Will Martial Arts Help My Child Get Stronger?

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Martial arts offer many benefits. Kids can become more disciplined, better able to cope with challenges, and more confident. But will martial arts help my child get stronger?

Here’s what I’ve seen:

As a general rule, martial arts will help a child become stronger as it is a full-body workout, and the techniques are almost always accompanied by related warm-up exercises that condition the body. Some are more physically demanding than others, but all will improve strength.

But there’s a lot more to know, and mental strength can improve also!

In this article, we’ll look at the best age for a child to start martial arts and how martial arts build strength. But we’ll also find out if they help build muscle faster than going to a gym.

Let the fun begin.

What is the best age for a child to start martial arts?

The best age for a child to start martial arts with the greatest likelihood of sticking with it is between the ages of 7-10. But many schools will take children as young as 3, and starting at any age is better than not starting at all.

Good martial art schools place a premium on safety, so the children won’t be engaged in anything demanding, difficult, or dangerous. Now, there are some schools that offer martial arts for children that are very young. Say, three years old. Is this right?

It’s hard to judge unless we know what the children are being taught.

If it’s something that’s around simple, stress-free, fun games and exercises, there’s no problem. At the school I helped run for many years, our classes for 3 and 4-year-olds were focused on simple, fun movements. The goal was not to teach the kids to fight (in fact, sparring didn’t happen until age 7).

Instead, the goal was to build focus, resilience, and discipline.

But ideally, you want to do a free trial class or two before deciding to enroll your child. And you’ll want them to be older, at least 7 or 8, before they compete with others.

But why age 7? And is a teenager too old to start?

To learn more about the best age for a child to start martial arts, check out a recent article of mine. I get into the science behind the ages and exactly how a child sticking with it improves at a certain age.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do martial arts build strength?

Martial arts help build strength as the opening warmups are a full-body workout that works and conditions all parts of the body, even muscles that don’t normally see a lot of use. Then, following the warm-up, the techniques drilled are also often physically strenuous.

Strength training and conditioning the body are integral to most martial arts.

In addition to the fact that the core martial arts techniques would entail putting more load on your muscles, some also involve conditioning exercises such as running, punching bags, lifting weights, and similar activities.

But there’s a secondary benefit to a strenuous opening workout.

By tiring us out before the martial arts training even starts, we go into the training with a lot less tension. With less tension, we are more in tune with our body and our partner’s body.

In short, alleviating excess tension allows us to be a lot more sensitive to the energy around us. And that is one of the keys to being a great martial artist.

The arms, legs, and abdominal area are highly impacted when you’re practicing martial arts. Take a martial art, such as Muay Thai, where the fists, elbows, knees, and legs are used a lot. As you know, each time you move these parts, your muscles are involved.

So, the many times you repeat these movements, the stronger your muscles become. The muscles affected include your:

  • hip flexors
  • lats
  • glute complex
  • quadratus lumborum
  • spinal erectors
  • abdominal muscles

When you’re just getting started, you’ll most probably not become stronger right away.

In fact, you may experience some pains (this is normal because you haven’t been using those parts of the body in such an intense manner), but after a while, you’ll come to enjoy the exercises as you feel lighter and stronger and you’ll shed unwanted weight.

One other reason you’ll become stronger is that martial arts help improve your cardiovascular strength.

While engaged in practicing the techniques, whether you’re doing it alone or sparring, your heart rate would be faster, ensuring a better flow of blood through your body.

It’s interesting how martial arts impact the body, but will it help your child at school?

This is what I explored in a recent article of mine. I get into exactly what benefits your child is likely to see. But I also cover why that happens and how it can actually impact your child’s performance and attitude at school.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Do martial arts build muscle faster than the gym?

No, martial arts do not build muscles faster than in a gym. In a gym, there is a greater emphasis on building muscles than in most martial arts. And most martial arts schools will focus on cardio activities and not weight or strength training.

And weight training will always build muscles faster than cardio.

In fact, there are martial arts where being muscular can be a constraint. Take Aikido, BJJ, and Judo, the focus is more on employing a strategy, such that you can use an opponent’s strength and momentum against them (even if you’re not as heavy or as strong as they are).

How you move, how you position certain parts of your body, and your nimbleness is more important than being ripped. And being too muscular may affect how fast you can move.

So, while most martial arts will help you build muscles, for fast results, the gym is a better choice. Judo is one of the martial arts I cited as an example of a style where muscular mass is not the most critical.

Now, Judo does help you in building muscles if that is one of your goals, but can it help you build strength?

That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine where I looked at the muscles Judo works on and whether Judo is hard on the body. But I also shared some info about what sort of training is required for Judo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Will martial arts help my child deal with bullies?

Yes, martial arts will help a child deal with bullies as it equips children with skills they can use to defend themselves. But they also become more confident and can regulate their emotions better, which actually allows them to avoid most confrontations before they escalate.

Martial arts do not encourage violence.

But children who know martial arts know how to defend themselves if they have to. This could entail using a bully’s power and motion against them, counter attacks, or even how to directly inflict harm as a form of protection.

If the situation warrants it.

In fact, it’s almost proverbial that a lot of people picked up martial arts as a way to cope with bullies. Bullies are often not really interested in fighting per se, but rather in taking advantage of those they believe are weaker than they are.

Children who are taking martial arts classes are naturally more confident.

It’s confidence borne out of training. They now know certain techniques they can deploy if they are in danger. This confidence can even be discerned in their posture and how they carry themselves.

Suppose your child says they’re interested in Judo, and you’re wondering what its pros and cons are.

A recent article of mine is a complete guide in which I shared its upsides and downsides and whether it’s effective. But I also shared whether it’s useful in MMA or self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which martial art is best for improving core strength?

The best martial arts for improving core strength are Muay Thai, BJJ, or Judo. These arts typically have a vigorous opening workout and utilize a great deal of core strength in doing the techniques.

It’s not really a martial art as much as a self-defense system, but Krav Maga is good also. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see Krav Maga paired with CrossFit gyms.

By the way, you might be wondering what’s “core strength”? 

The core (the torso) refers to a group of muscles that controls and stabilizes the spine and pelvis.

The muscles include:

The lumbar muscles, quadratus Lumborum (deep portion), deep rotators, cervical muscles, rectus capitus anterior and lateralis, longus coli may also be considered members of the core group. And, the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

Phew! That’s a lot of biological jargon. Just think of the core as the torso.

A lot of martial arts would help you improve core strength because, as we saw earlier, most are full-body workouts. But if I am constrained to choose one, I’ll suggest you pick Muay Thai.

It’s very demanding physically, and you’d lose a lot of weight.

Apart from the core Muay Thai techniques, there’s a lot of conditioning work required. This is one of the reasons most MT fighters are lean and ripped.

Kids Awesome Martial Arts Compilation 2020


In the article, we looked at the best age for a child to start martial arts and how martial arts build strength. But we also found out if they help build muscle faster than going to a gym. Then, we checked out whether they help children deal with bullies.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering the best martial art for improving core strength.

Photo by Marta Wave from Pexels

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