The next round in the battle of the workouts has begun. In the past few years, more and more people have switched their exercise regimens. And for now, kickboxing is in!
Cardio kickboxing is a combination of boxing, Muay Thai and Karate. It’s a stand-up combat sport, a full-body cardio and strength training workout that allows you to clear your head and punch your stress and frustrations away (without actually hurting anybody!). Cardio kickboxing is a serious calorie torcher, not to mention a challenge in technique, endurance and concentration.
Not long ago, kickboxing workouts were designed only for those interested in competing in the sport. Today, kickboxing is one of the most popular martial arts inspired fitness trends, embraced by celebrities, models and those simply looking to get their fitness kicks in a new and creative way. Cardio kickboxing is a broad, catchall term, and classes can incorporate everything from choreographed dance moves to elements of Zumba.
Want to get an upper hand before you begin? Here’s everything you need to know to kick yourself into high gear with kickboxing.
Health Benefits of Cardio Kickboxing
Kickboxing is a fast-paced, high-intensity exercise that requires stamina and athleticism. It combines kicks, punches and jumps in quick, fight-simulated sequences. The result: an intense cardio and weight training workout.
The exercise tones the body, improves balance and increases flexibility, especially in the hips and pelvis area. Extending the arms and legs in a striking motion works several parts of the body simultaneously, defining the deltoids and arms as well as the hips and obliques. These coordinated movements also target the quads, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals and calves.
Kickboxing is a great way to burn calories and lose weight. Depending on the intensity of the regimen, in 30 minutes, you can burn more calories doing cardio kickboxing than you can in other hour-long, aerobic-based workouts. According to Liz LeFrois, a group fitness and master kickboxing instructor, one 30-minutes class can burn over 300 calories. In other words, kickboxing packs serious results!
Similar to yoga, cardio kickboxing is a mental workout and stress reliever. However, instead of lifting into a “wheel pose,” you’re practicing jabs, hooks and round kicks. A martial arts inspired exercise is ideal for working out pent-up frustrations, allowing you to focus and empty your mind of stress. In fact, the same mindfulness meditation that’s applied to yoga is applied to kickboxing. In order to perform a succinct, fast-paced sequence of kicks, punches and jumps, coordination and confidence need to be in perfect harmony. Had a bad day at work? Cardio kickboxing is the perfect way to kick start a good mood.
The type of gear you need for cardio kickboxing depends on the type of class you take. For example, in many beginner’s classes the martial arts fundamentals of kickboxing are often set to music, and the workout is like an extended bout of shadow boxing, although one guided by a fitness instructor. Sportswear that’s neither too loose nor restrictive – freedom of movement is important in kickboxing – a water bottle, and a gym towel are all you need to participate.
Other kickboxing classes focus on bag work. Basic moves, strikes and martial arts combinations are practiced with the use of a heavy bag. In these types of classes, focus or Thai pads are worn, as “throwing leather” enables you to increase the intensity of your workout.
Finally, cardio kickboxing classes that are geared towards self-defense and competitive, one-on-one sparing require that you have boxing gloves, headgear, mouth guard, shin pads, ankle supports and other protective gear. When you sign up for a cardio kickboxing class, be sure to ask the instructor if it’s necessary to purchase any equipment.
Basic Kickboxing Moves
Form is an integral part of kickboxing. It takes practice, stamina and coordination to perform a series of complicated martial arts movements. Beginners should go at their own pace, listen to their bodies and not be shy about taking breaks.
According to Livestrong, there are eight basic cardio kickboxing moves. These moves can then be put together in endless combinations. Still, before you attempt to impress your trainer or fitness instructor with your best Bruce Lee imitation, you have to master the basics:
- Fight stance. The fight stance is the foundation of your kickboxing routine. A good foundation helps you stay centered and balanced. Keep your hands up and put your weight on the balls of your feet. Just this simple pose alone works your shoulder muscles.
- Jab. The jab is the most popular punch in cardio kickboxing. It’s the least risky to throw because it has the shortest distance to travel. A jab targets the shoulder muscles, triceps, obliques and core.
- Front kick. Kicking increases the energy expenditure of a workout, pushing your stamina level and burning a greater amount of calories. A well-formed front kick targets the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
- Knees. Driving a knee up and forward, a strike that’s often described as something between a high jump and a long jump, uses the quads, glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Other basic cardio kickboxing moves include:
- Straight right kick
- Round kick
Once you have the basic kickboxing moves down, the idea is to maintain a fluid form as you put together combinations. An intense, full-body kickboxing workout varies the speeds and power of the combinations.
Kickboxing Tips and Tricks
Kickboxing can be done in front of the mirror, at a park or beach or at home in a designated workout area. Kickboxing moves can be practiced in your office; just don’t let the boss catch you doing round kicks near the computers.
Nevertheless, the best way for beginners to learn the moves and get an intense cardio and strength training workout is to join a cardio kickboxing class. It’s more fun doing a stand-up combat sport with a group of total strangers – “Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to kick you!” – that it is alone in front of the mirror. Most local gyms and YMCAs offer cardio kickboxing classes, and for those who want to take it to the next level, there are several national kickboxing gyms too, including 9 Round and TITLE Boxing Club, which both offer a trial workout for free.
“At 9Round, there are no class times, so you come in at your convenience. The workout is comprised of nine different stations, three minutes each where you perform different sets of exercises, which change every day,” says Connie Hurtado, owner of 9Round in Pembroke Pines, FL. “Our personal trainers are there to guide you every step of the way making it fun, fast and motivating!”
As a beginner, the best thing to remember about cardio kickboxing is to take it slow. Without the proper instruction and technique, it’s easy to overextend the arms and legs and strain the body. Being new to a kickboxing class can be intimidating, but don’t worry – a good instructor modifies the movements and pace of the class for all fitness levels. Confidence is an integral part of kickboxing, and after a few classes, you’ll be ready to show off your best moves.
Is there anything better than kicking off the pounds and punching away your frustrations? Next time you’re at the gym, lace up the gloves and exchange your yoga mat for a punching bag.