The Beginner’s Guide to Kickboxing

John and Tina Reed/Getty Images

John and Tina Reed/Getty Images

Kickboxing isn’t a new concept, but its growing popularity with models and celebrities (check out any Victoria’s Secret Angel’s Instagram and you’ll see them in the studio punching a bag) has turned every eye toward this workout that packs serious results.

“A few years ago, these types of workouts used to only be seen as exercises for those who were interested in competing in the sport,” says Jessica Lopez, a personal trainer at The Boxing Club in San Diego. “After more and more celebrities have become interested in kickboxing, we have definitely seen an increase in the number of participants in our classes.” The technique combines cardio and strength training, and perhaps most importantly, it adds an element of fun. Intrigued yet? To find out if this could be the jumpstart to your fitness regimen, join us as Lopez  explains the ropes.

What is kickboxing?
“Kickboxing is a stand-up combat sport derived from a combination of boxing, Muay Thai, and Karate,” says Lopez. “In a kickboxing class, these fighting fundamentals are combined and set to music to create an awesome cardiovascular and strength workout.”

What are the benefits?
When you do any type of striking motion, you work eight parts of the body simultaneously: both of your fists, the elbows, knees, and shins. Combine this with cardio, like jumping rope or a bit of running, along with strength exercise, and you work the entire body, burning calories and toning all at once.

“Because it tones your body while burning lots of calories, a lot of supermodels have turned to the workout in order to get sleek, toned figures,” Lopez says. “By learning the fundamentals of kickboxing, you’ll also strengthen your core and enhance your balance without even needing to do a traditional crunch.” She adds that the punches, which are the heart of the workout, define the deltoids and arms, while the kicks tone the hips and obliques.

What should first timers know?
“The most important element when practicing kickboxing is to ensure you have proper form,” Lopez says. She recommends getting proper instruction on movement even before you take your first class. “Because you’re extending your arms and legs in a lot of the movement, it is very easy to overextend and cause strain to your body.” She adds, “You want to make sure that you are hitting the bags with the correct part of your hand and legs to avoid causing any injuries.”

Because the classes are cardio-based, they can move pretty quickly, so Lopez adds that you should always go at your own pace. “If you find that you’re out of breath during a class, you can either slow down your punches and kicks, or give yourself a 30-second to 1-minute break.”

And always, always let your instructor know you’re new to classes in the first few weeks. “This will give them an opportunity to make sure your form is correct and show you any complicated movements before class begins,” Lopez advises.

Is this the only workout you need?
Although kickboxing is a total body workout, Lopez recommends supplementing your off days with cardio. “Having a strong cardiovascular system is important to be successful at any combat sport,” she says. “I suggest cross training with running or even spring intervals a couple of times a week.”

How soon will you see results?
“If you’re going to class at least three days per week and are eating a relatively clean diet, then you can expect to start seeing results within three weeks since these workouts are highly effective at burning fat and toning,” says Lopez. Depending on your weight and metabolic rate and the intensity of the workout, you can expect to burn between 400-800 calories in an hour-long class.

And most importantly, don’t feel intimidated. “Although a background in fitness is helpful when starting kickboxing, it’s definitely not something that’s needed. We have women—and men—of all shapes and sizes in each of our classes,” Lopez says. Can’t do a jab? You’ll soon find out. The key is to go at your own pace and listen to your body. “A good instructor,” she says, “will always modify the movements for all different levels.”

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