Does Taekwondo Make Your Legs Bigger?

2 taekwondo females kicking pads

Since taekwondo largely involves kicking, most people can only begin to imagine the impact that it can have on practitioners’ legs. So, does taekwondo make your legs bigger?

Taekwondo does not make your legs bigger as it is mostly focused on strength training which makes the muscle stronger rather than muscle building which makes the muscle larger.

Taekwondo kicks will not cause you to build muscle mass…at least not in any way like weight lifting and load-bearing strength training which builds muscle.

Taekwondo kicks are more focused on strength training, developing movements, and flexibility exercises which will help you to build strength and develop more athletic attributes.

These kicks, no matter how powerfully you train, will not build your legs muscles like a bodybuilder, or even a powerlifter for that matter.

However, depending on your taekwondo club, the instructor may have you engage in bodyweight strength movements and weight lifting such as pushups, squats, leg presses, and deadlifts to improve your overall strength and conditioning to enhance your taekwondo performance.

Some of these drills include a little leg building especially if your kicks are too light that it barely makes an impact on an opponent even when executed properly.

Yes, these leg drills can develop some level of muscle, but not the same muscular growth that you would see with bodybuilders.

Although some martial artists (including myself) often combine strength and conditioning with our martial arts practice to improve performance, this may cause some practitioners to carry a bit more muscle mass.

Remember that this leg mass is not gotten from strict taekwondo practice but additional weight lifting training done separately.

Granted, it’s not unusual to see taekwondo fighters in bigger weight classes carrying extra leg muscle mass.

But these martial artists are either high-level amateurs with a background in weight lifting or taekwondo professionals who invest a lot of time developing a more comprehensive strength program to perform better in the sport.

And in case you are wondering if taekwondo players or martial artists in general lift weight…Well, yes they do, but not as often or to the point of building excess body muscles.

For more on this, see my article Do Martial Artists Lift Weights?

If you look at taekwondo kicks as a training modality, the purpose is not to build leg muscle mass, but to build and enhance strength, functional movement, and flexibility for combat.

The focus is on kicking techniques and flexibility rather than power and muscle build.

The truth is, little leg muscle mass has made it possible for us to enjoy flashy and amazing taekwondo kicks such as the spinning kick.

For a long time in Taekwondo culture, the standard Taekwondo male body image has usually been a tall and thin male, most often the standard long-legged, skinny Asian body of a Korean male.

For the women, it is the shorter and petite, yet skinny Asian-bodied Korean female.

So, taekwondo is definitely one martial art sport that does not emphasize muscle build training, so do not expect to have a bigger leg.

This however doesn’t mean you won’t get stronger as there is a difference between building more muscle and getting stronger through strength training.

The goal of strength training is to make muscles stronger.

Muscle building on the other hand aims to modify muscle cell physiology to make muscles larger.

You are therefore unlikely to gain any meaningful amount of leg mass with Taekwondo.

You are only more likely to lose fat and appear more muscular as your muscles become more visible.

So, if you need bigger legs, you might want to hit the gym and start those weight-lifting drills.

Does Taekwondo Build Leg Muscle?

Taekwondo training does not necessarily build leg muscles. However, taekwondo players can build leg mass through extra gym muscle-building activities.

Even though taekwondo is a full-body workout, it does not build muscle.

This is because it does not satisfy the key mechanisms of hypertrophy (aka muscle growth) which are mechanical tension and metabolic stress.

There is a reason why most taekwondo practitioners have skinny legs.

First, extra leg mass is not conducive to taekwondo performance since heavier legs require more oxygen which can therefore affect an athlete’s conditioning.

A study has in fact shown that during exercise, legs extract more oxygen than arms.

So, as a martial artist, the lighter the legs, the less oxygen is required for the execution of kicks.

Secondly, it is almost impossible to throw lighting fast kicks with huge legs as physics doesn’t allow it.

For example, performing squats with very heavy weights will build bulk in the muscles, which can develop power, but will slow down the kick’s speed.

You already know that Taekwondo kicks are normally one of the fastest in the world, and the execution of such kicks is made possible thanks to the light and flexible legs of practitioners.

So, speed also needs to be developed when exercising to better improve martial arts kicks.

Finally, the amount of gym training required to develop huge legs can gradually weaken a player’s energy which is needed for proper taekwondo martial art practice (which is the most important aspect of their preparation).

Conclusion

The purpose of taekwondo is not to build muscle but to train your central nervous system so that you can move around more efficiently and effectively.

Muscle building requires progressive overload to the point where the body must build new muscles to deal with stress.

Taekwondo doesn’t progressively overload your muscles so it does not make your legs bigger.

Related post: Does Taekwondo Increase Height?

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