Does Karate Build Muscle? Complete Fitness Guide


Karate is an ideal workout as it incorporates full-body workouts. Karate exercises the major parts of your body such as the core, legs, and hands. The exercises performed in karate training not only improve the overall fitness but can also be used as a way of building muscle if done correctly.

Karate involves strength-training exercises that build muscle if integrated with proper nutrition and maximum muscle recovery. It works the joints, combining cardiovascular training and muscular workouts.  Karate makes you stronger by exercising your central nervous system to have effective movements.

Building muscle does not occur overnight, it takes discipline and endurance to achieve the desired result. At the beginning of karate training, one begins losing weight because the body is burning more calories than it is taking in.

To gain muscle, the student will need to engage in high-intensity exercises incorporated with a good diet and workout recovery, as we shall see below.

Before we dive in, if you want to buy the best karate Gi for your money, follow the link to an article of mine where I reveal the answer.

How to Build Muscles with Karate

Building muscle is not instantaneous; there is a method to the madness. On that account, how can a student build muscle with karate?

Karate builds muscle through strength training that works the core, back, arm, and leg muscles. This will induce hypertrophy and muscle building by the thickening of muscle fibers. One is required to consume proper nutrients that construct muscle. After training, use muscle recovery to facilitate regeneration of muscle.

Proper nutrition is a key element, as it supplies the body with nutrients and energy to engage in physical activity.

The karate diet includes meals that have high nutrition and low calories. Foods that should be included in every meal are protein-based foods such as soy legumes, vegetables, herbs, white meat such as fish that has high levels of Omega-3, and pork that contains high protein collagen.

Karate training alone is not adequate for a full workout. Strength training must be incorporated to build core strength, power, and muscle endurance. It also escalates the aptitude of martial artists by working on different muscle groups.

Strength training includes core, leg, and upper body exercises. Body weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, crunches, and plank exercises to aid in building strength.

a woman doing karate

After karate training, boost muscle recovery by eating post-workout meals that are rich in carbohydrates. Staying hydrated increases muscle repair. Research has proven that taking supplements such as creatine and protein powder aids in rehabilitating muscles and increases muscular strength.

A study conducted on after exercise recovery emphasizes on the importance of proper nutrition, dietary supplements and healthy behavior to accelerate recovery of muscle to improve athletes performance. (ACE)

Getting enough sleep, stretching, massage, and immersion in cold water are alternative methods that accelerate muscle recovery from intense exercises.  

Best Karate Exercises For Muscle Mass

Some martial artists’ desire to build more muscle mass, therefore they engage in intense body weight exercises. So which are the best karate exercises for muscle mass?

The best karate exercises for building muscle mass are strength training and conditioning exercises. These are push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, lunges, and barbell squats. When performing weighted workouts to increase strength and build muscle mass, one should include multiple repetitions.

Karate exercises for building muscle mass

1.   Push-ups

This calisthenics exercise involves lifting one’s body from the ground using the arms. They exercise the anterior deltoid, pectoral muscles, and triceps.

2.   Pull-ups

This refers to when one lifts their body with their palms facing outside while gripping a horizontal pole. This works the upper back muscles.

3. Crunches

This exercise works the lower back and oblique muscles. These work the abdomen, thus building muscle that forms the six-pack. There are various forms of crunches, such as the bicycle crunch.

4. Lunges

This exercise exists in various forms, such as lunge jumps. It builds muscle in the leg area thus enabling one to throw stronger kicks.

5. Barbell Squats

A compound exercise that is executed with legs apart at shoulder-length. Barbell squats have variants such as pistol squats without weights. These squats work the glutes, quads, hamstring, and core.

If you want to protect your wrists, ensure you buy the best karate gloves by following the link to an article of mine on the topic.

Is Karate Better Than The Gym?

Most people would argue that getting to that gym is the best way to improve physical fitness, however, karate practitioners contest that martial art is better in terms of physical fitness and holistic wellness. So, is karate better than the gym?

Gym only focuses on keeping one fit, while karate improves physical fitness and mental health. Karate is superior as it teaches effective self-defense and relieves stress. Karate has rewards that are measurable using the belt ranking system. It involves a full-body workout, as opposed to the gym that works muscle groups.

Karate dojo

Karate creates harmony between the mind and body. The martial art involves strength training and body conditioning exercises that build muscle and improve the general body physique. Karate improves concentration, calmness, and focus of the mind. Moreover, it instills values such as proper attitude, fearlessness, perseverance, and virtue.

Karate teaches efficient fighting techniques that enable students to defend themselves and loved ones in life-threatening situations, as opposed to the gym, which only builds strength.

It educates the student on timing and precision to be able to execute the techniques effectively. Karate builds natural reflexes in those who practice it, making them alert at all times.

Karate has a belt ranking system that awards students who advance their skills with belts. The more one advances their skill, the more they get closer to getting the black belt that renders them a karate master. There are no rewards for gym consistency except for the improvement of body physique.

Gym goers train different muscle groups each day to achieve a full body workout in a week, while karate training involves full body workouts in one session.

Which Martial Arts Build The Most Muscle?

Learning martial arts has proven to have numerous benefits for those who take it up. Generally, martial arts improve mental and physical fitness, but some more than others are excellent at providing full body workouts. Which martial arts build the most muscle?

Martial Arts that build the most muscle are karate, BJJ, Krav Maga, boxing, and Muay Thai. They provide full body workouts and an aerobic physique. These martial arts involve strength training and body conditioning exercises that prompt hypertrophy.


Karate integrates cardiovascular training with muscular workouts that aid in building muscle mass. During karate training, the body makes speedy, fiery movements that aid in sustaining good form and stability.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga training consists of high-intensity physical workouts with conditioning and drills. It includes bag training, which aids in executing some moves. This exercise is an exceptional full-body workout that leads to losing weight and building muscle.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

BJJ training focuses on ground fighting and grappling techniques. It teaches endurance and natural reflexes. This is a great martial art for burning extra calories and developing hypertrophy.


Boxing involves intense workout routines and bag training to improve technique. Moreover, it develops core strength and muscle strength.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai includes a combination of combat techniques that use elbows and knees and clinching techniques. It focuses on massive conditioning and carrying out techniques that increase strength, muscle, and stamina. 

Final Words

Blatantly, martial arts are greatly instrumental to the people who choose to pursue them.

Most martial arts integrate strength training and conditioning in their classes. Karate is used to bulk up if combined with proper nutrition and muscle recovery. Karate is far much better than the gym as it not only focuses on physical fitness but also mental health.

Enroll in a martial art class today and get the packaged benefits the disciplines yield.


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

Recent Posts