Does Taekwondo Help With Cardio?

Martial artists on floor training

While many already recognize taekwondo as an effective self-defense mechanism, many are unsure of its cardiovascular benefits. So, does taekwondo help with cardio?

For the average person, taekwondo is a great method of working out. According to research, practicing Taekwondo has been proposed to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular fitness as well as general physical ability. 

Not only does it increase endurance and stamina, but it teaches the practitioner new methods of self-defense—while providing a great cardiovascular workout.

In and of itself, taekwondo is an excellent source of cardio aerobic conditioning.

In every class, students are led through a series of exercises that increases their heart rate and provides a healthy workout.

For the average sedentary individual, taekwondo may be all that is needed to begin to embrace a new, healthier, and more active lifestyle.


Is Taekwondo Good for Cardio?

No doubt, when most people begin to study taekwondo, the workout will truly push their bodies to physical levels never before experienced.

After a period of time, however, the students will commonly become accustomed to the training and will subconsciously learn how to pace themselves throughout the workout.

Because of this fact, the workout will not be as intense.

There is one part of a taekwondo class that normally makes practitioners realize whether or not they need to add additional cardio-aerobic training to their regimen. That part of the class is sparring.

Although you can pace yourself throughout the normal class workout, when it comes to sparring, there is little you can do to control the match.

This is particularly true when you come up against a very aggressive opponent.

In these cases, you are oftentimes pushed to your physical limits.

This is the point when a practitioner commonly decides if additional cardio-aerobic conditioning should be added to his or her workout schedule.

Cardio-aerobic training has been a mainstay of virtually all athletes, from every discipline.  This is also the case with taekwondo.

But what is the right program to add to taekwondo training, to enhance endurance, stamina, and overall physical condition?

How Can I Improve My Cardio for Taekwondo?

Here are some cardio-aerobic Conditioning exercises for taekwondo to help improve your cardio.

Running and Taekwondo

There are few activities that are as directly linked to cardiovascular fitness as running. It is an ideal activity to add to your taekwondo training regimen.

Running not only develops bodily endurance, but it develops additional leg strength as well.

Running is an individual activity. As such, it allows you to control how far or how fast you will run.

Beginning to Run

Just as stretching is essential to taekwondo training, it is also essential to running.

Therefore, before you run, you must stretch to loosen up your muscles, in order to avoid unnecessary injury.

After you have stretched, you must warm up your body before you run.

An ideal way to do this is to begin to walk at a fast pace for several hundred yards.

Once your body is warmed up, and you feel you are ready, you may begin your run.

Depending on your current physical condition, an ideal distance to set as a goal for your initial run is half a mile.

To those who have never run, this may seem like an enormous distance, but, in fact, it is not.

It can be comfortably run in approximately fifteen minutes.

To the more seasoned athlete, a half mile may seem like much too short a distance, but for those who have not previously run, it is a good distance to set as a training goal.

When you begin to run, you do not want to overexert yourself or strain your body.

For this reason, even if you can push yourself to run much farther than half a mile, it is not a good idea to do so at the outset.

Instead, let your body become accustomed to running for a few days before you begin to extend your distance.

Once your body begins to feel natural while running, you can begin to run for longer periods of time and for extended distances.

If you are running on a treadmill, it is easy to gauge the distance of the walking and the running portions of your workout.

If you are running on a track, tell yourself that after a certain number of days, perhaps three, you will extend your run by one lap.

If you are running on the beach, you can gauge your run by lifeguard stations, as they are set one-quarter of a mile apart.

At the appropriate time, decide to run to the next station.

If you are running in your neighborhood, push yourself to run one additional block after a few days of training.

The reason for running is to build up your endurance. You will, therefore, want to continually push yourself to run for extended periods of time and for extended distances.

For the average taekwondo practitioner, a maximum of four miles is a common goal.

By achieving this distance, you will be running for approximately thirty to forty-five minutes.

This is plenty of time for your body to gain the cardiovascular workout needed and to send you to the next level of physical fitness.

The Boxer’s Run

For those taekwondo practitioners who are running to enhance their endurance for competition, a training method used by boxers may be employed.

Boxers will jog for a prescribed distance or period of time—most commonly, one mile or ten minutes.

Then, they will sprint for three minutes. As soon as the three minutes are over, they will return to a jog.

They will again jog for one mile and then begin the three-minute sprint.

The reason for the three-minute sprint is that this is the length of a boxing round.

Anyone who has sparred a round during taekwondo training knows that a three-minute round can drain all of your energy.

For this reason, your stamina must be so developed that you can perform at a level of excellence during the three-minute round, rest for a few moments, and then come back and give it your all for a second and a third time.

The boxer’s run is an ideal method to develop this level of endurance.

Sprint Precautions

When it is done correctly, sprint training is a great way to build up your endurance.

The mistake many people make, however, is taking up sprinting before they have trained in distance-oriented endurance running.

They sprint for a short distance and then walk for a few minutes. Once they have cooled down, they sprint again.

This style of running is not a beneficial form of endurance training.

When you train in this manner, you rapidly and unnaturally accelerate your heart rate, and then you allow it to slow down, only to be immediately accelerated again once you have regained your breath.

For this reason, sprint training should only be undertaken once you can comfortably run for four miles.

Then, it should only be performed once you have become acutely aware of your body’s reaction to running—because you will want to stop this advanced endurance training if you find that it is causing any physical problems.

The Cool-Down

Once you have completed your run, what is known as a cool-down (also called a warm-down) is an absolute necessity. You must never finish a run and then immediately get into your car and drive home, or just stop and sit down.

This can cause your muscles to cramp.

An ideal activity to perform as a cool-down after running is to slowly bring your run to a conclusion and then continue to walk for a quarter mile.

Walking allows your heart rate to slow down and your body to cool down in a natural manner.

Once your cool-down is complete, stretching is also an absolute necessity.

Running develops leg muscles. As a taekwondo practitioner, you must keep your legs loose and limber to perform the kicking techniques, so take several minutes to stretch at the end of your cool-down.

Running Precautions

Running is a great source of cardio-aerobic fitness. There is a downside to it, however.

Running can be very damaging to your ankle, knee, and hip joints, and can cause problems with the bones of your feet.

Running on cement is known to pose the biggest problems for a runner’s body.

Cement is a very dense compound. With every stride, this unyielding surface has a hard impact on your feet, which greatly increases the potential for injury.

If you do not wish to purchase a treadmill, or if you do not have access to a gym that provides them, running on a high school or college track is a good alternative to running on cement.

Most schools open their tracks to the public in the afternoon.

Although running on the beach provides a very giving surface for your run, there are also problems with this environment.

Sand possesses little consistency, which means that you may be running along and your foot will sink into a deep crevasse.

This can cause foot, ankle, or knee injuries.

Where you decide to run must be your decision. Wherever you run, it is essential that you pay attention to sprains, joint pain, or muscle pulls, as these seemingly minor injuries can have long-term effects.

Monitor your body carefully. If you are encountering pain, take a few days off and let your body heal.

Bicycling and Taekwondo

Another great form of endurance training is bicycling. Bicycling is much less damaging to the joints of your legs than running.

For this reason, many taekwondo practitioners choose this means of endurance training.

To add bicycling to your training, you begin in much the same manner as you do for running.

You must always begin by stretching to loosen up your muscles and help to prevent muscle-tear injuries.

Once your stretching is complete, you will need a warmup period. In the case of bicycling, this may be riding for a few blocks in a slow and natural pattern.

Once you have warmed up, you will want to increase your speed of travel.

As with running, you can go as fast or as slow as you are comfortable with—whatever feels most natural for you.

You will want to set an initial distance goal for your bicycle ride.

While bicycling, you can easily cover one mile or more without becoming fatigued.

So, one mile to your destination and one mile returning is a good beginning target.

As your endurance grows and you become more comfortable with bicycling, you will want to increase your distance. In the case of bicycling, twenty miles per training session may be your final objective.

Bicycle Sprints

You may wish to eventually add sprints to your bicycling program.

These sprints can go on for three minutes, as in the boxer’s run, or can be extended to a longer period of time, according to your level of endurance.

As with running, you should not tire yourself out, while sprinting, to the degree that you must stop and catch your breath.

Simply slow down your pace when you’ve gone the appropriate time or distance, and continue to your destination.

You may want to sprint for three minutes, go back to a normal pedaling pace for a mile, and then return to a sprint.

Once you have achieved a high enough level of endurance, you may wish to add bicycle sprints at four or five intervals during your ride.

Virtually all modern gyms have computerized stationary bicycles that allow you to set your desired distance, your sprint intervals, and your cool-down level.

So it is not necessary to purchase a bicycle if you wish to add bicycle riding to your overall taekwondo endurance training

Cooling Down

Cooling down is just as necessary with bike riding as it is with running.

Cooling down on a bike ride is, in many ways, easier than it is with running.

For your cool-down, all you will need to do is to slow your pace as you approach your final destination.

You will want to cool down for approximately the final ten minutes of your ride.

Once you have concluded, stretching to loosen up your back and leg muscles is an absolute necessity.

You may then move forward into your day.

Bicycle Precautions

Bicycling is not normally as detrimental to your leg joints as running, but there can be problems.

This is especially true if you are riding a bicycle that is not correctly fitted to your body, or if your bicycle is not set up correctly.

The rule for choosing the size of the racing-style bicycle, or the single-speed bicycle known as a cruiser, is that you should put your leg over the main upper frame bar—the piece of metal that is parallel to the ground.

This frame bar should be just below or lightly touching your groin region.

For the all-terrain bikes (ATo) or the hybrid bikes, when you stand over the main frame bar, this bar should be approximately three inches below your groin.

Once you have the right size bicycle for you, the next step is to set it up correctly.

The most important setting is that of the seat.

The height of the seat will directly affect how your knees and hips function while you ride.

Therefore, if your seat is not set correctly, you can easily injure your knee or hip joints.

To set your seat height, you must sit on your bicycle.

Allow one pedal to be all the way down. Your leg, when it touches this pedal, should be almost straight, with only a slight bend.

Many people feel it is more comfortable to sit low on a bicycle, and their seats are therefore positioned far too low.

This is a mistake, especially in regard to long-distance endurance training and the injuries it can cause.

If you are going to take up endurance riding, be sure that your bicycle is the right size and set up appropriately for your body.

Swimming and Taekwondo

Swimming is another great form of endurance training that is commonly added to an individual’s taekwondo training program.

Unlike running and bicycling, swimming does not pose a risk to the joints of your body.

As you will be exercising in a liquid environment, the impact of the training environment, and your body’s resistance to it, are substantially reduced.

Prior to swimming you must stretch. Stretching is an essential element of all forms of physical activity.

You will also want to warm up.

A swimming warmup may consist of performing several jumping jacks or push-ups in order to get your blood flowing and raise your heart rate.

In other cases, you may wish to get into the pool and perform a few slow laps with the backstroke or sidestroke, to get your body ready for training.

For swimming, as for all other cardio-aerobic activities, you will want to set a beginning goal to get you started on your training program.

An ideal goal is from two to four laps, depending on the size of the pool.

You will swim this distance with the standard overhand stroke since this is the most cardio-aerobically invigorating.

Do not attempt to be the fastest swimmer in the pool.

Simply set a natural pace that is right for you, and stay with it. Swim to the end of the pool, turn around, and swim back.

Many people do not realize that swimming is an extremely cardio-aerobic activity.

When you first begin to swim, you will become tired and fatigued much more rapidly than you ever imagined.

Therefore, it is not a good idea to begin your swimming program in a lake or the ocean and set some distant point as your target.

You may get halfway there and not possess enough energy to go the rest of the way.

It is far safer to begin your program in a swimming pool, where you can grab hold of the side and rest, at any time, if the need arises.

With all cardio-aerobic activities, the more time you devote to your training, the more rapidly you will become proficient at your chosen sport.

Swimming is no different. You will want to set an end goal for swimming. An ideal distance is one mile.

Depending on the size of the pool, this can be anywhere from up to twenty or more laps.

Developing the ability to swim for one mile will provide you with the needed stamina and endurance to encounter all levels of taekwondo training.

It is an ideal form of training to add to a taekwondo regimen, as the benefits are great and the chances of injuries are small.


During the swimming cool-down, you are still active, but not pushing yourself as you did with the overhand stroke.

An ideal method to cool down is by performing your final lap while swimming in a slow backstroke or sidestroke.

This will allow you to catch your breath, and your heart rate to slow down.

Upon the completion of your cool-down, you will want to stretch.

Perhaps you can perform a few stretches in the pool—with your head above water, of course! Then get out and finish your stretching.

Swimming Precautions

As with all other physical activities, you will want to pace yourself while swimming.

In running and bicycling, you can stop at any point.

In swimming, especially if you are not swimming within the relatively safe confines of a pool, stopping is not always an option.

It is not unusual for leg muscles to cramp up while you swim.

If you perform this activity in a large lake or ocean, with no lifeguard, this can be disastrous.

As such, if your choice for swimming training is a lake or the ocean, only swim when there is someone there who can rescue you if the need arises.

Is Taekwondo Anaerobic or Aerobic?

Taekwondo is both anaerobic and aerobic as scientific studies of taekwondo fitness indicate that its practitioners exhibit high levels of aerobic, as well as anaerobic, power attributable to their martial arts conditioning.

More specifically, an analysis of a typical martial arts workout shows the athlete in constant motion; sometimes low-level movement around the competition area, bouncing, feinting, and seeking an opening while denying an opening to the opponent.

These movements require a good level of aerobic power &emdash; literally, power produced in the presence of oxygen.

At times during a match, though, there will be a flurry of activity – a series of punches or kicks, or a combination of both, and the blocks necessary to defend against the opponent’s kicks and punches. 

The power that drives these movements is anaerobic & emdash that is, produced without oxygen being present.

The aerobic power is produced by aerobic exercising in the practitioner’s martial arts conditioning routines; the anaerobic power is developed through anaerobic training such as strength training.

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