Kickboxing Practice

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Kickboxing is a combination of boxing, martial arts, and aerobics. There are two main types of kickboxing you need to distinguish between, first there is the martial arts self defense kickboxing and then there is cardio kickboxing. Both formats provide a full-body workout that exercises all muscle groups in a fun and energetic way while also improving balance, coordination, and self-confidence.

For individuals that enjoy a fairly aggressive exercise routine that will continually challenge their overall fitness level taking on the martial arts format is worth considering. Cardiovascular kickboxing on the other hand, borrows movements from karate and other martial arts in order to tone your body rather than knock out an opponent. Many gyms and health clubs offer kickboxing classes, or you can buy or rent kickboxing DVDs to get a good workout at home.

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You can expect: full body workout

Level of Effort: Moderate to Difficult

Time Involved: 30 minutes (or more)


Getting Started:

  1. Determine which format of kickboxing works for you
  2. Understand the basics of a kickboxing class and how to prepare
  3. Determine your workout parameters & schedule it
  4. Warm up and Cool down with each workout
  5. Write in your activity journal


What to Consider:



1. Determine which format of kickboxing works for you

For the most part, there are two formats of kickboxing and both provide a tremendous workout:

  • Martial Arts format that uses props (such as hanging and standing bags, gloves and focus mits) focuses on self-defense training and allows contact between students.
  • Cardiovascular format, that focuses on punching and kicking the air instead props or other students.


Martial Arts Kickboxing

Some examples of the types of movements you can expect to perform when kickboxing are punches, kicks, and jumps. These types of movements are performed in a series of sequences and drills, and, in some cases, on a punching bag. It is easier to learn this format of kickboxing in a class rather than with a DVD. While you may start learning a little on kickboxing technique with a DVD, a series of classes with a good instructor will soon have you performing at a higher level.

Martial arts self-defense kickboxing comes in a variety of styles and can be practiced as a competitive sport, for self-defense or for fitness training. While these different styles all share some similarities, the amount of contact and type of technique varies.

  • American - is close to full-contact karate and allows for full-fist strikes and kicks. This kind of kickboxing originated in 1970 by combining boxing and karate.
  • Muay Thai - is the modern form of Thai kickboxing, and it places emphasis on elbow and knee strikes while using stand-up striking. Muay Thai does not allow head-butts.
  • English - a merger of American and Muay Thai

  • Lethwei - a kind of Burmese kickboxing that places emphasis on elbow and knee strikes and head-butts, although the entire body can be used to strike. Lethwei, which comes from Myanmar, is sometimes called Bando kickboxing. Lethwei competitors do not wear padding, even though the sport is full contact.

  • Filipino - is commonly referred to as Yaw-Yan, or Dance of Death. It is similar to Muay Thai and is characterized by its downward-cutting kicks, smooth motions and hip-torqueing moves.

  • Sanda - also known as Sanshou, was created by the Chinese military to combine methods of various traditional martial arts. Sanda is now practiced as a contact sport and does not allow elbow or knee strikes.


Cardio Kickboxing

Cardio kickboxing combines aerobic exercise with martial arts and boxing to provide an intense, fast-paced cardiovascular workout. Many cardio kickboxing classes also offer strength training and some teach very basic self-defense tactics but do not allow for contact between participants. This format of kickboxing is becoming increasingly popular and is taught at many gyms. There are several styles of classes, each of which will train you for aerobic exercise, but will not provide you with any self-defense or competitive training.

The large number and diverse combination in which the muscle groups work together produces a high caloric expenditure value. Kickboxing is one of the sweatier, intense, and exhaustive exercise types when compared to many of the other cardiovascular type exercise routines.


2. Understand the basics of a kickboxing class and how to prepare

Regardless of the format chosen the basics of kickboxing are generally the same including the muscles worked and how to prepare for a class.

What to expect from a class - Most cardio kickboxing classes start out with some basic cardiovascular exercises, such as jumping jacks, pushups, or jumping rope. The class routines will have you breathing hard as you work the upper, lower, and core of your body with a few basic kicks.

  • One common move is the front kick: Stand with your knees slightly bent, and lift one leg and kick out the foot in front of you.
  • To switch to a sidekick, stand with feet apart and knees slightly bent. Then pull up one knee toward the opposite shoulder and kick out the leg to your side.
  • There are a number of other kicks and lower-body moves that can be combined with upper-body moves for a calorie-burning, full-body workout.

Find a Class and Prepare - Styled classes are designed to have participants perform a series of combinations over a designated period of time called a "round." After a short break, participants then perform another round of combinations that vary from the last. Combinations can be as simple as a straight jab followed by a cross punch in rapid repetition, or as elaborate as a series of complex punches, punctuated by kicks such as the roundhouse, front and sidekicks. The length of each round can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the instructor and the level of the class.

  1. Find a class - Call local gyms and martial arts centers to see what types of kickboxing classes are available to novices. Many commercial gyms offer kickboxing instruction that is better for beginners, while a martial arts center may cater to a more advanced crowd. Ask how long a typical class is and about the fitness level of most participants. Check out a few gyms to find the best kickboxing classes and instructors for you.
  2. Observe a class - If possible, observe a class to make sure that it's something that you would enjoy and that the class is appropriate for your skill level. Watch or participate in the class before signing up if the fitness center allows visitors. Consider how well the instructor and overall class atmosphere matches your fitness style. Ask about the instructor's qualifications. Look for a person who is experienced and certified as a fitness instructor and is knowledgeable about martial arts.
  3. Get the right clothing and gear - Use your class visit as a way to assess your need for different workout clothes, shoes or gear (alternatively you can ask a class coordinator). Then purchase the right clothing and shoes. General recommendations are:
    1. Wear running shoes or cross trainers. Choose shoes that allow you to pivot, which is required for basic moves like the roundhouse kick and sidekick.
    2. Wear comfortable clothing that doesn't restrict your arm and leg movements. Choose tighter-fitting gym clothes made of material that wicks moisture away, since loose clothes could limit your body and impede your movements.
    3. For martial arts formats, determine if you will need to provide your own padding and/or mits.
  4. Arrive early to your first class - For your first class, arrive to class early so you can talk to the instructor about any concerns you have, such as prior injuries. An early arrival also allows you to get help with proper use of the hand wraps and boxing gloves if the class uses them. Tell your instructor that it's your first time attempting kickboxing. He'll be able to keep an eye on your form and make sure that you're completing the moves properly so you don't injure yourself. He'll also know not to push you as hard as he does the other students in his class. He may also be able to give you some beginner pointers to help you feel more comfortable.
  5. Stretch before class - Kickboxing includes movements like punches, jabs and kicks, so it's important to warm up the muscles before you commence using them in new ways. Your instructor will likely lead you through a variety of stretches, which is why it's important to arrive to your kickboxing class on time.
  6. Keep slow and controlled as you start out - Pace yourself so that you don't get injured; give it time and you'll get there. Follow the instructor and focus on proper form when performing the moves. Keep the kicks slow and low, and never overextend your legs and arms as you are learning kickboxing moves. To get the most out of a workout, use slow, deliberate and controlled movements. Request help with modifications if necessary.
  7. Progress with your fitness level - Stay within your present fitness level when you begin kickboxing. While it may seem tempting to use a higher level of intensity to match that of the instructor, you could injure youself attempting moves, punches and kicks that are beyond your fitness level. Take breaks or lower the intensity of the workout, if necessary, so you don't become overly fatigued. If you aren't able to properly execute a move because of fatigue, you can injure yourself. Finally, remember to stay hydrated throughout your class for the best performance.


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3. Determine your workout parameters and schedule it

There are certain parameters you will want to consider for this practice. Specifically you will want to determine your goals, level of fitness and the amount of time you have to workout. You will want to find the intensity that challenges you, gets you out of breath, makes you sweat- but that you can also handle without hurting yourself.

Determine your goals - Think about what you want to accomplish before looking for a class or video. Some people take kickboxing purely for cardiovascular exercise. These people might be more comfortable in a cardio-kickboxing class. Other people wish to train for self-defense and should seek classes that will provide them with the proper training. Still other people will wish to compete in the sport and should look for gyms with lots of sparring to prepare them for the ring.

Difficulty level: Kickboxing classes can vary according to one's level of skill, ranging from extremely easy to extraordinarily complex.

Length of workout: The length of your workout is up to you, but be sure to check the length of classes and videos to ensure they fit. The National Institutes of Health recommends at least 30 minutes of cardio, 5 times a week. Depending on your schedule and the other activities you build into your overall Daily Body Practice you can decide how long your workout needs to be.

  • Workout Duration. Determining how long you should workout per week and per session can be done in many ways. Use the button below for some suggestions:

Workout Duration

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) You can also calculate the number of calories your body actually needs in order to function. If you understand the amount of calories your body needs to function then you can determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight and then how many to lose weight. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight. Knowing your BMR can also help you think about how much exercise you are willing to do.

Calculate Your BMR


Required Equipment: The equipment required to participate in a kickboxing fitness program varies depending on the format. In a class setting, most of the equipment should be provided for you. You should plan on wearing clothing that will not be restrictive or cause you to be overly warm. You should also bring along a water bottle and a small towel.

If you are going to practice kickboxing at home, you can pick up a DVD/VHS relatively cheaply. You will need to purchase a firm floor mat. In addition, many of the home martial arts kickboxing exercise videos require that you purchase a punching bag, so you will need to allocate space for that as well.

Frequency - Based on the length of your session, intensity and other workouts you are doing you can determine how often you want to perform your practice.

Schedule it - now that the elements are determined, schedule your workout. If you set aside the days and times you will perform your practice you are more likely to stick to it. Remember the idea is to make it a habit, so schedule at least 4 sessions, don't miss or change them and you are on your way.


4. Warm up and Cool down with each workout


5. Write in your activity journal

Track your activity, duration, intensity and how you felt before and after the activity. Learn More...



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Benefits of Kickboxing:

Learn more...


Familiarize yourself with exercise intensity

Familiarize yourself with the target heart rate and perceived exertion scales in order to monitor your exercise intensity.

Exercise Intensity


Be cautious

Kickboxing fitness and weight loss programs tend to be a bit more advanced than some other exercise types, so it might not be the best choice for those who have physical limitations or are significantly out-of-shape. Kickboxing is a very vigorous activity and can be frustrating for those who do not have a good range of motion or a fair level of cardiovascular endurance.

Don't overdo it. Consider how fit you are and how much exercise you're used to doing each week. If you're just starting out, talk to your doctor before taking up kickboxing, and try a beginner's class in which you can work on improving overall fitness. If you're already very physically fit and active, look for a more advanced class.


Additional Resources and Articles

  • Review the Daily Body Practice Recommendations
  • Calorie Blasting 
Fat-Burning Kickboxing Workout for Dummies: 
Calories burned with this workout is about 700. 
 Even if you've never thrown a jab or simulated a side kick, instructor Keli Roberts shows you how to master the essentials.
  • 10 Minute Solution Kickbox Bootcamp
: You'll get five 10-minute routines that you can do a la carte or all together. The boxer's shuffle keeps your heart rate and calorie burn  up throughout. Bonus: The washboard-ab section delivers. -

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