Kickboxing is a type of martial art whose basic moves are widely practiced in personal and group fitness regimens. In combat kickboxing, two competitors fight using four points of contact — both hands and both feet — unlike traditional boxing, where competitors are allowed to use their hands. In competitive kickboxing, opponents must remain standing, and no fighting can occur on the mat or ground. Kickboxing has its roots in Muay Thai and other ancient martial arts. Some elemental moves from kickboxing include roundhouse kicks, back kicks, hooks, uppercuts and more.
Modern group fitness kickboxing is practiced in gyms and workout studios across the country. It draws its moves from combat kickboxing, but instead of fighting with an opponent, participants perform jabs, crosses, punches and kicks in instructor-led, choreographed routines set to music. Personal trainers also incorporate kickboxing moves into workout routines, spending time punching and kicking the bag. These strength-building moves, mixed with high-intensity intervals, boost heart rate and increase strength.
Kickboxing is great exercise. It works your whole body and really gets your heart pounding. Kickboxing combines upper- and lower-body movements like roundhouse kicks and uppercut punches that boost calorie burning. The type of kickboxing you do will determine how much exercise you get. Kickboxing training that takes place in a martial arts studio will involve kicking and punching a sandbag or sparring with a competitor, both of which will sharply increase the amount of exercise you’ll experience in a kickboxing session. Comparatively, a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that women doing group fitness cardio kickboxing burned between 6.45 and 8.3 calories per minute, or approximately 350-450 calories burned during an hour-long class. This is roughly what you can expect to burn with jogging or similar exercise, but ACE says that cardio kickboxing offers the added benefits of increased strength and flexibility, sharper reflexes, and improved coordination. Whether you’re training to fight competitively, learning kickboxing as a form of self-defense, or taking cardio kickboxing at your local gym, you’ll get a full-body workout with positive health benefits.
What you wear to kickboxing can vary based on the setting. For kickboxing group fitness classes that are part of a gym’s cardio class schedule, standard fitness attire is appropriate. Athletic sneakers, pants or shorts that you can comfortably kick in without getting tangled or flashing anyone, and a top that allows for easy movement when punching and jabbing are all good choices. You won’t need protective gear or gloves, as most cardio-based kickboxing classes do not use punching bags.
Kickboxing training that takes place at a martial arts studio typically requires protective gear. You may need boxing gloves (beginners may want 12-ounce or heavier gloves for more cushioning) and hand wraps that protect and support your hands under the gloves while you punch the bag. If your kickboxing training includes sparring with opponents, you’ll need a mouthguard and any protective head and body gear your studio requires. Always be sure to bring plenty of water, too.
Fitness boot camps are a heart-pounding way to boost your fitness level. Boot camps are led by a fitness instructor and are based on the concept of military boot camps — intensive workout programs to get new recruits into shape, quickly. Fitness boot camps encourage camaraderie, and the group momentum helps participants get through fast-paced intervals of cardio, isometric training, strength training and endurance drills. Classes may range anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and usually meet multiple days per week. Boot camps often run a specific duration of time, say four to six weeks, which creates a team-like environment for class members. Other boot camps run year-round and students purchase package pricing for classes, similar to subscriptions that allow them a set amount of classes per week or per month.
Boot camps can be held indoors at a gym, outdoors in a park or on a beach, in a backyard — anywhere there’s room for running, jumping and sweating. Some instructors also provide DVD and online boot camps. You can also find boot camps tailored to your heart’s desire, such as bikini boot camp, or boot camps for new mothers. Boot camps offer an intense workout and are usually led by energetic instructors pushing you to do your best, but unlike military boot camp drill sergeants, fitness boot camp instructors typically don’t use intimidation or punishment to spur you on. Check with your doctor before starting a boot camp if you have health concerns, and always let your instructor know ahead of time if you have injuries.
What you need to bring to kickboxing depends on where you are working out and what your goals are. For a gym or fitness club’s cardio-based group kickboxing class that does not use punching bags, you generally need only appropriate workout gear and enough water. For kickboxers who are training in a martial arts studio, working one-on-one with a trainer toward a specific goal or sparring with competitors, you will need your own boxing gloves (12- to 16-ounce gloves provide more protection for beginners) and hand wraps (to protect and support your hands under the gloves, as well as keep them dry). If your lessons are in a martial arts studio, you may not be permitted to wear shoes, so bring clean socks if you don’t like to go barefoot. If your training includes sparring, you may be required to wear a mouthguard and/or protective headgear. Whether you’re in a group fitness class or hardcore training session, bring a sweat towel for your comfort and the comfort of people around you.
The cost of fitness boot camps depends on how often you go, the package you are purchasing (or if you are paying a drop-in fee), the location of the bootcamp, the equipment the instructors provide, and the background and reputation of the instructor. Smaller towns and areas with a lower cost of living typically have lower rates for boot camp services than big cities and regions with a higher cost of living. If you’re paying per class on a drop-in basis, expect to pay anywhere from $12 to $25 or more, depending on the region and the instructor. When you purchase a package of classes, typically the more you buy at one time, the cheaper each class is. The same boot camp class might be $20 for a drop-in student, $15 for a student who pays for 10 classes per month, and $10 for a student who pays for 30 classes a month. Studio space can also affect costs, so if your boot camp takes place in a high-end gym with top-of-the-line equipment, the prices will likely be higher than a class that meets in an outdoor space with limited or no equipment. Shop around to find the right type of boot camp class and the right instructor for you.
Kickboxing is as intense a workout as you want it to be. As with any fitness regimen, the more effort you put in, the more results you will get. The type of kickboxing you do will determine how physically challenging it is. Combat or self-defense kickboxing, where you train in a martial arts studio with sandbags or spar against combat partners, can be an intense physical workout. Group kickboxing classes that use sandbags as part of the workout will also elevate the degree of intensity, because of the level of exertion punching and kicking the bag requires. Cardio kickboxing group fitness, which employ kicking and punching moves but no sandbags, has comparable intensity to jogging but works a wider range of muscles while increasing strength, flexibility and coordination. Here are some of the core kickboxing moves:
- Cross: A straight punch that you throw slightly across your body, using your dominant hand.
- Jab: A quick, straight, face punch. Usually thrown with the non-dominant hand.
- Uppercut: A punch thrown up from the midsection (using either hand) that connects with the underside of your opponent’s chin.
- Hook: A curved punch (using either hand) that connects with your competitor’s jaw or chin.
- Side kick: A kick delivered when your competitor is at an angle to you. Raise your leg to the side, then bend at the knee to deliver the kick.
- Front kick: A kick delivered straight on while you are facing your opponent.
- Roundhouse kick: A kick delivered by swinging a leg up in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion (depending on which leg you’re using) with momentum to strike the opponent with the instep of the foot.