Getting started in the gym for novice Judo athletes.

Supplementary training for the Judo athlete is required, it is almost (if not entirely) impossible to use Judo for all your needs, especially strength and conditioning training. In this post we shall cover how to get started in the gym, so it it aimed at the Judo athlete just starting down this path.

Gym with PeteWhy go to the gym?
I and most Judo coaches will tell you that “the best training for Judo, is Judo” and we are correct. The rule of thumb is that the closer your training is to competition then the more effective it is. And lets face it Judo is a unique blend of skill, strength, endurance, power, tactics, gutas and determination. So why go to the gym and not just head down to the Dojo?

The main reason for most people is that there just are not enough Judo sessions of the right type and quality and at the right times to make using Judo as your sole physical preparation. For higher level athletes, it is still hard to (perhaps harder) to find enough Judo, so the gym can be used to supplement Judo and help you develop physically.

A well training programme that is well integrated with your Judo programme can help immensely and is a “must have” for any serious Judo athlete.

What Gym?
For the newbie athlete, any good quality gym will be ok. The big brand fitness centres are a good choice and can be good value. You might consider getting together with others in your Judo club and trying to get a discount at the local fitness centre. The more advanced Judo athlete will want a different sort of gym, but for those just starting out a gym full mainly of steppers, treadmills and machines is just fine.

I would avoid body building gyms and elite gyms initially.

If possible, find a gym that will offer some assistance in terms of a training programme. If they have personal trainers even better! Again, depending on your level you will want to try gyms with good trainers or (as will become apparent as you read on) see if you can find a good personal trainer who will come to the gym you join.

How to start?
Step one, get a programme from a personal trainer. Step two, refer to step one!
Seriously though, if you are a new Judo athlete joining perhaps your first gym, then get the personal trainers/instructors at the gym to give you a training programme. It will probably not be overly good compared to a programme designed by an Olympic level coach, but for the new athlete it is a good start.
I recommend the gym’s instructors over “some bloke at the dojo”, the reason being that at this stage in your development you want to develop the general gym skills and physical abilities to train safely and effectively in the gym.
Do not borrow a programme you have seen someone else doing, especially if that person is an experienced gym user or elite Judo athlete. You will get hurt and also look silly!

If you can afford it, try and use a personal trainer once a week or once every fortnight for your first 6 weeks (one training cycle).
I recommend this as a trainer will help ensure that you use good technique and train effectively on the equipment available. As we shall cover in a moment, there are two things in the gym to avoid, bad technique and bad etiquette.

How to lot be a gym-tard!
A big problem you find in general purpose fitness centres is people who do not know what they are doing. This comes in two varieties those who do not know how to train and those who do not know how to behave. And yes, the two are often related.

Just like in the Dojo, the gym has rules of behavior that need to be followed, and just like Judo Dojo, each one can have slightly different rules. But, as in Judo, the majority of the rules are applicable across gyms. Below are a small selection that will help you stay on the straight and narrow. Training with a  personal trainer/instructor will also help you fit in as they will know how to behave in your gym.

Bring the right kit.
Don’t show up in lycra, especially you guys! Do wear comfortable shorts, and a t-shirt. Bring trainers (running shoes), ones that you do not wear on the street. Bring a small handtowel too, to wipe down the equipment after use. Bring your own earphones and a iPod if you use them. Don’t bring your bag into the gym or you cell/mobile phone (though that rule is getting bent/ignored/dropped more and more now days). Bring a training diary and a pen. Oh and leave the weights belt and weights gloves at home, save that for later!

Don’t make up your own moves.
You won’t be doing this as you have a trainer (right?), but please don’t make it up as you go along. Use the equipment as you have been taught to. Don’t randomly start throwing the weights about or other such random activities. Do the exercises your trainer has given you and do them as they are shown to you.

Put things back as you found them.
Put the weights back on the rack, set the machine weights back to zero. Wipe the machines down (get your sweat off).

Don’t cheat.
Keep the weights down and the form good. Follow your instructor/trainers advice and guidance. Keep the weight light and don’t cheat to try more than you are.

Be quiet, work hard!
Don’t grunt and scream, huff and puff. Later you’ll be in a more serious gym (like an awesome CrossFit gym) where that sort of stuff is fine; but for now, just keep it down ok. Also, the gym should be a place you come to workout, not a place to chat. So get in there and work, then get out. One of the reasons quite a few people wear earphone and listento music is to isolate themselves from the crowd and focus on the workout.

So, there you have it a few simple rules to get you started in the gym.
It is all about working hard and properly, fitting in and not annoying or offending the other people in the gym. Getting a personal trainer may seem over the top, but it will ensure you get a better start than if you start out on your own. A trainer should help you develop correct technique and train at appropriate levels. They will help you fit right in, and give you a good start.

One final tip, that I have intentionally left till last to highlights it’s importance is make sure that you talk to your coaches before and after you start at the gym. Especially as you progress it will be essential that your gym work enhances your Judo not detracts from it.

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