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Martial Arts Training: Irradiation Principle


The irradiation concept is a must-know for anybody serious about martial arts and strength training. The principle of irradiation will increase your strength, speed, and power. And it is fantastic for preparing the body for athletics and sports.

Look at it like this: what you do during your deadlift will augment your strength more than just doing a deadlift. And the same goes for squatting and all exercises and activity imaginable. For example, irradiation is a technique to try during your movements, techniques, and exercises because it will instantly increase your rep count and power.

What is the Principle of Irradiation?

The irradiation idea was developed in the 1890s by Charles Scott Sherrington. His concept implies that as impulses from the nervous system increase, they transfer the signal to other muscles to contract. A muscle that generates significant tension will recruit and exacerbate the tension of the surrounding muscles.

Donald Hebb, a prominent psychologist considered the "father of neuropsychology," also contributed to Sherrington’s Law. Hebb stated, "Cells that fire together will wire together." His discovery indicates that any two cells or systems regularly active at the same moment will connect and activate together.

Irradiation Techniques

Try it out. Put one hand on your triceps. Start by clenching your other hand by making a fist as tightly as possible. You can do it slowly or quickly, tightening your grip to max tension. You'll feel the contraction all the way up to your triceps. Unconsciously, this irradiation recruits all the muscles up to your mid-back. You can also touch your chest, shoulder, and back muscles to feel the impulse when doing the grip technique.

Are you having trouble perceiving irradiation using the grip? Therefore, try this. Stand tall and clench your glutes the same way as described with the grip. Slowly or fast to max tension. It is essential to feel what is occurring between the relaxation and contraction. As you tighten your glutes, you will also feel your abdominal and leg muscles contract all the way down to your feet, rooting into the floor. There is an added irradiation effect if you do nasal diaphragmatic breathing that tenses the core.

Understand when your muscles create maximum tension and force, they irradiate that tension to the neighbouring muscles. The stronger you become using irradiation, the more connected your muscles will be throughout your whole body.

An Important Remark Regarding Stability

To create maximum force and power, proper alignment and stability are required. If your joints lack stability and your hips and spine are misaligned, your strength potential will be diminished. You can force yourself to become stronger; however, this will only harm your body. What you don’t understand about your nervous system is that your ability to increase tension and force is restricted when stability is lacking.

So, no matter how much force you generate or how many weights you stack on the bar to increase force, you are more likely to suffer from strain and injury rather than increase strength. Simply put, if something is not stable, the force will cause it to crumble and fall.

Therefore, if you wish to get stronger, consider stability first! As I explain to everyone, stability is like the difference between diving into a lake from a dock versus a canoe. The dock is sturdy, and you can generate force from the sturdy platform to increase speed, height, and force. However, you cannot do the same from an unstable canoe on the water. Consequently, stability is the key to achieving peak strength, power, and explosiveness.

What does this signify?

When doing a squat, deadlift, shoulder press, bench press, etc., you can use irradiation to actively activate your lats, core, glutes, and grip. Irradiation induces isometric contraction, which enhances muscle tension and structural stability. The nervous system picks up on the tension and allows greater force augmentation.

Consequently, if you apply the irradiation theory to your five-rep maximum, you can perform more repetitions.

Therefore, recognize that your lack of stability and misalignment may prevent you from optimizing your strength.

As your neuromuscular condition and coordination improve, your injury risk decreases as you activate the systems that enhance your strength.

How to Implement Irradiation Tension During Exercises

Utilizing the lats during Squats, Deadlifts, Rows, and Presses.


When you bring the bar onto your upper back, pull down on the bar and pull your elbows toward your ribs. This will activate and engage your core, mid-back, and lats.


Pinch your armpits. You will activate your lats throughout the deadlift by drawing your elbows toward your body. At the top of the deadlift, contract your glutes. As you descend, bend slightly forward onto your big toe, and you will feel additional muscular contractions. In addition, foot position will stimulate the ankles, knees, and hips.


Maximally clenching the bar with your fist will engage all the arm's muscles, from the forearm to your mid-back.

Unilateral Shoulder Press

The first approach to improve your press is to tighten and clench your non-working hand's fist. And at the same time, clench your glutes. In this manner, the shoulder press engages the entire body, not just the shoulders. In addition, the isometric contraction chain augments tension and force in the nervous system for the working arm to do more work, hence increasing the number of repetitions.

The second method involves using a resistance band. Attach it high, so it provides a great deal of resistance when pulled down. Pull it down and maintain the isometric single-arm lat pull while performing dumbbell shoulder presses with the opposite arm. Also, contract your glutes as you press. This is my preferred method because it is very effective!

Bench Press

When performing a bench press, maintain a tight grip on the bar and attempt to bend it like a strongman. Gripping and trying to bend the bar will cause your elbows to move toward your ribs, activating your lats. This signal of irradiation reaches your shoulders and upper back muscles as well. During the concentric portion of the push, you can press your feet into the floor. This will engage your core, glutes, and hips, allowing your entire body to work during the bench press.

Understand sometimes, tension is created by clenching, increasing abdominal tension, your grip, or altering your foot position. Now that you know what irradiation is and how it functions, try to include it in your movements.

Check out the book INSTANT STRENGTH for more info about strength, speed, power, and explosive training or, to see more great videos to develop your sport and training, watch the BALANCED BODY channel.

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