Fighting for Fitness
Kick and punch your way to a better body
So you didn't grow up idolizing Bruce Lee or spending your afternoons
watching Kung Fu Theater on television. When you hear the name
"George Foreman," you think of grills, not left hooks. You have no
desire to kick anyone's butt -- well, not usually, anyway.
No matter. If you're seeking better health, more confidence, and a stronger
body, a kickboxing or martial arts-inspired workout might be just the thing to
get you into fighting trim.
"People see results" from these workouts, says Whitney Chapman,
group exercise manager at Reebok Sports Club/NY in New York. "They have
stronger legs, stronger arms, more definition, and (participating in the
classes) promotes a sense of inner strength and balance."
Kicking and sparring took to the mainstream several years ago when the
fitness industry caught on to the cardiovascular and toning benefits of
fighting-based workouts. Thanks in part to the popular Tae Bo videos by Billy
Blanks (one of the first to capitalize on the aerobics-martial arts trend),
gyms nationwide began adding these types of classes to their schedules.
Cardio kickboxing classes and creative variations like Powerstrike, Fitness
and Defense, and Tai Box (to name just a few), blend boxing with aerobics,
teaching punching and kicking combinations for a high-powered workout that
builds strength and confidence.
Most of the choreographed combinations of jabs, kicks, and blocks are done
to an imagined enemy, with participants swinging and kicking into the air. But
in some classes, you actually kick or punch into heavy boxing bags or a
partner's padded hands.
Benefits Beyond the Physical
According to a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE),
cardio-kickboxing participants can expect to burn about 350-450 calories per
hour and to maintain a heart rate at 75% to 85% of maximum -- well within the
recommended range for aerobic exercise.
But that's not all. These workouts also improve strength, flexibility, and
reflexes, says Addy Hernandez, martial arts expert and co-owner of KI (Karate
Innovation) Fighting Concepts, a gym in Lake Chelan, Wash.
The multiple-joint movements of these workouts -- often done standing on one
leg -- build functional fitness because they require coordination and balance,
says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Fabio Comana.
"It forces you to have to stabilize your body," he says.
But the physical aspects of cardio kickboxing and martial arts-inspired
workouts are just the beginning, Comana says.
"There is a self-efficacy that it gives a person," says Comana.
"They learn some real self-defense skills they can use in everyday
Regional group fitness director Kendell Hogan sees that firsthand at the
Crunch on Sunset gym in Los Angeles. Crunch's Fitness and Defense class focuses
on boxing techniques and is taught in a ring. Participants wrap their hands,
wear gloves, and work with a heavy bag.