Karate and Martial Arts Exercises

NOTE: we are now starting to add exercises to this page. They will be added a few at a time as I photograph and write them up. When this “NOTE” eventually disappears from the front the list of exercises will be complete.

There is a current idea that whatever sport that you do you do not need to do any kind of “stretch up” before you train or play. I do not go along with this. Stretching and limbering up before-hand helps to warm your muscles, gets oxygen into your blood and pushes that blood around your body. You can also use these stretching up and limbering up exercises at home to help keep you supple and toned up.

So here are a number of exercises that you can do at home to help keep you in shape for your chosen Martial Art. They are not all of the exercises that you can do and there are a number of good exercise books (especially Pilates books) on the market to help you research more. However be aware of avoiding “bad” exercises (see the WARNING under EXERCISES tag). All of the exercises below are used in the Buntingford Karate Club.

First a word about “Zip Up and Hollow” – this refers to you thinking about lifting your pelvic floor (“Zip Up”), and pulling in your stomach muscles (“Hollow”). Where you need to start doing this I have put ZH. You should start practising pulling in your stomach muscles ALL THE TIME, even when you are not doing any exercise. Try starting out by pulling in your stomach whilst you are walking. This will train you to do this so that it becomes a natural thing to do. Many a good physique has suffered through lack of pulling in those tummy muscles – Tuck That Gut!


Sitting on the floor with your feet about 30cm (about 1ft) apart and with the backs of your knees down on the floor so that your legs are straight, throw your arms back and up and then forwards so that you try to touch your toes. As you go to touch your toes lean forwards but come back up on the back swing. Do this at least 10 times.










BEWARE – DO NOT do this exercise whilst holding your actual toes. Your toes joints are not that strong. You should put the palm of your hand over the top of your toes and hold the balls of your feet (see photo below).

Over toes

So.. Sit on the floor with your feet about 30cm apart and with your right hand reach over the toes on your right foot without bending your right knee. To start with this takes some practice and this is made easier by bending your legs at the knees, putting your fingers over your toes and gripping the ball of your foot and then gently lowering your knees towards the floor. Eventually you will be able to hold both feet at the same time, as shown below, and hopefully without having to bend your knees first.



Sit on the floor with your right leg out. Put your left foot over your right leg at your right knee joint. Then put your right forearm against the crossed left leg whilst your left hand is on the floor behind you as a support. Now turn/twist to your body and head to the left and hold this for a count of 5. Then do the other side. Don’t just sit there with your arms resting on your legs – you must PUSH your arms into your legs whilst trying to turn in the opposite direction.




Sit with your left leg out and pull your right foot in as tight as you can to your bottom. Put your right elbow against the inside of your right knee whilst you take your weight by placing your left hand behind your left leg. Keep your left leg straight and push your right knee away from you with your right elbow. Hold for a count of 5.










Sitting on the floor bring your feet as near as you can towards you. Hold your feet together lightly with both hands and then push your knees down towards the floor. Hold for a count of 5 and repeat 3 times. DO NOT flap your legs up and down – you are not a chicken!


6. CRUNCHES. For your abdomen (stomach) muscles (your “six pack”).

No, it’s got nothing to do with a chocolate covered honeycomb bar! Do this instead of Sit-Ups. Sit-ups are usually done with your legs out straight and on the floor, but this has been proven to put too much strain on your lower back. Do a crunch instead and you exercise the same stomach muscles. This improves and builds your “six pack”.


Lay on your back and pull your feet as near as you can to your bottom with your feet flat on the floor and about 12 inches (15cm) apart. Clasp your hands in front of you and then in a smart motion lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Do this by pulling with your stomach NOT by throwing your head forwards. You DO NOT have to get your whole back off the floor, just your head and shoulders. Start with 5 crunches and build up to however many you want. In the Buntingford Karate Club we do a maximum of 50 in our warm up at the start of a lesson.