Why Everyone Should Try Kickboxing

Looking for a way to punch up your exercise plan? This full-body workout is a real knockout.
Kick boxing class

Do you usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the gym? Before you throw in the exercise towel completely, why not capitalize on your more aggressive tendencies and try a kickboxing workout instead?

"Freestyle kickboxing will tone your body from head to toe," says Anna Luzzi, a certified instructor and second-degree black belt. "You can literally kick and punch your way to a new level of aerobic fitness while increasing your agility and energy levels."

Another plus, freestyle kickboxing is an entirely portable workout. "Because you use your own body weight as resistance, once you learn the basics, all you need is some high-energy music and a little room to move, and you can be on your way to burning [between] 500 to 900 calories an hour," says Luzzi.

With Luzzi's help, we've compiled six basic kickboxing moves to get you started. Once you've mastered the correct form for each punch or kick, try stringing them together in sequence for a fat-blasting TKO.

Good Form Makes a Difference

No matter what the move, here are six universal tips for good kickboxing form.
  1. Body is in neutral position, abdominals contracted, back straight.
  2. Hands are always "on guard" in a defense position, which means chin level, fists facing each other (as if forming a hexagon with knuckles and wrists); elbows close to body, arms in front of shoulders.
  3. Stay light with your weight centered forward on the balls of your feet, as if skipping rope (unless planting a foot firmly to throw a kick). This allows for quick, easy weight transitions in all directions.
  4. Breathing is vital! Try counting with each punch or to the beat of the music. It will force you to inhale and exhale more air.
  5. Kick only to your current level of flexibility. Kicks should start low until form is perfected, but eventually they'll get higher and higher.
  6. Remember "95% extension, 100% power." Don't ever fully "lock out" elbows or knees when throwing a move.

The moves

Front jab
Stand with feet hip distance apart, body facing front, hands "on guard" (chin level, fists facing each other), shoulders relaxed and down, elbows close to body. Keeping your wrist straight, punch your right fist forward directly in front of your right shoulder, as if trying to hit a target with the flat part of the first two knuckles. Recoil, bringing fist back to starting position. Repeat with left fist.

Cross punch
Assume the front jab starting stance. Keeping your wrist straight, throw a punch with your right fist across the centerline of the body, ending with your hand in front of your left shoulder. Twists your torso into the move, lifting your right heel and rotating your right hip and shoulder slightly forward, following the direction of the punch. There should be no twist in the knees. Recoil, bringing your fist back to the starting position. Repeat with left fist.

Upper-cut punch
Assume the front jab starting stance, but face your fists in toward your body instead of the palms facing each other. Circling from your right shoulder, bring your fist out, around and up in a clockwise motion close to your body. Stop short just under your chin (if there were a target, the punch would come up and under it, connecting with your first two knuckles). Repeat with the left arm.

Front snap kick
Stand with feet hip distance apart, abs tight, back erect, hands "on guard" for stability and balance, though they won't be used during the kick. Bring your knee up to hip height (called the "chamber" part of the move) and aim at an imaginary target in front of you. Thrusting your hips slightly forward, extend your lower leg and "snap" your flexed foot forward as if contacting target with the instep of your foot. Keep the kick low (about 45 degrees). Return to the "chamber" bent-knee position then lower your foot to the floor. Repeat with the other leg.

Side kick
Start in the front snap kick position, but as your bring your right knee up to the "chamber" position, pivot on the ball of your left foot, so the heel of your left foot points toward an imaginary target to the right of your body. Slightly bend your left leg with weight on the supporting foot. Using momentum from the turning motion, extend your right leg to the side, pretending to strike a target with your right heel (heel should be slightly higher than toes, which point toward the floor). Keep the kick low. Return to the "chamber" bent-knee position and lower foot to the floor. Repeat with the left leg. Note: Your torso should naturally tilt slightly away from the kicking leg during this move.

Back thrust kick
Start in front snap kick position. Bring your knee up to the "chamber" position with your foot flexed. Kick back with the heel of your lifted foot, as if striking something behind your body with the heel. Keep the kick low (never higher than your waist). Lower your foot to floor. Repeat with the other leg.

The combinations
Try stringing these moves together in sequence to the beat of the music to get started. Then make up some combinations of your own!

  • Two front jabs with right arm, one front jab left, one cross punch right. Then start left.

  • Side kick with right leg, front jab right. Cross punch left. Then start with kick left.

  • Front snap kick right foot, immediately followed by a back thrust kick with left foot. Repeat series four times. Then start on the left.

  • Throw four upper-cut punches (alternating right, left, right, left), then do a side kick with the left foot. Reverse, starting punches with your left arm.
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