This is the article that got me interested in VRTs. I think you will enjoy the article, but be advised that the so-called "techniques" no longer link to other Internet sites. The article appeared in the late nineties, if memory serves me.

Dynamic Tension Training

Adding Strength Without Using Weights

By Jimmie Nixdorf

Bruce Lee (above) was a big believer in dynamic tension training, and often conducted exercises in his backyard.

Does training with weights make you a better martial artist? That is a question martial artists have long pondered. Certainly, weight training gives you added strength. But does that newfound strength come at the expense of flexibility, speed and coordination?
No matter which side you take in the weight-training debate, one point is inarguable: Strength is a vital component of effective fighting techniques.
But what is the best method of improving the power in your techniques? Is it weight training, as some insist, or are there other ways to increase strength?
One alternative to weight training that many martial artists are discovering is "dynamic tension." Dynamic tension exercises are movements which are performed against imaginary resistance, and which are integrated with controlled breathing techniques. For example, rather than hit a heavy bag with a punch or kick, the practitioner can tighten his muscles and restrict his technique as though someone was pushing against it. Although dynamic tension might appear to be a "lazy man's approach" to strength conditioning, these exercises are a great aid to muscle development.

Dynamic Tension Exercises

One advantage of dynamic tension training is that you can build strength as you practice your martial arts techniques, which is not the case in weight training. Virtually any martial arts technique may be used in dynamic tension training. Begin with basic techniques and progress to advanced maneuvers as you get comfortable with the exercises.
If you are practicing martial arts techniques, start each dynamic tension exercise by assuming the desired stance, then begin to deliver the various hand strikes, blocks, etc. Tighten the muscles in your hand, arm and shoulder as you punch, moving slowly and deliberately forward against the self-imposed resistance.
Kicks may also be practiced using dynamic tension, but they are more difficult than upper-body maneuvers due to the fact you must balance on one leg during the technique. Begin with low kicks and increase the height as your legs develop tolerance to the exercises.
Once you have mastered practicing single maneuvers with dynamic tension, you may begin practicing combinations of techniques.

Technique #1

Another approach to training is to practice dynamic tension techniques while traveling across the training area. This allows the practitioner to improve his mobility as he moves across the floor against his own resistance. These "traveling drills" also strengthen the practitioner's foundation, which is the starting point for the execution of strong techniques.

Many classical karate forms, including the sanchin kata (above) have examples of dynamic tension in their movements.

Once a student is comfortable with traveling exercises, he can incorporate forms into the drills, altering the forms if necessary to accommodate the dynamic tension workout. In fact, many forms, such as karate's sanchin kata, already include tension segments. Dynamic tension training can add new insight and meaning to the practitioner's general understanding of the form.
Non-martial arts movements can also be practiced using dynamic tension exercises. One such approach is "mock weight training," which mimics the exercises of conventional weight training, using dynamic tension movements. Martial arts training equipment can also be utilized with these tension drills, if so desired. For example, a staff may be used as a substitute for a weight bar, and sticks can replace dumbbells. The practitioner should also mentally assign a weight to the object, and tense his muscles accordingly.
Virtually all upper-body weightlifting exercises (curls, bench presses, military presses, etc.) can be simulated in mock weight training. Leg exercises such as the leg press and hamstring curls can also be performed with dynamic tension, but are generally conducted without supplemental objects, with the exception of squats.
Remember to perform all dynamic tension exercises in a slow, forceful, restrained manner. You should move as if you were practicing the techniques in water, which is another way in which martial artists can develop strength without weights.

Technique #2


No discussion of dynamic tension training is complete without mention of proper breathing techniques. Breathing is the backbone of tension training, setting the pace of the techniques while adding power to them. The muscles tense as you exhale, hardening the body against impact while increasing a strike's penetration potential. Be sure to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth as you practice. Inhalation should occur as you prepare to execute a technique, and should only be momentary. Exhalation should occur as you actually deliver the technique, and should last the entire duration of the maneuver. If done properly, inhalation should take a maximum of one second, while exhalation should last 10-20 seconds.

Dynamic Tension vs. Weight Training

Is dynamic tension a better approach than weight training for developing strength in a martial artist? Actually, both methods can effectively enhance muscular strength, but each does so in a different way. Weight training strengthens muscle groups by gradually increasing their work load. Dynamic tension, on the other hand, accomplishes the same task by working different muscle groups against one another. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, which should be considered prior to training.
First, you cannot train with weights unless you have the necessary equipment, be it a weight machine or free weights. These items generally must either be purchased, or you must join a club which has weight equipment-either of which is costly. Dynamic tension training, conversely, does not require the use of equipment; the exercises can be practiced anywhere. Since nature has provided everything needed for dynamic tension training, it costs the practitioner nothing to exercise.

Technique #3

In addition, weight training is fraught with potential dangers. For example, when training with free weights, the practitioner must have a partner to act as a spotter to prevent the bar from slipping and causing serious injury. Although this danger is greatly reduced when using weight machines, it is still a good idea to use a spotter to prevent damage to the machine from falling weights. Obviously, a partner is not required to ensure a practitioner's safety when conducting dynamic tension training.

Dynamic tension exercises (below) are movements performed slowly against imaginary resistance. All types of martial arts techniques can be practiced in this manner, including entire forms.

Unlike weight training, however, dynamic tension is not an exact science. The stress created in tension training is mostly mental, while weightlifting is based on a physical work load. To say one approach is better than the other, however, would do a grave injustice to both training methods. Both have proven effective at developing strength. In fact, the two approaches can be combined for a more well-rounded training program. For example, a practitioner who trains with weights three days a week could incorporate dynamic tension on his off days with little or no adverse effect to his body.


Dynamic tension is an effective alternative to weight training. It develops strength, speed, range of motion, flexibility and endurance. It can also reinforce a practitioner's understanding of martial arts techniques and principles, and improve concentration.
Perhaps most importantly, as the physical benefits of tension training take effect, the practitioner will develop a more positive self-image, which will in turn positively affect other areas of his life.

Edited 1 time by Royce2u May 2 09 11:01 PM.