Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength

The Development of Perfect Movement

By Paul "Batman" O'Brien 

B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. IMed., Dip. Adv. OBB, Dip. CHM, Pn1, PN-SSR, PN-NCA, M.AFPA., M.C.Th.A.

Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength is a vital component in any competitive style from traditional forms such as Kung Fu and Karate to modern styles such as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and BJJ (Brazilian JuJitsu). But what is the nature of strength and why is it necessary for martial artists to develop it? In this article I’ll be answering that question, highlighting the importance Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development and disusing the different aspects necessary to improve your performance regardless of the style or system you practice.

The fundamental principal upon which all martial arts are based is the fluidity of movement. No matter if you study Aikido, Tai Chi, Choi Li Fut, Tae Kwon, Do, Boxing, Fencing, BJJ etc the focus of a martial art is on the fluidity and efficiency of movement. And it is in the development of this efficiency of movement that Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development is most important.

In order to execute any technique the body is required to move in a series of minute and intensely complex muscular contractions, from the engagement of the abdominal muscles, to the blink of the eyes, the contraction the diaphragm, to the beat of your heart and this all before you actually move.

Once your brain signals the body to perform a technique, be it a punch, kick, block, lock, sidestep etc a flood of electrical signals hit’s the nervous system and travels to the hundreds of muscles necessary to move in that exact pattern. Let’s look at the simple Shotokan Karate reverse punch.

Even simplified and contained to just describing the major muscles in order to perform this rotating punch the body must contract the abdominals , contract the lumbar spine muscles to facilitate the movement of the leg, which raises thanks to a contraction of the psoas hip flexors, steps forward as a result of the contraction of the quadriceps, planted on the ground engaging the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, then it switches to taking the load and weight of the body with the hamstring.

Meanwhile the rear leg straightens and extend with an equal contraction of the quads and hams, a tight contraction of the buttocks muscles, leading to a stretch in the calve.

While all of this is happening the each muscle of the upper arms deltoids, triceps, biceps, forearms, not to mention the major muscles of the back are undergoing a complex series of relaxations and contractions that help generate rotation force in the hips and extend the arm. I won’t even get into the complexities of the neck, lungs, and other muscle groups necessary to perform a simple punch.

I think you’ll agree that in any martial arts move you bring into play hundreds of muscles instantly relaxing and contracting them to deliver a precise, fluid and powerful movement.

So what has this to do with strength, and more importantly Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength Development?


In order to move the body and the skeletal frame to execute even the most basic of movements you need muscular strength. In order to move and align the bones, articulate your joints and deliver the precise movement of a martial artist it requires your muscles to be strong enough to contract. The stronger you can contract your muscles the more precise and powerful your movements will be.

In order to improve any technique a martial artist MUST improve the tool he is working with – namely the human body.

The ancient masters understood this and built in to many traditional systems Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development. Below you’ll see an example of this, the Kyokoshinkai Karate kata (a set series of movements and forms designed to practice combat) Sanchin –

The aspects of this kata are the intense muscular contractions, tightening of the core and of course a focus on intense isometric breathing.

So why isometrics? Again, there is a simple answer to this. Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development is the SINGLE most effective method of strength training available. In 1954 two German Scientist, Muller and Hettinger conclusively proved in over 5,000 independent clinical trials, that one could increase strength by 5-15% with a single 7 second stimulation once a week.

Subjects in a later study performing a daily 7 second contraction increased their strength by 72% in 46 weeks. The fall of strength after the end of training is very slow. 70 weeks after the end of training their strength was still 42% higher than before the beginning of training. After doing nothing for over a year and a half they were still 42% stronger than when they started.

The funny thing is people still spend small fortunes every day purchasing expensive gym memberships and hiring personal trainers that waste their time and money and produce far less dramatic and effective results than you could achieve on your own, with no equipment in less than a 5 minutes.

They concluded, as have many studies since, (Little et all 2006 springs to mind, a study which showed a single 5 minute routine comprised of 10 7 second contractions produced up to 9.3lbs of muscle tissue. That's one 5 minute workout producing the amount of muscle tissue developed through conventional training after a minimum of 3 months), that Isometric training was the single most effective method of strength and physique development achievable.

Imagine what a 72% increase your strength could produce in your performance as a martial artist, imagine how much faster, harder and powerful you would be? Perhaps this is why Bruce Lee made Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development the corner stone of his own physical development.

In the next article I’ll be looking at why Speed is of vital essence for the martial artists and how you can quickly enhance your ability to move faster and with greater precision.

In the meantime if you’d like to improve your strength, and dramatically improve your performance as a martial artist, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of my 7 Week System called 7 Seconds to Build A Perfect Body, The Scientifically Proven Method for Transforming Your Body in Just Seconds! With over 250 pages and filled with more than 130 photos it was a launched in January 08 to huge success and endorsed and praised by martial arts publications such as Irish Fighter Magazine. You can read more about the program and see my incredible transformation, even watch videos of my strength feats here.

You've been reading about Isometric Training for Martial Arts Strength development, check out the next isometric article, Isometric Training for Martial Arts Speed - here. 

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