Kickboxing packs more than a one-two punch for your health—it’s more like a 4-6-10 combo. Like most workouts, you’ll break a major sweat while you jab, cross, and kick—but the benefits of this form of fitness go well beyond strength and cardio (though those top the list).
While there hasn’t been any super-recent science analyzing the pay-offs of your punching, one study from 2014 did find that kickboxing improved upper-body and aerobic power, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, speed, and agility. In other words, you hit every aspect of physical training.
While kickboxing can be intimidating—it may conjure up images of dudes knocking each other out—don’t let that turn you off. “Once people try it, they get excited,” says Taylor Merritt, ACE-certified, on-demand trainer for Title Boxing. “Getting hand wraps, talking about the benefits, and learning the jab, cross, and uppercut technique gives people confidence,” she says. “There’s mental and physical benefits to boxing, but it’s also easy to do regularly, because it’s such fun.”
Convinced to give it a go yet? If you’ve never signed up for a fight-centric class or followed along in an online workout, let these next seven kickboxing benefits convince you it’s time to start knocking out your workout.
1. It’s a full-body burn
Your arms might do a lot of work as they turn, twist, and extend through each punch, and your legs certainly drive each kick, but it takes your entire body to create force and add power to each movement, says Eliza Shirazi, trainer at Everybody Fights in New York City and creator and founder of Kick It with Eliza, available to steam at neoufitness.com. “The power comes from the legs, through the core, and then translates out to the arms,” she explains.
Also, most kickboxing workouts involve a total-body warm-up or active recovery intervals, featuring moves like squats, lunges, situps, pushups, or burpees. So you train from head to toe doing those exercises, too.
2. You can make it your own workout
While you do get a full-body challenge with every punch and kick, you can also move at your own pace and easily modify when you need to, says Shirazi. That also means you can really turn it up—pushing your pace and adding more force behind each punch with your hips and lower half—whenever you’re ready to increase the intensity.
“When I’m teaching or any of my instructors are, we always show modifications for an inclusive space for both beginners and the super athletic,” Shirazi says. “That’s the best perk of it all.” So you do you, girl, going as fast as you can or as slow as you need.
Want another full-body workout you can do at home? Give this routine a try:
3. It’s endurance, speed, and power training in one
Kickboxing isn’t just about one type of training. While you do get a high-intensity workout from each session—performing at an all-out effort and actively recovering in between those bursts—you’re also moving throughout the entire class, so you enhance your endurance. “That’s why a lot of boxers will train with jump ropes or speed bags to build stamina and perform better,” says Shirazi.
As for the punches and kicks, you want to make them quick and snappy, just like you would if you were actually fighting, so that’s your speed challenge. Then, to drive that pace, comes your power. “A lot of people might think, oh I’m just using my upper body, but if you’re doing it correctly, power comes from your lower body and core,” says Merritt. Focus on that force, starting at the feet and extending through the hand, and you’ve got yourself a complete workout.
4. You also build strength
Hitting or kicking a heavy bag requires some serious strength. You need tough muscles to conquer this hardcore workout, and that stands true for every muscle group—including your shoulders, arms, back, abs, legs, and butt. “This is a great combo of cardio and strength, which makes you tone up quick, too,” says Merritt.
5. Your brain gets a workout as well
“It’s all about what’s happening behind your eyes and between your ears.”
While doing kickboxing, your brain learns to act quick as it responds to punches, masters sharp reflexes, and memorizes combos, says Shirazi. “It’s all about what’s happening behind your eyes and between your ears,” she says. “The stronger you are on the inside, the better you’ll be able to perform on the outside.”
Shirazi offers meditations with her Kick It program for this exact purpose—so you can build a strong, sharp mind right along with that powerful body.
6. You can do it anywhere
Sure, it’s helpful to have a big bag to punch, but it’s not a necessity. NEO U ($8/month) and Title Boxing ($25/month) both offer streaming workouts, and you don’t need anything but your own body to follow along.
If you’re all about that bag, and don’t have access to a studio, you can create your own kickboxing gym at home with products like FightCamp—which includes a bag, gloves, wraps, punch trackers, and a workout mat. (Note: FightCamp also requires you register for their monthly class subscription, which offers on-demand boxing workouts.) Just maybe make sure you have enough space that you don’t punch or kick the wall, or another human.
7. It’s a major stress reliever
Brooke Budke, vice president of marketing for Title, says they have a prompt in classes for people to write down what they’re fighting for that day. And more often than not, it’s for their mental health. “There’s a physical element of fighting back against things that weigh you down in life,” she says. When the company also questions their clients about why they stick with kickboxing, one-third of members say it’s the stress relief.
“The biggest thing we hear is that people feel empowered—they consider kickboxing their therapy,” says Merritt. “They’re fighting for their mental strength, happiness, anxiety and just a release. So, people feel good during the workout, but they also feel amazing after, and throughout the day and week. You’re basically on a boxing high.”
And if that’s not a health benefit, I don’t know what is.
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