This powerhouse cardiovascular workout is a great way to learn self-defense skills, improve balance, and reduce stress. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun!
Curious if kickboxing might fit into your overall fitness program? Read on to discover the benefits, who it is good for, and how to get started with kickboxing workouts.
Introduction to Kickboxing
Kickboxing workouts combine cardio fitness, speed, and power with boxing moves that challenge every muscle in your body. These martial-arts based routines are known for their high energy, heart-pumping results.
The routines are high-intensity and high-impact, but can be modified to accommodate different fitness levels and physical needs.
Most kickboxing classes average 30 to 60 minutes, with a generous warm-up and cool-down period. Y
You can expect to spend the majority of the work time in a standing position, performing several punching and kicking sequences. Kickboxing workouts incorporate a variety of boxing moves, such as:
- Front kick
- Back kick
- Round kick
- Side kick
- Crescent kick
- Flying knee
- Spinning back kick
- Flying kicks
Some kickboxing classes and routines use a hanging bag or free standing punching bag, while others rely on shadow boxing or punching and kicking into the air. In general, you’ll get the most benefits from using a weighted bag for resistance. However, not everyone has access to a punching bag.
Additionally, some people may have physical conditions or injuries that prevent them from kicking and punching a bag, and that’s where shadow boxing comes into play.
Because kickboxing is a high-intensity total body workout, it’s a good idea to skip a day between sessions. If possible, aim for two to three kickboxing workouts each week, with beginners starting with one to two sessions a week and more advanced fitness levels with two to three workouts each week.
You’ll also want to incorporate other forms of cardiovascular activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, and muscle-strengthening exercises using resistance equipment into your overall routine.
Get our fitness newsletter
Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.
Participating in regular aerobic exercise, like kickboxing, has numerous physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages and fitness levels. While not an exhaustive list, here are seven ways your physical and mental health can benefit from kickboxing workouts.
Kickboxing workouts can help you:
- Improve cardiorespiratory fitness
- Burn calories
- Strengthen and tone upper and lower body
- Train aerobic and anaerobic systems
- Reduce stress and improve overall mood
- Improve coordination and balance
- Boost confidence and learn self-defense skills
Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Kickboxing is a heart-pumping, sweat dripping workout. Most classes last between 30 and 60 minutes, providing a challenge for both your heart and lungs.
Depending on your fitness level, you’ll likely spend most of the workout in your target heart rate zone, which is a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
Your target heart rate is about 220 minus your age, American Heart Association (AHA). Because kickboxing is both moderate and vigorous intensity, your target heart rate zone should be about 50 to 70 percent of your max heart rate for moderate intensity and 70 to 85 percent of your maximum for vigorous intensity work periods.
If dropping a few pounds is on your to-do list, then kickboxing is definitely worth adding to your fitness routine. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 125-pound person can burn about 300 calories during a 30-minute kickboxing class, a 155-pound person can burn about 360 calories, and a 185-pound person can burn about 420 calories.
Strengthen and Tone Upper and Lower Body Muscles
Kickboxing workouts are a full-body burn. Not only do you rely on the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves for power, kicking, and balancing, but you’ll also recruit the core muscles for twisting, turning, and stability. But the muscle-strengthening benefits don’t end there.
In fact, research shows that upper-body muscle power from your arms, chest, back, and shoulders is essential during a kickboxing workout.
Train Anaerobic and Aerobic Systems
Depending on how you set up a routine, kickboxing can be both an aerobic and anaerobic workout.
That’s because it requires high-intensity intervals of work (anaerobic) followed by lower-intensity active rest periods (aerobic). This combination allows you to target speed, endurance, and stamina.
Reduce Stress and Improve Overall Mood
Regular exercise involving aerobic and anaerobic activity is a major stress reliever, according to the Mayo Clinic. What’s more, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, such as kickboxing, may lower the odds of developing anxiety symptoms, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Improve Coordination and Balance
Kickboxing requires some serious coordination and balance. In fact, you’ll spend a lot of time standing on one leg while kicking the other one in the air and throwing an upper body punch across your body.
This is great news for anyone wanting to improve their balance. In fact, research shows that training involving single-leg balance protocols is effective in inducing balance control gains in healthy adults. Plus, if you’re using a punching bag, you’ll also target hand-eye coordination.
Boost Confidence and Learn Self-Defense Skills
The mental and physical benefits of kickboxing are numerous. But what you might not expect to gain when embarking on a kickboxing routine are the confidence and self-defense skills.
If possible, look for a kickboxing instructor with a self-defense background or specific training in martial arts. Many classes combine kickboxing moves with self-defense skills.
How to Prepare for Kickboxing
Kicking and punching your way through an intense workout is a great way to boost overall health and have fun while doing it. That said, kickboxing routines are intense and, therefore, require some preparation before jumping in with both feet.
You’ll want to start slow and ease into these workouts, doing no more than one to two sessions each week until your body adapts to the impact and you feel ready to add another workout. Here are some additional things to consider, especially if you’re new to kickboxing.
Get the Green Light
High-impact, vigorous physical activity can be hard on your joints. That’s why the first step is to get clearance from your doctor, especially if you’re new to kickboxing or you have a current or chronic musculoskeletal injury or any medical conditions that may be contraindicated with this type of activity.
Wear the Right Gear
Wearing the proper clothing is critical to a successful kickboxing workout. Comfortable, sweat-wicking fabric that allows for easy movement is ideal. You’ll want to make sure the clothing is fitted, so it does not get twisted while punching and kicking.
Shoes with good stability and traction will help with side-to-side movements and balance. If you’re using a punching bag, consider wearing protective gear like gloves. The extra padding will help protect your hands and wrists from the shock of the punches.
Consider the Environment
Learning how to perform kickboxing moves properly is key to preventing injuries and ensuring that you have a good experience. With that in mind, taking a kickboxing class from a qualified instructor is a good first step when adding kickboxing to your fitness program.
Not only can they demonstrate proper form and keep the pace of the class, an experienced instructor can also correct posture, monitor progress, and give feedback.
Additionally, studios and gyms often have access to equipment like punching bags and gloves, so you don’t need to purchase any additional items.
However, if you’re exercising at home, make sure you have enough space to execute all types of kicks and punches. It’s also a good idea to download a kickboxing app or subscribe to an online program that offers kickboxing classes.
Fuel Up with Food and Water
Kickboxing is a high-intensity activity. With that in mind, you’ll want enough fuel to power through your workout but not too much that you feel sick. Most classes last between 30 and 60 minutes, so a light snack about one hour before is sufficient.
You’ll also want to drink plenty of water before, during, and after a kickboxing session. Unless a doctor, physical therapist, or registered dietitian has recommended another type of drink like one with electrolytes, water is all you need.
Wind Up and Cool Down
A good kickboxing class will have a thorough warm-up and cool-down built into the routine. The first five to 10 minutes should include light cardio activity such as high knees or jogging in place, followed by some dynamic stretches, like hip circles and leg swings, which move your joints and muscles through a full range of motion.
The last five to 10 minutes is dedicated to slowing your heart rate and breathing, and performing a few minutes of static stretches, like the seated hamstring stretch or standing calf stretch. Static stretches require you to hold the stretched position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Is Kickboxing Right for You?
Kickboxing workouts are an excellent way to burn calories, improve balance, strengthen muscles, and boost heart health. That said, kickboxing is considered a high-impact, vigorous activity that requires skill, stamina, and overall good health.
If you have any current or chronic musculoskeletal injuries or medical conditions, you should get clearance from your physician before participating in a kickboxing class.
Because balance and coordination play a key role in kickboxing routines, it’s also a good idea to get checked out by a physical therapist if you have any concerns about stability or are prone to falls.
If you’re new to kickboxing, consider taking a class at a reputable gym with qualified instructors. Look for facilities with certified personal trainers or martial arts experts who offer introductory programs that teach the fundamentals of kickboxing and how to use a weighted hanging bag or free standing punching bag. This is also a good way to see if you enjoy kickboxing before investing in any equipment for your home.
The Bottom Line
Kickboxing workouts are an effective and efficient way to torch calories, strengthen and tone upper and lower body muscles, boost confidence, improve balance and coordination, and spend adequate time in your target heart rate zone.
But before you commit to a kickboxing program, talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider to see if they have any concerns. Then, consider taking it slow once you get the okay to start.
This will give your body time to adjust to the physical demands and ensure you don’t get hurt. Even one to two 30-minute kickboxing workouts each week is enough to reap the many benefits this high-energy activity offers.