How To Build Endurance

Expert Tips to Improve Your Training Stamina

Whether you are attending your Monday Taekwondo class or chasing a toddler around your house, we can all use a little more endurance to get us from point A to point B in our daily routines.  Then you add in competing at tournaments and giving your all during the ATA Fit test, and now you’re really needing that extra boost of energy. 

No matter your age, it’s important to add endurance training to your workouts.  We sat down with experts to give you the scoop on getting the most out of each ATA class!


What is Endurance?

“Cardiovascular endurance usually refers to aerobic fitness, or how the lungs and heart deliver oxygen to the muscles,” says John M. Martinez. M.D., a board-certified sports medicine physician and a team physician for USA Triathlon.  If your muscles don’t get enough oxygen, they can’t function effectively, and you’ll have a hard time performing any kind of physical activity. 

Having the proper martial arts technique is always important, but “endurance, speed and strength are also key components to be successful in a sport,” says Martinez.  It all goes hand in hand. 

“Increased endurance can prevent fatigue during sparring matches and, more important, athletes with better endurance tend to maintain proper technique longer, because of lack of muscular fatigue,” he says.

Think about it.  In competition, endurance may be the difference in you scoring that last point on your opponent.  In testing, it could be the difference in a pass or a fail. 


Training with Intensity

Combining high and low impact activities to your weekly training regimen can help you build endurance.  Martinez recommends one workout per week focusing on high-intensity intervals, such as heavy bag kicks, with a recovery time about twice as long as the actual activity.  Activities that take less effort, such as walking, should be done for longer periods.

Chief Master Al Dilegge, 8th Degree Black Belt and ATA Headquarters staff member, explains that many athletes get into a comfort zone with their workouts which can lead to hitting a plateau if you aren’t careful.  “If you want to increase your conditioning, you need a higher intensity level,” he explains.  “You can be ‘in shape’ but not have the endurance you need to complete your form smoothly or do the ATA FIT Test.”

For a greater challenge, Dilegge suggests:

  • Timing Your Drills. Increase the intensity level by using a stopwatch and trying to beat your previous time.
  • Changing It Up. Alter your training every six weeks by adding something new or doing something completely different, so that your body doesn’t get into a holding pattern.
  • Finding Your Threshold. Know what your limits are, then challenge yourself to improve during each training session in some way.


Breaking Down a Martial Arts Workout

This may sound obvious, but when you’re trying to build endurance for martial arts, you should utilize your martial arts skills!  Wavemaster drills, using padded targets and even shadow boxing (though hitting an actual target is recommended) can help you practice your technique while also building your stamina. 

Mr. Mark Cancino, a 5th Degree Black Belt and ATA World Champion, agrees that building endurance while building martial arts skills can be an effective approach.  “Training in XMA builds quite a bit of endurance through extreme kicking and flipping,” he says.  “For me that really has helped my endurance in all aspects of my martial arts.  When I do my Xtreme form, I’m pushing my body 100 percent every second.”

Cancino also says he likes to break forms into segments and perform those segments repeatedly.  “If you don’t break it down, you won’t get the technique down,” he says.  The repetition of a certain strike or kick combined with an increased physical ability to do it well makes it a win-win situation. 

“Take a punch and a block, and practice that several times,” he suggests.  “Practicing segment by segment also builds muscle memory, so that when you go to the actual competition, your body already knows how to do the technique which will also save you energy.”  Once you feel strong with each segment, you challenge yourself more by doing the form as a whole.  You’ll build up to the endurance required for a powerful performance.

Grand Master In Ho Lee agrees that this type of exercise can be pivotal in building endurance.  He believes workouts should be “consistent and with intense effort in each Taekwondo technique.”  He adds, “As you move through the ranks, the forms will have more moves and you will be required to do more things, like the ATA FIT test, to progress.  Start building your endurance early in your training and you will establish a foundation that will become even healthier in your pursuit to the next belt.”


Pushing Your Limits

“In competition, you go all out.  In training you go further than that,” says Cancino.  “You push your limits in practice.”  That’s how you build endurance and become a fierce performer or competitor.  “Be smart about it and know when to stop, but also don’t be scared to reach for a new level.” 

With the new ATA FIT test, having this type of understanding of your body in imperative.  The FIT test is “an assessment intended to be relevant and repeatable throughout the ATA community and is divided into five different rounds with one-minute rest in between each round.  Each round has a specific objective and structure to help gauge the overall fitness of ATA athletes.”

As Grand Master explains, “During your FIT test is not the time to finally hit your goals in each round.  You start practicing that long before your testing approaches.” 


Thinking Big Picture

Chief Master Dilegge encourages students to continue pushing to build endurance no matter what level they’ve reached.  Cancino believes the same and adds that you should also think long-term. 



Author: Jennifer Lawler (edited by Jenny Wolff)

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