There's no denying that kickboxing is one of the best workouts for your body. It combines cardio and strength training, toning muscles while burning fat. Even celebrities like the Hadid sisters, Adriana Lima, and Ashley Benson swear by its effectiveness and have added regular kickboxing sessions to their own workouts. What's particularly notable about the exercise isn't just how effective it is but how quickly it transforms your body. If there's any single quality that separates kickboxing from other cardio workouts, it's that it's—to put it simply—so much fun. It's the perfect form of cardio because you are constantly pushing yourself, typically working with a trainer one-on-one to motivate you throughout your session. In fact, your hour-long workout will be up before you know it. Keep reading for eight kickboxing benefits, according to an expert, that will have you adding this workout to your fitness routine.
Meet the Expert
Martin "Marty" Kelly is a certified personal trainer at Performix House in New York City. He grew up in the same MMA circuit as Conor McGregor, trained with him, and fought on the same cards.
1. Tone Your Entire Body
Whether you're looking to tone your arms, legs, or core, there's no area of your body kickboxing won't tighten and tone. Research has shown that kickboxers tend to have well-developed muscle mass and low body fat percentage.
Like swimming, this is a full-body workout. "The use of these moves in conjunction with one another strengthens muscles while reducing body fat, which creates that 'toned' body," says Martin "Marty" Kelly, a certified personal trainer and boxing expert. "The more calories you burn and the more muscles you properly recruit, the more improvement you will see in overall body composition."
2. Learn Self-Defense
This is a perk not too many workout plans can boast. Kickboxing is not only great for your mind and body, but it also has a very practical usage as a means to learn self-defense. "Kickboxing differs from other forms of fitness by utilizing various punching/kicking techniques, teaching you basic self-defense skills," states Kelly. "Learning a skill set while working on your fitness is an incredible way to spark self-confidence, and learning self-defense will always stand by you."
3. Burn Calories
Kickboxing is a high-intensity, high-impact workout that will have you constantly in motion. Your heart rate will be raised throughout your session, which means you'll be burning calories. "On average, my clients lose up to 800 to 1000 calories per session," says Kelly.
Specific calories burned are really dependent on the intensity levels and your individual characteristics, according to the Mayo Clinic. Kickboxing does fall into the "vigorous" category of aerobic activity, which means you'll be burning more calories in a short period of time compared to other "moderate" activities.
Opt for a post-workout shake made with whey protein to help boost muscle recovery after kickboxing.
4. Relieve Stress
Whether it's anger or stress, sometimes there's nothing quite like punching out those less-than-positive emotions. Kickboxing requires constant movement, which helps relieve stress. Studies have also shown that boxing exercises can diminish feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger.
Forget dwelling on your everyday worries—when you're enjoying your kickboxing session, you won't be able to think of anything else. "I've had so many people come in to train and they become a different person when they leave," says Kelly. "It's like a therapy session; they get all the bad energy out when they are punching a bag or hitting mitts."
5. Improve Endurance
Cardio-heavy workouts are the ticket to building endurance. A study published by the Biology of Sport journal shows that kickboxing can build cardio and muscular endurance. "Kickboxing and boxing is arguably one of the best and most fun ways to improve endurance/stamina," says Kelly. "The more you do it, the more your endurance improves."
One of the most important components of kickboxing is learning when to breathe during your workout to prevent getting winded. Learning proper breathing techniques and maintaining them throughout your session is equally as vital to your practice as throwing the perfect punch.
6. Boost Energy
You would think you'd be tired after a solid round of kickboxing, but the truth is you might have more energy than before you started. "Kickboxing, like many forms of exercise, aids in boosting energy as it increases blood flow to various parts of the body," says Kelly. "The surplus of blood flow and overall muscle activation releases hormones that can aid in increasing levels of alertness."
The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) states that improved oxygen circulation that comes from exercise helps improve your energy almost instantaneously. Maintaining a regular routine with your exercise will make daily tasks less draining.
7. Improve Posture
Put your slouching days behind you! The addition of kickboxing will have you standing tall. "Being on your toes and finding balance is essential and helps improve your posture immensely," says Kelly.
To improve your posture, you need a strong core, which includes ab and lower back muscles. Kickboxing engages those muscles, resulting in trunk stability, upright posture, and also improved postural control during physical activity.
8. Build Better Coordination
When kickboxing, there is a lot of hand-eye and foot-eye coordination necessary due to the jabs and kicks. Not to mention the constant change of direction when throwing punches. A 2019 study stated that kickboxing activates many muscle groups, helping to develop coordination and balance.
The effect of kickboxing on balance has also been researched on individuals with multiple sclerosis, who may have a compromised gait and balance and are prone to falling. The study found that balance can be improved after 11 weeks of tai chi and fitness boxing.
Biology of Sport. "Kickboxing review: anthropometric, psychophysiological and activity profiles and injury epidemiology." 185-196. 2017.
Kumahara H, Nishida J, Sakai Y, et al. Effects of acute boxing-style exercise on affect and mood states in young and middle-aged adults. Jpn J Phys Edu Health Sport Sci. 2014;59(1):251-261. doi:10.5432/jjpehss.14008
Slimani M, Chaabene H, Miarka B, Franchini E, Chamari K, Cheour F. Kickboxing review: anthropometric, psychophysiological and activity profiles and injury epidemiology. Biol Sport. 2017;34(2):185–196. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2017.65338
Journal of Physical Therapy Science. "Effects of core strength training on core stability." 1014-1018. 2018.
Journal of Education and Training Studies. "Effect of a 22-week strength- and endurance-based physical education programme on students' development." 2019.
Activities, Adaptation & Aging. "Effects of tai chi, fitness boxing, and video activities on the balance and endurance of a participant with multiple sclerosis: a case study." 133-144. 2018.