Fitness works wonders for our physical and mental state, and self-defense skills help build confidence. This is why kickboxing could be exactly what you need in your life.
Sweating it out on the reg helps us build cardio and strength, express pent-up energy, and release endorphins for some much-needed stress relief and an improved mental state.
One of the most effective and most popular ways of getting these exercise-related benefits is by kickboxing. Are you ready to channel your inner Jean Claude Van Damme?
Let’s get it, Zoppler fam!
What Exactly is Kickboxing?
Kickboxing is a combat sport that combines striking techniques from martial arts including Karate, Muay Thai, and Western boxing. Participants are permitted to use punches, kicks, knee strikes, and elbow strikes to defeat their opponent.
Kickboxing is a great way to improve overall fitness, build strength and endurance, and learn self-defense techniques, but it is also a competitive sport that originated in Japan in the 1950s and became popular in the United States during the 1970s.
The Kickboxing Fitness Route
Some take up kickboxing for the sport of it, training to one day compete in and win a kickboxing world championship title. Others practice kickboxing for self-defense so that they have the means to protect themselves if they are attacked.
Many people practice kickboxing, however, for the innumerable health and fitness benefits associated with kickboxing training. Kickboxing workouts are highly effective, combining the cardio benefits of running, cycling, and rowing with the strength benefits of resistance training.
In fact, a 2014 study published in Muscle, Ligaments, and Tendon Journal observed “significant improvement in upper-body muscle power, aerobic power, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, speed and agility” after a five-week period of kickboxing training.
Given this insight, kickboxing is one of the most effective, most well-rounded exercise programs for helping improve heart and lung function, managing body weight, and building strength and muscle. Plus, the combat aspect of the training promotes mental fortitude and self-confidence.
Types and Styles of Kickboxing Classes
Just as the word “exercise” could mean anything from cardio training to weightlifting, “kickboxing” is an umbrella term for a wide variety of types and styles of the combat sport, most of which offer classes for fitness enthusiasts and hopeful future kickboxing competitors.
Here are the most common types and styles of kickboxing classes:
Cardio kickboxing combines the martial arts techniques of the combat sport with aerobic exercise to create a high-intensity workout. Classes are typically led by instructors and involve a series of punching and kicking combinations performed to music.
Cardio kickboxing is popular because it can help improve cardiovascular endurance, burn calories, and build strength and flexibility. It’s also a fun, albeit challenging, way to relieve stress.
Unlike other types of kickboxing, cardio kickboxing involves no actual fighting. It is purely for exercise purposes.
Muay Thai Kickboxing
Muay Thai is one of the most iconic styles of kickboxing, known for its powerful and devastating techniques. The sport emphasizes striking techniques that are effective in close range, including the use of elbow strikes, knee strikes, clinching, and grappling techniques.
Muay Thai kickboxing is a competition sport, a popular form of self-defense, means for achieving physical fitness, and a cultural practice in Thailand where it originated.
Karate kickboxing is a hybrid martial art that combines elements of Japanese Karate and kickboxing. It emphasizes the use of strong and accurate punches and kicks, like Karate, combined with effective footwork and defense techniques used in kickboxing.
As with other forms of kickboxing, Karate kickboxing can be a competitive sport, form of self-defense, or type of physical fitness training.
Also known as K1, Japanese kickboxing is a combat sport that originated in Japan that combines elements of Karate, Muay Thai, and Western boxing.
K1 kickboxing rules vary slightly from other forms of kickboxing. For example, fighters are allowed to clinch their opponent and deliver knee strikes, but throws and takedowns are not permitted.
K1 has become a popular combat sport in Japan and around the world because of its fast-paced action and exciting knockout finishes, and it requires a high level of skill, endurance, and athleticism to compete.
Also known as Sanshou, Sanda kickboxing is a form of Chinese kickboxing that combines striking techniques, throws, takedowns, and wrestling techniques to create a comprehensive style of combat.
Training in Sanda kickboxing involves developing striking techniques, grappling techniques, and defensive skills. Many martial arts schools and gyms offer training in Sanda kickboxing, which is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Savate kickboxing is another popular form of kickboxing. Also known as “French boxing”, Savate emphasizes the use of both punches and kicks with a particular focus on footwork and agility.
Savate kickboxing uses a unique style of kicking known as “chassé,” a thrusting kick that strikes using the ball of the foot, as well as common punches like jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.
Women’s kickboxing classes are typically led by female instructors who provide a safe and supportive environment for women to train in. The classes focus on developing strength, endurance, and self-defense skills, while also promoting overall physical fitness and well-being.
Women’s kickboxing is popular. Not only does it offer health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle tone, and stress relief, but it is fun and empowering.
Whereas women’s kickboxing provides a space for female kickboxers to train, men’s kickboxing classes do the same for male participants. Led by experienced instructors, men’s kickboxing classes incorporate the same high-octane workout the women’s classes are known for, but specifically catered to men.
Kickboxing Classes for Beginners
Not everyone is ready to hop into the ring or octagon and fight in a kickboxing tournament.
That’s why many gyms, both kickboxing-focused gyms and premium commercial gyms, tend to offer kickboxing classes for beginners to help them become the best kickboxer they can be.
These classes are designed to introduce people to the fundamentals of kickboxing in a safe and supportive environment. Experienced instructors provide step-by-step instructions and modifications while teaching fundamentals such as punches, kicks, and knee strikes.
The result is a comprehensive class that helps in developing the skills and techniques for becoming an adept kickboxer, while simultaneously supporting improved all-purpose fitness in the process.
Before long, you’ll be ready for tournament fighting or, who knows, maybe even the Kickboxing World Championship! Or, just go have some fun and get in a good cardio and strength workout.
Choosing the Right Kickboxing Gym
So, you’ve decided kickboxing is the sport for you, and you’re eager to start training today!
Pump the brakes, champ. Selecting the best kickboxing gym for your purposes will depend on a variety of factors. Consider the following before signing up to the first gym you find on Google.
Your Training Goals
Most importantly, what do you want to get from kickboxing? Are you trying to be the next IKF champion, or do you just want to cultivate a stronger, leaner physique?
If your primary purpose is to get fit in time for beach season, cardio kickboxing classes should be fine. On the other hand, if you’re trying to become a competition fighter, Muay Thai classes or boutique kickboxing studios like 9Round Kickboxing Fitness might be more suitable.
The Facility, Instructor, and Classes
Visit the gym before signing a membership agreement to really get the lay of the land. As you survey the scene, ask yourself:
- Is the space large enough to support the average class size?
- Is the facility clean and well-ventilated?
- Is there enough, or any, gear and equipment available?
After a quick look around, you’ll want to check the instructors’ credentials. For hopeful kickboxing competitors, you’ll want to see they have a specific background in kickboxing or another martial art, rather than a garden variety fitness certification like CPT, and a proven track record of training successful fighters or former champions.
Of course, all of this is for naught if the class size is larger or smaller than you prefer, or the class schedule does not feature classes during times you would normally be available for training.
It’s important to choose a gym that will support your training goals in an environment that’s equipped to inspire your growth and development, but arguably more important is the sense of community.
Many kickboxing gyms cultivate a supportive and welcoming vibe that helps you feel right at home training with like-minded individuals. It’s not always easy to know for sure what the “flavor” of the gym you’re signing up for is, but finding a place you feel comfortable and welcome will help keep you motivated to come back and achieve those goals. If you are training with people that are fighting to be the next champion while you just want a good workout, it is going to be a bit awkward.
Kickboxing Gear You Will Need
Kickboxing is a high-intensity sport that requires a few essential pieces of gear to ensure safety and maximize performance.
Here are some of the most important pieces of kickboxing gear you will need.
If you’re doing cardio kickboxing, it’s unlikely you’ll catch a kick to the head, but in other forms of kickboxing it’s a very real possibility.
That’s where kickboxing headgear comes in. Kickboxing headgear features padding to absorb the shock of a strike to the head. Some headgear may provide protection for the face, jaw, temples, and ears as well.
High quality headgear will be made from leather or synthetic material that is both durable and easy to clean. The headgear should be comfortable to wear, fit securely in a way that does not obstruct vision or breathing, and easy to adjust.
If you’re going to be hitting the bag, you’ll want your hands and wrists protected.
Kickboxing gloves and heavy bag gloves are designed to absorb some of the impact of your strikes while encouraging your wrists to stay straight and strong. Whereas heavy bag gloves feature padding predominantly in the knuckles, kickboxing gloves distribute the padding more evenly around the glove for more overall cushioning.
MMA sparring gloves are not a bad choice either, as these provide padding for the knuckles while leaving the hands and fingers free for clinching, grappling, and takedowns.
Gloves are available in different sizes and weights depending on your level of experience and the type of training you will be doing. Whether you’re hitting the bag or sparring, you will definitely need a great pair.
Other than bags, kickboxing often uses pads for practicing punches, kicks, and other strikes. The most common types include:
- Focus pads: Small, handheld pads, sometimes called mitts, used to practice jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and other punching strikes.
- Thai pads: Larger pads, sometimes called kick pads or kick shields, used to practice kicks, knees, and other strikes.
- Shield pads: Even larger pads, sometimes called punching shields or strike shields, used to practice a wide range of strikes.
- Belly pads: Worn by a training partner or coach and used for practicing body shots and other midsection-targeting strikes.
Most kickboxing gyms will have some or all of the above pads, and they will be used frequently for practicing skills and technique.
Kickboxing Clothing: What to Wear
As with any other sport training or exercise routine, the right clothes make a world of difference. You’ll want breathable, moisture-wicking clothing, such as synthetic blends or cotton, to prioritize comfort while kickboxing. Clothing should not be too tight or too loose, as restrictive and baggy clothing causes problems while throwing strikes or practicing footwork.
Depending on the type of kickboxing you’re practicing, you may or may not be wearing shoes.
Cardio kickboxing almost always requires shoes. Athletic sneakers with good support and grip tend to work best. Martial arts gyms, on the other hand, often require you remove your shoes prior to training, and may or may not provide padding, like kickboxing shin guards, for when you kick a bag or a training partner.
Kickboxing at Home
Some people prefer practicing kickboxing at home instead of always heading down to the gym. With the right setup, it’s possible to get in some quality kickboxing at home. Here are a few pointers:
- Make sure you have enough space to throw strikes and move. If you don’t have a room big enough, taking it outside is always an option.
- Follow along with a streaming kickboxing workout. Many platforms today offer live and pre-recorded kickboxing workouts you can stream from any Internet-enabled device.
- Shadowboxing works, but investing in basic equipment is better. Gloves and a punching bag alone help you up the ante when practicing strikes and combinations.
Working out at home provides you freedom and flexibility, but you forego the watchful eye of a trained professional in the process. For this reason, it’s often worth it to take at least a few classes to build your kickboxing foundation before predominantly or exclusively training at home.
Types of Punching Bags
Whether you’d rather train from the comfort of your own home or simply want to create a space for supplementing what you’ve worked on in class, a punching bag and gloves provide immense value to your at-home kickboxing training.
Here are some of the most common punching bag types:
The heavy bag is the most common type of punching bag and, as the name suggests, they’re heavy, typically weighing between 70 to 100 pounds. Heavy bags are typically suspended from the ceiling or heavy bag hanger, and are filled with dense material to absorb shock.
Water Punching Bag
A water punching bag, sometimes called an aqua bag, is a water-filled bag that mimics the feel of hitting a human body. They are designed to reduce impact on the hands and wrists, making them a great option for beginners or those recovering from hand or wrist injuries.
Wall-Mounted Punching Bag
Unlike traditional heavy bags that are suspended from a ceiling or stand, wall-mounted punching bags are mounted directly onto a wall using a bracket or other hardware, making them a great option for home gyms or training spaces with limited floor space.
Doorway Punching Bag
Doorway punching bags are designed to be hung in a doorway, or on a door frame, using special brackets or hardware. They are typically smaller and lighter than traditional heavy bags, helping users focus on speed and accuracy training rather than heavy strikes.
Outdoor Punching Bag
Outdoor punching bags are designed to be used in outdoor settings such as backyards, patios, or parks. While all punching bags are made from durable materials, outdoor punching bags are created with weatherproofing features that can withstand the elements if left outside.
An uppercut bag is a type of punching bag specifically designed for practicing uppercut punches and body shots. They are typically cylindrical in shape and shorter than traditional heavy bags, with a target area that is positioned at mid-torso level.
Freestanding Punching Bag
A freestanding punching bag is a type of punching bag that does not require mounting or hanging. Instead, it stands upright, as its name suggests, on a sturdy base. The base may be filled with sand or water to ensure it does not go plummeting to the floor with each strike.
Go Kick Yourself Into Motion
As you’ve now read, kickboxing is a highly effective workout that combines martial arts techniques with cardio exercises. This form of exercise provides a full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups and improves overall fitness. It’s a great way to improve cardiovascular endurance, build strength, and tone muscles while burning a significant number of calories. Kickboxing also enhances flexibility, coordination, and balance. Additionally, this workout helps relieve stress and improves mental health by releasing endorphins. Overall, kickboxing cardio is an excellent workout for those looking to improve their physical and mental health in a fun and challenging way.
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