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Cardio kickboxing guide for beginners

Many of us believe that martial artists on an average, are probably the most conditioned, athletic, and leanest amongst the athletes we know. They seem to have it all, that is power, speed, strength and most often than not a ripped body to die for too. Of course, it takes years and years of endless training for them to be able to do what they can do. Yet, most of us would love to be as lean and athletic as they are.

The concern however is that most of us would not want to expose ourselves to getting beaten up badly, while training in traditional martial arts. After all, breaking boards maybe cool, but having a broken nose is not, ha ha. However as mentioned earlier, martial arts training does offer a lot of benefit to general fitness enthusiasts. And thus you have the modern day workout version of traditional martial arts called cardio kickboxing or fitness kickboxing. Unlike traditional forms of training, these classes just focus on the movements without pitting one trainee against another to avoid injuires, while still trying to derive the maximum benefits asscoiated with such training. In case you are still doubtful, here are 8 benefits that might interest you:

  • Great for fat loss, as you can burn more calories compared to regular low intensity cardio. For eg an 80 kg man can burn upto 800 calories in an hour of kickboxing
  • Great for conditioning
  • Full body workout, so does not overwork one muscle group
  • Great for working the core. The kicks will really improve your core muscles
  • Aids in stress reduction. Needless to say that hitting a punching bag while imagining your pushy boss is a great stress buster (now just dont do that with your actual boss for real)
  • Better flexibility. The athletic nature of the workout will help to improve your flexibility
  • More time efficient when compared to many other forms of cardio. You can forget about trying to do this workout for 3 hours like you would do on the exercise bike. You can get a good cardio kickboxing workout in as little as 20 minutes
  • Its a fun alternative, as the movements are not highly repetitive like jogging or biking. This also means that no particular joint is overworked and the work is spread more evenly

Now before you begin your journey to try and imitate Bruce Lee, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Consult a physician before starting
  • If practicing on a hard surface then avoid or atleast sparingly do high kicks, turnings kicks, and jumping kicks
  • Always warm up before starting the session. Do some spot jogging, joint mobility, squats, push ups, etc. to warm up.
  • In the beginning throw the punches and kicks at a slow to moderate pace, and as you get good at the techniques, go harder with more power
  • And yes, do keep in mind that cardio/fitness kickboxing is NOT a self defense workout by itself. For that you need to spar with real people and under a competent coach.

Now for the good stuff, the actual moves:

  • The proper stance- knees bent slightly, one leg in front. Fists lightly clenched near your face. For the hook kick and side kick you will need to take a side stance. For this turn to one side, and look over your shoulder instead of looking straight

  • Jab- a punch thrown with the lead hand (if your left leg and left hand are ahead then the left punch is the jab, or vice versa)
  • Cross- a punch thrown with your rear hand

  • Uppercut-a punch thrown in an upward motion (imagine you are trying to punch an opponent’s chin from below)

  • Hook punch- a circular punch with the rear hand, thrown with a bent elbow (imagine you are trying to hit an opponents cheeks). Twist your hips slightly with the punch.

  • Front kick-imagine you are stamping down the garbage in a can that’s horizontal at waist level. Lift your knee as high as you can, then drive it outward

  • Crescent kick- in one circular motion swing your leg from inside to outside. Turn your feet slightly inwards. Imagine that you are trying to strike the side of the face of an opponent

  • Hammer/Axe kick (out-in)- raise your foot and bring it from outside the shoulder towards your shoulder line. Imagine that you are raising your foot from outiside and striking an opponent on the shoulder or forehead with your heel

  • Hammer/Axe kick (in-out)- the same as above, only this time you raise your leg from the opposite shoulder and drop it straight down

  • Hook kick- take a side stance and raise your lead foot. Snap out a kick (if using right leg then swing towards your right or vice versa) while imagining hitting someone in the head with your heel.

  • Roundhouse kick-imagine your rear leg as a baseball bat, and you are swinging it for the fences. Lift your rear knee, then rotate your hips and straighten your leg as you drive your foot into an imaginary target. Also be sure to turn the supporting leg in the direction of the kick.

  • Side kick-lift your lead foot and throw a kick to the side. Imagine stamping on the garbage can like in the front kick, but to the side this time.

The above mentioned moves are all demonstrated in the video below by my training partner Samrat Sen:

Tips to stay safe and perform better:

  • Exhale forcefully when throwing a punch or kick to gain extra power and release tension
  • Never lock out the knees and elbows fully while executing a kick or punch
  • When doing these moves, esepcially the kicks be sure to keep your guard (hands) reasonably tight to maintain good balance
  •  Increase the height of your kicks gradually. Starting even at waist height or lower maybe ideal for some 
  • When practicing against a punching bag, be sure to keep your wrists straight when you make contact to avoid hurting them

Using kickboxing equipment

You can get a great kickboxing workout by just doing it "shadow boxing" style where you throw the kicks and punches in the air, just like it is done in most classes around the world. However to make it more fun and challenging you can use some traditional kickboxing equipment too. Here are some that you can use:

  • Heavy bag: a great tool to train with, and ideal to use if you train alone. You will add an element of strength by hitting against a resistance, in this case the bag. Training with the bag will help you to develop power and accuracy in your strikes. With the bag I recommend that you also get either punching bag gloves or boxing wraps to protect the skin of the hands. For the kicks you do not need any such protection, and can go barefoot. 
  • Boxing pads- traditional boxing pads can be used when training with a partner. Your partner can wear the pads and present you with a target to hit. This is a great addition as you now have a moving target. And the boxing pads can also be used for some light kicks.
  • Kicking pads- just like the punching pads, kicking pads can offer a great way to practice the accuracy and speed of your kicks. Your partner can hold the pad high, low, and move around to work you harder.
  • Kicking shields- this maybe a bit more for the hardcore types. Kicking shields offer a great target to hit, which your partner can hold for you to aim at. As mentioned earlier, this equipment is a bit more for the hardcore, since the holder will have to absorb some fair amount of impact with the strikes. Then again, it can be a great way to toughen up your body, if you would like that

You do not need to get all the equipment to train with, choosing one can be enough to help you get a much better workout. After all, you are not preparing to enter the ring, rather just focusing on improving your fitness. However whichever equipment you choose, be sure that you go light at first, and only go at full force when you are comfortable training with it.

The best way to implement kickboxing in your training regimen

You can do kickboxing training anywhere from one to seven days a week. If kickboxing is going to be your main focus of training then do it 4-6 times a week, and if you are already doing a lot of weight training and other cardio then do it 1-3 times a week for best results. You can either do it as a post weight workout cardio or on your off days as a whole workout by itself. The duration will of course depend on your fitness levels, while for someone who is really fit, 30-60 minutes will be ideal, whereas for someone who is not very fit, 15-20 minutes might be more suitable to start with. For beginners I recommend doing about 30 reps of each move, and then do more reps as you progress. Do an equal number of repetitions on each side for each kick and punch that you do.

Combinations: once you have got down the technique on the basic moves, you may want to progress to doing them as combinations rather than as single moves for a greater training effect. You can mix punches, kicks or do punch and kick together too in a combination. You can mix more than two moves in a single combiantion. Here are some examples of how to combine the moves:

·         Jab-cross
·         Jab-uppercut
·         Jab-side kick
·         Jab-cross-hook punch
·         Hook punch-cross
·         Jab-cross-front kick
·         Jab-cross- hammer kick
·         Jab-cross-roundhouse kick
·         Front kick (lead leg)-roundhouse kick (rear leg)
·         Hammer kick- front kick

Circuits: for a great calorie burning workout, that can be done post strength training or on your off days, you can mix the kickboxing moves with other exercises and make some intense circuits for a more challenging workout. Here are some examples of how to do it:

Circuit 1:
10 push ups
10 front kicks (each side)
10 squats
10 uppercuts (each side)

Circuit 2:
10 Side kick (each side)
10 push ups
10 roundhouse kicks (each side)
30-60 seconds rope jumping

Circuit 3:
10 Jab-cross-roundhouse kick combination (each side)
10 burpees

As you can see that kickboxing can be a great addition to your fitness routine, and one that can literally kick it up into a much higher level. The possibilities with the combinations, and combining it with other exercises are endless, and no doubt it will not be boring!

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