7 Tips for a Better (and Safer) Kickboxing Workout
Kickboxing is a simple workout that gets massive results. However, because of its basis in martial arts movement, there are always ways to refine the punches and kicks we throw in class in order to get more power, and of course more power means you get a better workout! More power can also mean more chance for injury, so we spend equal amounts of time refining our techniques for greater safety; after all, if you get hurt, you can’t work out, and that defeats the purpose!
Kickboxing classes at 4GK Martial Arts are a fun way to combine cardio and resistance training, burning hundreds of calories per class. We do this using a variety of punches and kicks in the air (shadow boxing), with partners (focus mitts), and on the heavy bags (resistance training). While kickboxers often think about their punches and kicks, most techniques actually start in the footwork and are directed by the hips and core. The more we use the legs and core to drive our kickboxing techniques, the more muscles we will work. But, We can’t do that is we don’t first have a good stance.
The foundation for all techniques lies in lower-body mechanics, beginning with the guard stance. A good guard stance provides balance, mobility, and equal access to the target from all striking tools. Stand with one leg forward (usually your non-dominant leg), with legs shoulder-width or slightly wider apart. Keep your weight centered or slightly forward with the back heel slightly raised, and the toes pointing generally forward.
The next component is footwork: a kickboxer’s shuffle to stay light on the feet, and the heel “releasing” when punching to gain power and to protect joints. The hips are the primary movers for generating force. When you’re punching, the hip leads and the punch follows. Since techniques are rarely thrown while standing in place, it is important to keep the footwork moving, or “alive” by advancing, sidestepping, or even retreating with each technique. This all goes for kicks, too! The shoulders also move with the hip to create one coordinated movement, maximizing force generation. The head stays neutral, and the eyes focus on the target.
Now that we are starting from a strong position that allows us to generate some real power in our kickboxing combos, here are a few tips and cues to help you stay safe while increasing the intensity of your kickboxing workout:
1. Release the heel of the punching side to allow the hip to drive forward.
When you punch, it is important to pivot the hips. Releasing, or lifting the heel allows your hips to shift without putting rotational stress on the knees, ankles, or even your lower back. And because there is less resistance, you will be able to hit harder.
2. Keep the arm and fist relaxed throughout the punch
Stay relaxed throughout your technique, and only tighten at the point of contact. This allows you to move faster, and speed is one of the main factors in power generation. Tensing at the moment of impact helps transfer that power into the bag, and stops you from over extending shoulder joints. When kicking, the same rule applies, with the core tightening at impact to protect the spine. Relax as you return to starting position.
3. To reduce neck strain, relax the shoulders when punching
Those hands get heavy during a kickboxing working. You know you are supposed to keep them up to add to your workout, but when the arms start getting tired, you shoulders will try to help out. Before you know it, those traps are cramping, your neck hurts, and your workout suffers. Keep your shoulders relaxed, remember to breathe deeply, and shake those arms out every so often; it’s a fitness kickboxing class, not Fight Club, no one is going to hit you if you need to drop your hands for a moment.
4. Keep the non-punching fist at the cheek throughout the movement.
Speaking of keeping your hands up, there is sometimes a communication disconnect between kickboxing instructors and class participants. We say keep your hands up, and you will bring them up to rest on your chest. While this is better than keeping them by your waist, it doesn’t get you that arm and shoulder workout like a good guard should, and it puts your hands in a position that could lead to improper punching technique. What we mean is that your hands should be up (chin level or higher) and out, away from your chest with the fists ready to drive forward in a straight line with each punch. Imagine having a microphone in your front hand and a telephone in your back hand.
5. Post and pivot when kicking
Kicks are some of the most powerful techniques you will use in our kickboxing classes. They engage the whole body in active, explosive movements that ROCK those heavy bags. It is not uncommon to see a 270 lb bag get knocked over by a kickboxer half that weight… IF they are kicking correctly. Every kick should start in the opposite foot, with the weight shifting to the ball of that foot and the heel lifting (posting), followed by a pivot of that heel that allows the kick a full range of motion with maximum power input from the hips. When you kick without pivoting, a certain amount of the power is directed at your own joints, including your knees, ankles, hips, and spine. You also risk a loss of balance. Before you kick with power, kick with a pivot.
6. While you don’t want to hyperextend the joints, do maximize range of motion by extending fully.
When working shadowboxing, your kicks and punches should be light, focusing on movement and footwork, lengthening muscles by extending you reach for each technique, and preparing for heavier work later in the class. When working with a partner on the focus mitts, we extend our range by working just out of arm’s reach, then using footwork and body positioning to cover the distance. And finally, on the heavy bags, we want to generate power by punching through the core of the bag, not just patting the surface. By keeping good alignment of our joints, we can reach deeper into the bag without exaggerating our movements; whenever we vary from clean technique, we risk injury.
7. Emphasize a quick, strong and purposeful rechamber phase, as rechambering is an important part of the workout.
Rechambering your techniques, or pulling them back from the fully extended range to the ready position, works the opposite muscle groups of each technique, helping the body stay balanced in its conditioning. You will get your first experience of this after your first intense kickboxing class; the next day you may feel your biceps burning from pulling back all of those punches. Being mindful of your rechamber also serves to bring you back into the proper guard so that you are balanced and ready to strike again with clean technique, which in turn helps reduce the chances of injury.
Try these tips out, and let us know how you feel! And if you are looking for kickboxing classes near Patchogue, give us a call and one of our instructors can help you get a safe — and INTENSE — workout!
Fitness Kickboxing Classes in Patchogue, NY
4GK Martial Arts
380 East Main St
Patchogue, NY 11772