Martial Arts Training Exercises

Jackie Chan training exercise for kung fuIf you’ve ever seen any old Kung Fu movie, you know there are some rather unconventional methods to learning martial arts. Nowadays, there is a ton of information and resources available to anyone researching tried-and-true martial arts training exercises. There are also a number of different martial arts styles. Martial arts training exercises depend on the specific martial arts style you are learning. However, this is a not a blanket approach; most martial arts training exercises are compound and multifunctional. This means that they can be useful for multiple disciplines of martial arts.


I’ve come across many instructors, and the one repetitive training exercise they all preach is balance. Generally, this is of the utmost importance because martial arts is centered around flanking, jumping, and being elusive. For the more offensive techniques, we’re looking at throwing, sweeping, tripping, and largely just being able to move from technique to technique while maintaining control.  Balance provides superiority in these aspects of martial arts. Gaining an edge on an opponent is most often just a tiny position slip away. Some simple balance training exercises include air kicks, balance boards, bosu balls, sand, and many one-legged exercises.


Strength training is beneficial in many aspects of life; the health benefits alone should get most people to the gym. However, there are certain functional aspects of strength training that play a major component in martial arts training.

One of the most important martial arts strength exercises are exercises for the core. The core is not just your abs. That is a common misconception. The core includes your upper legs, abs, obliques, and hips. All of these muscles function together to create the “core” of your body. Common core training techniques include abdominal workouts, squats (deep squats – ass to grass – range of motion is of the utmost importance here!)  and low back exercises as well. To gain an edge on your opponent, strengthen your foundation.

Martial arts strength-training exercises also include upper and lower body workouts. Gaining strength in these areas of your body will directly translate to your martial arts training. The power you pack behind your punches and leg kicks are both improved with strength training. Find time to strength train if you are not already doing so. Specific strength training exercises include pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, and the military press. Developing a strength regime three times a week is optimal for martial arts strength-training exercises. I like to try to get 5 days in at the gym and 3 at the school if possible.  I admit, it’s tough since I work long hours, but if it’s important to you, you’ll make a way.  There are TONS of people at the gym at 6 am.

Bone acclimatizing and Iron Body training

For many fighters who study arts such as Muay Thai or Choy Li Fut, there are many techniques that require bone conditioning, as they use shins and forearms as striking weapons.  This takes a great deal of hardening by hitting objects over and over.  This can be very painful in the beginning and will result in bruising at first, but if you start slow and easy, over time, you will find your bones strengthen and become nasty weapons.  For shins, it is common to use sticks or bats to beat them, for forearms, you will likely want to hit wooden posts (not unlike telephone poles).  For hardening the hands, you may want to start by shoving them into a bucket of sand before moving on to striking bags of rice or even BBs.


Endurance is a key factor in martial arts training. The intense sessions take a lot out of the human body. Without proper conditioning, it won’t be possible to keep up with a well-trained opponent. Long distance runs are one of the most popular ways to build endurance. However, sprint circuits or workouts help build quick bursts of energy. In our Ninjutsu class, we have stations where we spend 2 minutes doing different things.  One station may have weights, another might be for shadow boxing or hitting bags.  These are especially useful when you begin grappling or sparring with your opponents.


Martial artists are constantly changing positions, looking to get an edge over their opponent. To do this, they need agility. Agility provides martial artists with evasiveness and quickness, in addition to the ability to attack. Moving effectively and efficiently while engaged with an opponent could be the difference between a win and a loss. Common agility training drills include agility ladders, jumping rope, box jumps and plyometric training. Try to train toward agility as a precursor to your strength training exercises, roughly three times a week, and be sure to give your body enough time to heal and rebuild.


One of the most overlooked aspects of fighting is the ability to fall without getting hurt.  Let’s face it, we all fall sometimes, even outside of a fight.  Hell, I’m certain many of you have slipped on ice or tripped over a rock in your lifetime and hit the ground.  Well, if you’re a fighter, there’s no question you’ve been thrown, tripped, knocked down, or even just stumbled in the heat of a fight.  Regular practice performing rolls and breakfalls is absolutely imperative.  Don’t forget to do front rolls, side rolls, back rolls, forward, backward, and side breakfalls from both standing positions and rolls.  You’re going to fall somewhere along the line, and the correct way to land can mean the difference between a major injury (yep, even death) and something minor or even just bouncing back.  Do not neglect this practice – you’ll need mats!


Modern day practices would leave you to believe that this is an unnecessary element of martial arts. That would be a big mistake. True martial artists master all forms of their technique including grappling. Just like anything else in life, to get better, you have to practice. Martial arts grappling is no different. This may be one of the least attractive mainstream martial arts training exercises, but it’s required to be a dynamic martial artist. The best way to become competent in this skill is to grapple, a lot. Grapple with bigger stronger guys/girls. Grapple against opponents with better skills than you. With defeat comes knowledge.


Flexibility may determine just how much give your muscles are willing to have. Being able to maneuver in extremely tight quarters while being forced into a specific position breaks your body down. The ability to bend and flex with power and consistency so that your muscles don’t tear is essential to any serious martial artist. Flexibility can be dramatically improved by taking yoga classes twice a week for about an hour. Now, you are fair warned: You will be severely sore after one of these classes. They aren’t a joke.


Besides kicking, this is the most important part of an offensive attack for a martial artist. There are variety of ways punches and strikes, some of which may not be useful for you. However, the straight punch and the palm strike are relevant to all martial arts. Your instructor will teach you proper form, and it is your job to perfect that form. Additionally, some punches and striking techniques are used defensively, to break away from an offensive attack.


There are many ways to boost your martial arts training regimen. Many of these examples are basic, but they are the most fundamental lessons, techniques and exercises you need to learn. A martial arts instructor has likely developed a training regimen for his students. However, your time with your instructor is limited. These martial arts training exercises can be practiced on your own time away from the dojo or gym. Talk to your instructor to find your weak points. It is likely they will have some constructive criticism and you can work on your flaws after hours.

Enjoy this cool Spider Man martial arts training video.  Gotta have fun with it!

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any ideas for or experiences in your training?  Please comment below!



I'm Steve D'Agostino, founder of Martial Arts Weapons and Training. Thanks for visiting and reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Krishna Prasad

    Very good introduction to capture readers and a good set of categories i.e balance, strength, ect. However with all of these things which should someone on a busy schedule priotize and do first? strength training? balance? conditioning? of course they are all important to your page, but maybe giving a regiment of where to start would help.

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve D’Agostino

      Good question, and that’s a good topic for further articles. But the short answer is that you should be working on pretty much all of it, even if it’s just for a few minutes focusing on each. I wouldn’t worry too much about bone conditioning unless you practice an art that specifically focuses on using your bones as weapons, such as choy li fut kung fu or muay thai kickboxing, though. If not learned from someone who knows what they’re doing, you could hurt yourself pretty badly. Cracked bones are not fun!

      To give you an example of how I personally train, I get my strength training at the gym. Because I work long hours and have children, I get up early to make it happen so I can get home before my son has to go to school. Everything else is handled in class, which is an hour and a half. The first 45 minutes centers around things like stretching, calisthenics, circuit training, rolls and break falls, and ground fighting (grappling or jujitsu). The rest of class focuses on learning new skills. And of course, the more you practice, the more you develop your agility.

      It’s okay if you don’t train every single area every day, but if you work on a few of them each time you train and rotate what you work on, you’ll be fine. Try not to overthink it; much of what you’re trying to train happens naturally just as a result of practicing martial arts in general.

  • Gisele G

    Wow I didn’t know martial arts had so many components to it! Thank you for breaking that down. That’s a lot of time for a lot of training. I guess it just depends on how much you want it, right?

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      That’s right. Just like with anything, it’s all about what you want and your willingness to make it happen. Personally, I train about 5 hours a week in martial arts plus another 3-4 in the gym lifting weights. I get up at 5:30 to make it all happen since I have a full-time job as a wealth advisor (and run a web business). It helps that my kids train, too, so we can do it together and keep each other motivated. SO much to do and so little time!!

  • https://cannagary.com/ CannaGary

    Thanks for this great read, Martial Arts Training Exercises.
    I am an older guy that has always stayed in decent shape with traditional exercising and I really enjoyed where you spoke of Conditioning, Flexibility and Agility.

    I am about to undergo some surgery on my neck to repair some disc issues.
    I know I will be given regular PT for after but I am wondering if there may be some specific exercises to strengthen the neck/shoulder areas that I can add to my regimen in time?.

    Fear not I won’t do anything that I have been advised not to do medically, but I like took away from what is always just accepted as the norm.
    Any suggestions would be great, my best,


    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      For strengthening, allow me to step out of my martial artist shoes and into my weightlifter’s. My favorite neck and shoulder exercises for that specific area are weighted shrugs and face-pulls. Shrugs are just what they sound like. You use either a barbell or dumbbells and, well, shrug over and over. Face-pulls use a cable machine, where the pulley is lowered to the ground and the attachment is a short rope. You then pull the rope (the part where it’s connected to the cable) upward toward your face, keeping your elbows high. These both work your trapezius muscles, and the face-pulls also work a wider area of your upper back, which connects all of that together. Continue to perform the stretches that your PT shows you, and in time, you’ll notice a huge difference!

  • http://Detoxbodycleanses.com Dean

    Thank you for this great article, very informative and detailed, it gives a very good insight on what someone should expect before and when they start training.

    There are exercises and practises mentioned that you can do and I was intrigued to know more about them as I do like fitness and to try different approaches.

    Great post thank you


    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Yep, there are many aspects of fitness and things to focus on to be good at martial arts or any sport, really. All of these are good for overall agility and just being alive. Thanks for your comment!