Monday, July 30, 2012

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes

This is a continuation of Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Beginners 

For more advanced practitioners with a solid cardiovascular base, your heart and lungs stop being the limiting factor for your performance as much, and your utilised muscles become a limiting factor. Your muscles utilise 3 different energy systems, and without getting too much into the chemistry and biology of it, they can be explained as:
  • ATP-PC: All exercise starts with this system and it lasts for about 3-10 seconds of near max effort. It provides energy very quickly and is important for max strength and powerful movements.
  • Anaerobic system: Kicks in about 3-5 seconds in, and runs for the length of your exercise. High rate of energy generation, but can reach its limits relatively quickly.
  • Aerobic system: Starts running after about 10-30 seconds of effort. It has a slower rate of energy generation but lasts for much longer.
Your aerobic and anaerobic systems work in concert, with each feeding the other, both utilised in different quantities to meet your energy needs, as your intensity increases you utilise your anaerobic system more, and at longer lower intensities, you rely on your aerobic system more.
Importantly your body becomes better at performing using the energy systems at the levels you use them at. That means to improve your cardio while sparring, you should make your cardio workouts as similar to sparring as possible. The current national rules for WTF sparring this is 3 rounds of 1:30 with 30 second breaks in between for Open Division Black Belts, so we should train like this.
So we will structure our workout with the same times in mind, but we are going to add one extra round to add that volume of training to your work. So in the case of 3 rounds of 1:30, we will do 1 and a half minutes of work, then 30 seconds rest, doing nothing. Then we repeat that 3 more times.
If your number of rounds, and/or round and rest times differ, adjust your interval times accordingly.
So what do we do in that 1 and half minutes? Well we can take 2 different approaches (and use them together.) Firstly we could do some general conditioning, this is any form of cardio, such as running or swimming; my favourite being the rowing machine as nice easy full body work. In our work time we want to get as far as possible in the minute and a half we have, this is our benchmark for performance.
A sample session would look like this:
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Finish
Now, what do we do with these distances? Well I'm sure you understand the importance of not going all out in the first round and having nothing left for the last, so we're going to take an easy approach to scoring your effort; you just record the shortest distance achieved. So if you got to 200m, 205m, 190m, 315m; your score would be 190m, as it is the shortest, this is the score you want to improve over time, so pacing is very important.

This style of general conditioning is really handy, as you can do it by yourself, and track your results easily and objectively, but the carry over to your sparring performance isn't as good as it could be, that's where sport's specific conditioning comes in.
Sports specific conditioning aims to replicate your actual competition environment as closely as possible. So what I like to do is pick a few of my staple moves (for instance axe kick and roundhouse) and aim for high repetitions. An example would be:
  • Alternating legs roundhouse kick for 1:30 (record number of kicks)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Repeat 3 more times
Again you would record the lowest number of kicks for the 4 rounds and try and improve this.
I would also do this for my axe kick, making sure to keep my scores separate as they aren't comparable.
Another variation is to add in a some footwork as a separate drill (e.g inch in to roundhouse, inch back out) you will get less repetitions for the same time, but it better simulates the requirements on your body.
Try these out and let me know your scores.

Alex is a Kukkiwon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo -
New Form Fitness –


Anonymous said...

Are there any strength training workouts that you recommend? Squats, deadlifts, etc.? Thanks!

Alex said...

I'm actually going to do a few write ups on various facets of strength training as it relates to Taekwondo. If you're a beginner, anything that's hard is a good place to start.

As for squats and deadlifts, love 'em, they will definitely benefit. My other favourites are a hang power-clean and KB swing.