SAN DIEGO - Cardio kickboxing, one of the hottest fitness trends to hit gyms in recent years, is quickly replacing step aerobics and indoor cycling as the most popular fitness class in gyms across the nation. Spurred on by the success of Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo video workout, cardio kickboxing and other martial arts-inspired workouts are motivating many people to get off the couch and into a fitness program.
A hybrid form of boxing, martial arts and aerobics, cardio kickboxing is an intense total-body workout. Well-known as an excellent form of stress release, martial arts-inspired workouts also improve strength, aerobic fitness and flexibility. The variety of movements used in kickboxing can sharpen reflexes and improve coordination and balance. In addition, most participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories an hour during a typical cardio kickboxing class.
"Some people become bored quickly with linear-type activities such as jogging and walking – making it difficult to stick with an exercise program," explains Richard Cotton, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "The variety of movements found in martial arts-based workouts may be enough to pique the interest of the easily bored and keep them working out for the long run."
However, beginners should beware – it’s important to have a solid foundation of fitness before beginning martial arts-inspired exercises. Even basic kickboxing classes (including the introductory Tae-Bo workout video) require above average endurance, flexibility and strength. Learning and maintaining correct technique is also very important. The basic kickboxing moves and combinations can be quite difficult, so beginners should expect to spend a fair amount of time mastering proper form and technique.
Some common mistakes beginners make are:
- Overextending kicks (beginners should avoid high kicks until they get used to the routine and become more flexible).
- Locking your joints when throwing punches or kicking.
- Giving in to group peer pressure in classes and exercising beyond fatigue–listen to your body.
- Wearing weights or holding dumbbells when throwing punches, which puts your joints in danger of injury.
If you plan on taking a kickboxing class, keep in mind that most gyms do not offer classes based on progression. For this reason, an hour-long kickboxing session can be unsafe for exercisers who are not conditioned for high intensity workouts. Even if your current routine features a hearty combination of cross-training workouts, you should take it easy at first and add intensity as your body adapts. The high intensity levels that make these classes difficult for novices is also what makes them an effective, rewarding exercise for the very fit.
Teachers may have boxing or martial arts training, but not the appropriate fitness knowledge and experience necessary to lead a safe and effective class. Before signing up for a class, make sure the instructor is properly certified by an organization such as ACE. Consumers can call ACE at (800) 825-3636 to check if an instructor is ACE-certified.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation's "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world's largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, please call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.