United States Sports Academy
America's Sports University®

The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Physical Training in Taekwondo


Taekwondo and other martial sports (i.e., combat arts) activities have become very popular and many people of all ages practice such activities over the world. A review of medical literature demonstrates that involvement in martial arts has many health benefits. These health benefits including increasing strength and self-efficacy, increasing exercise capacity, reducing falls, and beneficial to the immune system and autonomic nervous system (Burke et al., 2007).
Considering that Taekwondo is a quick and explosive sport, it is inevitable that Taekwondo performance will be better enhanced thru sport specific movements and anaerobic conditioning (Pieter et al, 1990). Taekwondo is a martial art that needs quick and powerful offensive and defensive skills to strike and prevent an opponent affectively. It’s important and prudent to develop a sport specific movement training and conditioning program that addresses these skills to be successful in competition (Butio & Tasika, 2007; Smith, 2003).

Taekwondo is a physically demanding sport that is dominated by kicks and punches with points scored by delivering blows to the opponent (Bueke et al, 2007; Probst et al, 2007). Different weight and rule will effect sport science training for taekwondo competition. Taekwondo became recognized as an official sport at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and so will be in the coming Bejin Olympics in 2008. As mentioned above, a successful performance in such a physically demanding sport needs a well-conditioned and well-trained program, aiming at improving aerobic and anaerobic capacity, speed, muscle strength, recovery and neuromuscular coordination during the training course. For example, the elite martial arts athletes need good strength, flexibility, balanced training, effective exercises, knee stability and conditioning to prevent the occurrence of injures and to improve further performance (Amtmann 2004; Probst et al, 2007).

Guidetti et al. (2002) suggested that physical fitness (indicated by individual anaerobic threshold and maximal oxygen consumption) and upper-body muscular strength (indicated by hand-grip strength) as two basic factors related to boxing performance. Furthermore, some elite athletes represent the extreme of the human gene pool, where genetic endowment is trained by intensive sports fitness training and conditioning. Thus the knowledge of exercise physiology helps understanding normal physiological function (Maughan, 2007).

Since elite Taekwondo athletes must have high speed and power to win the international games (Heller et al, 1998), an intense sports fitness training program is important for these excellent athletes. All Taekwondo training activities seemed suitable for cardiovascular conditioning, whereas different training activities induced a different load to the cardiovascular system. Therefore, only when their cardio-respiratory function, along with their energy expenditure and blood lactate system are well-conditioned can they show potential and maintain high performance. It implicates that coaches need to structure Taekwondo training sessions based on sufficient cardiovascular conditioning as well as technical and tactical needs of the athletes for competition (Bridge et al, 2007).

Understanding the physiological parameters of physical activity and exercise provides insights into performance efficiency and function (Bridge et al, 2007; Probst et al, 2007; Maughan, 2007). When studying these physiological parameters one needs to look into various components that may occur during recovery, including relationship between protein and physical function, quantity and intensity of training, athlete’s age and environment, the effect of emotion on protein metabolism, etc. The greater degree of the fatigue is, the more negative effects of training will be, such as low rate of recovery, decreased coordination, and diminished power output, etc (Probst et al, 2007). Previous studies have reported overstraining syndrome as a serious problem marked by decreased performance, increased fatigue, persistent muscle soreness, mood disturbances, and feeling ‘burned out ‘ or stale (Arja and Uusitalo, 2001).


To maintain good performance throughout the competitive phase, the athletes are expected to maintain these physiological parameters within the good ranges (Bompa, 1999). This is very important to both coaches and athletes (Imamura et al, 1999). The determination of these physiological parameters such as the anaerobic threshold (AT) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) through incremental exercise testing, and the relevance of these variables to performance, is a major requirement for coaches and athletes (Cooke et al, 1997). Therefore, the integrated physiological assessment of anatomical physiological, biochemical and functional changes specific to the sport discipline, physical conditioning and anaerobic/aerobic capacity in particular, may contribute to designing an optimal training load and verify the effectiveness of training programs, identify poor athlete responders, control the compliance of the training, and optimize performance in various sports (Heller et al, 1998; Hoff et al, 2002; Hoffman & Kang, 2002; Impellizzeri et al., 2005).


Arja, L.T., Uusitalo(2001). Overtraining-Making a Difficult Diagnosis and Implementing Targeted Treatment. Phy Sports Med, 29, 1-14.

Amtmann, J.A.(2004). Self-reported training methods of mixed martial artists at a regional reality fighting event. J Strength Cond Res,18(1), 194-6.

Bompa, T.O.(1999). Periodization training for sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Burke, D.T., Al-Adawi, S., Lee, Y.T., & Audette, J.(2007). Martial arts as sport and therapy. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 47, 96-102.

Butios, S., & Tasika, N.(2007). Changes in heart rate and blood lactate concentration as intensity parameters during simulated Taekwondo competition. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 47, 179-185.

Bridge, C.A., Jones, M.A., Hitchen, P., & Sanchez, X.(2007). Heart rate responses to Taekwondo training in experienced practitioners. J Strength Cond Res, 21, 718-723.

Butio, S., & Tasika, N.(2007). Changes in heart rate and blood lactate concentration as intensity parameters during simulated Taekwondo competition. J Sports Med Phys Fitness,47,179-185.

Cooke, S.R., Petersen, S.R., & Quinney, H.A.(1997). The influence of maximal aerobic power on recovery of skeletal muscle following anaerobic exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol , 75, 512-519.

Pieter, W., Taaffe, D., & Heijmans, J.(1990). Heart rate response to Taekwondo forms and technique combinations. A pilot study. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 30, 97-102.

Smith, D.J.(2003). Framework for understanding the training process leading to elite performance. J Sports Sci, 33, 1103-26.

Probst, M.M., Fletcher, R.,& Seelig, D.S.(2007). A comparison of lower-body flexibility, strength, and knee stability between karate athletes and active controls. J Strength Cond Res, 21, 451-455.

Guidetti, L., Musulin, A.,& Baldari, C.(2002). Physiological factors in middleweight boxing performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 42, 309-314.

Maughan, R.(2007). Physiology of sport. Br J Hosp Med (Lond), 68, 376-379.

Mohsen K., Heather S., & Young S. C. (2005). Pre-competition habits and injuries in Tae-kwon-do athletes . BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 6, 26.

Heller, J., Peric, T., Dlouhá, R., Kohlíková, E., Melichna, J.,& Nováková, H.(1998).

Physiological profiles of male and female Taekwondo (ITF) black belts. J Sports Sci, 16, 243-9.

Hoff, J., Wisløff, U., Engen, L.C.,& Kemi, O.J., & Helgerud, J.(2002). Soccer specific aerobic endurance training. Br J Sports Med, 36, 218-221.

Hultman, E.,& Sahlin, K.(1980). Acid-base balance during exercise. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, 8, 41-128.

Imamura, H., Yoshimura, Y., Nishimura, S., Nakazawa, A.T., Nishimura, C., & Shirota, T.(1999).

Oxygen uptake, heart rate, and blood lactate responses during and following karate training. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 31, 342-347.

Impellizzeri, F.M., Rampinini, E.,& Marcora, S.M.(2005). Physiological assessment of aerobic training in soccer. J Sports Sci, 23, 583-592.

Zabukovec, R.,& Tiidus, P.M.(1995). Physiological and anthropometrical profile of elite kick boxers. J Strength Cond Res, 9, 240-242.