What Are The Benefits of Kickboxing?
Kickboxing was once a joke: grown men and women in a ring throwing punches at each other? That’s normal. Kicking? That’s just weird.
No longer: thanks to MMA, kickboxing classes, gyms, and clubs are increasingly popular and widely available.
To the regular exerciser, though, they can appear a little intimidating. Will you get hit? Is it hard? Will they throw you in a ring with a brawler named Günter? And, at the end of it all, what do you get out of it?
The Benefits of Kickboxing
- It increases power, and athleticism – Almost no one moves fast in the gym. That’s because fitness, as most of us practice it, is a slow-to-medium-speed pursuit. We lift weights slowly and deliberately. We jog and cycle at a leisurely pace. But sports happen in the blink of an eye, and pure athleticism is all about moving fast: blindingly, maniacally fast. Improving your agility may enhance your sports performance, brainpower, and power production. Kickboxing is no exception; you see a target, strike it; you see another and strike. Miss it? It’s gone. Kickboxing is also about the power of defense. Many classes teach you how to defend yourself. Defensive movements include (but are not limited to): parrying, dodging, and blocking. Explore a whole new world of working out at an explosive tempo. Enjoy accelerating and decelerating as fast as possible because this is something our bodies are well suited for, but rarely get to practice.
- It’s an unbeatable cardio workout – Prepare for a shock if all you’ve done for cardio is jogging, rowing, and the occasional HITT workout. Working the focus mitts, punching and kicking a heavy bag, and partner sparring drills are deeply exhausting—particularly for beginners. Note that drills are optional, they are not required and not found in every kickboxing class. You’ll start strong—throwing Bruce-Lee-like kicks and punches. But, by the end of the first minute, you’ll have trouble holding your hands up, and two minutes in each second will feel like an hour. And yet—it’s so exhilarating you’ll leave the gym feeling refreshed, energized, and powerful. “It’s really an everything workout,” says kickboxer Kendra Smith, ACSM, owner of Forge Fitness studio in Los Angeles. “Kickbox regularly and running becomes no problem. Strength becomes no problem. A fighter’s body is capable of anything.”
- It’s SHOCKINGLY fun – No doubt about it: kickboxing is a flat-out blast. We go about our days tiptoeing around other people’s feelings; we apologize even if we bump someone’s cart in the grocery store. The ability to let propriety go during a kickboxing class is exhilarating. “When else do you get permission to hit or kick someone—or something–as hard as you can?” asks Smith. You’re not only getting a killer workout, but you’re also embodying something elemental—the warrior inside you. The person who doesn’t have to be so nice, so careful, so apologetic. That doesn’t mean that when you leave class, you’ll go around knocking people out if they look at you funny. But it’s nice to know you have the skills to let off some steam if you ever needed to.
- It’s useful – Back when our grandparents exercised—in dance and gymnastics classes, in boxing and martial arts classes, on basketball and tennis courts—exercise was all about mastering a skill set: a pirouette, a backhand slice, a step-back jumper. They were learning while getting fit. If they lifted weights or jogged, it was to support their athletic endeavors. Today, skill-based classes still exist, but many of us opt to lift or do cardio instead. With kickboxing, you’re learning a crucial skill while you sweat. “This is why there are 85-year-old men still doing it,” says Smith. “They get to watch themselves get better and better constantly.”
What Happens in a Kickboxing Class?
No, you won’t be forced to fight on your first day. In fact, in most gyms, live sparring is limited and optional. The focus, instead, is on building skill and fitness—safely and gradually.
“A good instructor keeps things simple,” says martial arts instructor Ryan Bottiglieri, AIMA, a 3rd-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate. “If you can pick up one or two techniques in a class, that’s a win, and you can build on that.”
In a typical class, you’ll spend a few minutes in class, wrapping your hands—which protects the bones while you punch. Next, you warm up with some dynamic stretching as well as jumping rope and shadowboxing. Then the work begins with bag drills and combinations and for some classes partner mitt drills. The class usually ends with some kind of finisher, whether that is core work, cardio work, or bag drills.
Does Kickboxing Burn Fat?
Like any fitness class, kickboxing elevates your heart rate. When you’re starting, kickboxing can feel like a remedial dance. You’re figuring out your footwork and your form.The main workout you’ll get is from the neck up, as you try to retain all the instructions your coach is giving you. But before long, the basics will start to feel natural and smooth. “It can look intimidating at first,” says Bottiglieri. “But kickboxing is really only about a dozen moves—three or four punches, elbows, knees, roundhouse kicks, and front kicks.”As you master those fundamentals, your tempo will increase, as will the physical challenge of the class. Before long, you’ll be doing it all confidently, and burning tons of calories—roughly 500 for smaller people, up to 1000 in an hour for larger ones—in the process. The harder a kickboxing class gets, the more it resembles the stress and intensity of an actual sparring match. Stay motivated and engage in learning the skills it takes to kick-box.