I have been asked for some advice on a strenght & conditioning program for a tae-kwon-do martial artist. (2 x 2minute rounds for this athlete).

My knowledge is quite limitied in this sport, can forum members suggest suitable programs for such an athlete with reference to such areas as:

  1. strenght training
  2. endurance training
  3. general conditioning

As always much appreciated


I fight in mauy thai kickboxing, which uses five 3 min rounds and full contact striking to the legs body and head. The sports of M.T. and T.K.D have a lot of diffrences but I think I can be of help. T.K.D. uses a lot of high kicking and places very little stock in punching tech. Therefore leg speed and flexability should be placed in high regard. As far as strength training, the athlete will probably have weight classes to deal with so I would keep the load high and volume very low to avoid too much weight gain. Although T.K.D. is not a full contact sport and combatants are typically heavily padded, contact to the body and head are still a very real possiblility and ab and neck training should be taken very seriously. As far as end. and cond. work, a lot of combat athletes are fond of road work. I am not. I prefer mixing short sprints, tempos, and long sprints (200+) once in a while. I have used hill sprints from time to time w/ good effect, but wold not use these often as they tend to beat up the legs too much. Remember though that skill training can be very hard on the legs and perform running and weight work with caution. A mistake that a lot of fighters make is to try to copy the cond. routines of athletes in other sports without taking into account the high demand of training in their own sport. Lastly is the subject of L.M.E. I feel you can best cover this with the use of body weight exercises done in circut fashion (ex. push up, burpee, crunch, mountain climbers, repeat). I hope this can be of help to you.

Thanks Bryce, plenty of food for thought!

I my long trawl for ‘The Edge’ … tyring to learn something from different sports I have come across one interesting book -
'The Art of Expressing the Human Body" Compiled and edited by John Little.
Its is based on the training methods of Bruce Lee.

Some very interesting (and authentic) concepts, thoughts, exercises, comments and descriptions.
It has many real training diary examples also.

I wouldn’t normally reccomend Martial Arts books to people owing to the amount of BS out there on the topic - but this one is definitely worth a read.

I’vealso read “the art of expressing the human body”. There were so many differant routines, mainly becuase bruce was always trying to evolve his conditioning and his art. You could kind of be spoilt for chioce as to what to do, an of course Bruce mentions to develope a routine that’s spacific to the individual. the main reason I brought the book was just to learn more about the practical side of a man I consider to be one of the most well conditioned athletes ever.

I too have some muy thai training. Frank Cucci was/is my instructor. I used to ask him how to avoid fatigue and get in good condition. He told me to just train, train, train in muy thai. We used 3 minutes per round of heavy bag, pad work, timing sparring, etc. I used short weight workouts and sprints. Basically I was looking for something magic…nothing really magic to it…just hard work. TKD is, as Bryce indicated, a little different. But you don’t get good at sprinting by playing golf…no matter how much golf you play…similarly, you don’t get good at the marathon by doing 200’s. Sport specificity is key. Good luck.

True Goose,
Maybe not the best book as regards the design of one definitive program for MA - but a very interesting read.

Originally posted by gf_200
I have been asked for some advice on a strenght & conditioning program for a tae-kwon-do martial artist. (2 x 2minute rounds for this athlete).

My knowledge is quite limitied in this sport, can forum members suggest suitable programs for such an athlete with reference to such areas as:

  1. strenght training
  2. endurance training
  3. general conditioning

As always much appreciated


When I trained for TKD I would keep close to sprinter workout outside of classes.During classes I would add in either timed or a certain distance of kicking. For example my instructor would tell me to do any 20 kicks in to a line 15 feet away from me, any 20 kicks… or it would 30 sec of intense distance sparring with a partne switching partner after each one, going against everyone in the class. You want to have good overall fitness but you really want to be able to throw those kicks when you are tired. Practing your focus when you are tired, you have to able to focus the kicks on the target.

I have spent a little time doing tourney TKD (most of the time non-tourney training). The main thing with training has already been mentionned, a lot of training for MA comes from the dojang. What Noshe mentionned was definately good stuff :). Knowing what the instructor is having the atheletes do in the dojang is key. Otherwise overtraining is emminent because most instructors assume that their class is their student’s only form of preparation.

Depending on what time the athelete has to do extra training, there are probably a few questions to ask to determine what needs to be done:

  1. What personal style of sparring does the athelete use? Their are many ways to fight a TKD match ranging from the use of techniques to the use of countering etc. Also, from an athelete’s list of favored techniques, one can find the source of possible strength imbalances which could be limitting performace. (Everyone who has a favorite technique off of a certain leg, please raise your hands :slight_smile: )

  2. This is a question that i am sure you asked, but it is worth mentionning, what is the athelete weak at? In my experience, most TKD people have great flexibility and speed, but need more strength and endurance. The other side of this are the people with XC experience (like most of my friends) who have great endurance, but need more speed.

You can probably ask more questions than i do about this (i don’t coach anyone), but you get the general idea. Remember that a technique must have enough power to cause “trembing force” in order to cause a point. Any more power than this is only good for a TKO (which i am not terribly sure how this works in the rules because i have always been on the endurance side of the spectrum). So, power is only an attribute to a point. Speed and agility are necessary throughout the entire match, so an athelete must be able “to kick while tired” as Noshe said.

As far as what i did to train, i did a pretty standard weight workout for a track person, except i did split power snatches instead of power cleans, did more single leg work and worked on my hip flexors a lot more. As it has been mentionned, because of weight classes, hypertrophy should be kept at a minimum unless the athelete is changing classes. As far as what i did in the dojang, mostly technique work and fighting rounds. Outside of the dojang, i did some sprints and bag work.

I hope this long and convoluded post helps. I am going to talk to some friends of mine who still do tourneys and see what they are doing. (It has been a while since i participated in some tourneys as i am now doing hapikdo :))

What has this athelete done in the past?



“TKD is the only sport where you can be in a clinch and worry about someone bringing their heel on your head” - Anonymous

Thanks Noshe & Quark,

The athlete in questions only source of fitness is from classes and a little bit of gym work.

"Otherwise overtraining is emminent because most instructors assume that their class is their student’s only form of preparation. "

A very good point. Additional work must only be considered if the energy is available.

Keep the info coming. I will consult with him and post what we come up with.

No problem gf, it is nice to talk about MA training. Anyways, i talked with a few friends of mine and got not too much help, but someone i know mentionned a few things:

  1. Power doesn’t matter as much as i thought in TKD. (BTW, i am assuming “olympic style” ) One can get points pretty easily if their technique is good. So speed and endurance are paramount.

  2. In the opinion of one of my friends, technique is the only thing that matters for athelete’s that are 18 and younger. Most people only do dojang work.

  3. Since the “rise of countering” in TKD, a lot of dojang work in some schools consists of countering drills. These usually consist of one person throwing a technique known to the other person and the other person counters.

  4. Most people who do really well in TKD are skinny and long legged and don’t do weights. He also said that the only gym work most of the people he knows do is “light weights, high reps”

With this in mind and what you said about the athelte, i have a few ideas. First, in regards to weights, i think that the “high reps” stuff is worthless for a sport such TKD. This appears to be coming from the old “I don’t want to bulk up” mentality. Therefore, i think that heavy loads and low volume would be good for lifting as long as it doesn’t interfere with the dojang work or add excess mass.
Olympic lifts might be good to add, but the time it takes to learn them, in addition to the CNS stress caused by them. However, i have yet to meet a martial artist who couldn’t learn how to do a power clean very quickly and continue to love doing them :).
Also, I would assume that CNS stress management would be an issue here, considering that MA are a bunch of high intensity techniques. This could also explain the avoidance of the weightroom.

Hmm…it would interesting to see what this guy is doing in the dojang. I can’t wait till you post.

Noshe, anything to add? What have you done in relation to the weightroom?


“TKD is the only sport where you can be in a clinch and worry about someone bringing their heel on your head” - Anonymous

Technique is key… I would go to the gym after class or on the days that I didnt have class. Sparring techniques are going to vary from person to person. When sparring I would the person throwing crazy combos not giving the opponent an opportunity to throw or counter anything. My roundhouses didnt have much power but they quick, I saved the power for skip side kick or back kick. As for my specific lifting, like I side earlier I kept with my sprinting working out, squats, cleans, bench, and some auxilaury lifts… most of the upper body strength would come from all the push ups in class. I have been out of TKD for about 5 months now… I wanted to get back into it but my instructor is leaving to go back to Korea…

gf, Have you consulted with your athelete on this yet? I am curious what he has done in the past to train for TKD tourneys.


Between one thing and another I still have to sit down with him and discuss training ideas. Will post details as soon as I have them.

Thanks for the Interest :wink:

Thx Gf. I just wanted to make sure. This topic as a whole is very interesting…

gf what level (belt) is your athlete?

Black Tip, Noshe


Black stripe/black belt level:

Heavy emphasis on power MANAGEMENT which involves breathing excerises under stressful conditions (full contact sparring).

Lots of sit ups, push ups, free weights, stretching. Cardio via lite to heavy (distance) jogs 2-3 times per week.

Hours of training. Balance work, weight work, bag work (in no particular order).

Working with peers on new pattern development. Practice often.

Speed Work: Pattern practice in my opinion is a great workout as some of the higher belt patterns can take up to 15 minutes each to deliver, done at speed will yield good results.

Other ideas?


Interesting the cross over between Patterns and Bouts. Often you see the guys with the most perfect movement & execution of patterns getting their asses getting kicked by far less accomplised technicans due to lack of aggression, toughness and fight savvy.

But what if you combined both??

gf, i have seen the same thing…usually i was the guy getting killed though :slight_smile: especially when i was younger. It all became better when i worked more sparring situations during practice.

It is finding the optimum combination between sparring practice and technique practice is tricky because technique is compromised during sparring and it is hard to simulate sparring in technique (pattern) work. Generally the ratio of patterns/technique to sparring depends on the rank of the student and their tolerance for work capacity as sparring drains one faster than technique work.

Hmm… It might be useful to talk to the instructor as well as the athelete to see what is the instructor’s class philosophy (i.e. what the instructors focus for the athelete). The level of traditionalism as well as the level of “hardcore” (it is almost finals time so i can’t think of a better way to say this :slight_smile: ) could determine a lot about how to set up addition workload especially if more sparring work is needed.

Nice to see this post getting some action. Rupert, i didn’t know you did MA stuff. What do you do?