FlickrCC/Kristin Wall Image by: FlickrCC/Kristin Wall
With origins in martial arts, kickboxing was first limited to being a full-contact sport. But today, people also kickbox to stay fit. "Kickboxing has evolved," says Ross O'Donnell, president of Fitness Kickboxing Canada, professional MMA/kickboxing coach and certified personal trainer. "Now there are opportunities for people to train like real fighters with all the benefits of the workout without having to get in the ring." He adds that, although sparring is an option for advanced students, 99 percent of participants join strictly for fitness.
O'Donnell shares the physical and mental benefits of kickboxing, and offers info on how to get started.
It's great exercise
Kickboxing is an excellent cardiovascular and resistance workout. "Studies have shown that a 45- to 60-minute class can burn 600 to 800 calories," says O'Donnell. In addition to weight loss, you also build lean muscle, which can raise your metabolism and helps to tone the whole body. A kickboxing workout involves all muscle groups: The kicking component concentrates on the thighs, hips and buttocks while the punching techniques sculpt the shoulders, back and core. Focus pads, or mitts, are used as part of resistance training, further building lean muscle and contributing to increased bone density. Beyond the phenomenal physical training, kickboxing develops focus and mental capacity, makes you feel strong and self-confident and it's also a great stress reliever. Finally, kickboxing offers women valuable self-defence skills.
Try training with a friend—partnering up may increase motivation and commitment to the workout program. "Unlike the traditional aerobics class where everyone is staying at the same pace, your intensity is determined by you and your partner," says O'Donnell. Partner training is built into timed intervals to reflect actual kickboxing bouts in a competition. "It's an excellent way to build skill, agility, speed, focus and stamina."
How to get started
When choosing a fitness kickboxing program, look for an organization with trained, certified and insured instructors. "Injuries are less likely if you train with a certified instructor," says O'Donnell. "There is less chance of injuries due to hyperextension when kicking air with an untrained instructor."
A beginner's class usually starts with a five-minute warm up of dynamic movements such as shadow boxing, light jogging and sprints. Then, functional exercises focus on endurance and explosive power, such as battling ropes, plyometric box training, quickness drills and free body and core exercises. Next comes practising proper Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) techniques, the highlight of any class, including stand-up punch-and-kick drills (with focus pads), heavy-bag work and kick shields. The class finishes with five minutes of stretching to cool down.
One of the first things a kickboxing student learns is proper stance and correct footwork. "This is the foundation from which to build all other skills," says O'Donnell. He adds that technique should always come first in the sport, to lesson the likelihood of injury. When proper technique is established, speed and power will inevitably follow.
To find other ways to burn calories efficiently and effectively, check out this five-minute workout.