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Stairs Workout for Judo Athletes

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Original article published by our colleague JC Yamamoto on his blog. (translated by WeChat)

Stairs training by JC Yamamoto

In Japan, being a mountainous country with many slopes, practically in almost all cities you can find stairs, slopes and ramps that are traditionally used for the training of athletes of the most varied disciplines, from athletics to combat sports such as boxing and team sports such as baseball and rugby, emulating the scenes starring by the actor Sylvester STALLONE in the saga of the film ROCKY, climbing the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, now known as the “Rokcy Steps”.
Also in Judo, climbing stairs, slopes or ramps is one of the quite widespread training routines, because, traditionally, it has been given greater importance to strengthening the muscles of the legs and hips, over the muscles of the arms or the upper body. This is because, in Japanese Judo, it has been taught from the beginnings that you should keep your arms relaxed without making force, so that you can work effectively with your legs and hips.
In the world of Judo, one of the best known stairs in recent times is the one used by the Judo team of the powerful TENRI University and that is still used by famous athletes emerged from it such as Shohei OHNO (-73kg) and Joshiro MARUYAMA (-66kg) and the men’s team itself, when it performs the training camps at the facilities of the TENRI University.

These are the stairs of the SHIRA-KAWA River Dam in TENRI City, NARA Prefecture, where TENRI University is located. There are 3 circuits of stairs of different characteristics that were popularized by the mentioned athletes. The most used is the staircase of 115 steps whose last section is characterized by its steep slope. The 10 climbs made by the men’s team in a morning training session open to the press during the training camp held in May 2022, as part of the preparation for the Tashkent World Championships, were widely published by the press, leaving more than one of its figures exhausted. as the last Olympic champion, Aaron WOLF (-100kg).
At present, in addition to the mentioned athletes ONO and MARUYAMA, many famous athletes account for the “steps climbed” during their training through their social networks as they did, for example, recently Ryunosuke HAGA (-100kg) who referred to his 6 passes of 216 steps or Hisayoshi HARASAWA (+100kg) who mentioned about the 456 steps of his preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

However, who made known, a few years ago, his incredible training routine on the stairs was the boxing champion, Naoya INOUE, current unified bantamweight world champion (having been champion in 2 other categories), considered the best Japanese boxer in history. It was in June 2018 when he opened his training to the press during a concentration he had been conducting in the city of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, showing his routine of 2,094 daily steps performed for 4 days on stairs of 114 steps, overcoming a total of 10,000 steps.
Each session consisted of 4 sprints of 30 steps, 4 sprints of 68 steps, 5 sprints of 114 steps, 10 climbs in “wheelbarrow” (climbing with hands), 5 sprints of 30 steps after 30 sec. in invisible chair position, 5 climbs of 68 steps jumping with 2 feet together, 3 sprints of 114 steps after 20 high jumps (leapfrog). This routine of the INOUE, nicknamed in Japan as “Kaibutsu” (the Monster) was titled by the press as the “hell routine” that sustains the Monster.

Without reaching the “routine of hell” of INOUE in which the upper train also works, multiple benefits are recognized in the routines of climbing stairs that could still be expanded according to the type of work and intensity with which they are performed. A normal sprint routine of climbing stairs contributes to improving both aerobic and anaerobic endurance and leg power. It is considered a very efficient exercise because, when climbing, concentric contractions are worked – muscle tension with muscle shortening – and in the descent, eccentric concentrations, which require the opposite effort, that is, muscle tension with muscle lengthening. Also, sprints have the same explosive effect of plyometric exercises that consist of exercises so that the muscles apply maximum strength and power in the shortest possible time, such as jumps performed with a plyometric drawer.
Just as INOUE progressively varies the number of steps, you can also vary the number of steps to jump for each stride, jumping 1 or 2 steps at a time.

It should be noted that, In the style of Japanese Judo, the work of the legs alongside that of the middle zone is essential to effectively transmit their strength to the upper-body to move and break the opponent’s balance with the work of the legs, without relying on the force of the arms whose tension prevents the dynamic work of the legs.

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