ rest for main compound exercises and one to two for the majority of other lifts is optimal. The reason for the change for experienced lifters is the high level of neuromuscular fatigue that is

associated with heavy multi-joint lifts such as the back squat and deadlift. If we reduce the rest too much, either the loading has to be reduced or the quality of the movement becomes compromised due to the difficulty of the exercises.

Repetition Velocity

When looking to maximize muscle growth we need to consider the length of time the muscle is under tension; if the repetition is explosive in nature we may still enhance size. However, when the repletion is controlled and takes longer to complete then there is an increased time where the muscle is contracting and increasing the ‘micro-tears’ that will signal the body to send proteins to that muscle to grow. There are many varieties of timing the movement and one we prefer is two-one-two, meaning two seconds eccentric, one second paused at the bottom of the movement, and two seconds to lift the weight (concentric).


This is a contentious area of great debate and variety. There are schools of thought that suggest two to three days per week are sufficient for eliciting gains in muscle size, whereas others highlight as much as six sessions per week. Bodybuilders are known to follow split routines and some are even prone to two sessions per day in an attempt to maximize muscle size. When considering this variable we have to be aware that the ultimate goal is performance on the mat, and any training outside this needs to ‘supplement’ the developments of judo. In addition, the level of the athlete and number of years training has to be taken into account. For novice trainers two to three days per week should provide ample stimulus for growth and adaptation. In more advanced trainers, we may need to increase the frequency of sessions and use a split routine. Split routines prioritize muscle groups and muscle actions on each day, usually stressing each twice per week with at least seventy-two hours in between working each area. For

example, a four-day split may follow this routine:

Monday – Lower body push (squat, leg press, calf raises)

Tuesday – Upper body push (bench press, shoulder press, press-ups)

Thursday – Lower body pull (posterior chain – Romanian deadlift, Nordics, hamstring curls)

Friday – Upper body pull (bench pull, chin-ups, biceps curl)




% 1RM

Back squat








Bench press




Single leg squats 5 each side



Nordic curls



Body weight


1 minute


Body weight

Table 1: Example hypertrophy training session.


A judoka’s ability to generate force is vital for all aspects of the sport, from gripping effectively and bracing attacks from opponents to applying shime-waza. There are two key factors that influence strength; these are muscle crosssectional area (CSA), otherwise known as muscle size, and neuromuscular factors (such as motor unit firing, synchronization and activation). Neuromuscular factors are more simply described as your body’s ability to activate as much of your muscle fibre as fast as it can, and in the right sequence. Both these attributes can be effected by resistance training, and enhancements of muscle CSA can be achieved by strength training (in particular with novices). However, hypertrophy training prioritizes this adaptation and as it was covered earlier in the chapter this section will focus on developing the body’s ability to generate force. Similar to hypertrophy training, there are key programme variables that we can manipulate to create the right environment for the development of strength. These are as follows.

Muscle Action

The key actions for strength development are concentric (muscle shortening) and eccentric (lengthening), with little emphasis on isometric. However with judo, there is a demand for isometric strength due to the gripping and ne-waza elements involved. Although this attribute is predominantly trained during sport-

specific practice there are some benefits to supplementing judo training with isometric training such as plate holds, plank variations, and rope or bar hanging.


The loading for strength development is very individual and requires acute changes depending on the level of training experience, rate of adaptation, existing strength levels and many other factors. Many novice trainers tend to experience very rapid progressions during the first one to eight weeks of commencing a strength training programme due to neuromuscular adaptations. Beginners can gain strength from as little as 45 per cent 1RM, whereas more advanced trainers would need greater stimulus of at least 80 per cent 1RM to increase neural adaptations.

Novice – 60–70 per cent 1RM for eight to twelve repetitions is sufficient to enhance strength. Progressions should be based on competency to complete exercise movements with current load before increasing by 2–10 per cent.

Intermediate – 70–85 per cent 1RM for five to eight repetitions progressing to higher loads and fewer repetitions depending on level of adaptations and movement competency.

Advanced – 80–100 per cent 1RM for one to five repetitions. Training should be cycled to build towards maximal loading with accommodated deloading to avoid overtraining. Advanced trainers should be aiming to progress their 1RM and subsequent percentages over the course of a periodized plan.


Volume equates to the load lifted multiplied by the repetitions performed on that given load. Altering the volume dictates the adaptations that occur from training and when prioritizing strength development this is a key variable. Relative novices will respond to single set programmes as well as multi-set, so during the initial stages of introducing judoka to strength training one to two sets will provide a large enough stimulus without adding more accumulative fatigue than is necessary. In more advanced lifters who will be operating at closer to their 1RM max and therefore experiencing more muscular and neuromuscular fatigue, cycling of intensity and volume is necessary to provide stimulus while avoiding overtraining. In this type of judoka, the trend is to tailor the strength programme to individual plans and needs in relation to his or her current level and desired goals. With increased loading (intensity) there usually comes a decrease in volume (reps/sets). For example, during the early phase of strength development for an advanced judo the programme may look something like this:

Monday – Back squat, bench press, pull-up. Five repetitions of five sets with three minutes’ rest at 70–80 per cent 1RM.

Friday – Deadlift, bench pull, push press. Five repetitions of five sets with three minutes’ rest at 70–80 per cent 1RM.

As the athlete moves closer to competition and has adapted to the above programme, then the intensity will increase, as will the rest period, but the volume will reduce.

Monday – Back squat, bench press, pull-up. Two to three repetitions of four to

six sets with five minutes’ rest at 85–95 per cent 1RM.

Friday – Deadlift, bench pull, push press. Two to three repetitions with five minutes’ rest at 85–95 per cent 1RM.

Exercise Selection

Multi-joint barbell-based exercises such as the back squat, deadlift, bench press and bench pull are preferred exercises for strength development as they cover large muscle groups, which can reduce the number of exercises required to achieve overload of the whole body. They also involve complex muscle sequencing, which improves intra-muscular co-ordination (ability of the muscle to fire in optimal sequences) and other neural responses that aid in strength development. Using these multi-joint barbell-based exercises allows us to increase the load and ultimately lift a heavier magnitude of weight. In addition to the strength gains involved there are also skilland technique-based elements with this type of exercise. Judo is a dynamic sport that requires a great deal of attributes and building general strength can aid in a large proportion of the challenges involved in the sport. A key aspect of judo is the ability to maintain your own balance, and to affect your opponent’s while being able to control both person’s weight. This can be done either with both feet planted on the ground, or on one leg such as in uchi-mata. Unilateral (single side) strength training can greatly enhance the control and strength in a throw such as uchi-mata and including this type of exercise for judoka is important. Single leg squats, for example, are a great exercise to include in a programme as they allow strength developments overall, but also illuminate any muscular imbalances that need to be addressed.

Exercise Order

Multi-joint complex exercises such as back squat, deadlift and power cleans have the greatest potential to increase strength; they also require a great deal of focus, co-ordination and mental effort. Therefore, it is imperative these exercises that create large amounts of stress on the body are performed close to the start of the training session. By prioritizing these exercises then, the athletes can give them their full attention and receive the performance increases to be gained from executing them correctly with good form and concentration. Supplementary exercises, sometimes referred to as assistance exercises, that are single joint or low load such as biceps curls, external rotations, or leg raises should be loaded towards the end of the session. The reason for this is that they demand less focus, skill and mental effort.

Rest Periods

As was mentioned in hypertrophy, the rest periods involved in resistance training greatly affect the hormonal and mechanical adaptations that occur. Therefore, in order to get the maximum from the training programmes we prescribe to athletes we need to manage the rest periods between sets and exercises. The amount of time needed depends on the demands of the exercise, the loading and the goal for the training. Due to the high levels of fatigue associated with multi-joint strength exercises at or above 80 per cent 1RM a period of at least three minutes’ rest is optimal. In contrast, the rest periods for assistance exercises that create less metabolic and neural demand can be reduced to one to two minutes.

Repetition Velocity

Novice – when beginners commence strength training it is unwise to start immediately with explosive efforts as there is a great deal of technique and physiological learning that needs to occur. The quality of the movement may be reduced and this can lead to injury, therefore for the beginner a slower tempo similar to hypertrophy is recommended. Once the judoka has adapted to the training stimulus and is competent at the lifts then a beneficial progression is to increase the intent to move the weight at a faster rate. This will aid the muscle firing capacity, which relates more to sporting actions such as delivering a throw. Advanced – there can be a large variety of velocities of action for advanced athletes and interchanging them may be an appropriate method of offsetting boredom and overtraining symptoms. A key factor to note when working maximum strength training with >80 per cent of 1RM is that the intention to exert rapid force throughout the movement still recruits the appropriate muscle fibres. The fibres, their recruitment and synchronization will still develop the explosive strength, even if the weight moves slowly due to the high load.


When the sole purpose of training is weightlifting and maximum strength development, there is some rationale for more than four to five training sessions per week. This is used frequently in elite Olympic weightlifting teams, whereby the sessions are split into one lift or exercise per session and sometimes up to two sessions per day. It is also apparent in elite bodybuilding when sessions are split over body parts and can be up to twice daily. However, the goal is maximum strength development that aids performance in judo. More than four sessions per week is unnecessary, unless the athlete is injured or taking part in an off-season conditioning block. Novice trainers should aim to strength train two to three times per week, covering the whole body in each session. Intermediate to advanced trainers can strength train up to four sessions per week and still be able to complete all technical and conditioning work outside of strength training.




% 1RM

Back squat




Bench press








Split squats

8 each side



Plate press-ups




Back extensions 5


BW/light disc

Table 2: Example strength training session.


Exercise selection is a difficult task when it comes to judoka, and lots of coaches and athletes aim to mimic the actions of the sport during resistance training. While in theory this is a great idea (strengthen the actions you will use in judo), to a degree it is a flawed philosophy for a few reasons: judo is a difficult sport to mimic in the gym environment as it is an open chain skill and loading the body enough to create the required adaptations can be very dangerous in an uncontrolled manner. The most effective way to gain strength that can be transferred to judo, especially for developmental athletes, is to keep to simple functional exercises. By functional we mean compound exercises that span multi-joint and whole body actions such as the back squat and squat variations, deadlift, bench press, bent over row and pull-up. These exercises can be used to build strength throughout the whole body without attempting the numerous isolated muscle groups that are traditionally seen in bodybuilding-type training programmes. Below are a few of the key exercises used in strength training for judoka.

Back Squat

Fig. 57 Back squat (a).

Fig. 58 Back squat (b).

•The bar rests on the shoulders in a low bar position (middle of the trapezius), or high bar (base of the neck) with shoulders retracted to create a shelf for it to rest on

•Bar is gripped with palms facing forward (pronated) grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart

•Feet are parallel and shoulder width apart, or wider depending on preference, and toes slightly angled evenly

•Head is facing forward and slightly upwards with eyes focused directly ahead on a point just ahead and above eye level

•Flex at the knees and hips at the same time, with a braced core and breath held to increase intra-abdominal pressure and stability. Keep torso upright (chest up, shoulders back)

•Bottom of the movement is when thighs are parallel or below

•Ascent to the top of the movement keeping the upright posture and extending through the hips and knees, exhaling on the way up.


Fig. 59 Deadlift (a).

Fig. 60 Deadlift (b).

Fig. 61 Deadlift (c).

•Feet are shoulder width apart and flat on the floor with knees inside of the arms. To adapt the style to the sumo deadlift place feet wider and arms inside the knees

•Grip the bar with either pronated grip or alternated

•Bring the bar as close to the shins as possible with shoulders slightly over the bar

•Chest up, shoulders back helps to maintain a neutral back position

•Brace the core and take the strain of the bar. Sudden jerky movements can result in loss of body position

•The bar is pulled upwards by extending through the knees and the hips

•Keep the bar close to the body throughout the movement to increase efficiency and reduce load through lower back

•The lift is completed when the lifter is standing upright. Lower the bar with control maintaining correct form.

Bent Over Row

Fig. 62 Bent over row (a).

Fig. 63 Bent over row (b).

•Start with feet shoulder width apart and knees flexed

•Bar is gripped in a pronated grip, wider than shoulder width apart

•Back is in a neutral position, chest out and shoulders pulled back

•Forward lean with the torso as close to parallel with the floor as the athlete can maintain

•Bar is pulled upward toward the chest/upper abdomen

•Elbows are pointed up with a braced core and the bar is lowered with control to the starting position.

Wide Grip Pull-Up

Fig. 64 Wide grip pull-up (a).

Fig. 65 Wide grip pull-up (b).

•Taking a wider than shoulder width grip on a bar above head position, palms facing away with an overhand grip

•Starting position is arms relaxed, chest out and shoulders pulled back

•The movement starts with the athlete bracing through the core and then pulling in an upward motion to lift his or her bodyweight towards the bar

•The completion of the movement is when the athlete’s chin moves higher than the bar

•Lower with control back to the starting position

•Once the athlete is comfortable doing this exercise with bodyweight, start to add weight via vests/belts.

Narrow Grip Chin-Up

Fig. 66 Narrow grip pull-up (a).

Fig. 67 Narrow grip pull-up (b).

•Similar to the pull-up, the difference being the grip

•Start with a narrow grip with palms facing towards you

•This exercise focuses more on the muscle of the arm (biceps/forearms).

Plate Push-Up

Fig. 68 Plate push-up (a).

Fig. 69 Plate push-up (b).

•Start in the prone position, hands below shoulder and weight supported by arms

•Tuck the toes under, extend legs and brace through core

•Partner rests disc on the top of the lower back. Partner can place one finger inside the disc to stop it from moving

•Flex the elbows and lower the chest towards the floor with control

•Maintaining the braced core and straight body, extend the elbows and return to the start position.

Barbell Rotations

Fig. 70 Barbell rotations (a).

Fig. 71 Barbell rotations (b).

Fig. 72 Barbell rotations (c).

•Load an Olympic bar on one end while fixing the other end on the floor such as in a corner or into a specifically designed insert

•Grip the bar above the weight with both arms, extend elbows and raise the bar as high as you can with a neutral posture

•While keeping arms straight, twist and bring the bar down to your side, maintaining a braced core

•Bring the bar back to the starting position before rotating to the other side.


Strength training is in essence teaching the body to overcome a resistance; this is an important point for coaches to consider when it comes to programme design. Not all judoka have access to world-class training facilities, and not all judoka are aspiring international competitors. Taking this into consideration and given the likelihood that judo training could possibly be the only exercise an individual takes part in, it is essential that coaches are able to include strength training for this level of judoka so they reap the benefits mentioned earlier, as well as

improve judo ability. There are a huge variety of methods of including strength training into judo or mat-based sessions, whether that be during a warm-up, in a circuit-type fashion or part of an explosive session. Worldclass athletes can still reap huge benefits from including mat-based strength training into their programmes and many do. A simple example of using a partner to do squats with him or her on your back is a great way to make use of the weight in a functional way. A more complex method of mat-based strength training may be three person resisted uchi-komi to potentiate the power, finishing with explosive throwing. Mat-based strength sessions can be periodized in the same fashion as normal gym-based resistance training for those aiming to peak for major events or to avoid overtraining and boredom.


It has been established that the inclusion of strength training for judoka is a worthwhile practice, and that an increase in strength can lead to improved sporting performance and reduced injury. Careful consideration has to be taken when designing resistance training programmes, and a professional should provide instruction and supervision. When selecting strength training programmes, the weight category, number of athletes, level of athletes, availability of equipment, and individualization of the programme need to be addressed. The programme variables such as volume, intensity, rest period, frequency and exercise selection need to be carefully manipulated to suit the goals and needs of the athlete. This chapter covered the development of strength as well as hypertrophy; in the next chapter we will discuss using this increased strength to develop explosive power that can be used to enhance the ability to deliver lightning fast ippons.



Judo athletes are required to be strong in order to grip their opponents, to defend and to attack effectively. Most importantly they need to possess the necessary power to deliver throws and ne-waza attacks. Being powerful is one of the key physical requirements to success in grappling sports. In the last chapter the term ‘strength’ and how strength is developed was explored. This is important to understand due to strength’s vital contribution to power. The equation for power is power = strength × speed or, as it is sometimes described as, power = force × velocity. In order to deliver explosive throws, chokes and arm-locks that excite crowds and win matches, judoka need to develop a great deal of explosive power. The aim of this chapter is to introduce the requirements for developing this trait, and to increase knowledge on how this fits in with an athlete’s overall development. There are some example exercises included to provide templates and to encourage ideas for coaches to use in their training of judoka. This chapter is split into three sections. The first will detail the key contributing factors to an athlete’s ability to generate power. Once these have been established we will then explore a few methods of training that can be used to increase power, and finally some example exercises will be included to provide a practical application to the increased understanding of this vital attribute.


To be strong is to be able to generate force; however being strong in judo is not

sufficient to ensure successful gripping, throws (nage-waza), holds (osae-komi waza), chokes (shime-waza), armlocks (kansetsu-waza) and escapes. The ability to generate the force in a short space of time is sometimes referred to as the rate of force development (RFD), which is more akin to determining an athlete’s explosive strength, and it allows him or her to produce powerful judo actions. When conducting tests, power is usually measured in watts and to provide some context as to where judo sits in relation to other sports a light jog or cycle may record approximately 50–60 watts per second, whereas at the midpoint of an Olympic lift such as the clean, upwards of 7,000 watts has been recorded. These are power outputs taken in a single moment in time, therefore the extremely high values recorded in a clean, for example, are less likely to occur in a judo-specific movement (especially towards the end of a contest). Judo lies somewhere in between these two extremes and often due to the individualist nature of the sport, varies from athlete to athlete. A strong judoka who has developed high levels of muscular strength but negated the explosive or speed aspect of training may find it difficult to find success in judo at a high level. For example, for a judo throw to be successful it usually has to meet certain criteria, such as a dominant grip, effective movement and follow the mechanics and stages of a throw: kuzushi (breaking of the balance), tsukuri (loosely translated as moving into the position to throw), and kake (completing the throw). The ability to implement the three stages in order to complete a successful throw requires an element of speed, even without resistance. When attempting to throw in international competition, an athlete has to complete all three phases in a split second in order to catch the opponent off guard (to avoid him or her bracing or countering the attack). To do this the athlete needs to produce the movements and technical aspects of the throw with power. In addition to this, consider the refereeing criteria for scoring an ippon (winning point) for a throw. To be awarded ippon the thrower (tori) must land the opponent (uke) largely on his or her back with considerable force and speed. The development and implementation of power is an essential component to a successful judoka. Therefore, the coach requires a specific understanding to use the training programme effectively, to aid his athletes in developing explosive power. In order to start to create programmes that develop the explosive power required, it is essential to understand the factors that influence an athlete’s ability to generate force explosively.


In sports that are more dominated by physiological traits such as strength (powerlifting), speed (sprinting) and power (Olympic lifting) the transfer of training to performance is often much easier to quantify. For example, if a sprinter increases his vertical jump by more than 10cm by using loaded jump squats, it is often correlated with an increase in running speed and faster sprint times. This is not necessarily the case in judo due to the nature of the sport. A judoka can be the biggest, strongest and fastest and still lose to a physically inferior competitor who has better technique, tactics or awareness. However, the ability to apply one’s technique with power greatly increases the chances of scoring ippon and therefore is a trait that warrants significant investment during training. There are many ways to increase an athlete’s ability to produce power and the training must involve targeting a mixture of the four factors that contribute to muscle power. Planning the training process delves deeper into the sequencing of these traits, but for the purpose of this chapter each one is explained as to how it affects power.


The definition of muscular strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force; muscular strength is normally assessed by a one repetition maximum test (1RM). The individual muscle can be assessed using specific equipment such as the isokinetic dynamometer, but these methods are expensive and time consuming; therefore, 1RM tests are preferred as they use synergistic muscles, are time efficient and are more functional in nature. Strength can be measured over different muscle actions: eccentric (lowering or muscle lengthening), isometric (static strength) or concentric (muscle shortening during lifting). A key misconception is that strength and conditioning means slow movements,

whereas there are only a few sports that require pure strength, such as powerlifting and strongman. Most sports demand strength in faster velocities and often the key point in success is how fast an athlete can access maximum strength. A simple example can be seen in the arm wrestle. The person who can initiate the movement by using his strength the quickest is more likely to win as he can start the momentum moving before the other person can activate his muscle mass; and then it is often too late. The ability of the muscle to generate force is a key contributing factor to power capabilities. This is shown in the equation power = force × velocity. In contrast, however, it is understood that highly trained athletes can exert the greatest peak power at around 30 per cent of their 1RM. The question then is why do we need to be strong if the maximal power is developed at a relatively light weight? The answer is ‘it’s complicated’, and it varies greatly depending on training age. When beginning resistance training, the improvements in maximal strength throughout the first year, or years, can be remarkable and the mechanisms for this development have been discussed previously (see the chapter; Building Strong Judoka). The increases in maximal strength are important for power when assessing the equation of power = force × velocity, and by increasing the maximal strength by such large amounts there will be a return in power development. For example, imagine a young athlete begins training with a 1RM in back squat of 10kg, and it is understood 30 per cent of 1RM is optimal for power production. Therefore the athlete is most powerful when lifting 3kg in jump squat movements, however after two years of training his 1RM is 100kg. The increase in maximal strength has shifted the 30 per cent 1RM up to 30kg, where this athlete can produce the most power. This level of increase is hypothetical; however by moving the maximal strength capacity up, the amount of power the athlete can generate has increased significantly. By just increasing strength and by including some power-based exercises in judo-specific training, the potential for increased power in developmental athletes is exceptional. When working with high-level athletes who already demonstrate significant strength levels, the task becomes more complex. This is due to the level of strength increase, or more importantly the smaller margin of improvement that can be made for elite athletes. As these athletes reach their maximal strength potential or close to it, the slow velocity max strength work begins to have less of an impact on the ability to produce powerful movements. Developments in power begin to trend towards more specific actions, and this is a continuum in

which the most elite athletes will be working in the 30 per cent 1RM for greater periods of time than novice athletes, while doing maintenance work on their maximal strength. Novice athletes should be aiming to increase their maximal strength to levels that are sufficient before focusing more on power-based training. This information is vital when it comes to planning the training programme and preparing for events. It is also why sometimes for young or development level athletes spending the time to build strength rather than prepare specifically for competition may be of benefit, and a balance must be struck between short-term success and long-term planning.


Powerful judo or any power-based actions are characterized by fast explosive movements, therefore for an exercise to be deemed to be power based it must be time restricted. In the short amount of time allotted to power actions, the muscles must be able to generate as much force as possible in the given constraints. There is a key term relating to the production of force under time constraints and it is named Rate of Force Development (RFD), trained in a different fashion to maximal strength. Studies have demonstrated that maximal strength training, while great for increasing the force side of the power equation, is inefficient at increasing the rate at which the force is produced. Hence why coaches of old used to say lifting weights makes you slow: they were wrong but they had a point. Training athletes to ‘attempt’ to produce force as quickly as possible with weights below maximal strength range (such as 30–60 per cent 1RM) can be a more effective method of developing power. However, as mentioned previously, strength is such a key factor that it should never be eradicated from the training programme. Rather, strength training that precedes RFD training may greater enhance the training adaptations. By attempt, the intention is always to move the weight quickly, unless the goal is hypertrophy or slow velocity strength training. Although the actual movement may not look or be as explosive as the coach or athlete feels is required, simply

the intent to produce force quickly has implications for the adaptations in muscle firing capacity and ability to produce powerful actions. Therefore, even with lifting heavy weights, the muscles and motor patterns involved learn to fire in a rapid fashion, which in turn can lead to increased explosive power. A key theme in this chapter is that there must be a base of strength to support the power-based training otherwise its effect can be limited. This is due to the ‘movement time’ during explosive activities usually being less than 300 milliseconds, and it takes a lot longer than this for maximal force development. As an example, consider the throwing of an implement by hand. a tennis ball, which is light, can be thrown quite a distance with only a short time spent developing the power in the arm to release the ball. However, if an athlete were to attempt to throw a 10kg medicine ball the same distance the time spent developing the force to throw the ball would be considerably greater. This is why maximal lifts take much longer to execute than body weight exercises, as the muscles need more time to contract and develop the force necessary. Thirty per cent of 1RM has been shown on many occasions to be an optimal loading strategy for power development, and the athlete must have the intention to move the load as quickly as possible for the training to be effective. Heavy resistance training will increase power output at low velocities and heavy resistances, while light resistance training (30 per cent 1RM) will increase power outputs for light resistances. This is the basic premise of specificity, whereby athletes improve and adapt at the actual training in which they are engaged. A point to note for judoka is that there are times where applying a lightning fast tai-otoshi demands light resistance power, and times when executing a huge uranage requires heavy resistance power output. A great training programme will cover the spectrum of the force–velocity profile in order to provide the athlete with a full range of power capabilities. This information is vital when considering programme design, and as always the timing and volume of training needs to be contextual to the level of the athlete and the phase of training he or she is in at the given moment in time.


Most actions that are deemed explosive follow a particular pattern; that is they are a concentric movement, for example jumping upwards, preceded by an eccentric movement (bending or flexing of the ankles, knees and hips). Another example is the throwing of a baseball. In order to generate the power, the thrower must take a back swing to create the tension ready to release the ball with speed. This action is called a stretch shortening cycle (SSC) and an effective way to gain an understanding of this process is to attempt to jump as high as possible using two methods. The first is to jump from a squat position, which must be held for a few seconds before jumping. The second is to perform a countermovement jump in which the athlete starts from a standing position and bends rapidly at the ankles, knees and hips, followed by a jump as high as possible. The chances are the countermovement jump (CMJ) will produce a much higher score. There are many studies that have examined this phenomenon and the average difference is 20 per cent between the two. In a sport where small margins make a huge difference, a 20 per cent increase is worth investigating. A simple explanation is to imagine the muscles of the lower body (for example) are an elastic band; the more pre-stretch that is put on the muscle sling the more force it generates on its rebound. As the countermovement begins the muscles and tendons of the lower body stiffen and store energy, ready to explode out of the movement. This process is used for the majority of sporting actions, from dunking a basketball to pitching in baseball and throwing with an explosive uchi-mata. When training this process, it is important to first have a solid base of strength to protect the muscles and joints from injury. In addition, the ability of an athlete’s body to use this process effectively take training and time to develop. The type of training named plyometrics is the most documented method for increasing the SSC, and involves gradual and incremental overload of the body’s ability to absorb eccentric load and follow it with explosive concentric action. For example, in jumping for height the athlete may begin by performing a simple CMJ. To overload this a box jump may be included, and to further increase the intensity one may add a small box to step off to increase the landing load (known as drop jumps). This method has been used effectively for many years and progressions should be followed in the order of double leg movements, into drop jumps, then single leg landings, drop jumps and bounds of increasing heights and distances.

Plyometric training can fit with relative ease into judo warm-ups or as part of conditioning sessions. The amount of training time required to make increases in this area are less substantial than others, and innovative coaches can find a way to make this type of training judo specific. A word of caution, however, when including plyometric type training into other training sessions; the overloading of this system can cause significant fatigue. Therefore coaches should aim to limit the number of exercises as well as increase rest times in between sets, to allow for neural and mechanical recovery and reduce the risk of injury.


Fig. 73 Contributing factors to explosive power.

An important factor to consider for powerful movements and in particular importance for judo, which is a highly skill-based sport, is the co-ordination and skill factor. An athlete may have the physical capacity to produce force explosively, but without the muscular and motor co-ordination required he or she would not be able to produce the powerful movements. The power performance is affected by the interaction between agonist, antagonist and synergistic muscles. Specific training may enhance the body’s ability to activate the right muscles when required and increase the neural co-ordination. The co-ordination of the muscles and nervous system has a large effect on the body’s ability to generate power and therefore is a warranted attribute to focus on in training. By performing plyometric type training the body naturally adapts and learns how to sequence firing patterns in order to increase the efficiency of the movement. The specific application to judo requires the athlete to practise the techniques they aim to apply in contest, in a progressive manner. For example, if uchi-mata is the throw being trained then a simple progression would be to gain competency in double leg plyometric movements, then progress on to single leg movements. Once the application of the technique and the body has developed the capacity to produce powerful single leg movements, then the technique can be trained in that fashion, progressing from slow and controlled to fast and powerful. In judo it is often not a single powerful attack that wins the fight, but is regularly the ongoing and interchanging attacking strategy. The ability of the athlete to produce the power and endure the subsequent fatigue is a key factor in the success of the player. By enhancing the efficiency of the body to produce power the athlete is able to maintain good form and technique throughout the match and energy is not lost by being applied incorrectly. The principle of efficiency of movement aligns with the sports key maxims ‘maximal efficiency, minimal effort’.


There are many methods that may be employed to develop power and, as mentioned previously, the selected methodology use may depend on the stage of athletic development. An attractive perspective from which to address this issue is to focus on training all four components that contribute to power (strength, coordination, RFD and SSC). If all these areas have planned focus and attention and the physiological training is combined effectively with sport-specific training, then the potential for development of transferable power is increased. A mixed method approach to training for power has to be introduced in order to maximize development, however if an athlete has already developed one component to a high level (for example strength) then the potential for that area to contribute to increases in power is reduced.


There are numerous schools of thought regarding the sequencing of training to bring about expert performance and a range of these are discussed in the chapter ‘planning for performance’. The goal for producing performance is to peak a large number of attributes such as strength, speed, technique, tactics, power and endurance at the correct time ready for the major event. The science in this area is again young and still developing, however many experienced coaches have documented cases in which they have brought about peak performance successfully. What is also important to recognize is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ style method. In fact, success can be obtained providing that the key areas of power performance are covered and trained with intent and structure. A key example of this is in Jamaican sprinting, in which there is no denying the quality of power and speed that is displayed at major events by that country’s athletes. There are two main rival clubs based in Kingston (which produce nearly all the national team for Olympic Games) that have conflicting principles of preparing for performance. One favours developing maximal speed and power early in the

programme and later building endurance around this power towards the major event, while the other chooses to build a strong base of endurance before working towards power and speed closer to the event. Both methods achieve practically the same number of Olympic gold medals, with completely opposite styles of planning. The key ingredient is belief in the programme and covering the spectrum of attributes necessary for optimal power/sprint performance. Power has also been established a key requisite to performance in judo and the two main strategies for developing it evolve around the planning of training blocks. Some coaches prefer to include power training towards the end of a training cycle, for example completing traditional periodized plans (endurance– hypertrophy–strength–power). This method uses the sequential gains of each attribute and combines their effects to greater enhance power development in the later stages of training. An alternative method that can be used is to include a power-based session in each micro-cycle (traditionally a week to ten days long). In effect, each quality randori and/or technical session is a power-based training session as the goal is to throw the opponent with speed and impetus. Therefore, during each of the phases there will always be some level of stimulus for power development. The difference is in the focused training implemented to supplement actual judo-based training, and during each major cycle there should be some time spent developing power. The velocity or speed of movement is critical for power development as the adaptations of the muscular and neuromuscular systems are specific to the movement speed and muscle action used in training. In other words, the developments you make are with the muscle groups and the speed you train, just as long distance jogging would not necessarily improve 100m sprint times. For example, if an athlete has reached a plateau in the development of power but has been focusing training efforts into SSC, RFD and skill-based training (intra/inter-muscular co-ordination) as well as heavy strength training, then it may be pertinent to include a block of hypertrophy type training to increase the muscle cross-sectional area and in turn potentially allow for greater strength development, which is a major contributing factor to power. Hypertrophy is predominantly conducted via slow repetitions and high volume that induces muscle growth, which is in direct conflict with traditional power training that includes short explosive bursts of effort interspersed with long rest. Conversely, if the athlete has done quite a bit of hypertrophy and strength work but not spent large volumes of time using faster velocities and lighter weights then the priority

should be to increase the SSC, RFD and co-ordination. In principle, the weak link in the chain of power potential is a priority when attempting to benefit the most from the time spent training, and it is the goal of the coach and athlete to establish objectively where they are in order to get the most from their efforts in training. The typical pattern for effective power development in athletes is to begin with general whole body movements that are nonsport specific and focus on developing hypertrophy and strength qualities that act as a base for later training. The programme gradually moves more towards sport-specific power training and movement patterns as the athlete heads into a competitive phase.


Olympic Lifts

The use of Olympic lifting movement varieties has commonly been used to develop power for athletes, and there is a level of discourse surrounding the use of these modalities for elite athletes in various sports. The reason is that Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and most athletes train twice daily to perfect the technical elements. There is a considerable risk that comes with performing these techniques without proper instruction, and a sufficient time cost for developing the technical aspects of each lift. Elite athletes who are part of a professional training centre with a dedicated strength and conditioning coach who is effective in teaching these skills may reap large benefits from this type of training. However, if the goal is to develop power and the contact time with the athlete is minimal then there are alternative methods that can be employed to achieve the physical adaptations required. When considering whether or not to include Olympic lifting into a power development programme, a coach must weigh the time and effort cost against the potential adaptations. If there is scope to spend the time learning the skills of

Olympic lifting then it can be a worthwhile endeavour, however, if expertise, time and facilities are not available there must be a focus on what alternative methods can be employed to achieve the same goal.

Post-Activation Potentiation

Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a method used to enhance power capabilities. The basic premise in this method is the muscles are acutely more responsive and ‘awake’ to produce powerful movements following a previous heavily resisted effort. The way this looks in practice is usually a stimulus such as a heavy back squat; after a period of rest (two to twenty minutes) it is followed by an explosive power exercise such as box jumps. This method has also been called complex training and is an efficient way to cover more than one contributing attribute towards explosive performance. A particularly famous example of this method is the triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards, who would perform cleans of 130kg+ prior to going out to jump in competitions. Lifting a heavy weight prior to the explosive exercise creates a positive environment for power by:

•Increasing motor neuron activity

•Increasing blood flow to the working muscles

•Increasing psycho-motor activity

•Decreasing rate of perceived exertion on explosive exercise

•Increasing muscle firing rate and synchronization

The heavy lift should provide a high intensity contraction of sufficient time to induce the above reactions. For example, one to three repetitions of 85 per cent 1RM back squat, prior to completing the box jump. The level of the athlete must be taken into consideration as the principle relies on the recovery from the heavy lift happening quicker than the loss of the potentiating effects from the maximal contraction. With novice athletes the fatigue may still be too high after the given rest periods to be able to benefit from the increased power capabilities. Typical exercises used for PAP include any squat variation and bench press plus its variations. There is research out to demonstrate these exercises work for creating a potentiating effect, however providing the stimulus is correct then any multi-joint exercise could be used to create PAP. Recommendations for heavy lifts are made with minimizing fatigue in mind. The goal is to create the potentiation without tiring the muscles and nervous and energy systems. Sixty to 100 per cent 1RM have been used with 85 per cent showing a positive effect without inducing fatigue, and one to three sets of one to three repetitions will limit fatigue. As mentioned previously, the rest period is critical to the success of this training method. Potentiation straight after the heavy lift is highest, however so is fatigue. The ideal rest period is three to eleven minutes following the heavy portion of the lift, and the level of the athlete should be taken into consideration. Higher level athletes can lift more weight generally and therefore induce more fatigue, however their recovery may be greater due to higher fitness levels. The coach has to take into account many factors, but if the rest period is between three and eleven minutes the outcome should be positive. The exercises mentioned above are general and can be used to potentiate sportspecific movements, however many judo coaches have seen the benefit to this type of training well before the science recognized its merit as a training methodology. Three person resisted uchi-komi is a great way to create a heavy resistance movement that can lead to potentiated throwing. To do this exercise,

have one person support uke from behind and resist the attempted throw from tori. Tori tries to throw uke with maximal force and power and when meeting resistance continues to drive for two to three seconds. This is repeated two to three times followed by a period of rest, and the tori completes two to five nagekomi using the potentiated movements to generate maximal power. An interesting way to sequence this type of training is to complete a block of maximal strength and for the first period of the power-based block complete the general exercises to increase the ability to use PAP before moving into sportsspecific variations closer to the event.

Exercises for Developing Power

The Olympic lifts and their variations are total body lifts that recruit most major muscle groups and are the most complex exercises to perform. As mentioned earlier, they are extremely effective at enhancing power production capabilities, hence why many elite coaches have them as an integral part of their programmes. Variations and partial exercises of the full lifts can be used in the development stage as well as to target specific parts of the movement. Essential to the athlete is how this power can transfer to judo performance and often completing the full movement (for example dropping under the bar to catch in a full squat) may not be required. The clean and its variations is usually the first technique that athletes will learn when adopting Olympic lifting techniques due to the overhead nature of the snatch and because it is most commonly used by elite athletes who are not Olympic lifting competitors. As mentioned previously, the clean is one of the most complex and difficult exercises to learn in strength and conditioning, therefore the technique must be broken down into component stages in order to specify the key points at each stage.


Starting Position

Fig. 74 Clean starting position.

•Feet are placed around hip width and pointing slightly outwards. Bar is touching the shins

•Flex the trunk and hips with hips slightly above the knees, and shoulders are slightly in front of the bar

•Weight is cantered on the middle of the foot, with neutral position for the lower back (stick chest out).

First Pull

Fig. 75 Clean first pull.

•During the first pull, the bar is pulled towards the body and is lifted off the ground

•Most of the movement is from leg extension and plantar flexion. The trunk remains flexed and weight is shifted towards the back of the foot.


•This is sometimes referred to as the double knee bend, where the torso becomes more upright and the knees flex slightly in preparation for the second pull

•The bar travels up past the knees to the lower third of the thigh muscle

•The phase increases the stretch shortening cycle and creates tension in which the muscles and tendons can use to generate maximal vertical force.

Second Pull

Fig. 76 Clean second pull.

•This is the most explosive phase of the lift and takes less than 0.25 seconds to complete

•The powerful extension of the hips, knees and ankles accelerates the bar vertically

•The force applied to the bar decreases as the bar reaches the top of the second pull

•The elbows flex outwards and continue the momentum created by the triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles. Keep the bar close to the body to facilitate a smooth catch phase.

The Catch

Fig. 77 Clean catch.

•The athlete then positions him or herself under the bar, either standing (power clean) or in a full squat position (full clean). The power clean is a popular method for judo athletes as the full squat catch requires a higher level of technical prowess and comes with a slightly higher risk of injuring the wrists

•During this phase the goal is to move into position while the bar is still rising or is at the highest point. The receiving position is similar to a front squat posture with feet wider than hips apart and elbows thrust through pointing high and arms parallel to the ground.

As mentioned earlier, the clean and its variations is a skill as well as a means of developing explosive power. It is advisable not to attempt to perform these lifts without first proper instruction, and considerable time must be spent developing the elements of the lift before attempting the entire movement.

Push Press

Fig. 78 Push press start.

Fig. 79 Push press descent and explosive effort (a).

Fig. 80 Push press descent and explosive effort (b).

Fig. 81 Push press catch.

•The bar is placed on the back of the neck in the same position for a back squat. Grasp the bar with a closed, pronated grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Feet are slightly wider than shoulder width and knees and ankles are slightly flexed

•The countermovement is sometimes called the dip and is performed by flexing at the knees and ankles to create a stretch shortening of the lower limb complex. This is immediately followed by an explosive push of the bar upwards by extending the knees, ankles and hips

•The momentum of the bar moving vertically should aid in getting to the lockout position where the elbows are fully extended and the bar is above the head

•Following the lift, the bar is either lowered back to the starting position on the back of the neck/shoulders or is dropped to the floor, and if there are platforms available that are designed to catch a barbell then these are the preferred method as it is the safest way to dismount from the finish position.

Jump Squat

Fig. 82 Jump squat (a).

Fig. 83 Jump squat (b).

Fig. 84 Jump squat (c).

Fig. 85 Jump squat (d).

•Start position and movement is the same as a back squat, however the depth is self-selected by the athlete by gauging how far into a squat he or she feels would generate the most height for a jump. This is highly individual and some athletes will lean towards full squat depth while others prefer a quarter-squat depth for jumping

•The loading should be between 20–40 per cent 1RM with 30 per cent being optimal for increasing power, but as already mentioned, using a variety of loadings will create larger increases in explosive power

•The athlete holds the bar tight to the back while performing the jump for maximal vertical height, and aims to use correct landing mechanics to control the load (flexing at the ankle, knee and hip). Once the repetition has been completed, a period of time should be given (two to ten seconds) to allow the athlete to reset before going again.

Box Jump

Fig. 86 Box jump (a).

Fig. 87 Box jump (b).

Fig. 88 Box jump (c).

Fig. 89 Box jump (d).

•Athlete begins with arms by side, shoulder width stance and knees slightly flexed

•A countermovement involving flexing at the ankles, knees and hips as well as swinging with the arms is followed by an explosive up and forward action jump on to the box. Then the athlete steps off the box, returns to the starting position and begins again

•Selection of height is related to the level and height of the athlete, as well as the material of the box. For example, selecting a metal box comes with a higher risk of injury than the softer boxes that are available and therefore may require a more reserved approach to box height. However, the athlete should always aim for maximal jump height and use the box for landing. The added height is a great motivator but not a necessity

•Other variations of the box jump include, single leg box jumps, lateral box jumps, multiple box jumps (boxes in a row), and seated box jump – where the athlete has no countermovement to create the power for jumping.

Drop Jump

Fig. 90 Drop jump (a).

Fig. 91 Drop jump (b).

Fig. 92 Drop jump (c).

Fig. 93 Drop jump (d).

•The athlete starts with arms by the side, with a shoulder width stance at the edge of the box. The intensity of the exercise increases as the height of the box increases, so starting with lower boxes is recommended

•The athlete steps off the box, lands on the ground and jumps explosively in a vertical direction

•As this is a demanding exercise it is recommended that only experienced athletes and those who have previously completed blocks of jump training take part

•Other varieties of this exercise include drop jump on to another box, single leg varieties and using a different action upon jumping (pike, tuck, long jump, jump and reach).

Barbell Rotational Pushes

Fig. 94 Barbell rotational pushes (a).

Fig. 95 Barbell rotational pushes (b).

Fig. 96 Barbell rotational pushes (c).

•This exercise is a reactive whole body exercise that challenges the core strength as well as the stretch shortening abilities of the upper body. Caution must be taken when selecting the weight as the bar is suspended in the air for a period of time and too light a weight will mean it will hit something and potentially damage it, whereas if it is too heavy the athlete will not be able to move the bar explosively. Use with experienced athletes

•The athlete starts with the bar held in one arm above his or her head. The lowering of the bar includes flexing at the arms and bending of the body (see image)

•Once the arm is fully flexed the athlete braces through the core and accelerates the bar towards the wall, releasing the bar once fully extended

•The athlete needs to be focused in order to catch the bar on its decent back. The two options here are to complete this exercise as a continuous movement or to catch the bar, reset and start again. It depends entirely on the goal of the training session.

Medicine Ball Slams

Fig. 97 Medicine ball slams (a).

Fig. 98 Medicine ball slams (b).

Fig. 99 Medicine ball slams (c).

•Feet are wider than shoulder width apart. The athlete squats down to collect the ball, keeping a neutral back position. The medicine ball is raised in both hands above the head in one motion then slammed towards the ground in front of the athlete as explosively as possible

•Slams are completed by simultaneously flexing the trunk and hips, and extending the shoulders

•Be wary of the ground surface and the material of the ball as it may bounce back up to a height at which it could injure the athlete. Make sure the ball bounces out in front and not directly under the legs

•Varying the weight of the ball can increase the demands and/or change the forcevelocity profile, therefore tailor the weight to the goal of the session. For example, for speed use an extremely light ball, power medium ball and for strength use a very heavy ball.

Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

Fig. 100 Medicine ball overhead throw (a).

Fig. 101 Medicine ball overhead throw (b).

Fig. 102 Medicine ball overhead throw (c).

•Athlete begins with a slightly past shoulder width stance, knees bent, and arms extended in front of the body, holding the ball in both hands

•A countermovement is performed where the athlete flexes at the ankles, knees and hips, and then explosively extends the hips and back, flexes the shoulders and throws the ball as high and as far behind as possible

•This mimics the ura-nage throw and can be used as a teaching tool for the technique as well as a way to develop explosive power for this throwing action. Wrestling teams tend to have a weighted dummy in the gym that is used for this purpose.

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Fig. 103 Medicine ball rotational throw (a).

Fig. 104 Medicine ball rotational throw (b).

Fig. 105 Medicine ball rotational throw (c).

•The athlete begins with a slightly wider than hip width stance, bent knees and arms extended out in front holding the ball in both hands

•The countermovement entails the athlete rotating to the side bracing through the core and twisting back explosively in the opposite direction, releasing the ball towards the wall or partner

•This can be done seated, standing or kneeling, and with a partner or against a wall

•This action can increase the rotational power that an athlete can generate, which is an essential attribute for successful judo throws.

Medicine Ball Forward Throw (Single Arm)

Fig. 106 Medicine ball forward throw (single arm) (a).

Fig. 107 Medicine ball forward throw (single arm) (b).

Fig. 108 Medicine ball forward throw (single arm) (c).

•The athlete begins with the medicine ball in one hand (use the other hand to support and balance the ball) facing a wall, with feet slightly wider than hip width apart

•The countermovement involves twisting to the side that the ball is on and flexing at the knees and ankles in preparation for an explosive push directly forward towards the wall (use a crash mat if in a dojo as it could potentially damage the wall)

•The athlete aims to complete the whole movement as fast as possible while generating maximal power into the throwing action. Swap side to complete one full repetition.


This chapter focused on exploring what ‘power’ is, in reference to scientific explanation and how it fits practically into judo performance. Thus, defining what power is and why it is important, the chapter examined the contributing attributes such as strength, co-ordination and skill, stretch shortening cycle and rate of force development. These attributes all fit into performance and, depending on the time in the year and the level/strengths and weaknesses of the athlete, the goal is to develop each so it contributes effectively to the delivery of

power in a sport-specific situation. Methods of developing power were explored, including strategies such as postactivation potentiation and Olympic lifting, and how these can be integrated into a programme. Finally, a selection of exercises that can be used to develop power were included. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many other modalities to developing power. The only limitation for this is the imagination of the coach and the access to facilities and equipment.


When someone is described as having good conditioning, what does that mean? It is quite a broad term used to explain the rate at which you can perform work. A well-conditioned judoka can maintain a constant medium/high pace during a contest and be able to initiate an explosive burst of energy needed to execute a throw, hold, armlock or choke. In contrast, a poorly conditioned judoka is unable to maintain the pace of the fight and each explosive attack reduces his or her ability to reproduce efforts subsequently throughout the match. To be successful in judo, regardless of the level of competition, you need to be able to work at a high pace, while keeping your technique sharp and ready to explode right up to the end of the contest. Then you need to have sufficient recovery to be ready to go ahead after a short rest period. Hence why conditioning should be a key goal and play an integral role in your development as a judoka . The three energy systems are used in judo at various times in a contest and training should aim to progressively increase the abilities of the phosphagen, glycolytic and oxidative energy pathways. For example, we need the phosphagen system to execute explosive throws and rapid engagements, the glycolytic pathways for gripping and exchanges lasting thirty seconds or so and the oxidative system for recovery between exchange and towards the end of the fight when the other two energy pathways are depleted. This chapter aims to provide you with background knowledge of how the energy systems work and relate to judo. It will also characterize testing procedures for aerobic and anaerobic parameters and provide some example tests. Finally, it will give you practical suggestions of how programmes may look to develop and enhance the performance of your athletes or yourself and make sure that losing a contest is never down to not being conditioned to last the distance.


Fig. 109 Graph of energy system contributions to exercise.

Take a look at the graph in Fig. 109, it is a simple way to demonstrate how we use our energy systems. This is an example of an all-out sprint and you can see that even at the start there is some contribution from each energy source although varying in percentages throughout the time. Although all three energy systems of the body work in conjunction during exercise, the respective contribution depends on the intensity and duration of effort. During the immediate stages of effort your stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as well as phosphocreatine (PCr) provide the energy. Unfortunately this is a limited store (we do not store much in our muscles) and needs to be replenished. Following partial depletion of ATP-PCr stores, non-aerobic breakdown of carbohydrate then takes a higher percentage of the workload, using stored energy (glycogen) from the muscles and liver to convert into energy. This energy system can last anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, and is the next fastest system after ATP-PCr in providing the energy to the working muscles. The negative side of the anaerobic lactic energy system is that the chemical reaction that enables your body to produce energy without oxygen also releases lactic acid as a by-product. As a result of this by-product, your body becomes highly acidic in the regions where the lactic acid is being produced. This alteration of the muscle pH status is what limits its capacity to perform work and can cause discomfort and fatigue. In all-out maximal efforts lasting less than one minute, more than half your energy comes from anaerobic substrate. However, each subsequent set of all-out effort increasingly uses aerobic energy pathways to produce effort. These suggest that a highly developed anaerobic system is important, however the nature of judo means that the need for a well-developed aerobic endurance base is also extremely high (we will cover aerobic later in this chapter). The demands of the sport dictate the endurance qualities that are needed and the following variables coined by Dave Martin of Australian Cycling are what make up the needs analysis for each sport:

•Muscle groups by which judo uses all

•Muscle contraction type. Judo uses a unique mix of isometric, concentric and eccentric contractions in gripping, movement, explosive attacks and ne-waza

•Number of contractions is usually dictated by the style of fighter and/or length of match or training session. Remember, we need the conditioning so we can train at the appropriate levels to make the improvements needed but also to perform in a contest situation

•Recovery time between efforts, which is individual in judo compared to, for example, time trials. However, we can generalize for judo like in our needs analysis (twenty to thirty seconds with ten seconds recovery) or be specific with individual athletes, which would take more time

•Speed of contractions. Again, judo has a mixture depending on the type of attack or defence in each phase of a contest: for example ne-waza attacks may be a slower, stronger contraction as opposed to a lightning fast drop seoi-nage

•Environmental factors (heat, hypoxia) are not usually an issue in judo as it is an indoor sport, although altitude must be a consideration if the competition is to have some elevation from sea level.

Explained a little more simply, the anaerobic energy system is used when we need to generate large amounts of power in a throw, Olympic lifting, doing a back flip and so on. What needs to be taken into account with the above information is that judo is an intermittent sport of high intensity and therefore never as clear cut as an all-out sprint. That being said, having a clearer

understanding of the attributes required to perform ‘work’ will allow us to assess where we falter or excel and help us in developing training programmes that will enhance our ability to perform on the mat when it counts.

Fig. 110 Diagram of force curve.

Fig. 110 is a diagram illustrating the maximal energy production for various sports. This allows us to find a place for judo on the continuum, however the sport demonstrates high force production during the throwing/attacking actions as well as demanding high levels of endurance from its athletes. The more force produced in general, the more rest is needed prior to the next effort. Take Olympic weightlifting as an example: during a power clean upwards of 4,000 watts are produced to move the bar. The athlete then needs at least three to five minutes’ rest before attempting something like this again. By contrast, in long distance running, the efficiency of the movements as well as the low force production allows runners/cyclists to continue to move for hours on end.


In order to understand what anaerobic fitness is and how to test it/improve it we need to cover a couple of definitions: Capacity – anaerobic capacity is defined as the maximal amount of work that can be released anaerobically during a specific bout of short duration, exhaustive exercise. This system is the maximal amount of work our bodies can produce through oxygen independent substrates. Traditionally tested using the Wingate test, which is thirty seconds of all-out cycling, and is measured in kilojoules (KJ). Power – anaerobic power is the maximal amount of mechanical work that can be produced in one second and is measured in watts (W). This depends on neuromuscular recruitment, muscle activity and power to mass ratios. Sample tests for this include six-second peak cycling speed, 10m sprints and vertical/horizontal jump tests.

Repeated sprint ability (RSA) – the ability to recover from and maintain maximal effort over subsequent bouts of exercise. For example, in judo the ability to work maximally in each twenty to thirty second exchange and recover sufficiently to go again after the short rest period of approximately ten seconds. This is a vital requirement for judo and will be discussed later in the chapter.


There are many methods for assessing anaerobic abilities in linear sports, yet we know that judo is a sport that is the opposite of linear and still to this day there is no sport-specific test that has stood up to tests for validity and reliability in regards to maximally testing athletes. What coaches can do is test a range of attributes using scientifically proven methods, and build a profile of athletes. This was discussed in Chapter 3. Once a profile is created for each athlete then the effects of training can be measured effectively, creating evidence-based training practices. For example, if athlete A has a block of training ahead of a competition we can assess him or her in a battery of tests, devise a training programme leading into the event and reassess how effective that block of training was with the same battery of tests after the event. This method allows us as coaches to continually improve and evaluate how the training we are prescribing is making a difference to athletes’ abilities. This, however, may not affect the performance directly in judo and as, we all know, in this sport a contest can be won or lost in an instant. This method allows us to improve each aspect of performance methodically and, coupled with expert judo-specific practice, can lead to an enhanced sporting performance. Testing is covered more in depth in Chapter 3, however here are some examples of tests for each aspect of anaerobic fitness:

Capacity tests – Wingate test, thirty seconds all-out effort on a cycle ergometer.

Power tests – standing long jump, vertical jump, six-second sprint, Olympic lifts.

What is crucial when deciding upon a test to use is that it is repeatable, and that you can standardize the equipment and aim to complete the tests at the same time of the day. Additionally, it is wise to assess qualities that we determine to be sport specific in regards to intensity and duration. With judo this is more difficult and we will explore repeated sprint ability (RSA) later. All the above will enable a reliable data set from testing that you can use to assess training interventions effectively. A simple yet effective measure of RSA is rowing/arm bike with a work to rest ratio of 30:15 × six sets. Measuring the average power (Watts) over each thirtysecond bout allows analysis of the RSA of each athlete. The test is simple to administer, as well as easy to standardize. Another anaerobic test could be on the rowing machine again, this time thirty seconds all out, followed by ten minutes’ rest × four. This is a more pure anaerobic test and allows the coach to assess how much power the athlete can generate over a thirty second effort.


When looking to develop an energy system, it is first essential to establish the limiting factors to performance. In the case of anaerobic fitness there are many contributing factors including muscle mass, fibre type, neuromuscular recruitment, efficiency of movement and resistance to metabolic waste. These can be grouped into three categories: Muscle mass – does the athlete have sufficient muscle mass needed to produce the force. We have to be careful with muscle mass in judo due to the sport being a weight classification event. Increasing force-generating capabilities of athletes can result in higher testing scores in anaerobic measurements, and athletes should aim to increase functional muscle mass while also staying within the outer reaches of making the weight category safely. Increasing muscle mass is covered in the Building Strong Judoka chapter. Capacity – during randori/contest does the athlete demonstrate resistance to fatigue? This means being capable of recruiting muscle fibres and buffering

waste products efficiently in order to maintain performance and avoid fatigue. A combination of increased muscle mass and fibre recruitment can greatly aid the ability to produce effort in judo, and with the example programmes described below a resistance to fatigue can be enhanced through specific training. In regard to recovery between bouts, as mentioned previously, a highly developed aerobic energy system can increase our ability to repeat high intensity efforts. This will be explained in more detail later in this chapter. Velocity – does the athlete use technique and movement efficiently at a reduced energy cost, without spilling energy needlessly? A useful example of energy leaks comes from sprinting, whereby the athlete aims to maximize force production in a linear fashion without spending any energy on lateral movements. Coaches observing the sprint can often see the inefficiency of technique, and in judo if we can maximize our energy usage then we can make the most of our anaerobic energy system. Developing programmes to increase anaerobic fitness for judo is individual to the coach and athlete, and depends on the context and stage of a performance plan you may be in at that given time. However, the inclusion of a few examples here lend to illustrating how an anaerobic session may look.


The following programmes can be completed either on an ergometer such as a rowing machine, watt bike, ski erg, circuit based using various exercises or in a judo-specific circuit.

Week 1: (20 seconds work: 40 seconds rest × 6) × 3 sets Week 2: (30 seconds work: 60 seconds rest × 6) × 4 sets Week 3: (30 seconds work: 60 seconds rest × 8) × 3 sets Week 4: (30 seconds work: 30 seconds rest × 6) × 4 sets

Week 5: (30 seconds work: 20 seconds rest × 4) × 3 sets

Table 3: Example anaerobic session.

Each effort should be maximal and the rest period between sets should be between four to six minutes to allow replenishment of ATP-PCr. To train the anaerobic energy system we must use and then overload it, in order to make the body more efficient at producing power while in an oxygendeprived state. This is done by manipulating the training environment by increasing the intensity of exercise and then remaining at that elevated intensity for a period of time. This encourages the body to adapt to the challenge and refine the anaerobic pathways, enabling more energy to be released from the chemical conversion of glucose to ATP. In addition to this response, the body also begins to adapt and develop resistance to the acidic effects of lactic acid and H+ build-up (fatigue inducing chemicals). This has a big psychological effect on a judoka, as he or she understands that with each attack or change the continued build-up of acid in the muscles makes each subsequent one harder and more painful. By timing the training and working regularly at adequate intensities to produce lactate in the muscles we can become acclimatized to the increasing acidity and fight through the pain. The key is to find the minimal effective dose for this type of training as it has a high fatigue index and if done too often can impair performance on the mat and eventually lead to overtraining. One novel method that requires no extra equipment or expense and has direct correspondence to actual performance is to manipulate judo-specific parameters within the session. Creating judo technique/situational circuit-based sessions allows the coach to manage the work to rest and create the desired metabolic adaptations while increasing the athlete’s capacity to resist judo-specific fatigue and to develop their ability to function under fatigue. A simple way to do this would be to implement the same session plans above in regards to timings, but maximizing the sporting transfer by adding judo-based exercises such as:



•Grip fighting vs. left-handed opponents

•Grip fighting vs. right-handed opponents

•Opponent attempting to break the athlete’s posture and athlete aiming to maintain it

•Transition from tachi-waza to ne-waza, opponent defending maximally.

These exercises can be adapted/cycled to suit the athlete’s goals and technical level. What is important is that these test the anaerobic energy system as well as co-ordination and judo abilities. The complexity of exercises can be increased/decreased depending on fatigue levels and period of preparation that the athlete is currently in.


Given that the underlying mechanisms, testing and methods of making improvements have been explored, there is a key point to be made in regards to sport specificity. It is simple to assess anaerobic fitness under laboratory settings using ergometers and other devices; these provide us with great markers for fitness gains, however they can lack a crossover to sport-specific performance.

In judo, the key is to be efficient with our energy, but in high performance there is a major demand for anaerobic and aerobic endurance due to the athleticism of the modern judoka. If we increase our capacity for work, we increase our chances of success, especially when the contest reaches the later stages such as golden score and then the more conditioned athlete usually wins. However, as with any physical attribute such as strength, we can increase our endurance but it must not be at the expense of purposeful mat-based practice. The smartest coaches will find a way to match the mat-based training with the appropriate work to rest ratios without sacrificing quality, in order to maximize gains and avoid overtraining the athletes. A key question that everyone should ask is, ‘Why am I doing this session and what am I trying to achieve from it?’ If you can ask that question for each aspect of your training and have clearly defined answers that are moving you towards your goals in judo then you can be sure it is worth keeping it in the programme. The dynamic nature of a judo contest, in addition to its work to rest ratio, suggests that we should only focus on developing this anaerobic energy pathway. However, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, judo is a mixed sport and actually high levels of aerobic fitness are required of the competitive judo athlete. Where this book differs from tradition is that it negates long, slow endurance ‘road work’ or running (which may still have its place during the development stage). The science today suggests that no matter how intense the effort is, given a short rest period every form of exercise will become more and more aerobic in nature as the body struggles to replenish its alternative energy stores to oxygen. Therefore, a strong aerobic system is of high priority for competitive judoka, although the means by which this is achieved is not through long, slow duration exercise. Research shows that by completing high intensity interval training we can elicit high aerobic developments along with the anaerobic adaptations we desire. In addition, athletes, coaches and scientists have established that if you need to be explosive in your sport, then you must train that way. Similarly, if you need to be economical and to maintain a pace for hours then that is how you must train; a simple principle of specificity. This is great news for judo coaches and players because by doing judo (which is high intensity interval training) we are enhancing our aerobic engine. The important aspect to focus on is that we need the capacity to maintain a fight pace for the allotted time of a judo contest, and have the ability to recover in time for our next match (whether that be in training or contest, we need the capacity to meet the demands of the sport).


One of the key factors in determining aerobic fitness is maximal oxygen uptake VO2 max, which is expressed as (ml of oxygen consumed per kg per minute). A wide range can be expected from approximately 35ml/kg/min to 75ml/kg/min and it is measured using a variety of methods. Most versions of tests have calculations available online in which the results can be used to predict VO2 max based on information such as test score and body weight. Some examples include bleep test and yo-yo test. There are a few examples of judo squads using the 2K row challenge to measure aerobic fitness. This is due to the whole body nature of rowing as well as the timings being closely matched to a judo contest. What is crucial is that, whatever test chosen, it is important to collect the data and ensure standards of testing so the effect of training programmes can be assessed accurately. That way tracking an athlete’s improvement over the course of a year or Olympic cycle is easier.


In order to be successful in judo we need to have the athletic capacity to perform in a competitive environment and in that we need to be ‘judo fit’. By this we mean that your style of judo training should suit your style of competition or training, and this is a very simple principle that is often missed. Rather than purely looking at the big picture, we tend to focus on individual energy systems such as the aerobic or the anaerobic pathways. Partly due to tradition and partly due to some early studies, martial artists, boxers, swimmers and the like spend large amounts of time and effort completing long, slow and steady endurance training to develop their aerobic endurance. There are a few key assumptions that need to be addressed with this view of training, and before tackling them it is important to mention that athletes and teams have previously experienced a great deal of success by establishing this aerobic base through ‘road work’.

The training of athletes for judo is not a ‘one size fits all’ model and there are as many variations of training programmes as there are athletes. This book is created using a blend of practical personal experience and scientific knowledge to provide you with evidencebacked principles that you can use to aid in developing programmes for athletes. The science now dictates that training is focused on the work to rest ratio that you will experience in competition. An example of this can be taken from swimming. Previously every member of the swim team would complete the same mileage in the pool each day as they felt this base was needed. This tradition meant that even the 50m sprint swimmers were doing hour upon hour of slow, aerobic training that was shaping their bodies and specific adaptations. Recent sport science input has shifted the sprinters away from the ‘plodding’ pace and they now favour short, sharp sessions that mimic or overload the intensity that they will be swimming at in meets. As judoka, we can buy into this principle and obtain huge increases in our specific fitness for our sport. However, we must be aware of long-term athletic development and there may be a time when the new athlete needs to build aerobic endurance or that after a long-term injury he or she needs to focus on this area.


In building fitness for judo there is no magic programme that covers all areas of the sport, this is because judo is neither purely anaerobic nor aerobic. It sits in the middle spot whereby athletes need a great deal of power, but must also be able to maintain it throughout a contest. We established some methods of assessing both parameters and there are many other variations of tests for both, which are readily available online and in other testing books. As a coach, it is advisable to have a rationale for using the test and to use the information gained during testing to direct the training for the athletes. We also established that quality time spent on the mat is what ultimately increases an athlete’s chances of success, and that conditioning is a supplement

to actual judo practice. A later chapter on planning the training programme delves into more detail on periodization and phasing training. However, the minimal effective dose theory for increasing judo-specific fitness is to conduct circuit-based sessions that challenge judo-specific skills. This kills three birds with one stone: anaerobic fitness, aerobic fitness and judo-specific resistance to fatigue (both mentally and physically).



In the needs analysis conducted in Chapter 2 the traits were determined that have a significant bearing on judo performance, included in which were spatial awareness, speed and agility. Co-ordination for judo refers to the athlete’s ability to understand where his or her body is in space in relation to the ground and the opponent. Speed is normally associated with sprinting and jumping movements, however in judo often the speed of entry to an attack or reaction time to defend or perform an escape can be the difference between success and failure. Agility relates to the ability of the athlete to effectively change direction in response to a stimulus, which is essential for getting reactions, feinting and creating kuzushi. This chapter aims to build an understanding of these attributes and relate them to judo-specific principles, drills and practices so that the coach can integrate them into training in order to increase the athlete’s chance of success on the mat.


Fig. 111 Types of speed.

Speed, as previously discussed, is a key attribute that contributes to the success of athletes in judo. A judoka needs to be able to react instantly and instinctively to any given situation, and be able to access his or her particular skill set and techniques on demand. Often the success of an attack is not determined by the strength of the athlete, but rather the technique applied at the right time in an explosive manner that catches the opponent off guard using maximal speed. To understand speed effectively and how it can be trained for in a sport-specific manner, it is firstly crucial to gain a general understanding of the concept. Speed is a time dependent ability; for example how fast can you run from point A to point B, or how fast can you throw a ball to a batter (baseball). When looking into how speed is translated into a sporting setting, there are four types. Maximal linear speed relates to full on sprinting and how fast a person can move in a straight line, this is important for sports that involve, for example, running, cycling, swimming and rowing. Multidirectional speed usually references sports such as tennis, football and rugby, where straight line speed is not the key determinant of success and the ability to accelerate, stop and change direction are more essential skills. Movement speed is a type of speed that is more contextual for judo, in essence the ability of the body to execute a particular movement such as a tai-otoshi. Reaction speed also fits well with judo-specific markers as athletes often have to access these skills and movement speed while responding to a moving target that is trying not to be thrown. The development of more general speed attributes (maximal linear and multidirectional) may contribute to sport-specific speed in the long term, and there is some merit to including sprint-based training in the general preparation phase of a training cycle. The benefit of this type of training is that the athlete learns the movement patterns required to move the limbs fast, accelerate, decelerate and change direction effectively, all of which can later be translated to judo-specific speed. Types of training may include various sprint drills, learning proper sprint mechanics (such as centre of gravity, leg drives and correct posture while at maximal speed). This type of training could be done in a dojo setting if

the space was sufficient and could form part of a conditioning session. Measuring maximal linear speed is relatively simple, by measuring the time it takes for the athlete to get from A to B. This is a simple way to assess the developments of general speed attributes, and takes very little effort on top of what would be the training in itself. Including change of direction training can involve teaching the athlete effective acceleration, deceleration and change of direction technique (such as where the centre of gravity should be in order to push off once deceleration has been completed), which they will benefit from when using the improved abilities in a judo-based situation. Training for this type of skill can involve cone drills for change of direction, and there could be a sports-specific element included whereby at the end of this drill the athlete has to execute a nage-komi. Measuring change of direction is also a pretty simple task, by defining the task (number of cones, distance between cones and extra challenges) the coach can time the athletes from the beginning of the task to the end. Any decreases in time without loss of form or knocking over cones will demonstrate improvement, and over time with trial and error the coach can determine bad, average, good and excellent scoring ratings based on previous data. Movement speed is associated with how fast an athlete can execute a technique. This type of training is highly sport specific and can be included as part of a technical session. Prior to conducting speed training with any particular technique it is essential to have a sound technical base and execution, otherwise the athlete will be practising incorrect technique with speed that will only result in faster failed attacks. Once the technical base for a technique is sufficient then the athlete can begin to develop speed around it. For example, if an athlete was working on tai-otoshi he or she would spend a large volume of practice developing the key point of the throw (hand placement, foot patterns and direction of throw). Once the athlete has the key elements then the technique can be drilled at half speed, threequarter speed and at full speed. This type of training can be more effective once the general speed training is completed in the preparation block, therefore sport-specific speed training comes into a programme later on (perhaps in the strength/power phase). This is a much more difficult attribute to measure as it requires the coach’s expert eye as well as timed repetitions, for example to complete a set of ten uchi-komi. Not only must the athlete aim to complete as many in a set amount of time, but the key technical aspects must still be in place. Even though this is an acceptable method

of assessing specific speed, it still does not mimic actual entries for attacking as the technique is usually a single explosive action. Without expert scientific expertise and equipment this type of speed would be difficult to measure in a training environment. Reaction speed concerns all of the above, but with the response to a stimulus. For example, linear speed in sprinting is often commenced at the sound of a starter gun. This is the most basic of stimuli as it is predetermined and the athlete knows the response that is required. Change of direction, movement and reaction speed are all combined and are much more complex. An example could be the winger sprinting with the ball, having to change direction in response to the stimuli provided by defenders or, in a more sport-specific version, a judoka attempting to throw with ura-nage waiting for the right movement from the opponent in order to attack. This aspect of speed is very difficult to measure. The goal should be to aim to increase the reaction time in a sport-specific manner, for example throwing from an external cue such as a whistle or coach’s clap. Then it should progress to reacting to a partner’s action or movement, for example every time the partner steps forward with the right foot, the response is to attack to the rear.


Judo is a skill-based sport and the highly developed physical attributes such as strength and power need to be complemented by lightning fast neural pathways. If the muscles are considered to be the engine of the body, then the brain is the driver. The neural pathways are the information transmitters between the driver and the engine that ensure the motors are firing at the right time to drive towards execution of effective techniques. Co-ordination is a trait often associated with judo athletes, as the highly developed general athletic capabilities allow judoka to often transfer and learn new sports with relative ease. The reasons for this may be numerous, however the varied nature of the sport in regards to techniques, opponents and methods of training create a large stimulus for neural development. This is in direct opposition to more linear sports such as sprinting, where the athletes are highly specifically trained and have very few external cues to challenge their motor learning beyond that of actual running.

Co-ordination is developed through a combination of sensory feedback mechanisms, and the first feedback sense to investigate is proprioception. Proprioception is an internal sense that informs the athlete’s body part where it is in relation to other body parts. Proprioception is what permits athletes to determine where each body part is without conscious effort, and is essential when in a contest as the mind needs to concentrate on alternative aspects such as tactics. This sensory function is read by specialized nerves in the muscles and joints called ‘proprioceptors’. These nerves are found all over the body and continually send information back to the brain about muscle tension, joint angles, pressure and movement. The pathways of information sending nerves from the proprioceptors can be developed like any other human function, and by challenging the co-ordination of many movements and various parts of the body the pathways can be optimized. Think of the difference between cable and broadband internet: each time the proprioceptors are challenged, they send information leading to those pathways being strengthened (in a process called myelination) via a sheath surrounding the nerve. The more the co-ordination is challenged, the bigger and stronger the sheath surrounding the nerve and the faster the internet of information can reach the brain. Because of the complex movements and variety of challenges a judoka faces, there needs to be a highly developed sense of co-ordination and balance. This allows the judoka to complete these movements without having to think consciously about them, hence the athletes competing in judo need to be aware of where their limbs are in relation to the ground and their opponent. Another sense that determines the body’s relationship with the earth’s gravitational force is called ‘equilibrioception’. This sense monitors and adjusts balance, which is vital in judo as the goal is to break your opponent’s while maintaining your own. With a small footprint compared with other mammals, without the constant correction from the muscles humans would fall over a lot more often than we do. Equilibrioception uses sensory input from the eyes, inner ears and proprioceptors to determine the body position and to readjust to maintain balance. Judo is quite possibly one of the best training methods for increasing the functional capacity of this sense, just by the nature of the sport. However, there are alternative methods of challenging and improving one’s balance outside of judo such as balance boards, BOSU balls, Swiss ball balancing and wobble boards.

Optimal balance and co-ordination are essential for the competitive judoka, especially more recently as athletes are demonstrating highly developed spatial awareness and using gymnastic turns to evade throws with great success. By increasing the senses of proprioception and equilibrioception the judo player can enhance his or her ability to remain in balance during practice and competition.


Fig. 112 Agility process.

Agility is not easily defined, and in the strength and conditioning world there are various schools of thought as to what it actually is. As agility is often referred to when considering team sports such as football, hockey, and rugby, as well as individual sports such as tennis, badminton and gymnastics, a general definition is necessary, prior to establishing how this fits with a combat sport such as judo. Agility can be defined as whole body changes of direction, ability to brake explosively, change direction and accelerate again – and all of the above while remaining in control and balanced. Various research suggests that in order for an action to require agility as opposed to speed or simply change of direction, it needs to be activated as a response to a stimulus. An example to illustrate this is a tennis return of serve. The returning player has to react in a split second to the direction, speed and angle created by the server. Often he or she has to change direction, move off and begin the swinging action ready to return the ball to the server. This skill requires anticipation, timing, balance, co-ordination, change of direction, mobility and speed. All of the above are a fairly accurate way to define agility in general, and the process usually follows the pattern of stimulus–decision making–action. Although a general description of the agility process serves well as a base point for judo it does not cover the whole picture. In this sport there is a constant exchange of mental and physical stimuli to which athletes must react, accordingly requiring highly developed levels of:





•Strength (stabilizing and propulsive)


•Posture (dynamic)



The stimulus referred to when considering judo can be a multitude of factors, such as an opponent’s attack, feints, general movement and behaviour, or it could be the reaction of an opponent to any of the above created by you. This process cycles many times throughout a single exchange of twenty to thirty seconds in a judo contest, and varies between opponent and indeed between exchanges depending on the flow of the fight or any scoring movements. Often an experienced player can hit continuously with forward throwing attacks for the first four minutes of a contest in order to create the right reaction to twitch and throw backwards. The regularity of forward attacks increases the strength of the opponent’s reaction to the stimulus and therefore creates a big opportunity to increase the scoring potential of a throw to the rear.

Given the highly expansive nature of judo, as in the large variety of techniques, styles and individual intricacies involved in the sport, it is difficult to create a response pattern for each and every scenario. Athletes must endeavour to practice with as many and as widely varied opponents as possible in order to develop the following traits for effective sport-specific agility:

Fig. 113 Agility constraints process.

•Stimulus identification – being able to identify quickly to which cues to respond (e.g. ignoring fakes or reacting to them)

•Response selection – considering the options technically to respond to the given situation and selecting the correct action, often in a split second

•Response programming and feedback – creating motor patterns that reinforce successful responses and building a large base of patterns that can be used across the many situations that may occur during a contest or training.

In developing an understanding of the component parts of agility, it helps to ascertain which attributes to work on in training. Unfortunately, the large base of research into agility surrounds sports that do not share similar traits to judo, such as hockey, tennis and football. However, the physical attributes that dictate agility in performance in these sports, such as eccentric strength, stretch shortening cycle abilities, low per cent body fat, movement mechanics and fast reaction times can all be trained as separate entities before being integrated and used in a more functional sports-specific manner. The goal for training agility is to develop the contributing attributes that lead to agility performance, such as the perceptual, cognitive, organizational and motor pattern abilities. In developing the individual aspects it is also important to observe that the body operates as a system and many of the above traits can be enhanced using simple exercises that challenge the body in many ways. In addition, the grouping of speed, agility and co-ordination was deliberate, as the training for all three attributes can be combined into a similar type of training session, and in fact judo practice itself challenges all three. The following

section will provide a basic approach to training for speed, agility and coordination.


When training for speed, agility and co-ordination there are some general principles that apply to all, and the athletic stance is one of them. By adapting and maintaining this dynamic stance, athletes can move effectively and respond to stimuli faster. The stance has various names such as dynamic posture, ready position and athletic stance. What it refers to is strong position mechanically, which is considered the basis and foundation for all multidirectional athletic movement. A dynamic posture across most sports follows certain principles.

Athletic Stance

•Feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart (in judo the leading leg is in front)

•Hips are pushed down and back, using a neutral spine positon to activate glutes

•Chest is dropped slightly to the ground, shifting body weight to the front foot. Majority of the weight is on the front foot (should be able to slide a pencil under the heels)

•Hips inside the knees and the knees inside the feet. This creates positive angles of acceleration

•There should be a feeling of readiness to move off in any direction.


Developing speed in relation to sprint training is one simple method to increasing the body’s ability to exert force at maximal velocity, which when programmed effectively can be translated to sport-specific speed closer to the main competition block. However, sprint training alone is not an effective way to develop sport-specific speed that is not linear. As the legendary coach Vern Gambetta says, ‘A fundamental mistake when working with athletes in multidirectional sports is to spend inordinate amounts of time working on sprinter style track drills to increase speed.’

Session type




Acceleration speed 10 × 30m


Acceleration and power from

Maximal sprinting

10 × 100m

2–5min Developing maximal linear s

Pyramid training

100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 500m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m 2–3min Mixed distances challenges th

Table 4: Example sprint sessions.

The reason for the lack of transfer is that in straight line sprinting there is a ‘flight phase’, which the athlete uses to cycle the leg through for the next stride. This is counterproductive for judo and other sports that require change of direction and quick reactions because they need the base of support close to the ground and feet never far from contact so they can push off in various directions. The inclusion of sprint-based training is the decision of the coach and athlete, and can be of some benefit if the athlete is deemed ‘slow’ as sprinting aids in the recruitment and development of fast twitch muscle fibres. Additionally, for development level athletes, the technical, postural and control elements involved in sprint-based training lend to increased co-ordination and motor pattern abilities, which could prove beneficial later on in their sporting careers.


Fig. 114 Change of direction qualities.

Change of direction (COD) training is another method of increasing speed and agility, which when incorporated back into specific skills can greatly benefit performance. Simply by increasing knowledge of the most optimal mechanics for change of direction can cause improvement in the subsequent exercise. Change of direction is an element of agility, in that effective change of direction aids in increasing agility but without the reaction to a stimulus (COD is preplanned) is less specific to judo. There are numerous factors that affect an athlete’s COD ability, as seen in Fig. 113.

Strength – ability to exert force to propel body and to actively decelerate. Unilateral (single leg strength) is important, especially for judo as the judo athlete needs to be able to shift weight between legs and use both effectively to produce force.

Power – strength × speed, the ability to use the SSC and explosive qualities in both upper and lower body movements to create favourable winning situations.

Sprinting speed – ability to move in a straight line fast can be translated into power, in addition to fact that general ability to move fast aids in building change of direction ability.

Leg muscle qualities – ability to generate power, absorb load and react to neural cues to contract and produce movement.

Technique – direction of lean and low centre of gravity, visual scanning, and cognitive decisions and pre-planned technical skills developed to implement given a certain scenario.

To develop training programmes to increase change of direction for judo athletes the principle of specificity needs to be applied. For example, running various cone drills may be great at developing the motor patterns and physical capacities to increase this trait, however this type of training would have limited transferable skills that could help in actual judo. Planning the training process would involve possibly including COD training in the general preparation phase, as this method is one of the various training methodologies that may increase an athlete’s general agility that can later be translated into more sports-specific skill.


Plyometric training has been around for a long time, however, the correct understanding is often lost in translation. This is due to the training science behind this method coming from former Soviet Union coaches and scientists, and the Western world has often misinterpreted the methods. With a clearer understanding of the specifics of plyometric training this method can be employed to increase the power and agility in judo players. This section will cover briefly the premise behind plyometric-based training, as well as some basic progressions so that coaches can begin to integrate it into the programme where appropriate. Plyometric training is an advanced method of increasing power production and follows progressions, for example, from strength training to medicine ball throwing. The basis for plyometric training is focused on the SSC, in which a concentric contraction is preceded immediately by an eccentric contraction. The process uses stored energy created during the eccentric phase to generate increased force in the concentric phase. A simple example is if asked to jump as high as possible

from a standing position, most people would begin by performing a small squatting movement in order to spring-load their legs before accelerating as quickly as possible for the actual jump. Not often would anyone just attempt to jump without first doing a countermovement.

Fig. 115 Power progressions process.

In order for movements to be truly plyometric they need to happen in a rapid fashion, as the stored energy is released through heat if not used almost instantaneously. In technical terms the time allotted for ‘short plyometric’ movements are less than a quarter of a second, likened to a ground contact time of a sprinter at near full speed only touching the floor briefly to ‘bounce’ and use the energy to propel themselves forward. ‘Long plyometric’ movements are more closely linked to judo as often the short contact time does not always fit with judo-based movements. These ‘long’ contact times are above a quarter of a second and are more inclined to feature in box jumps and medicine ball throws.

Fig. 116 Plyometric terminology list.

Including plyometric training into a programme has many potential benefits for the athletes including decreasing potential for injury through tolerance to stretch loads, increased dynamic stabilization and increased efficiency for explosive movement. Fig. 116 shows some key definitions that are used in plyometric training.


In designing plyometric training there are some considerations to be made in relation to the health and safety of the athlete. This is due to the high loading that occurs on the body during this type of training. Firstly, it is important to understand the types of training that are involved; plyometric training usually encompasses various forms of jumping, hopping, bounding and skipping. Jumping refers to contacting the ground with both feet at the same time, hopping is one foot at a time, bounding is from one foot to the other and skipping is alternating from foot to foot after double unilateral foot contact. Each type of plyometric training has varying levels of difficulty and progressions should be made on ability to execute the previous level with a great degree of competency.


The aim is to develop correct landing mechanics, braking at the ankle, knee and hip simultaneously. Instruct the athlete to step down off a small box and aim to control the landing on two feet. Alternatively, as mentioned in the robustness

chapter, a good strategy is to challenge the landing mechanics as part of the warm-up via speed skater exercises and double to single leg jumps.


The aim is to increase correct landing technique, eccentric strength, control and ability to stabilize. Exercises for this stage include standing long jumps, high jumps, rotational hops and lateral hops, instructing the athlete to land and control the landing for a few seconds each time. Again, this can form part of the warmup rather than being a session in itself and works well when developing control with younger athletes.


The aim is to increase the take-off ability, improving triple extension capabilities for the ankle, knee and hip joints. Also in this type of training, effective use of the arms can increase co-ordination and the ability to produce power. Simply instruct athletes to jump up on to various heights of boxes (starting small, of course) or stack judo mats and build up how many the athlete can jump up to effectively (with correct form).

In Place Responses

The aim for this type of training is to teach quick reactions on and off the ground, both with the upper and lower body (examples could be press-up claps

for upper body, jump rope for lower). Increasing the height of jumps and the number can challenge the athlete, however the key is the rapid (more than a quarter of a second) contact time so the difficulty should be speed not height.

Short Responses

Short responses again challenge the more than a quarter of a second plyometric ability of the athlete. The addition from in place responses is horizontal displacement. For example, wheelbarrow press-ups where the athlete must travel forward on each repetition, or repeated long jumps.

Long Responses

This form of training increases the ability to produce power and SSC over longer duration bursts >250m/s. This is possibly the most functional in regards to judo and its force/time constraints, and therefore a good measure of an athlete’s ability to be explosive and agile. Think of a triple jumper type action when considering this type of training; therefore multiple near maximal efforts for distance, either in press-up wheelbarrows or bounding type exercises. Focus again on maximum height and distance, as well as continually minimizing the time spent contacting the ground.

Shock Method

This training method is the most advanced and creates very high neural fatigue

due to its nervous system demand. Only use this type of training with athletes who are competent with all the previous stages and have a solid strength base and training age. The goal of this type of exercise is to increase the ability of the muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the nervous system’s ability to absorb increasing load while still producing force rapidly. Exercises include drop jumps, where the athlete steps off a relatively high box and upon landing rebounds to a jump for maximal height (or on to another box).


This section of training covers areas that are predominantly mat-based in nature, and can be incorporated into judo-specific training sessions. There are many variations on how to best use this type of training, however the principles are the same: to transfer general speed, agility and co-ordination attributes into sportspecific skills that will aid contest performance. The ultimate goal for strength and conditioning coaches is to provide the physical base including the above traits so that the judo coach and the athlete can work together to transfer the strength, power, fitness, speed, agility and co-ordination into creating a more well-rounded judoka that can win more matches. The following are examples of exercises that can be used in warm-ups and within sessions to help translate the developments to mat-based increases in performance. There are many other exercises that can be used, however these are exercises that are currently used inside dojos across the world to good result. For each exercise the use of a partner is essential. This creates a more judo-specific element and allows athletes to develop feeling around using and working cooperatively with partners, which helps in judo.

Handstand over Partner

Fig. 117 Handstand over partner (a).

Fig. 118 Handstand over partner (b).

Fig. 119 Handstand over partner (c).

Fig. 120 Handstand over partner (d).

Fig. 121 Handstand over partner (e).

This is a progression from the forward roll and precursor to an individual handstand into a forward roll. This exercise develops the co-ordination and balance. By using a partner the athlete has to judge effectively where to begin the handstand and, depending on the positon of the partner, judge where they will land. Basic versions of this would be a forward roll over the partner without touching him or her, progressing on to a forward roll over the back of the partner (initially from as low as possible, eventually on all fours with straight arms). In this version the partner is on all fours facing across the athlete. The athlete approaches the partner and places the hands on the floor directly before him or her. At this point the athlete performs a handstand towards the partner and when their backs make contact the athlete moves into a rolling action to land on both feet on the opposite side of the partner.

Backward Roll over Partner

Fig. 122 Backward roll over partner (a).

Fig. 123 Backward roll over partner (b).

Fig. 124 Backward roll over partner (c).

Fig. 125 Backward roll over partner (d).

This is a great exercise for developing a sense of space and an ability to control the body while in movement and upside down. Similar to previous exercises, the partner begins in an all fours position facing sideward to the person completing the task. The athlete squats down with his or her back touching the partner, and begins to stretch slowly over the partner backwards. Once over the partner’s back and the centre of mass is moving towards the head, the athlete places the hands on the floor and begins to lower while lifting legs towards the chest and performing a backwards roll over. This exercise can be regressed to extremely slow and with aid from the coach to direct the athlete’s body over, or progressed to a faster pace and with less time to control the movement.

Head Spring over Partner

Fig. 126 Head spring over partner (a).

Fig. 127 Head spring over partner (b).

Fig. 128 Head spring over partner (c).

Fig. 129 Head spring over partner (d).

The level of gymnastic ability required to perform this movement is high so be aware of the limitations of the athlete prior to prescribing this movement. There are progressions available (such as without a partner, on a soft surface, or with support), however the crux of the technique is a level of commitment and confidence to perform the action. The athlete approaches his or her partner in the same way as above, and places both hands on the partner’s back. In an explosive effort they athlete propels his or her body forward over the partner, lowering the head to towards the partner’s back. Once the athlete has passed the centreline and the body mass is predominantly past the partner he or she pushes up explosively and flicks the body back to the standing position.

Cartwheel over Partner

Fig. 130 Cartwheel over partner (a).

Fig. 131 Cartwheel over partner (b).

Fig. 132 Cartwheel over partner (c).

The partner positions him or herself on all fours, sideways on to the oncoming athlete (see image), and acts as a springboard for the cartwheel. The athlete performs a normal cartwheel using the partner to balance one arm on. This is a prior step to learning the next few gymnastic movements and one that should be practised even once mastered. To make this technique more challenging, the athlete can be asked to perform it explosively, or to gradually take away the support arm from the partner, therefore progressing to single arm cartwheels over time.

Tomoe-nage Escape

Fig. 133 Tomoe-nage escape.

The partner attempts a tomoe-nage attack, although not a 100 per cent effort to throw. In the case of learning this escape, the partner can graduate the speed of entry as well as the effort in actually trying to execute the throw to allow the athlete to learn the escape effectively. Once the athlete is comfortable in the escape then the effort and speed can be increased to make it more challenging. Also practising both sided escapes is recommended. The partner takes a traditional sleeve–lapel grip and attempts the throw, uke anticipates the attack and launches himself forward over the attacker’s leg and uses the free hand to cartwheel off the technique and land on his feet.

Ippon-seoi-nage Escapes

Fig. 134 Ippon-seoi-nage escapes (a).

Fig. 135 Ippon-seoi-nage escapes (b).

Fig. 136 Ippon-seoi-nage escapes (c).

Fig. 137 Ippon-seoi-nage escapes (d).

In this progression, the partner attempts to throw with ippon-seoi-nage. Again, initially the technique needs to be slow and controlled and without any real intent to throw. Additionally, the use of a crash mat may help with learning the technique, and decreases the risk of injury. The athlete anticipates the technique and prepares to use the attack and momentum of the attacker to escape the technique by performing a cartwheeltype action. In escaping effectively, the athlete must turn in towards the technique facing the partner while he or she performs the escape. There are many ways to progress this judo-specific agility and co-ordination exercise, by manipulating the speed, intensity of the attack and mixing up the direction of the throw. Additionally, if the partner is skilful in this throw he or she can do a full squat ippon-seoi-nage attack and explode out of the bottom of the movement in order to create a faster attack and further challenge the athlete trying to escape. These techniques are judo-specific examples of how to increase co-ordination, agility and speed. The bonus in this type of training is that both partners will be developing dynamic judo skills that will be transferable in contest. The limit to this type of training is the imagination of the coach and within reason most techniques can be practised with escapes to allow general abilities to be challenged and develop.


As mentioned on a few occasions in this chapter, the key principle that applies in this situation is specificity. In sport, the athlete generally improves during the training he or she takes part in: if you lift heavy weights you get stronger, if you spend lots of time on technical aspects you tend to increase technique. If this was the only principle that applied in sport, however, the only training needed for a sprinter to get better would be running and, likewise, the only training judoka

would need to do is judo. Strength and conditioning is supplementary in sport; it enables the athletes to increase their physical capacity to deliver performance. However, ultimately the training in the actual sport is what really matters. By taking part in a structured, evidence-based strength and conditioning programme, athletes can increase resistance to injury and improve performance potential by getting bigger, stronger and faster. These increased abilities can then be translated and integrated into judo-specific practice and the newly developed power may increase the throwing ability. Likewise, the increased agility may aid the athlete in avoiding being thrown. The structure above is a model to guide the integration of speed, agility and co-ordination into an athlete’s performance and this chapter has provided some coaching tools regarding how that training process may be conducted.


This chapter covered areas that are not necessarily the main components of a traditional strength and conditioning programme for judo, however they are essential attributes that are required to increase the chances of success. By training the basic athletic qualities of co-ordination, speed and agility athletes can use the increased capacities in a more judo-specific training session, and in turn begin to reap the benefits of these skills in contest situations.

Fig. 138 Speed, agility and co-ordination pyramid.

The variations on training for co-ordination and balance are pretty much limited by the imagination of the coach, and in this instance the inclusion of some cross training could increase these attributes. Coaches can introduce other sports such as tennis, badminton, gymnastics, trampoline and many more to expose the athlete to new stimuli that will increase co-ordination. The same can be said for judo-specific training to increase skills. By challenging the balance, agility and speed of the athletes in a judo-specific manner the transfer of training can be enhanced and used rapidly.



Planning the training process is the manipulation of training variables in order to bring about the best performance at the right time of the year. This type of manipulation is often referred to as periodization, thanks to the innovations made by eastern sport scientists in the mid twentieth century, but can actually be backdated as far as ancient Greek times. The principal aim of planning the training process is to take full advantage of human adaptive capacities and prepare athletes to be prepared physically, technically, tactically and psychologically for major events. Most periodized plans involve three distinct phases, namely preparatory, competitive and transition. The length and content of these phases varies greatly depending on many factors such as the athlete’s performance level, completion schedule and number of years of training. The preparatory phase can be split into general preparation and specific preparation, general referring to building a strong physical and technical foundation to ready the athlete for the rigours of the more intense sport-specific phase. Traditionally in this phase the volume of training is normally high and intensity is low. This training includes long duration randori, where the goal is to develop one’s technique, physical robustness and aerobic base. In contrast, the sports-specific phase builds on that foundation, and integrates more competitionorientated training to prepare the athlete for the upcoming event or season. During this phase more judo-specific exercises are added and training is shorter in duration but much more intense and focused on developing the qualities needed to win medals in events. In the competitive phase the aim is to maintain the various attributes that have been developed, while reducing the risk of overtraining and injury and

facilitating the competitive success of the athlete. Generally the volume is reduced and the intensity is kept high to maintain competitive fitness. Depending on the level of the athlete, it may involve some test events prior to a major tournament or a block of qualification events leading into a major one. The final phase is the transition phase, in which active rest is used to aid in the recovery from the previous stages and training. The priority in this phase is to remove the fatigue and stress that the athlete may be under; both intensity and duration are reduced for a period that suits the athlete (again depending on his or her level). Traditionally, phases of training are often broken down into sub-segments called cycles. This is merely a method to establish the phase of training and manage workloads for the coaches and athletes. It also gives clarity of the long-term vision and is regularly employed at elite levels of judo. A macro-cycle is an overarching period that is usually a training year. Inside the year there are blocks of several weeks such as general prep and competition that are named mesocycles. These usually last one to four months and fit into the yearly plan for the athlete. Micro-cycles are usually seven to ten-day blocks (easily managed when seven days) within the meso-cycle and make up the day-to-day planning of training content. What we need to consider here is that periodization, its terminology and practice is sometimes looked at as outdated, especially as when it was developed there were only one or two events per calendar year for which athletes needed to prepare. In modern Olympic level judo there are more than twenty-five events per year, so peaking for only two tournaments is unrealistic for most athletes. The theories developed around periodization are novel and useful, however we need to use practical knowledge and experience in order to best prepare athletes for sustained success. More on these theories later in the chapter. Some of the best coaches and athletes look at planning the training process in a simple manner; they first decide at what event they wish to perform at their best (for example, Olympic Games). Next they establish what it takes to win an Olympic Games and compare that to their current level of performance. Then they work back from that major event to the point they are currently at, filling in events and goals that are important, as well as what areas of development are needed in order to achieve them. So starting with the goal in mind and working backwards is a good strategy to employ when designing training plans.

In this chapter we will discuss the principles of adaptation and how they relate to planning the training process, then look in more detail into versions of periodization of training and effective tapering for competition. Finally, we will look at long-term planning and provide examples of how planning works in real life situations.


General Adaptation Syndrome

In order to understand and to start planning effective training programmes, we believe it is first essential to cover some principles of adaptation. The first principle was developed by Dr Hans Selye and is named general adaptation syndrome. It focuses on our reaction to stress and is very applicable to training for judo. There are three phases in this model, the first being the alarm phase in which the performance will be decreased and a degree of soreness involved. An example would be the first time you do judo after a long break or start a new weighttraining programme; there is soreness and a decreased ability. The second phase is adaptation, in which the body adapts physiologically to the new stimulus and is better able to deal with the stress; this is where we want to be as performance improves in this stage. The body continues to adapt for a period of time and various development timescales can be seen depending on the current level of fitness. The stimulus either needs to be reduced or changed prior to the final stage, which is exhaustion. During this stage no performance gains are made and the risk of injury or illness is greatly increased. The stimulus or training needs to be altered or reduced to facilitate continuous performance improvement; effective planning of the training programme can lead to enhanced performance while reducing the risk of overtraining and injury.

Fitness Fatigue Model

Fig. 139 Diagram of fitness–fatigue model. (Chiu & Barnes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2003)

The two outcomes from training are fitness and fatigue. This principle basically defines the preparedness of an athlete as the summation of the fitness qualities trained and adapted minus the level of fatigue. An example of this principle is a strength training session. The strength gains adapted from this session need to address the fatigue that accumulates from the training completed. A typical strength session, for example, has a 24-hour fatiguing effect, whereas the fitness component (strength gains) can last seventy-two hours or more. Therefore, adding in another strength session before twenty-four hours would accumulate more fatigue, whereas leaving it for weeks would reduce the adaptations from training. Coaches must be able to manage the training process to maximize the fitness (judo performance) while minimizing the fatigue during important events.


How we structure the planning of a training cycle largely depends on the sport, goals, competition schedule, current performance level and training availability. There are various strategies that we can adopt in order to manipulate the training volume and intensity effectively. As mentioned previously, these are the key variables that can be changed to bring about adaptation, variation and recovery. This section aims to detail a few key strategies used in order to provide you with the knowledge to adapt and create long-term training programmes that facilitate performance in judo. It is worth noting that each method has its benefits and drawbacks, and it will be down to the plan, experiment, and evaluation process to enable you to develop a strategy that works for the judoka with whom you are working.


This method has in the past been given other names (traditional, Eastern and so on), but for the purpose of this text we will refer to it as linear. Linear strategies follow the principle of building attributes in a sequential manner, although the term may be misleading as the programme uses fluctuations in intensity and volume within each meso-cycle. The basic premise evolves from high volume, low intensity training, leading to high intensity, low volume, as you get closer to the major event.

General Preparation

Specific preparation

Resistance training Hypertrophy/strength endurance 3–5 sets – 8–20 reps – 50% 1RM Max strength 3–5 sets – 4–6 reps – Endurance training Long steady state (running/cycling)

Anaerobic (Circuit training)

Judo training

Volume of randori

Technique development, open randori

Table 5: Linear strategy example.

A traditional example of this for strength training in judo would look like that shown in Table 5 above. The basic principle for this strategy is that you develop the muscle mass, which is then used to increase the strength. In turn, that increased strength is used to develop speed or power. The endurance attributes trained follow the same principle, each one building on the base of the previous one. This system is very effective in physiological sports such as sprinting, cycling and weightlifting, as well as sports where there are only a few major events each year. This is due to the nature of the phases taking time to develop that allows for only two to three peaks in performance each year. In international judo there are more than thirty events each calendar year, therefore this strategy is difficult to implement unless you or your athlete are in the upper echelons of high performance (for example World/Olympic champion or world number one) and can prioritize World/Continental championships over any other event.


New, young or returning athletes need small doses of training stimulus to achieve the adaptations they are searching for, however after a period of adaptations the body no longer develops under the same training conditions and progressions are needed in the programming. Changes in exercise, intensity and duration throughout periodized programmes provide this change in stimulus, and increase adaptations. Elite athletes need a great deal of stimulus to create these adaptations and the time and effort investment for small percentage gains is substantial. The increased training time demands necessary for each attribute would increase this period for each micro-cycle to such an extent that there would be no time for recovery. Therefore, the conjugate strategy was developed with this level of athlete in mind.

In this system, many attributes are trained, however only one is focused upon in each micro-cycle. An example would be power, strength and muscular endurance are trained in week one, however the key focus is on power, whereas in week two the emphasis is on strength, and so on. This allows the judoka to maintain a level in all attributes trained but still create a large enough stimulus for improvements in each area over the course of a meso-cycle.




Resistance training Hypertrophy Endurance training Judo

Wednesday Thursday



Anaerobic conditioning Power



Aerobic conditioning Randori



Table 6: Concurrent strategy example.

Judo is a multi-faceted sport in that it requires many physical qualities of its athletes. When we consider the fatiguing effect a training session has on an athlete the challenge is to fit in the sessions needed without completely overtraining the judoka. There are also attributes such as strength and aerobic endurance that compete with each other, and it is difficult to develop both at the same time. This type of strategy is best suited for younger or developing athletes, or those who compete regularly, for example in an Olympic qualification process. The aim of this type of programme for elite athletes would be to maintain their training status over the course of events rather than develop any particular area, as the stimulus for well-trained athletes would need to be more. An example of how this type of strategy might look is included in Table 6 above.

Reverse Linear

Reverse linear strategies are best suited to targeting muscular endurance and cardiovascular-based sports, however it is worth mentioning as it is a strategy that is used in the field and may be something that as a coach you decide is worth investigating or experimenting with. In this science-based field of strength and conditioning, nothing is certain or proven as best practice indefinitely and it is the coaches who implement these strategies that determine the success of each method. What is seen in literature and books is often a few years behind what is actually being used in the field, due to the time it takes for theories to be tested, validated and published. Therefore, if a coach has an idea that is logical and is a progression from what is currently seen in books it is worth experimenting with. The strategy of reverse linear planning is exactly what it is, the opposite of linear in that volume increases over time. The intensity of training starts high and decreases as the athlete moves closer to the event. This type of strategy is used in

bodybuilding circles, and if a development level judoka has a real need for muscular hypertrophy then this may be an option for planning his or her programme.


Block periodization is referred to as ‘a training cycle of highly concentrated specialized workloads’. This method permits the training to focus on a smaller quantity of attributes (two to three) over a period of time to encourage more powerful specific anatomical adaptations. A residual training effect maintains these attributes and the length of adaptation varies dependent on the level of athlete and the type. For example, the longer the adaptation phase, the greater the residual training effect. In strength and rate of force development gains, a block method of periodization is more successful and a preferred method of managing the training process. The term ‘training blocks’ works really well for judo, and was initially designed for sports where there are more than two to three peaks in a competitive season. There is still an emphasis on the major tournaments during the qualification period so a number of sessions are designed around the overall performance outcome (Europeans and Worlds for example). However, the athlete will still have to maintain optimal performance potential during the qualification period or he or she may not reach the major competitions. Therefore each mesocycle (four to six weeks) would include some level of maintenance units for particular attributes such as aerobic conditioning or muscular strength.

Accumulation Resistance training


High volume, high intensity

Endurance training High volume, high intensity Judo training

Low volume, technical

Sport specific, high intensity, high volume. randori camps

Table 7: Block strategy example.

Block planning involves three meso-cycles, named accumulation, transmutation and realization. Accumulation involves high levels of fatigue and aims to develop physical qualities that will last throughout the whole competition phase, while transmutation involves the sport-specific fitness qualities such as judospecific circuits and high volumes of quality randori. The final block of realization involves a massive reduction in volume of training and preparations for competition involving a significant tapering strategy. This method suits judo very well and a whole block-planning unit may look something like that in Table 7 above.


Aims of a Taper

A taper is a reduction of training workload prior to a competition, with the main aim of maximizing performance in a particular event. The aim of the taper is to bring about a peak in the performance of an athlete by manipulating the volume and intensity of the training around the main competition so the profile of fitness, sport-specific and psychological attributes are at their highest point, while fatigue is at its lowest. The success of a taper is obviously the end result in the competition, however the underpinning mechanisms for success rely on successful implementation of the planning and training in all the phases leading up to the taper. The performance will not be successful if the athlete has not done all the preparatory work in the lead up to the taper.

The timing of the taper is key to its success; the ‘peaking’ of the athlete’s attributes demands lots of training and, as described in the fitness–fatigue model, creates both increased performance and fatigue. The job of a taper is to time the training or recovery so that the fatigue has left before the event but the fitness qualities remain. Timed too early and the fatigue will have gone but the qualities of fitness will start to diminish (detraining), timed too late and the fatigue is still too high to enable a successful performance. Tapering and its benefits are well documented and have been used in judo for a long period of time, however there are considerations when deciding if a taper is right for your player, and what type of taper to implement. High performance sport is decided by small margins and any tiny percentage change, whether that be physical, technical or psychological, can be the difference needed to change a silver to a gold medal, a seventh place to a medal and so on. In major events such as the World Championships we need a tapering strategy that is well planned and executed. Conversely, if we want to perform well in a qualification event and know we will be competing again in a few weeks’ time, then the decision on what that taper will look like would be different. The coach needs to decide if the event is something worth tapering for, or if the longer term development of the athlete is more important and therefore it is better to reduce the taper to permit higher training volumes.

Final Preparation






Opponent specific drills Test Fights 8 × 5 min Rest

Transition and ne-waza drilling


Strength training


Pressure training




Strength training



Intensity Medium


Table 8: Final preparation example.

In judo, where the chaotic nature of the sport demands unstructured practice (randori), there is always an elevated chance of injury. The coach has to prepare the athlete to deal with extreme levels of fatigue in a combat sport, while still avoiding injury and overtraining. This is a challenging task and in the past the way in which this has been managed is via what is termed a ‘final preparation’. A final preparation is a structured seven to ten day block of mixed loading creating high levels of physical and psychological stress to bring about an increase in performance prior to a major event. The contents of a final preparation vary greatly dependent on level, age, availability of training partners and so on, but essentially are designed to overload the judo-specific fitness and psychological abilities. Once these attributes have been overloaded in the safest manner available (more on this later), then a period of rest and recovery is factored into the programme to allow the athlete to return to normal (reduce all fatiguing symptoms). Table 8 shows a structural example of a final preparation. Please note this is not necessarily what we are suggesting you use, it is just to illustrate the concept. The final preparation is designed to be a culmination of all the training that has taken place beforehand in order to sharpen the athlete for the rigours of a major tournament. The final preparation should be harder than the competition. That way the athlete goes into the event knowing that nothing an opponent throws at them is as tough as what they have already been through. The week is segmented based on the loading of that day; recovery, medium and high. The recovery days usually follow a high loading day to allow adequate recuperation, and to avoid overtraining or injury due to fatigue. Medium days are designed to include resistance training the athlete has in his or her programme, in addition to competition- or opponent-specific drills that the coach feels the athlete should be working on in preparation for the competition. High load days are designed to create a high level of stress and overload the system so the athlete has been tested ahead of the event. The high load days start very sport

specific, where the athlete goes through a simulated tournament day. This includes having to make weight (or close to weight if this is an issue) and fight against various opponents in a stressful environment. Coaches can get very innovative in creating this stress, whether it be crowd noises, biased refereeing, including the main rival for the position and so on. The key is to put the athlete under pressure to perform. The sport specificity reduces towards the end of the final preparation as the fatigue levels increase. This is mainly for injury prevention. The last day involves high levels of fatiguing exercise-specific training in a timed judo contest, however with no open-ended situations that could potentially injure the player.

Variables in Managing a Taper

Once the final preparation has completed the process of restoring the athlete to normality begins. The goal behind this tapering now is to allow the adaptations from the final preparation to take place, in addition to reducing the fatigue significantly. When tapering for a major event, there are a few things that need to be considered.

Training Volume

Just because the final preparation has finished does not mean the athlete just sits around for the duration of the taper just doing nothing; the goal is to reduce fatigue while maintaining preparedness. So the volume is an area we greatly reduce; an athlete can still train but the amount of time spent on it during a taper is significantly reduced by 60–90 per cent. No more than one session per day is a good starting point for training volume reduction. Additionally, the length of session and amount of work done should be decreased.

Training Intensity

The intensity of training can remain high, and in fact suggestions about tapers recommended a sharp decrease in volume of training, with minimal change in intensity. An example would be the athlete still attending a randori session, which would normally consist of eight cycles of five minutes’ randori and only taking part in two to three of the practices.

Taper Duration

The duration of a taper is one of the key determinants of its success. As mentioned previously, the goal is to remove fatigue while maintaining preparedness. The ideal time frame for a taper is approximately eight to fourteen days. We have seen very good results previously from ten-day tapers, and the coach must make the judgement call based on the current level of performance, fitness and psychological well-being. The key is to experiment and record the results so that the process can be addressed and altered for the next time.


The planning for performance is a huge subject that demands deep understanding of athlete development and the theoretical underpinning concepts of adaptation. A coach must be able to assess the athlete and where he or she is on the path to success and plan accordingly. A topic worth mentioning around planning the programme is the long-term development of the athlete. The yearly goal of someone trying to win the

Olympics is clearly this major event and everything should be geared towards peaking for this event. The dilemma lies in dealing with junior athletes, who may have, for example, the Junior World championships to prepare for. This is an interesting situation as the athlete and his or her coach obviously values this milestone event, and it is an extremely competitive tournament in which previous winners often go on to win major events as seniors. However, spending the whole year ‘peaking’ for this event could potentially interrupt training that could have been focused on developing more general attributes that would serve the athlete better for a senior career (remember windows of adaptation in youth athletes). On the flip side, the ‘peaking’ programme allows the athlete to learn what it is like to prepare for a major event and potentially produce an successful performance at a milestone event that gains him or her recognition/funding for future events. The key term here is ‘context’ and the coach must be able to decide which option best suits the athlete in question. A joint discussion must be made by all involved parties as to what is the best for this developing athlete.


This chapter discussed the concepts of adaptation (General Adaptation Syndrome and fitness–fatigue models) and these were important precursors to gaining an understanding of the various strategies used in planning a performance programme. The various models of planning were described and how they could fit into a judo development plan or who they would best fit were explained briefly. A few examples were given for each method to give you a clearer picture of how these actually look in the practical world. Bear in mind these were examples and not to be taken as prescriptions of training. The concept of peaking was discussed and the idea of including a ‘final preparation’ was introduced if you were not already aware of it. An example of a final preparation gave an illustration of how planning one of these might look and we talked quite a bit about tapering post-final preparation to give you a deeper understanding of how this fits into a major event plan. Finally, the issue of looking at the bigger picture was briefly addressed, but this topic is controversial so we decided not to go too deep into it. Rather, it was intended to

make you aware that long-term development can sometimes be deemed more important than short-term success and it is something we need to consider when planning for performance, especially with younger athletes.



The inclusion of strength and conditioning for children and adolescents is one of the most vital aspects of the sport and one that must be understood fully. This is especially as the aim of this book is to equip coaches and parents with practical advice that can enhance performance, development and reduce the risk of injury for all judoka . As a major proportion of active judoka fit into this age range, it is a topic of large importance. There are many myths and misconceived ideas surrounding the use of strength and conditioning for this population, including injury to growth plates, repetitive use soft tissue injuries and lower back pain. Various studies demonstrating the potential pitfalls in youth resistance training are extremely outdated and/or due to factors such as poor exercise technique, inappropriate exercises, excessive loading, lack of qualified supervision and poorly designed equipment. However, there is compelling evidence to suggest it is not only safe, but is effective in achieving all the above goals. Resistance training for children and adolescents has been proven to reduce the risk of injury, in contrast to many sports that young people currently take part in. This evidence is based on training programmes following sensible progressions that are supervised by a qualified professional. A key point to note here is research actually says ‘youth who are not exposed to an environment with opportunities to enhance muscular strength and motor skill proficiency early in life may not develop the prerequisite skills and abilities that would allow them to participate in a variety of activities and sports with confidence and vigour later in life’ (Faigenbaum et al. 2013). In order to provide our young judoka with the chance to be successful in sport later in life, it is in their best interest that we facilitate their strength and motor skill development at

a young age. This is not only for their sporting careers, but their long-term health and well-being can be affected during this stage of life. This chapter will clarify some key periods of growth and maturation, with regards to differences of gender, establish simple objective markers for progress in training and provide some basic programme parameters; based on chronological, biological and training age.


Typical age ranges for child = Males two to eleven years old, and females aged two to ten. Typical age ranges for adolescent = Males twelve to nineteen and females eleven to nineteen. Females are more difficult to determine due to a variety of maturation stages.

Chronological age = number of years since birth.

PHV = Peak Height Velocity. The period of time when growth is at its fastest.

Biological age = stage of maturation. This often differs from chronological age and is extremely individual.

Training age = the number of year of structured progressive strength or conditioning training.

Growth = the quantifiable change in height, body composition and body size.

Maturation = variable changes in body, from motor co-ordination to strength and size (particularly in males). This is highly variable, however it is dictated by transition from childhood to adulthood.


When deciding on starting age for strength and conditioning, research by the US National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests it is safe to begin from as early as five to six years old. However, it is vitally important to take into consideration the growth and maturation of the child. All training should be in accordance with the maturation status of the athlete; biological age, training age and psychological development should be the three key indicators (opposed to chronological age) for progression. Coaches should assess whether the child can understand and follow their instructions, in addition to being able to cope with the stress of training before commencing training. Biological age vs. chronological age is of particular importance in judo when we assess the development of players during their younger years. An example of how this can affect young judoka is taken from research conducted on youth squads in professional football teams in the UK (a study similar to this in judo has yet to be conducted). A disproportionate number of players in each age band were born in the first few months of the year; those born later in the calendar year were not well represented in the professional game. This study highlighted that a small difference of six months’ extra maturation at that early stage of life can make a significant difference in sporting environments. This should be taken into consideration when selecting squads or assessing a judoka’s abilities. Coaches need to factor into the decisions the current stage of maturation of the athlete. We should take great care to not compare athletes based on sporting performances alone during the early stages of their career as their success may

be based on their accelerated maturation and physical development (or because they were born in January!). A particular area of focus with young athletes is the challenge of managing the individual growth and maturation process. In childhood many performance changes occur due to neural, cerebral and synchronization developments and it is difficult to ascertain whether the changes would happen naturally or if they are the results of systematic training. Childhood is an ideal time to focus on motor learning and co-ordination as the gains that can be made during this phase while neural plasticity is high will be rewarded later on in their careers. Once the child reaches the onset of puberty, males aged twelve to fourteen and females eleven to thirteen, they experience a growth spurt and may suffer with temporary losses in co-ordination while their limb lengths are changing at a fast rate. Males experience a remarkable increase in testosterone and growth hormone, which enables rapid growth of muscle mass and other structural changes. During this stage both sexes can make larger improvements in strength, speed, power and aerobic endurance. Prior to the onset of puberty, strength changes can largely be attributed to neural and motor learning. This does not mean that it is not beneficial to include during the younger years, as these developments are essential in addition to the structural morphology that occurs when young athletes reach puberty. Later in the chapter, recommendations will be made for areas of focus for training that is age dependent.


The rationale for including a chapter specifically designated for children and adolescents is that during the formative years there are many changes happening naturally in the body. In order to take advantage of specific windows of opportunity to develop certain aspects of performance, coaches need to cultivate an understanding of the complex nature of growth and development. During these years there will be constant growth and evolution and each child will develop at various rates. Attributes such as height, weight, maximal oxygen

uptake, muscular strength and endurance, and anaerobic capacity will increase naturally. However, there is a large body of evidence that suggests we can develop strength well above that of natural levels by including resistance training for children and adolescents. Increases of up to 75 per cent have been reported for long-term training in young athletes, using a variety of methods. A key point here is that larger gains can be made during adolescence due to specific hormonal changes. The potential benefits of including resistance training for children and adolescents far outweigh the purely performance realm, these include a reduced cardiovascular risk profile, weight control, bone strengthening, psychosocial well-being, increased motor performance and resistance to sports injuries.


The strength of young judoka is influenced by many factors, including neural, muscular and biomechanical factors as well as physiological and biological stages of growth and maturation. Naturally, through stages of growth and maturation children will develop higher ranges of strength, hence it is difficult to pinpoint the effectiveness of strength training programmes. However, strength and conditioning organizations such as the US National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) have published papers that highlight how strength training can increase the strength levels in youth beyond that of normal development. The mechanisms for strength development vary depending on the stage of maturation; pre-pubertal strength gains can be attributed to improvements in the central nervous system (CNS), more specifically through motor unit recruitment and synchronization. In other words, the ability of the muscle to fire in the right sequence while using a greater proportion of it enables developments in the strength of the movement trained. This type of development can lead to accelerated strength gains after the onset of puberty due to the nervous system learning effects.

The onset of puberty is individual in its nature, however research has speculated using normative data that it is typical for girls to reach puberty approximately at the age of eleven, whereas boys tend to experience this process later at thirteen. Once puberty has begun, the gains in strength transition range from purely CNS to additional adaptations both hormonally and structurally. This information should provide useful information for coaches and although there will be little muscle growth during pre-pubertal strength training, there is still sufficient evidence to show its benefits, including co-ordination, power, speed and strength. The added incentive to adopting a strength training programme early is that with the increased co-ordination and neural developments comes the capacity to also increase technical proficiencies and the learning of movement patterns during this important phase. In regards to training behaviours, early strength training allows the young judoka more time to learn the techniques without rushing to add weight, providing a safe learning environment and also allowing them to learn how to train, spot each other and how to behave in a training environment. All of this will help should young people progress into a competitive national training centre. Gender differences tend to become more evident once puberty is reached and males demonstrate higher strength and hypertrophy, which can be attributed to the increased secretion of testosterone. Females produce less testosterone, therefore tend to exhibit smaller levels of hypertrophy or strength gains during this period.


Any programme designed for child and adolescent athletes has to follow more stringent guidelines than for senior athletes due to the sensitive nature of the practice. For this age group a qualified professional must supervise every training session. Progressions should be based on competency, technical mastery of movements, biological markers and current strength levels, and progressions should be

tailored to the individual. Youth athletes should be discouraged from competing with each other and instead aim for self-improvement, striving for technical mastery of multi-joint exercises rather than maximal weight lifted. When designing a training programme for a young athlete, specific variables should be considered. These include warm-up and cool down, choice and order of exercises, intensity and volume, rest intervals, repetition velocity, training frequency and programme variation. Each of these are detailed below.


When considering warm-ups, please refer to Chapter 4 in which detailed protocols are included. We always try to follow the Raise, Activate, Mobilize and Potentiate (RAMP) principle when warming up. Raise the heart rate, core temperature and muscle temperature to enable effective transfer of oxygen to the working muscles. Activate the muscles that will be used during the training session. Mobilize the joints’ range of movement (ROM) that will be used during the session, and potentiate the movement patterns and muscle/neural firing sequences in preparation for the training session. When including any type of stretching for warm-ups we should aim for them to be dynamic rather than static, as static stretching has been shown to reduce muscle power directly post-stretch and this type of stretching should be reserved for cool downs or separate flexibility training sessions. Dynamic movements such as hops, skips, bounds and other movement-based exercises cannot just achieve all the above goals of a warm-up but additionally set the tone and tempo for the session. Similar to the detailed plan in Chapter 4, the aim for the warm-up should be five to ten minutes of foam rolling (self-myofascial release), followed by five to ten minutes of dynamic exercises to activate, mobilize and potentiate ready for the training session. The final aspect of a warm-up for resistance training should be gradual increased intensity exercises that follow specific movements to be trained during the session, for example back squat using a broom stick, working up to a bar, then adding weight on to the bar.

The cool down should include static stretching as well as some general calisthenic exercises of very light intensity to gradually reduce the heart rate and increase the range of movement.


There are countless exercises that could be included in this chapter, however the principles are the key and as coaches the art is adding the age, fitness and technique to develop appropriate exercises for each athlete. One major aspect for youth judoka is that resistance training promotes muscle balance. Judo, like many sports, can promote muscular imbalance and overdevelop certain movements. When this is exaggerated over years of training it can increase the risk of injury. Resistance training programmes should aim to create synergistic development of the body, so for every push exercise there should be a pull one included to increase the strength in a balanced manner. Various strategies have been used effectively for the inclusion of resistance training for children and adolescents, including the use of single/multi-joint exercises with exercise bands, body weight, free weights, medicine balls and so on. The most efficient and transferable of methods is to begin with multi-joint compound movements that aid in the development of neural pathways as well as muscular and motor co-ordination. Starting with exercises such as the back squat, deadlift, bench press and supine row as key exercises allows the athlete to learn the complex movements that they will later train extensively with a relatively light or no load. This can be done by using a broomstick, or light dumb-bells, progressing to lighter bars and eventually to loading the bar. Progressions should be based on technical competency as well as existing strength levels. Assistance exercises that are single joint still have a place with this population and, similar to more senior athlete programmes, these should be placed towards the end of a session once the more complex and technically demanding exercises have been completed.


Beginning resistance training with youth populations should begin with very light loads as any maximal based lifts without the proper progressions may result in injury and the diagnosis of training level should be based on an athlete’s ability to deal with the basic programme. One to two sets of eight to ten repetitions at approximately 50 per cent 1RM is recommended as a starting point for all new athletes. Once the young judoka have completed this type of training for a period of time and/or are competent in the lifts as well as the increased load then progressions should be made. Progressing on to two to four sets of three to six reps at 60–80 per cent 1RM will further challenge strength developments and co-ordination. The UKSCA then suggests once the young athletes have shown competency in this programme, they can move on to two to five sets of 70–100 per cent 1RM. When working with young judoka, there should always be scope to progress or regress the training, whether that is in changing the exercise to make it more challenging or easier to complete, or increasing or reducing the load, sets or reps to individualize the effort required. There should not be any age restrictions on progressions for training and if the athlete shows competency and increased strength in a particular exercise, and is finding the load easier, then there is no reason not to progress the loading. Conversely, even if the athlete is older but struggling with the exercises then there is nothing wrong with regressing back to more basic exercises or reducing the load. An important point to make to the young athlete is for them to be aware that each person is individual and develops at various rates, and that they should be aiming to improve on their best rather than comparing themselves to others in the training group.


When we discuss intensity relating to resistance training, it refers to the amount of weight lifted whereas volume equates to the total amount of work performed.

As mentioned previously, when introducing young judoka into resistance training the intensity will be minimal until they master the technical aspects of the movements. The difference in prescribing intensity for youth to adults is that we cannot initially use a percentage of repetition maximum (per cent RM) as testing this could be deemed unsafe and it is illogical for people who have never trained with resistance before. A period of trial and error is the most appropriate approach and as strength gains tend to be accelerated during the first year of resistance training this is the best method to gauge intensity based on how difficult the reps or sets are for the athlete.


As we understand, youth athletes are able to recover quicker than their adult counterparts from high intensity, short-term intermittent exercise. This information can be used when designing training programmes for young athletes as it can maximize training adaptations from less time spent in the gym or on the mat. This allows the young athlete more time to be spent on technical training or school work, as well as minimizing boredom that can occur when training sessions are long in duration. Resting for one minute in between sets is usually sufficient for young athletes when conducting resistance training. As with any other type of training, intensity and duration, exercise choice and fitness levels will dictate the length of rest, especially the more challenging movements such as Olympic lifts that place a great deal of strain on the central nervous system and co-ordination of the athlete. As with any training stimulus, a gradual overload and progression philosophy needs to be in place when working with young athletes. The coach needs to be sensible and logical when deciding upon the training frequency to prescribe young judoka in order to allow adaptations and avoid overtraining. A good place to start with novice trainers is to begin with one resistance training session per week and one focused on co-ordination and speed. Once a period of accommodation has occurred then normal progression would allow two to three days of resistance training per week for novice–intermediate athletes. The key to adequate recovery is to allow at least forty-eight to seventy-two hours between

each resistance training session.









1–2 sets × 10–15 reps 2–3 sets × 8–12 reps

3–5 sets × 6–10 reps

Rest intervals

1 min

1–2 min

2–3 min


2–3 days

2–3 days

3–4 days

Table 9: UKSCA recommendations for progression.

Table 9 depicts the progressions for training prescription based on the athlete’s level of competency, fitness and lifting experience, all of which is subjective and the responsibility of the coach to ensure the young judoka is challenged but not overtrained. Novice refers to someone with limited training experience (less than three months), intermediate relates to athletes with three to twelve months’ resistance training experience and demonstrating a degree of competency in the lifts, and advanced refers to at least twelve months’ experience with competency and marked strength and power increases. We must be careful when using subjective markers, especially with judoka, as some young athletes may be very competent in their judo abilities but struggle to learn the basic lifts in the gym. The coach must gauge the training based on competency in the area of training being focused on.


During the developmental years, training can influence greatly the increases of speed and power, although it takes careful consideration by the coach. Developments in speed and power can be attributed to growth in the size and function of muscle tendons and developments of the central nervous system. When working with children and adolescent athletes there are categories of development that we can use to establish what training to include in their programmes; these surround the onset of Peak Height Velocity (PHV). PHV is the time when the young person is experiencing the most accelerated period of growth. During the early years pre-PHV the focus should be towards the neural learning and developments, so plyometric and speed work should take priority. Once PHV is reached the hormonal changes permit increases in strength and hypertrophy and changes in the muscle structure so the focus should switch towards strength and plyometric combinations.

Before PHV

Plyometric and speed

During PHV

Speed and strength

Post PHV

Combination of strength and plyometric

Table 10: Focus of training around onset of Peak Height Velocity.

The reduction of additional aerobic training can be substituted for speed and power development, and during this period correct acceleration or deceleration and change of direction techniques can be taught. Focusing on these areas of training will increase specific power and speed markers, such as vertical jump and change of direction, without reducing aerobic endurance parameters significantly. With judo being a power-based sport that requires high levels of speed, the time spent developing these areas during early years training will pay dividends later in the athlete’s career. A key consideration here is that speed and agility work can be included into judo sessions and can be entirely mat-based in nature, reducing the need for equipment or space to perform. Innovative coaches can develop methods to challenge speed and power with jumps and sprint-based training after technical sessions. The UKSCA suggests that two to three times per week is optimal for developing speed and power in youth athletes. As with resistance training, progressions and regressions should be made depending on the level of technical competency and the focus should always prioritize correct technique over volume.


When it comes to managing the endurance of young judoka there is a lot of conflicting evidence that supports a focus on both aerobic and anaerobic training. While judo-specific traditions suggest long duration aerobic training is a staple part of a successful training programme, there is now a growing body of literature suggesting that the benefits of anaerobic training elicit similar aerobic adaptations while increasing anaerobic endurance. Aerobic fitness increases due to changes in the peripheral and central cardiovascular system, muscle function and cellular capacity. In adulthood there is proof that these are trainable, however in childhood there is less of an increase above and beyond natural growth and maturation. Actual judo training will

usually suffice to increase aerobic endurance, and if we work to the principle of minimum effective dosage then more aerobic training does not equal better performance and could potentially increase changes of overuse injuries or burnout. A more effective way to improve the abilities of young judoka is to provide a focus on developing strong foundations in strength, speed and anaerobic fitness. The benefits of including anaerobic training during the formative years, in addition to those mentioned in a previous chapter, are that young athletes recover quicker between high intensity bouts than adult athletes and are therefore able to repeat efforts more consistently. We can also include circuit-based training that not only challenges the anaerobic fitness qualities, but also tests and improves functional movement patterns such as changes of direction, squatting movements and upper body push/pull. There are many ways in which to challenge anaerobic endurance for child and adolescent athletes and their developments will vary greatly depending on their maturity and individual fitness levels. Although training should aim to mimic the sporting action, judo tends to follow a work:rest ratio of 30:10, which even for the best-conditioned athletes can be challenging. A general starting point would be to suggest a 1:1 work:rest ratio of thirty seconds work: thirty seconds rest. The intensity should aim to reach 85 per cent max heart rate during working sets. The coach is free to manipulate these timings as he or she deems appropriate, and this type of high intensity interval training is an extremely time efficient strategy to increase fitness while not overloading the young athlete and allowing time to spent focusing on technical and general athletic ability development.


The inclusion of strength and conditioning is something that is more common for young athletes and can be implemented from as early as age five or six. In order to increase sporting performance, general athletic ability and increase health and well-being, the use of resistance training is recommended. A qualified professional that has an understanding of paediatric strength and conditioning

principles should provide this training, and specific progressions should be tailored to the individual. Fitness during the younger years should be lower in the list of priorities for judoka, with a heavy focus on strength and motor performance. Mastering fundamental movement skills will greatly enhance sporting performance and reduce the risk of injury, and this should be incorporated into the daily training. This is an area of rapid development in coaching science, and a subject coaches should aim to gain a deeper understanding of in order to better prepare our young judoka for future success.


Key development focus

Volume (sets x reps)

Intensity (% 1RM)

Rest (min)

Foam rolling

Myofascial release

10 rolls each body part N/A

Lunge walking

Lower body unilateral control 2 × 10 each side

Body weight


Sumo squats

Hip mobilization

2 × 10

Body weight


Y, T, W

Scapula retraction

5 each shape



Overhead squat Lower body bilateral

3 × 6

Broom stick or junior barbell 1–2


Upper body push

3 × 8

Body weight


Supine row

Upper body pull

3 × 8

Body weight




30 sec each




Table 11: Example programme for novice eight to ten-year-old male judoka.


Key development focus

Volume (sets x reps)

Foam rolling

Myofascial release

10 rolls each body part, focus on one area for 3

Drop jumps (30cm)

Lower body bilateral control, landing mechanics 3 × 5

Side lying leg raises

Gluteal activation

2 × 10 each side

Scapula push-up

Scapula retraction

2 × 10

Back squat

Lower body bilateral

3 × 6

Dumb-bell bench press Upper body push

4 × 5

Bench row

Upper body pull

4 × 5

Box jumps

Lower body explosive power

3 × 3

Table 12: Example programme for Intermediate fifteen to seventeen-yearold female with four years’ experience.


Key development focus

Volume (sets x reps)

Foam rolling

Myofascial release

10 rolls each body part, focus on one area for 3 min

Arabesques with twists Lower body unilateral control

3 × 5 each side

Overhead band squat

Gluteal activation, hip mobilization

2 × 10

Press-up with twist

Scapula retraction/control

2 × 5 each side

Power clean

Lower body explosive power

3 × 3

Bench press

Upper body push

4 × 5


Upper body pull

4 × 5

Barbell step-up

Lower body unilateral strength and control 3 × 5 each leg

Table 13: Example programme for advanced thirteen to fifteen-year-old male with six years’ training age and high competency.



There are countless texts, journals and experts that are available on the subject of sports nutrition: and several provide the reader with contradictory advice. As a judoka , sedentary person or an athlete it can be difficult to assimilate the knowledge and understand what advice to take on board in order to get the most benefit from your nutrition. An example of this is the hot topic debate surrounding carbohydrates, and their effect on our body: some diets, such as palaeolithic or ketogenic, exclude or limit carbohydrates under the premise that we can use fat as an alternative energy source for exercise, whereas traditional nutrition advice suggests that 45–60 per cent of our daily intake should come from carbohydrates as this is the preferred source of energy for our bodies. Both come with some sound logic and scientific studies to back up their arguments, and understanding individual differences can make the topic even more complex. Therefore, the approach of this chapter is more as an introduction to basic nutrition for judoka. It covers the weightmaking process and the effects that it has on our bodies, some fundamental fuelling strategies for training and competition and some sound advice on supplementation and ‘fad’ dieting. This is a collection of knowledge gleaned from years of practice, study and lessons learned through experimentation and advice from some very experienced practitioners. One of the most important issues that surrounds judo is the regular and sometimes drastic weight loss associated with staying in a particular weight category, and the majority of the chapter will focus on this topic, making sure you have the knowledge and practical advice on how to best manage this whether you are a competitor, weekend warrior, coach or an interested parent.


As judo sits in the weight category family of sports including boxing, mixed martial arts, wrestling and taekwondo, it is inherent that competitors need to find a category that suits their size, body weight and style of fighting. The common practice is that athletes aim to compete in the lowest weight they can achieve; they do this for many reasons, however two of the main ones include the following.

To Maximize Strength to Weight Ratio

The athlete aims to possess the highest amount of lean muscle mass with the lowest body fat in order to make the most of his or her kilograms of weight. Basically, 10kg of muscle is much more functional than 10kg of body fat when it comes to producing force to throw, choke or hold someone who is trying to resist. So judoka aim to have a lean body with as much muscle as possible to be the biggest they can be for their weight category. Once the weigh-in is completed many athletes rush to fill their bodies with fluid and food. They do this to replenish what they have lost during the weight making process but also to gain weight in order to be bigger and heavier than everyone else they compete against on the day. There are other reasons for wanting to ‘make weight’ and compete at the lowest category possible; reasons such as the psychological feeling of ‘sharpness’ after cutting weight prior to the event. The restrictive nature of a weight cut can be seen to mentally prepare an athlete to compete and there is some evidence to support this. More recently, with the emergence of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the public attention, there is a culture of extreme weight reduction that is slowly being filtered into judo. There are some key differences between the two sports that make it very difficult and potentially dangerous for judoka to mirror the weight loss strategies employed by MMA athletes; the main one is the frequency at which competitions are held. Judo tournaments are numerous regardless of

your level of competition; for example the International Judo Federation (IJF) Senior World Tour has more than thirtyfive events each year. Compare this to MMA, in which an athlete can expect to compete one to four times per year. This does not mean that extreme weight loss is advisable in this situation, it only represents a longer period of time to cut body fat and less time in a restricted calorie or dehydrated state over the course of the year, compared with a judo athlete following the same routine, but competing more regularly. There are extensive negative effects of rapid weight reduction, however we will focus on two key areas below.


Many studies have shown that dehydration of more than 2 per cent body weight has severe negative effects in sporting performance. With this knowledge it is clear to see how the process of losing weight rapidly through dehydration is a tactic best avoided by judoka. The negative effects include but are not limited to:

•Reduction in blood plasma volume

•Lower resting metabolism

•Reduced heat strain tolerance

•Reduced sweat rate

•Loss of cognitive function

•Increases in perceived exertion

•Increased heart rate

•Increased stress levels or irritability

•Increased plasma osmotic pressure

•Accelerated onset of fatigue.

The issues surrounding dehydration are serious and have implications not only for sporting performance but for general health as well. The introduction of weigh-ins the night before competition for international tournaments provides a longer period of time to recover from any dehydration. This is not actually as beneficial as we might think, as it is difficult to completely rehydrate in less than twelve hours and most of that time, post weigh-in, is spent sleeping before the competition, therefore the athlete will not ingest enough fluid and compete the next day still in a dehydrated state. The best option in regards to dehydration is to make it a last resort when cutting weight. In addition, minimize the period of time in which athletes enter into a dehydrated state by only losing water weight in the final stages of weight reduction.

Muscle Glycogen Depletion

Judo is a high intensity intermittent exercise that requires fast and powerful exchanges lasting from ten to sixty seconds with short rest periods in a chaotic nature. Studies have analysed the dynamics of a fight and have found the mean work to rest ratio of 3:1 and with large blood lactate volumes (that is the burning feeling you get when your muscles are fatiguing). On analysis of the sport’s demands, the dominant energy pathway for judo is through the glycolytic anaerobic energy system. In order to fuel this energy system we need carbohydrate available in the muscles and the liver and this needs to come from our diet as we can increase our stores through adequate nutrition, but also if we restrict intake then we can leave our muscles empty of the reserve needed to fuel high intensity exercise. Given the time from weigh-in to competition has changed since the London Olympics in 2012, now upwards of thirteen hours between the weigh-in and the first fight is available. Providing the optimal strategy is used to resynthesize muscle glycogen stores then adequate carbohydrate stores can facilitate performance and the negative effects of rapid weight reduction through carbohydrate exclusion can be eradicated.


Once we have weighed in, there is the impulse to indulge in the foods and drinks that we have specifically restricted up to that point in time. This is counterproductive during the initial stages post weigh-in and the practice of gorging should be left to well after the tournament is finished if at all and your optimal recovery fuel has been ingested. The initial one to two hours post weigh-in is possibly the most vital and we need to replenish glycogen and rehydrate without suffering from bloating and intestinal discomfort. A 5 to 10 per cent carbohydrate solution drink to replace electrolytes lost through the weight loss process may be the most efficient method of accelerating the fluid and electrolyte rebalancing. This solution is more efficient than drinking water alone for various reasons, including thirst

mechanisms and increased absorption rates from the intestine. So aim to have one of these drinks with you for directly straight after you come off the scales. The fluid solution should contain up to 90mmol/l of sodium depending upon the level of dehydration; a combination of fluid, carbohydrate and sodium should increase uptake from the gut. A more obvious but vital strategy is to aim to drink more than has been ‘sweated’ out. American College of Sport Medicines (ACSM) guidelines suggest that 1.5kg of fluid should be ingested for every 1kg of body weight lost though sweat. Muscle glycogen can be resynthesized via fluid or food intake. Initially fluid is preferential due its absorption rates, however eating the correct food constitutes a great balance of intake and permits a higher recovery rate due to increased sodium and drinking rates during a meal. The ceiling for the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis is reached providing 50g or 0.7g/kg of glucose every two hours after depletion so there is no need to stuff our mouths full of food but rather to ‘drip feed’ our body the essential nutrients and fluids required to aid our performance on the mat. Further from the initial one to two hours, a normal fluid and food intake should be resumed; this is body weight-dependent and should be varied depending on the intensity and duration of the event. One suggestion inferred from a study by Burke (2010) is for judo athletes to ingest between 2–4g/kg carbohydrate and 1.2–1.6g/kg protein from the four hours post weigh-in until the start of the competition. This guideline is to ensure glycogen resynthesizes, enabling the athlete to start the competition in a refuelled status. This ideally should be spread into small frequent meals to reduce gastrointestinal discomfort and allow optimal absorption into the muscles and liver. Practical applications following this information could be to ensure that dehydration is left to the last possible time frame to minimize the time the athlete spends in a dehydrated state, and the key focus once the weigh-in is completed is to drink an electrolyte-based sports drink followed by sipping small and often over the following hours post-weigh-in. The same process for getting carbohydrates ‘on board’ should be followed, taking no more than 70g of carbohydrates in the immediate post-weigh-in, then regularly feeding every two to four hours with a similar intake. It is advisable to compete at a weight category in which the athlete can make regularly that will not have a serious detrimental effect on his or her performance

and/or long-term health. This is especially true for young athletes who are still developing physically and psychologically. Constant and drastic weight reduction practices can have some serious long-term effects on younger athletes and the advice would be to allow them to compete within a category in which their weight naturally sits.


Fuelling on competition day can be looked at on a really simple or a more complex basis; put simply we need to replenish the same substrates as we did post weigh-in (muscle glycogen and fluid). When we take part in high intensity exercise such as a judo contest we are likely to use up at least some if not the majority portion of our glycogen stores, and in order to compete at the same intensity later in the day we need to replace what was used up. Below are some practical examples of high carbohydrate foods and drinks that can be absorbed in a short amount of time post-fight. This list is far from exhaustive but rather is a starting point to making your own versions of competition food based on your own preferences. Hint – eating a large meal on competition day in between fights is not advised as it will sit heavy in the stomach and blood will be drawn towards the stomach to aid digestion, which takes away from the muscles.



•Jelly sweets or similar

•High carbohydrate solution drink

•Cereal bars, granola

•Malt loaf

•Rice pudding

•Sports gels

Where possible and breaks between fights are substantial, attempt to take on board more nutrient dense foods, such as pasta or rice with a source of protein. However, given my personal experience of competition day the best advice is to just maintain energy levels in whichever way your stomach will permit. Additionally, once the competition day is ended it is vital to return to eating a balanced diet as soon as possible and to ingest some protein to aid in muscle repair and rebuilding. So many competitors tend to favour the service station fast food option as a reward for competing, which is understandable. However, the main goal of nutrition here is to enable the athlete to return to normality and missing out on quality nutrition at the end of a tournament can postpone this process, so if possible avoid the burgers and take on board some quality nutrition.


The level at which you participate in judo will automatically dictate how serious you take your post-training nutrition. However, there are many weekend club level judoka who rival world class athletes in regards to using nutrition to maximize their recovery post-training. In an ideal world we all like to train, eat and recover just as the best players do, so creating a best practice model will help you to assess how well you are doing and how close you are to getting the most from your training. Beware, even the top level athletes falter in their nutrition practices. If you are not aiming for international success then at least try to maintain the 80:20 principle in that the majority of your meals are healthy, nutritious and move you towards your goals rather than away from them and then you can allow 20 per cent to not be perfect. A good tip is to not have full cheat days as that can ruin a whole week’s adaptations, but to permit maybe one meal per day to not be the best meal or to allow one snack per day in order to not metaphorically ‘fall off the wagon’. Nutritionally it is important to allow some margin for error or the diet is doomed due to will power not being an infinite reserve. Additionally, the activity involved in the training you have taken part in can dictate the type, timing and volume of nutrients you intake. This is especially true if you have multiple sessions in one day. For example, if you had a gym session in the morning before work and then randori in the evening, maximizing the quality of your nutrition around your training sessions will ensure you are well fuelled and ready to train intensely again come the evening session.


Usually the goal here is to take on board high quality, rapidly digestible proteins to maximize the rebuilding of your muscles. There are mixed messages regarding an ‘anabolic window’ of opportunity approximately fortyfive minutes after a training session, which basically means the optimal timing to enhance muscle building. Building muscle is achieved by firstly switching on anabolic hormones using training as a stimulus, and by feeding your body with the protein building blocks needed to create and resynthesize muscle tissue at the appropriate times. The general consensus among strength and conditioning

circles is that because the research is split regarding the anabolic window, the best practice is to adhere to it and attempt to take on board the essential nutrients in a timely fashion post-session. There is also research that suggests mixing the protein intake with a moderate dose of carbohydrates as the insulin response achieved by ingesting both together acts as an efficient transport machine to get the protein around the body and to the muscles that need it to grow. This is ever more important if you have multiple sessions per day as it is important to maximize the amount of time you can stay anabolic hormonally by prolonging the next training session and taking on board the right nutrition to increase your muscle growth. Once you begin the next training session, be that cardiovascular exercise, judo or some other form of training, then the anabolic hormones slow down and are replaced by alternative ones that are not necessarily ideal for building lean muscle tissue. This is why you often see bodybuilders sitting around for hours after their sessions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their muscle-building sessions and that is also why planning of the training programme is of paramount importance to making the most of your time training. More recently there have been studies relating to the optimal amounts and timings of protein intake in regards to building and repairing muscles postexercise. The results of the studies showed that the best option was to ingest approximately 20g of protein every three hours once training has been completed in order to maximize anabolic hormone response as well as nutrient uptake.


The intensity of your specific judo training session again dictates the nutritional needs post-session. For example, if you have just completed a high intensity randori session, the chances are you have depleted your muscle glycogen stores (see weight making) and need to act accordingly to replenish this. Additionally, there is a high risk that you will have sweated a great deal in the session and you need to replace lost fluids and salts lost through your skin (remember 1.5kg for

every 1kg lost through sweat is the recommended intake, but if you are thirsty then drink more as you may have started the session in a dehydrated state). Then you have to take into account that some of the fighting completed may have broken down quite a lot of muscle tissue. Gripping repeatedly for ninety minutes of a session is pretty intense so some high quality protein is also going to be needed to help repair some of the muscle damage done. ‘The main principle with nutrition is to adjust what you eat/drink depending on what you have just done and what you are about to do’ Mike Dolce (2014) – personal nutritionist to many athletes including Rhonda Rousey, 2008 Olympic bronze medallist in judo and UFC champion.


It is a natural reaction to see the sometimes outrageous claims made by supplement companies (who are expert marketers) and actually to see the results that happen from doping in sport and feel envious or want to gain the competitive advantage. What has to be remembered is that, with regards to doping, not only is it a moral issue as well as a legal one, it is an unknown quantity. The performance improvements achieved by people who abuse drugs to enhance sporting performance can be attributed to a placebo affect, and could be doing some long-term unknown damage to their bodies. It is the advice of this book to steer away from performance enhancing drugs for many reasons but more than anything it may affect your livelihood later in life and eventually you will get caught, or worse spend the rest of your life with the knowledge that you cheated someone else out of their place on the team or a medal. When we discuss sports supplements, we are talking about simple supplements that have been the subject of copious studies and are known to be effective without any long- or short-term side effects as well as being legal. Note – when purchasing any supplements be sure to only buy batch-tested informed sport consenting products and keep records of the batch you receive. You can usually see the batch-tested logo on the packaging or alternatively you can contact the manufacturers directly. You can never be too diligent.

There are various schools of thought in regards to using sports supplements and many governing bodies and anti-doping authorities suggest only eating natural food sources and avoiding anything that could be contaminated. These are wise words and often people fail drug tests for not paying attention to what prescriptions they take. We need to be very careful when looking into supplements and the key message to take away in regards to you or your athlete’s nutrition is get the basics 100 per cent right before looking into the supplements that can add the 1 or 2 per cent. There really is no point in taking all manner of concoctions to help your judo then going to McDonald’s for dinner or bingeing on chocolate if you aspire to become an elite judoka. Even if you just want to use judo to increase your health and fitness then controlling your diet and the basics is far more important than any protein shake you can find.


The simple key to getting nutrition right is to have a mental image of what the meal you are about to eat will do for your ultimate goal. If you can look at the meal and see it as moving you forward, providing you with essential nutrients to either fuel or help you recover, or both then it is a good meal. Aim to have a high quality protein source with every meal. Protein is great as it helps you grow, repair and it also keeps you fuller for longer, so if you are looking to lose some weight then including protein in your diet is a great move. Additionally, it is a nutrient dense food that provides lots of stuff your body needs with quite a reduced calorie intake (for those who like to count calories). Good sources of proteins come from:

•Chicken, turkey and other poultry

•Eggs (free range if possible)

•Beef (lean)


•Nuts and seeds

•Dairy products

On top of protein, a key suggestion is to include vegetables as much as you can and the more colourful the better. As a general rule used by some top nutritionists, eat a palmsized serving of protein and a healthy (so quite a bit) of good quality vegetables such as:










•Many more, the more colourful the better

When it comes to carbohydrates there are some quality nutrients to be found in the vegetables listed above. However, when trying to maximize recovery and fuel for training the inclusion of the following carbohydrate-rich foods can increase energy levels. Remember though, if you consume excessive carbohydrates without expending any energy there is a high potential for gaining fat as this energy is stored in the body as opposed to excess protein, which is excreted via other bodily functions. Take this into account when you ingest these as they could increase your ability to exercise and/or recover from intense bouts of training:

•Sweet potato and white potato

•Oat bran and porridge oats


•Pasta and rice


More recently there have been studies surrounding the inclusion of essential fats in our diets. This is opposed to the information we received in the 1980s where fat was mainly blamed for causing obesity. In fact, a lack of exercise coupled with an increase in the artificial processing of foods and higher intakes of sugars in our diets have contributed significantly to a decline in health and physical fitness in modern society. Including healthy fats into our diet can not only increase our energy levels, it can improve our body’s ability to use fat as an energy source. It can also keep us fuller for longer, reducing cravings for sugary foods that negatively affect our health and subsequently our sporting performance:

•Flax seeds

•Chia seeds

•Peanut oil

•Grapeseed oil

•Coconut oil

•Extra virgin olive oil

•Hemp oil

Dairy/non-dairy alternative •Almond milk

•Coconut milk

•Feta chees

•Mozzarella cheese

•Almond cheese

•Rice cheddar cheese









If the foods you consume consist mainly of these products above, as well as a variety of spices and herbs, then it is likely your diet is better than 90 per cent of the population and your nutrient intake needs are being catered for. There are apps and websites where if you entered a mixture of any of the above ingredients it would provide a tasty recipe that is not only good for you and your performance but will also be delicious. Only once you have mastered the daily nutrition issues should you then look to supplements to ‘supplement’ your nutritional needs and, as mentioned earlier, be very careful when using supplements and always check what is actually in the product you are putting inside your body.


In this chapter we discussed the negative effects of making weight, and what making the weight does to your body and performance. After highlighting the negatives, the chapter looked at how to best manage the process of weight loss and how to avoid the common pitfalls associated with this taboo subject. Nutrition is vital for all aspects of performance, not just in and around making the weight, and we talked about the fuelling of your training and competitions. Finally, the complex nature of nutrition allows us many sources of information to use, but it important we can trust our sources and our advice is to avoid ‘fad’ diets wherever possible. Although they may have some success and provide sound information based on science (some do), establishing sound basics is more important for the majority of us.



Judo is a tough sport, there is no denying that. As a contact sport in which you face an opponent in what is essentially a simulated battle to the death, the methods of winning involve throwing, choking, locking and pinning. The extremes of the sport include physical exertions that are rarely matched for intensity and the damage done to bodies either acutely or through constant wear and tear are substantial. This is just in competition; the professionalism of world class athletes now dictates a full-time schedule of training to prepare the body for the rigours of tournament. This chapter investigates fatigue; what it is and how can we reduce or offset it in order to be able to train and compete again in the quickest time frame possible. The science of recovery is still in its infancy and this is an area where there is a predicted explosion of interest, technology and method. No doubt after this book is published there will be a new innovative strategy to maximize recovery for athletes. What is already apparent though is that to achieve high performance we must increase our recovery and decrease our fatigue using the most effective and efficient methods available to us at the time.


Fatigue comes in many forms. For the judo player it can come from a tough randori session, from resistance training or any other form of training. Fatigue can also be the result of psychological strain, for example pressure competitions,

losing regularly, or pressure from friends and family. Fatigue can be a result of more than just one individual session – even in high performance athletes the accumulation of training, competition and pressures can result in sustained fatigue.


Have you ever experienced the pain and inability to walk properly for days after the first time you complete a heavy squatting session or run a 400m race? Getting up or sitting down is almost impossible. This is what we call exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD), and it can be debilitating. Imagine taking part in technical session where you are being thrown regularly with high levels of pain and muscle damage. Not good, right? There is good news and bad news for this type of fatigue. Firstly, the bad news: EIMD is more likely to occur when you are new to training or are returning to it after a period of non-activity. Essentially it is due to micro-tears in your muscle and the subsequent inflammation that impairs the muscle’s ability to function normally. The timescale for the pain and poor function to set depends on your current level of training and amount of time off. Usually this occurs a day or two after the training session itself, but if you haven’t trained for a while it can be almost immediate. The delayed effect is what we call delayed onset of muscular soreness, or DOMS for short, and the highest point of soreness normally happens around forty-eight hours post-exercise. This high level of fatigue, which is often associated with a heavy training load, can sometimes bring about reductions in immune system function. It is worth noting that when athletes tend to suffer from illnesses on a regular basis, their training load might be too high for their bodies to deal with. The human body is an incredible machine and sometimes these fatigue signs may be the body’s mechanism for protecting itself. The good news is that the EIMD or DOMS are most apparent after new programmes. However, when your body begins to adapt to the new stimulus the severity of the soreness and muscle impairment decreases. Also, there are strategies we can employ to reduce the soreness. Later in this chapter we will

discuss these methods of accelerating the return to normal so that you can train again effectively in the shortest timeframe possible.


Acute fatigue involves the depletion of energy stores such as muscle glycogen, other energy stores and dehydration. This type of fatigue is evident when there is a high training load, such as aerobic or anaerobic conditioning, repeated workloads and multiple daily sessions. Adequate nutritional intake is essential to replenish the energy stores as well as to aid the necessary adaptations. However, it is worth being aware that constant training load without rest can limit the absorption of nutrients, and training loads should be managed to allow the longest rest period possible between sessions.


We could be forgiven for not paying too much attention to environmental issues, as judo is an indoor sport. However, the fatigue that is associated with environmental issues far extends the reach of temperature and, in fact, the heat/cold still plays a huge part. Lots of venues (for example in South America) have no air conditioning, and the significant time spent outside the competition requires acclimatization to the weather. The heat difference can affect salt stores and hydration levels without the athlete taking part in any sessions. Judo is a truly international sport and competitors wishing to represent at the national level can expect to travel significantly, regularly and over many various time zones. Jet lag can make sleeping extremely difficult when travelling over large distances and time zones, and travel fatigue from long flights can affect performance significantly.


Without going too deeply into the science behind hormonal changes, it is a good starting point to understand the basic function of two key hormones when it comes to elite sport. These are testosterone and cortisol. The first is more apparently important and you may have heard of it from any doping scandal that constantly surrounds high performance sport. The reason this hormone is so famous is that is the enzyme responsible for muscle growth, strength and aggression. Many variables affect the level of testosterone floating around your system including sleep, nutrition, sexual activity, or whether your team won or lost last time out. The list can go on. What is important to understand is that elevated testosterone is linked to muscle adaptation, strength development and recovery (hence why the people caught doping with it tend to be extremely muscular). Cortisol provides a directly conflicting response in the body to testosterone. This hormone is catabolic in nature, meaning that is breaks down the proteins in your muscle. Athletes are known to be highly catabolic when making weight, overtrained or stressed. As with testosterone, the level of cortisol in your system is affected by many factors. Some elite sports teams have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to influence this hormonal state using legal methods, such as playing loud music, providing athletes with montages of themselves performing successfully or of exciting action in their sport. As mentioned in the early part of this chapter, the science is still young, however there has been proven research suggesting that testosterone can be elevated after a winning performance (so it might be a good time to strength train, for example).


There are many strategies that are currently being evolved, researched and

employed in sport. Some of them are expensive to implement and take a great deal of expertise, whereas some are more cost-effective and require little or no expertise to implement. Of the many varieties of method (most will be mentioned at some point in this section), there are two key ones that are best suited for judoka. The rationale for these two are many, including their availability, cost-effectiveness and their efficacy (how well they work).


Sleep is one of the most fundamental and basic methods for recovery, however it is also one of the most effective. We cannot go for long periods without sleep and still function effectively; a simple example is how after an extremely strenuous training session you feel compelled to nap. This is the body’s preferred method of recovery and its default response to pushing your body to its limit. Also, remember the hormone testosterone? Well, when we sleep this is when testosterone is at its highest in our bodies, helping to build muscle. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are numerous, here are just a few examples:


•Impaired glucose metabolism and ability to replenish carbohydrate stores

•Reduced cardiovascular performance

•Impaired motor function and reaction times

•Increased appetite and weight gain (not great for judo).


•Increased perceived exertion for a given training load

•Mood state becomes irritable and less motivated to train

•Reduced short-term memory function.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be stressed enough for athletes looking to perform. Not only does sleep help with muscle growth it aids recovery of your nervous system and cognitive function. Athletes such as Roger Federer and Chris Hoy have been said to achieve around ten to twelve hours of sleep each night, and successful athletes such as Kate Howey have said how important napping throughout the day was to her training performance. There are various tips we can employ to increase our chances of a good night sleep, including but not limited to:

•Avoiding caffeine past 4pm

•Eating healthy meals prior to bed, reducing sugar intake

•Not watching TV for the two hours prior to going to sleep

•Avoiding unnatural light, for example from iPad/laptop screens

•Making sure there is no light in the bedroom; even the standby light on a TV can disrupt sleep quality

•Maintaining a comfortable temperature in the room; too hot is not optimal for sleep quality

•Studies have shown that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are the most effective in terms of recovery, so try to get to bed early if possible

•Avoiding noisy areas, such as main roads or living above a club for example. This isn’t always possible, and in some cases traffic noise is seen as normal for some people and they struggle to sleep in silence.

The key is to find your optimal environment for a good night’s sleep, and in order to achieve this there is some level of monitoring needed. Keeping a sleep journal is an easy method of recording your sleep length and quality and with experimentation you can find what environment creates the best sleep for you. There are many apps available for free now that can be used to monitor your sleep. They are worth investigating as this is an area of performance that can make a huge difference for little or no cost.


Second only to sleep when it comes to recovery is nutrition. How effective your adaptations from training are, as well as how quickly you return to normal after traininginduced fatigue, is greatly affected by what you put in your body. The chapter on nutrition covers this aspect in more detail, however it is worth mentioning that the correct fuel for your body will greatly enhance your recovery time. This includes directly post-exercise strategies, eating and drinking around bedtime and intake first thing in the morning. Ensuring that the athlete drinks enough water is vital to recovery, as the negative effects of dehydration can interrupt the adaptive and recovery processes. A general guideline is to consume 1.5 litres for every kilogramme lost in training; athletes in the past have been known to drink upwards of 5 litres a day and still lose weight. Effective hydration cannot be overemphasized when it comes to recovery, Having sound practices for each phase of the day, especially when in heavy training cycles, can accelerate both recovery and training adaptations. Again, nutrition for recovery is a growing discipline and there are products on the market now that are suggestive of increasing the capacity for recovery (such as zinc and magnesium). There is a lack of conclusive evidence for any of these, and again be very wary of the suppliers by making sure that anything you take, or advise athletes to ingest, is batch tested from informed sport, and that there is a sound rationale behind its use. Other strategies have demonstrated mixed results when it comes to maximizing recovery, and something worth noting is the potential placebo effect that a strategy could have. A placebo effect is when the athlete believes he or she is taking a supplement that is designed to help in some way, however they are taking water, for example, or sugar tablets. What enhances recovery or performance is the belief the athlete is being aided by some supplement and it is that which is fuelling him or her. There are some extreme examples in which athletes were told they were taking performance enhancing drugs, when in fact

they were given a placebo. These athletes added considerable amounts of weight to their PB, trained harder than before or felt as if they recovered quicker because of the (non-existent) drugs they were on. So, as a coach, if you find a recovery aid that has limited scientific evidence, however your athletes believe it makes them feel better, then ‘it makes them feel better’ and it is worth having as a recovery aid. Below is a short description of alternative strategies used in enhancing recovery:


The compression garment has been around for some years now and many athletes swear by its ability to help recovery. The garment is tight elastic material that hugs a muscle tightly and provides some compression. There is a large variance in quality and cost of these garments, the most expensive being custommade to the individual. The principle is that they aid recovery by increasing blood flow. The science is inconclusive as to whether they work or not.


This is a popular method for recovery and many athletes use this as part of their recovery strategy. It can be provided by a specialist or can be self-administered via foam rolling or using a hockey ball to release the fascia. The section on robustness and effective warm-ups in Chapter 4 details self-myofascial release. Similar to other methods, the actual experience of being massaged by a professional can enhance the recovery of an athlete, through feelings of being looked after and the hands on approach (as opposed to just resting). It also is expensive and labour intensive, so if you have the budget for a sports masseuse then great, if not foam rolling is possibly just as effective but requires more effort on behalf of the athlete.


There is a school of thought that when you experience DOMS, then the worst thing to do is sit around doing nothing. The passive recovery strategy has been reported to increase stiffness and elongate the recovery process. Anyone who has experienced muscle soreness can attest to this theory. Active recovery has been proven to accelerate the recovery process and reduce the soreness from muscle damage and inflammation. The mechanism is said to be the squeezing of the muscles during light exercise to increase blood flow to the area, flushing out toxins and transporting nourishment to the muscles. Various methods have been employed for active recovery, including swimming, jogging, yoga, cycling and many more. One of the most beneficial to date is active recovery inside a swimming pool. This is due to the pressure exerted on the muscle by the water, as well as unloading the joints through floating. The use of active recovery is advised after intense sessions in which there is a large accumulation of toxins in the muscles and an effective cool down of twenty minutes’ light exercise can aid in the recovery process.


The use of alternating cold and hot water immersion is well documented and used regularly in high performance sport. It generates the same response to active recovery if the blood flow is increased due to restriction and relaxation of the muscles and blood vessels during the contrasting temperatures. Again, as this is using floatation and non-weight bearing modalities it reduces the stress on the joints.


•Thirty to sixty seconds at 5–10°C.

•Two to three minutes at 38–42°C.


This is the same as contrast therapy minus the warm aspect. This method has been used more often in research and has more evidence to show its efficacy. The cold of the water is said to help reduce inflammation and gives the athlete a feeling of reduced pain; again this is a perception issue. If the athlete feels he or she is taking steps to improving recovery then it is a positive move. Alternatively, if the athlete hates the cold and using this method creates more stress then it is a pointless endeavour: as we explained earlier stress is not good for recovery. Seven to ten minutes of immersion is deemed the most effective timing for cold water immersion, however the timing of this strategy is of particular importance. The anabolic hormonal state achieved by taking part in resistance training can be negated when using cold water therapy. Therefore, avoid using this method directly post-resistance training and during periods of hypertrophy. The strategy is best employed after a technical/fitness/randori session to aid recovery as the goal of this type of training is not muscle anabolism (growth).


At the top end, a coach will be in direct contact with an athlete for a maximum twenty-five hours per week in a high performance setting. This still leaves 143 hours in which the athlete has to manage his or her own life and performance. The concept of the 24-hour athlete is not new, however it is novel in that the coach must influence the behaviours of the athlete through education and motivation in order to create the optimal performance. It is no good if the training environment is world class and the recovery strategies are designed perfectly, only for the athlete to then go out drinking in clubs until 3am and only getting four hours sleep. The professionalism extends well beyond the immediate training environment and the athlete needs to know that what he or she does outside of this affects results. The coaching team needs to educate the athlete as to what is best practice for the phase he or she is in. It is essential to be able to have some down time and see friends and family. However, being an athlete requires some degree of sacrifice to be successful and there are times when missing someone’s birthday party to make sure you get enough sleep before a heavy training session is essential. An effective 24-hour athlete makes the most of the time away from actual training, eating the right foods, drinking enough fluids and getting the required sleep.


In this chapter we discussed the concept of fatigue, and what fatigue meant to performance. This is important because if we understand the mechanisms we can predict when the athletes will be experiencing it, and can adapt the training around how fatigued they are. Young athletes or athletes returning from injury or starting a new programme tend to suffer the most with EIMD and DOMS, so it is valuable to be aware of this as their motivation could be affected while they are really sore. A key sign that the athlete is fatigued is if they are regularly ill. If the whole judo team is getting ill then it is likely the training load is too high. Likewise, understanding recovery can provide us with tools to accelerate the return to normal status for the athlete (the point at which he or she can train and compete optimally again). Various methods of increasing recovery were explained, stating that quality sleep and nutrition were of prime importance.

Recovery is very individual and what works for one athlete might not work for all. There needs to be a process of trial and error to find the most suitable method for each athlete. Cost and availability play a large role in selecting the recovery method as some can be quite expensive. Finally, we discussed the concept of the 24-hour athlete. This is a key concept for the coach only has limited contact time and educating the athlete is of prime importance. If we can empower the athlete to manage his or her training then we can ensure that development will be successful.



The vast majority of books or articles that relate to strength and conditioning, and to judo, are usually illustrating the opinion of that person or that particular group of people. The opinion can be evidence based, based on assumptions or the position standpoint can be reached by previous experience and coaching philosophies dictated by traditions or the authors’ influences (such as their own coach or the environment in which they learned the trade). This book is a combination of evidence-based research, mixed with personal experience and coaching insight, therefore it was prudent to not just provide you with one perspective on the subject. The authors searched out leaders in the field of strength and conditioning, and in performance judo coaching to provide a deeper and wider picture of where strength and conditioning fits in with judo and how it can best be implemented. The following short interviews are designed to provide a brief overview of each expert’s understanding of the field, and to possibly provide a little insight into how the profession and judo performance may look in the near future.


Current role: Senior strength and conditioning coach at the English Institute of Sport. Strength and conditioning coach for Camberley Judo Club.

Experience of working with elite judo: Five years working with the Camberley elite judoka and injured judoka at the intensive rehabilitation unit of the British Olympic Association.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? To be an elite level judo fighter, you have to endure long gruelling training sessions and multiple competitions that involve up to eight fights a day. Appropriate strength and conditioning will prepare fighters to tolerate the demands of training and competition and develop their physical capability to deliver their fighting style when it counts the most. Therefore, I believe it’s vital!

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why? In my experience it’s less about physical attributes and more about mentality. Two fighters with very different styles and physical capabilities will be competing for Olympic medals. Therefore, I believe the following mindsets are important:

Never giving up. This allows you to develop endurance and train over long periods of time. Growth. Embracing learning and understanding that it is a journey and destination. This will allow you to keep developing key skills. Inquisitiveness. What do you need to do to get better and how do you develop it.

That being said, stronger fighters usually win more, fitter ones are able to endure more training and ones with better co-ordination can learn more!

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes? You can’t win fights if you’re not fighting and you can’t get better if you don’t train! Therefore, I think the primary purpose of strength and conditioning is to keep fighters on the mat by reducing the risk of injury. This can be achieved by effectively managing training load, improving the motor strategies that fighters can use to stabilize their bodies and produce effective movement and improving the capacity of vulnerable structures to tolerate load. In short, an effective strength and conditioning programme should reduce the risk of fighters getting injured.

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how to lift and trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? If so how do you feel this is best implemented? I do. Young fighters need to develop general athletic qualities to support their training. They do not need to develop extreme physical capabilities, but do need to develop a capability to train consistently. In order to do this, they must be able to move well and be well conditioned. This can be developed through games and circuits where the exercises and movement patterns are constrained to ensure that the fighters are moving well.

Q. Where do you see the future of strength and conditioning for judo leading? Really interesting question! I think the future will be determined by two areas:

rule changes and individualization. At the moment, explosive fighters are more successful due to current rules. When the IJF changes the rules of international competition, the physical demands change and so the S&C plan must. From an individualization perspective, athletes typically realize early performance improvements due to increased physical capability. However, at some point, training to continually increase physical capability has no impact on the mat. At some point, traditional S&C leads to diminishing returns. Therefore, a good coaching, athlete and S&C coaching combination will realize this and apply the latest theories of motor learning and training to continually improve the fighter’s performance on the mat. In short, I believe the future of strength and conditioning in judo will be more specific to the needs of the individual fighter.


Role/position: Head of judo at University of Bath.

Time working in elite judo: Thirty-two years.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? Highly important because a judoka has to work with double his body weight (his own and the weight from his partner/opponent). Also, a judoka has to stabilize his own body in complex movements and attacks to be in balance. Judo throws become more dynamic if the body constitution is better. Every judoka has to fight in a specific time frame (depending on the age group),

so he or she needs the energy to do that with a high pace, and a high attacking and score rate!

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why?

Maximum Strength is the foundation for power and exclusivity and that is one of the key points in judo (also see answer one). To be able to work on a high anaerobic level to keep the high pace and a high attacking rate. To have a very good aerobic foundation to recover better between fights or from training session to training session. Also, to tolerate the high intensive training better.

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes? I am very sure that you have fewer injuries if you have a very good physical level but it is not the physical level alone, it is also how you transfer the physical level from the gym-based work to judo. The UK Sport observation between 2008–12 (published in 2012) shows very clearly that Bath as a training centre is doing a high percentage of physical training and they do it on a completely different level to all the other centres. Also, they use technique training to transfer the new physical level to the mat-based work. The injury rate in Bath was about 10 per cent of that of all the other centres in the country.

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how

to lift and be trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? If so, how do you feel this is best implemented? It is absolute necessary to include S&C training in the young development phase to learn the technical part of exercises early enough and also to prepare young bodies for judo as a combat sport. At the moment I can’t see that this area is implemented at all! In my opinion the federations have to integrate that more in coach education, probably not as S&C but more like a support training for judo, mat based with own body weight.

Q. Where do you see the future of strength and conditioning for judo leading? I see S&C as a very important part of high performance training and that has to be prepared in younger ages so it has to be part of the ‘long-term development programme’! If that is so, club coaches have to do what they have to do to develop the physical level of young players. If that is part of the idea of longterm development – it has to be a big part of the coach education system that club coaches know what they have to do and how they have to do it!


Current role: Senior physical preparation coach (judo).

Experience of working with judo: I am currently working with the Scottish Institute of Sport and have been attached to the sport of judo for two years. In my role I support a mixture of athletes ranging from elite full-time GB podium and Scottish senior athletes aiming for Rio 2016 to junior developing athletes targeting Tokyo 2020 and beyond. A highlight for me was in my first six months, I supported the Team Scotland Judo squad in the lead-up to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? Judo is a very skilled, complex and physical sport where a sound strength and conditioning programme will definitely benefit performance. Judo requires the utilization of a vast array of physical qualities as movements happen in many different directions and planes. There are a large number of repeated efforts over the course of a fight that are a mix of high and low intensity and a competitor can have multiple fights during a tournament (depending on your results). A judo strength and conditioning programme that aims to develop athleticism is not only great for improving performance but also reducing injuries. I recommend that judo athletes consider sourcing a qualified strength and conditioning coach to help them develop a periodized programme to fit with their training goals with input from their technical coach(es).

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why?

I believe that strength is very important for a judo athlete. In terms of physics, movement is produced when forces are applied against objects. When you add into the mix another person trying to knock you off balance and ultimately throw you to the ground, the ability to produce a high level of force (and quickly too) can be very advantageous. Similarly, the ability to resist and brace through the length of the body will make it harder for an opponent to throw you, which is determined by the ability to produce force. Judo athletes do not need to possess incredible levels of strength but should be competent in the ability to express forces rapidly. Anaerobic capacity and power are also very important in judo. Judo fights and practices are interspersed with intermittent high intensity efforts. A greater ability to produce and sustain these high intensity efforts will give an athlete an

advantage over another because it will allow him or her to maintain a higher level of work. A greater work capacity can lead to more scoring opportunities and an enhanced ability to avoid being scored on. Finally, aerobic capacity is a desirable quality for a judo player. The aerobic energy system essentially dictates the body’s ability to recover. An athlete with a higher level of aerobic conditioning will be able to recover quicker between training days, training sessions, practices and fights. A better recoverability will lead to a better state of physical readiness, which in turn will produce consistency in performance.

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes? Injury prevention work can provide great benefits to a judo athlete. Days lost to injury obviously mean that athletes aren’t able to engage in their technical, tactical and physical training, which can be extremely frustrating and potentially hinders their development. The areas most commonly injured in judo training and competition are the knees and shoulders, therefore an injury prevention strategy that targets these areas can go a long way to keeping athletes on the mat. Not all injuries in judo can be prevented but a neuromuscular control, stability and balance programme coupled with an integrated technical and strength and conditioning programme will improve an athlete’s robustness and help reduce injuries. Similarly, the ability to absorb forces effectively is equally as important to the ability to produce force. Jumping and landing exercises performed with good mechanics can also decrease the chance of suffering an injury.

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how to lift and trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? If so, how do you feel this is best implemented? It is now commonly accepted that young and adolescent athletes can engage in formal strength and conditioning programmes. Contrary to some beliefs, resistance training for young athletes does not have to mirror adult programmes.

There is a great opportunity with young athletes to start resistance-style training at an early age in order to systematically improve their athletic ability over the course of their sporting careers. As with any novice resistance trainers, they must learn to move well, then a degree of loading can be introduced and then progressed in order to achieve higher levels of strength. Younger athletes are very receptive and, in fact, during adolescence there is a fantastic window of opportunity where the maturation process heightens the responsiveness to resistance training. In terms of implementation, a structured long-term athletic development plan can be produced and applied in conjunction with other coaches and staff members who are involved in any given athlete’s development. A logical training load progression (with consideration given to all types of training) can be mapped out to guide and foster the continued progression of athletic abilities.

Q. Where do you see the future of strength and conditioning for judo leading? The competition calendar in top level judo is becoming much busier. Elite athletes are now competing most weekends with significant travel commitments to many parts of the world, therefore different and novel ways of periodizing programme are likely to become the norm. The basics will always remain: lift weights to be strong, repeat efforts to get in condition and practise to become skilful but the manipulation of each facet of training may have to be tackled in different and perhaps more flexible ways.


Role: British elite performance coach.

Time working in elite sport: Ten years.

Competitive results: Olympic silver and bronze, World champion.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? I believe that S&C is very important in judo and has become increasingly important as judo has evolved. You used to be able to win at judo with technique but now you have to be very strong as well. Every player should be doing S&C to supplement their training but the S&C has to be transferable to the judo mat. If it’s not transferable, players just become big and strong but don’t know how to use their strength, and they also become too bulky and cannot use as many techniques as they once had because movement may be restricted.

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why? Mental strength – one on one fights means you have to be mentally strong to not give in. Training is very hard and physical, so you need mental strength to keep going through physical pain. Never give up attitude. Mental strength is used for composure during, before and after a fight. Physical strength/power – you need this to last training sessions and during a fight to execute certain techniques or avoid some techniques. Embrace openness – have a willingness to learn, question, do what is needed. You can never move forward in anything if you’re not willing to learn.

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes?

I think that the use of prehab before a session is very important, whether it be incorporated as a warm-up or done separately before the warm-up. Screening an athlete helps with this as it predetermines certain weak areas to start with. I also believe that a warm down and stretch is important to help with recovery.

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how to lift and trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? Yes, I do and as young athletes it is a great way to make sure that their bodies are ready to start weight training when the time is right. At a young age you can make it a lot more fun with games.

Q. In your experience, how has S&C helped you either as an athlete or as a coach at the elite level? If I’m honest, when I was young S&C was not really any use to me as I didn’t really do it properly. I trained with men and young boys so this was always very physically challenging and I got true adaptation by doing what I do (judo). In my mid-twenties I had a proper weight training programme and conditioning programmes, and these were second to none and they complemented my judo very well. As a coach now, S&C is important but only as long as it is transferable and the strength and power can be recreated at the right time on the judo mat. It also helps with the foundations of being able to train and not break down.


Current role: Lead strength and conditioning coach British Judo.

Experience of working with judo: Seven years as a full time S&C coach; prior to that I was a qualified UKCC Level 2 judo coach.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? Given that my experience is mostly with elite level judoka, then yes I believe that strength and conditioning is an essential component of any athlete hoping to perform at a high level. A good S&C programme should first and foremost aim to maximize time available for the tatami training, and strength and conditioning plays an important role in keeping athletes injury-free with the capacity to tolerate the brutal training required. As for recreational athletes, a well-designed warm-up and cool down to develop excellent movement skills as well as a small amount of aerobic training will serve them well.

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key physical attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why? First and foremost, judo athletes must be psychologically resilient and extremely committed to training to achieve high level success. It takes a very determined athlete to endure the physical exertion and continue training when they are hurt, which is required to reach the Olympic level session after session, day after day, week after week and so on. Therefore, a huge mental capacity to tolerate this is the number one attribute required! Other than that the following are three components required for the high level judoka: Aerobic capacity and power: having a wellbuilt aerobic system is critical for training and competition. A good aerobic system will allow the athlete to maintain high power outputs repeatedly throughout the contest; it will promote recovery between contests and allow for a higher volume quality in the training environment.

Strength: muscular strength is a critical physical quality that underpins the ability to produce high levels of explosive power. Stronger athletes also have the capacity to recover quicker from higher volumes of training and are most resilient against injury than weaker athletes of the same judo ability. Mobility: importantly, judo players need to be extremely strong in mechanically disadvantageous positions to score on their opponent. Judoka should train to increase their ‘length & strength’ in a wide variety of movements to ensure that flexibility improvements are made alongside strength improvements in the newly acquired range.

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes? Maximizing time available to be exposed to on the tatami training is one of the most critical determinants of elite judo success; therefore, injury prevention is of the upmost importance. In judo there is a very wide variety of body parts that can get injured and these all lie on a spectrum of how significantly they can impact on training; we tend to categorize athletes as ‘full available’, ‘amended training’, ‘not available – injured’, ‘not available – illness’. Data collection via injury audits have shown that knee injuries, in particular MCL- and ACLrelated injuries, as well as shoulder injuries, are those which keep athletes off the tatami the longest. Many of these injured can be reduced by specific content in warmups to improve movement quality of the athletes, however the best prevention for these injuries is likely to be increasing the technical skill level of the judoka. Other injuries that do not keep athletes off the tatami, but do cause for significant amendments to judo training are finger and ear injures and these are much harder to prevent.

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how to lift and be trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? If so, how do you feel this is best implemented? Yes, I do believe that young athletes should be taught resistance training; with the caveat that it is from someone qualified and alongside a long-term

development plan from their technical coach. Young athletes should be exposed to a wide vocabulary of movements, such as jumping and landing, squatting and hip hinging; this will help to make the athlete mechanically consistent and mechanically robust. In addition to this, resistance training alongside gymnastic training is excellent for developing co-ordination and in my experience the athletes with the best co-ordination are able to accelerate their technical skill development the quickest.

Q. Where do you see the future of strength and conditioning for judo leading? I have been fortunate enough to travel to many of the top judo nations and observe sessions and talk to coaches about their S&C philosophies as well as technical philosophies, and everyone is doing training that is more similar than it is different. For me, the future is in the integration between technical and physical training; for example, using mat-based sessions to develop both technical skills and energy system development. An area we are very much focusing on at the moment is how the decision-making process within a contest is very specific to the context of what is happening within the fight: what has happened in the previous exchanges, how the referee is managing the fight and so on. We are having athletes complete sessions to improve their learning in these scenarios while also under the same level of metabolic and neuromuscular fatigue they would experience in a contest. Finally, sport evolves organically and often a new athlete will come along with a new skill set that is a game changer; an example would be Craig Fallon or Georgii Zantaraia, who with their gymnastic backgrounds have the skills to escape from almost any throw. These athletes come along every five to ten years, and we as S&C and sport science practitioners need to be highly adaptable to every changing environment.


Current role: Full time athlete and senior kyu grade coach for Camberley Judo Club.

Experience of working with elite judo: Twenty-five years training in judo, which have included representing Great Britain at all major global and continental events.

Competitive results: Commonwealth Games champion.

Q. Firstly, how important do you believe strength and conditioning to be for judo athletes? Should every judo player supplement his or her mat-based training with S&C? In the ever evolving world of competitive combat, in which nearly all successful teams have scientific sport support, it is vital that an athlete’s physical condition will allow him or her to not only cope with the demands of having five to eight hard fights over a day of competition but also to contain the physical attributes to complete the demanding day-today training. Strength and conditioning training is, and always should be, supplementary to all judo training. However, I like to view the successful judo athlete as a complete pie chart and without every full piece winning at the highest level cannot occur. In my own competitive career I feel a growing interest in strength and conditioning has helped me to approach all areas of training in a professional manner.

Q. Given your experience of high performance judo, what three key attributes do you believe are the most fundamental to performance in judo and why? Back to my own pie chart analogy, I honestly believe that without a correct mentality and physicality winning cannot take place. I also truly think that using a method of planning a reactive and forever evolving system of technique, tactics, physicality and mentality, and understanding the time in which it takes to

develop, that anyone can be a highly successful fighter. So:

Never stop but be at an optimum pace ready to learn. Creating the high level of physical attributes required to win takes time. Nail all technical aspects first, go back and readdress if required. Then, push your limits and conquer those plateaus. Continue. Understand your core physical needs but always allow yourself to evolve. Embrace new ideas and concepts. Attack different stimuli. Professionally compromise. Judo is a weight-controlled sport. Understand differing body composition levels from competitive performance to injury prevention in training. Trial, error, understand and believe.

Q. Given the combat nature of the sport, how important do you see injury prevention? Do you feel we can reduce the number of injuries by including this type of training into our programmes? If the body is ineffective then winning is not possible! A strength and conditioning programme is implemented to make an athlete as effective as possible. Injury prevention is paramount. Let us not forget that judo is an evolved form of human combat. In all forms of fighting combatants are aiming to do their opponent’s bodies harm. For the modern form of judo this is now hypothetical; if I throw you flat on your back with impetus and control this would render you inactive. Also, the dynamic movements that judo players undertake put the body under different stresses so it is vital that a strength and conditioning programme minimizes the risks in all these areas to allow us to then optimize our effectiveness in doing harm to the body in front of us!

Q. Do you believe that youth and adolescent athletes should be taught how to lift and trained in resistance-based exercise from a young age? If so, how do you feel this is best implemented? I do. My knowledge in this area, although growing, is not of adequate level to

comment effectively. However, from a technical standpoint I do think that the earlier an athlete perfects all aspects the more efficient and effective he or she shall grow to become.

Q. Where do you see the future of strength and conditioning for judo leading? The role of strength and conditioning will depend on the coaching staff and individuals involved with, and in possession of power, at the given time. I would like to see a continuing of the growth of professional, sport science supported judo. I think this will largely, in terms of strength and conditioning, come down to the coaches’ understanding of the importance of having physically effective fighters and allowing adequate time for the development of these attributes within the day-to-day training lifestyle. I also truly believe that what may have hindered physical development in Western judo athletes previously is the fact that judo culture in some nations is still very steeped in its traditional Japanese roots. Of course, we need extremely hard and tough fighters but, again, without a physicality that will allow them to perform, high level success will not be possible. This is even more apparent in nations where technical and tactical judo knowledge is not in abundance, but with physically capable fighters high level success is still achievable. ‘Implement new school methods with old school mentalities.’


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24 hour athlete 46, 146 90 degree hop and hold 35

activate and mobilize 32 aerobic endurance 21 energy systems 92 factors 17 agility 98 anaerobic capacity 89 endurance 22 energy systems 87 factors 17 power 90 arabesques 34 arm-locks (kansetsu-waza) 13 assessment and monitoring 19

athletic stance 100 availability of equipment 50

back squat 58 backward roll over partner 107 barbell rotational pushes 81 barbell rotations 64 bent over row 60 body composition of elite judoka 18 bounding 38 box jump 79

calf muscles 30 cartwheel over partner 110 change of direction 101 chronological, biological and training age 124 clean 75 compression garments 145 contrast baths 145 cool down 46, 126 coordination

balance 97 agility, and spatial awareness 18 movement patterns and skill 70 creating a testing protocol 20

deadlift 59 definitions 9, 89 dehydration 134 Draeger, Donn 9 drop jump 80

effectiveness of strength and conditioning in children and adolescents 125 energy system demands 17 environmental 142 example sessions 91 exercise order 55 selection 52, 55 ‘keeping it functional’ 56 for developing power 74 choice and order of exercise 127

fatigue 141 final preparation 120 fitness fatigue model 116 for the young judoka 129 flexibility 33, 46 foam rolling 24 four point touches 39 frequency 53, 56 fuelling training and competition 136

Geesink, Anton 10 general adaptation syndrome 115 getting the basics right 139 gluteal muscles 30

handstand over partner 105 head spring over partner 109 historical background to strength and conditioning in judo 9

hold-downs (osaekomi-waza) 13 hops and jumps 35 hormonal responses 142 Howey, Kate 151 hypertrophy 51, 54

iliotibial band (it band) 28 individualization 51 injury prevention 8, 23, 46, 49 Inokuma, Isao 9 Inoue, Kosei 6 intensity and volume 128 ippon 12, 13, 15 ippon-seoi-nage escapes 110

judo training 105, 138 jump squat 78

Kano, Jigoro 8, 9 Kimura, Masahiko 9 Klinger, Jürgen 149

latissimus dorsi 26 Leggett, Trevor 9 lactate 15, 17 blood lactate during judo matches 16 load and volume 52 loading 54 long term athlete development 121 lower body exercises 33 lunges 33

Macdonald, Allan 152 massage therapy 145 medicine ball forward throw (single arm) 85 overhead throw 83 rotational throw 84 slams 82 metabolic 93, 142 muscle action 52, 54

damage 141 glycogen depletion 135 muscular endurance 18

needs analysis 11 narrow grip chin-up 62 nutrition 144 basic nutrition for judo 133 fad diets and supplementation 138 energy foods and drinks 136

Olympic lifts 72

peanut 27 periodization of strength training 50 physiological demands of judo 15 planning the program 50, 71, 55 the training process 114 methods 116 plate push-up 63

plyometric training 38, 102, 104 potentiation 45 post activation potentiation 45, 73 power 21 requirements 18 what is it? 66 factors affecting 67 designing a power program 71 anaerobic 90 speed and power training 129 press-up partner battles 39 with twist 38 principles of adaptation 115 push press 77

raise 32 rate of force development 21, 66, 68 recovery post weigh in 135 maximizing 137, 141

strategies 143 active recovery 145 repeated sprint ability 90 repetition velocity 53, 56 rest rest periods 52, 56 intervals/training frequency 128 robustness 23 Rosenblatt, Ben 147 rules 11, 14

seiryoku zen’yo 9 self-myofascial release 25 sets and repetitions 127 single leg circles 34 sleep 143 speed 95, 100 and power training 129 speed-skaters 37 sprint training 100 strangles and chokes (shime-waza) 13

strength 48 requirements 17 muscular strength 17 and power testing 20 endurance 21 maximal 21 maximum development 53 mat based strength training 65 high velocity and low velocity 67 programme design 57, 126 stretch shortening cycle 69

tapering 119 variables in managing a taper 121 testing anaerobic parameters for judo 90 testing the aerobic energy systems 93 throwing techniques (nage-waza) 12 tomoe-nage escape 110 training speed, agility and coordination 100 guidelines 125

methodologies 72 the anaerobic system 91

upper body 38 upper legs and hips 28

Valentine, Greg 150 vo2 max test 15, 17, 21 volume 54

warm-up 23, 24, 32, 126 weight category 50 effects of making weight 133 weight training 137 wheelbarrows 42 wide grip pull-up 61 Williams, Danny 154

y, t, w 40 partner y, t, w 42 youth and adolescent development 123


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