The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of 4 weeks high intensity intermittent Taekwondo (TKD) training program on body composition, physical fitness and performance of South African TKD athletes of Zulu ancestry. Thirty four (n=34) active TKD athletes aged 20–26 y volunteered for this study. The athletes were divided into control and experimental groups. The control participants (10 males and 7 females) are holders of green or lower belts with provincial championship exposure. The experimental group (10 males and 7 females) had blue or senior belts that had provincial and international championships exposure. Both groups were subjected to 4 weeks of TKD and strength training. The experimental group was made to perform high intensity intermittent (85–95 % VO2max) training, while the control group performed interval TKD training of lower intensity (70–75 % VO2max). All experimental participants were pre- and post-tested parameters of body composition [body mass, body fat percentage (% BF), sum of 6 skinfolds (SS)], flexibility (sit & reach), leg power (standing broad jump), muscle strength and endurance (sit-ups and push-ups), agility (T-test), VO2max (20 m bleep test). Resting heart rate (RHR), systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were measured. Data was analyzed using paired t-test for independent samples and Z-score individual radar plots statistics for assessment of each athlete. After 4 weeks of training, athletes in the experimental group showed a reduction in body weight (p<0.05), BMI (p<0.001), SBP (p<0.05), RHR (p<0.05), SS (p<0.05), and fat % (p<0.001) and improvement (p<0.001) in flexibility, muscle strength, power, agility and VO2max. In male controls, fat % was decreased (p<0.05), flexibility and VO2max were increased (p<0.05). In female controls, only flexibility was improved (p<0.05). The findings of this study support the effectiveness of 4 weeks high intensity intermittent training in Taekwondo athletes of Zulu ancestry improves body composition, cardiorespiratory response and physical performance that could contribute to enhanced combat skills.
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