Rick Tew's NinjaGym Online Diet & Exercise Lesson

Diet and Exercise – Shaping up the Body

How to Shape up the Body in the Martial Arts

Ninja Shape Up (the Fantastic Four, Fitness Kickboxing and Kettlebell)

Much effort is spent on training and developing our technique. In order for us to perform these skills as well as maneuver through obstacles, we need to have a foundation for strength. I believe that being in shape is gained from two perspectives. One being Internal and the Second being External.

Inside I am speaking more of endurance and the strengths that are gained from such exercises as running, biking and swimming.

Outside I am talking more about muscle and our physique.

There are numerous exercises designed to develop our muscles, but I am going to focus on what I believe to be the 4 primary exercises for developing a well rounded foundation in strength. These exercises will assist in giving you the power needed for achieving your image of a Total Warrior. There are four strength training exercises, two that are pulling and two that are pushing. I call these exercises the FANTASTIC FOUR.


1. Close Grip Pull Ups.
This exercise develops the lower lats, biceps and forearms.

  • Grab onto the pull up bar with hands 6-8 inches apart.
  • Pull up, trying to touch your chin to the bar.
  • Try to keep your back slightly hyper-extended.
  • Don’t allow your body to swing back and forth.

2. Wide Grip Pull Up.
This exercise develops the upper lats and shoulders.

  • Grab the pull up bar with hands approximately 32-34 inches apart.
  • Pull up, trying to touch your chin to the bar.
  • Try to keep your back slightly hyper-extended.
  • Do not allow your body to swing back and forth


1. Dips.
This exercise develops the pectorals and triceps.

  • Hold yourself erect on the dip attachment bar.
  • Keep elbows into the sides, lower your body by bending shoulders and elbows.
  • Continue down as far as you can, pause, then press back to arms length.
  • Do not allow your body to swing back and forth.

2. Eleveated Push-Ups.
This exercise develops the triceps and pectorals.

  • Kneel on floor and hold push-up attachment handles.
  • Place legs out straight behind you, keep back straight and head up.
  • Keeping your lower body rigid, elbows in, lower yourself downward as far as you can, pause at the bottom, then press to starting position

One of the reasons that I believe these exercises are important and a great foundation for success, is because they are simple. This type of strength training uses your own body weight for resistance. This is important for martial science training.

Another bonus is that most of these exercises are easy to do. If you don’t have the equipment, most parks offer all you need to do these exercises. When I started training, I used chairs for doing the push ups. Below I will list a few additional exercises we use at our camps to also focus on cross training and pulling and pushing muscles.

Rock Climbing
This is a great way to have fun while you workout. Not only are you performing a lot of pull up – type of techniques, you are forced to be very focused on your movements (great for living in the Now).

Rope Climbing
Another great body shaper that we use at our Martial Arts Camps is a climbing rope course. Hang the thickest rope you can find for vertical or horizontal climbs. Each climbing will work the muscles in a slightly different way. Climbing vertical with no legs will do wonders for your upper abs.

Horizontal Climbing Wall
This obstacle may not look like much, but it is a killer body workout. It is a pushing exercise. Consider combining the benefits of push ups, yoga and Jackie Chan like movements for a workout that is more fun than twister.

Legs need love too
Remember to train the legs as part of your weekly workouts. At our Martial Art camps it is hard not to make a solid use of your legs with all the kicking and bag work – but jumping over obstacles or doing Slow Motion Kicking are just a few of the exercises that will add value to your workout.

Horizontal Bars
Doing pull ups isn’t the only thing you can do with a horizontal bar. Try experimenting with a variety of ideas that get you into action.

Get Creative
Exercise does not have to be boring. Get creative and find some ways to work out that are fun. Keep clear head when it comes to safety and work with a certified instructor as well as consider placing mats around your workout area in case you fall. You don’t have to lift typical weights to get a great workout – for example, moving tires from one pile to another might be the perfect gym for many people. Just be sure to keep an eye on your posture and movements.


Be sure to get enough rest if you are pushing your body to the limits. I would suggest a full body workout every 4 days. This helps to keep the Fantastic Four strategy easy to remember:

  • 4 minute dynamic stretching warmup
  • 4 Key Exercises
  • Maximum workout time = 40 minutes
  • Every 4 days

Each week you might want to adjust the 4 Key Exercises a little to target various parts of the muscles.

No training program should be set in stone, experiment with these and see what you can do to increase your overall performance. If you stick to the program, I can bet you will be well on your well to a well designed and powerful physique.

Fitness Kickboxing

In addition to building your muscle, you can also work on a mixed cardio drill designed to get the heart rate up for 20-40 minutes. We use a pattern developed by Rick Tew as part of our NinjaGym for cross fitness training that also incorporates some of the basics of the Martial Science. Below are a few examples of our warm up drill.

The video below gives you another basic idea behind some of the movements in our fitness kickboxing warm up (video only shows a few parts of the actual session which lasts about 40 minutes).

For more details on Diet and Exercise, visit the following pages:

Kettlebell Training

Click here to go to Diet

Click here to learn about Coconut Oil

by Rick Tew

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About the author:

Rick Tew is an internationally acclaimed Sensei or teacher in the martial arts and founder of CMS – College of Martial Science and NinjaGym. He runs Live-In Short and Long term Martial Arts Training and Adventure Camps in California and Thailand.

Utilizing the martial arts as a gateway to excellence, he created his personal development programs. His courses are for everyone who wants to integrate mind, body, and spirit to access his or her true potential.

Rick Tew’s Winjitsu, The Mental Martial Art System for Success, has helped his students to overcome their fear and become successful in what they love and passionate about.

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