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Kickboxing is a full-body, high-intensity interval workout that combines speed, strength, and endurance. Most routines require repeating quick punches and kicks. Depending on the program, kickboxing can focus on cardio, strength training, or both.
What does this kind of training do for your body? Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is any exercise that increases your heart rate, while strength training is any exercise designed to improve your strength or increase your muscle mass. Doing both at the same time has rich rewards.
Kickboxing, as with any high-intensity interval training (HIIT), makes your heart more efficient. It can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. How does HIIT do this? Kickboxing increases MAP, VO2 MAX, and anaerobic fitness.
Kickboxing increases maximal aerobic power or MAP. MAP is the ability of muscles to take up oxygen from the bloodstream. The more efficiently the muscles receive oxygen, the better they can metabolize that nutrient, and the more effectively the muscles will work.
Kickboxing expands VO2 MAX or the maximum volume of oxygen a person can use during exercise. It's the volume of oxygen per weight of the person per time. VO2 MAX is a measurement of a person's cardiorespiratory health. Basically, the higher the VO2 MAX, the longer you can work out.
Kickboxing improves anaerobic fitness. Anaerobic exercises mean "without oxygen." Whenever you sprint, jump rope, punch, or any high-intensity interval training, your muscles are working without consuming oxygen. This limitation changes how your muscles operate. Instead of eating fat and glucose, the tissue only consumes glucose through a process called glycolysis.
During anaerobic respiration, the muscle creates more lactic acid and becomes fatigued easier. When more anaerobic exercise is performed, the more efficient the muscle gets at eliminating lactic acid and will be slower to fatigue. Improved anaerobic fitness means you can do the quick movements faster, more frequently, and longer.
Kickboxing enlarges muscle mass and improves agility and flexibility. A 2014 study found that upper body peak power and lower body mean power increased after a five-week kickboxing training program. This research also saw an increase in muscle power. Researchers attribute the change in agility to the quick, rapid movements required in the workout.
Another study showed improvements in balance and mobility in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. MS patients improved their gait speed, how fast someone can walk a specific distance. The research found evidence of positive changes in some clinical measurements of balance.
Psychological Benefits of Kickboxing
It is a common consensus among trainers and instructors that punching and kicking changes a person's mindset. Many people report that kickboxing boosted their self-esteem. Shy children who participate in martial arts gain confidence. Studies have shown that martial arts improve confidence and self-esteem in the individual.
A 2012 study examined 30 individuals on the autism spectrum. Researchers studied children ages 5 to 16 before, directly after, and weeks after completing a 14 week kata program. Kata is a series of karate moves performed against an imaginary opponent.
Scientists wanted to see if the children's stereotypy changed. Stereotypy is any repetitive or ritualistic movement, posture, or speech. Not only did the children have a significant decrease in stereotypy after completing the kata program, but the behavior also didn't significantly change 30 days after the program ended.
Who can Kickbox?
Anyone! And I mean absolutely anyone. The excuses I hear the most are is that kickboxing is intimidating, too intense, too high impact, or a contact sport. Let me address each reason.
Kickboxing can be intimidating because there is a lot to learn. People who are scared think they will look and feel weird. They are afraid of being embarrassed. Don't be intimidated or embarrassed! You are no different than anyone else trying something new.
Anyone can learn to kickbox. Kicking and punching are not complicated. An instructor can work with you and teach you the form. It's like learning any new skill; kickboxing takes time and practice to master. You don't have to be perfect; you just have to start.
Kickboxing can be too intense for some individuals. Either the workout is too fast-paced, or punching and kicking are too extreme for them. But like any workout, kickboxing takes conditioning to get to that level of intensity.
It might be tough to keep up at first, but you will get there with patience. No one wakes up, ready for a marathon. The point of the exercise is to improve your endurance, strength, and speed. You can never be too strong or too fast.
Some individuals have no desire to kick or punch bags, people, or even the air. This sentiment, I understand, because I have no urge to run. Even the thought of a jog around the block sounds like torture. So when people say they don't like punching or kicking, I let that excuse slide.
Kickboxing is a high-impact sport, but it doesn't have to be if you find the right trainer. Older individuals or people recovering from injuries can kickbox. The moves can be modified for any skill level. For example, a decrease in jumping during the workout can accommodate knee injuries.
A trainer can customize the workout to a person's needs. I have seen people in their seventies kickbox, and I have seen people recovering from knee injuries kickbox. It doesn't matter where you are in your fitness journey; you can kickbox.
Kickboxing is meant to be a non-contact workout. Unless you go to a training gym to get into the ring, the typical kickboxing workout doesn't require taking a hit. You are going to punch and kick a bag filled with sand or cloth. That bag may be hung on the wall or be held by a trainer, but people who kickbox as exercise don't punch other people or receive punches.
The only factor keeping you from kickboxing should be if you like doing it or not. You can always get better at the punches, but you can't fall in love with something you don't even like. Now that you have no excuses let's look at your options.
Most gyms offer classes. If you already a member at your local YMCA, check their schedule for any kickboxing classes. If your club doesn't have classes, you can see if these franchises are in your area. 9Round and Title Boxing Club are specialized gyms that only offer kickboxing classes. One could be the perfect fit for you.
If you don't have an opportunity in your area or are too intimidated to try this workout in front of others, online may be a viable option. YouTube is always an excellent place to start your search for a kickboxing workout and enthusiastic trainer. Here are some instructors I found through YouTube that I would recommend.
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