Phrases such as “double jab, step back, jab, jab, upper, upper,” and “front and front, side, squeeze your butt” are ingrained into my head. The Malley Fitness center at Santa Clara provides free fitness classes the first week of each quarter, so my first quarter in college I decided to give them a go.
“Cardio Athletic Kickboxing” seemed intriguing, so a couple girls on my floor and I headed off to the gym to see what was in store for us. I had never sweated so much in my life, my legs alternated between feeling like Jell-O and a sack of rocks, and my butt was sore for days.
That being said, I loved it. The combo sets spoke to the dancer side of me. Plus, being in college and no longer having my team sports from high school, I needed to find a new way to workout that I truly enjoyed. Now I go two or three times a week and encourage my friends to all try it out.
This class gave me a new hobby, an excellent workout, and it actually helped me transition into college. Of course, not every kickboxing class is the same. The two instructors on campus—one of them being a senior student who was trained by the other instructor—have slightly different classes, but the foundations are the same.
Whatever class you go to will vary a little in terms of the cardio to strength training ratio or what equipment is used. Nevertheless, I’m still confident that whatever kickboxing class you end up taking, you’ll get the overall gist of it. I’ve outlined the benefits I’ve found from this class to hopefully encourage some of you to try it out.
You feel slightly badass when you and the friend next to you manage to do each part of the combo exercise at the exact same time, especially the hitch-kick, where you kick while you’re jumping through the air. The music is upbeat, the exercises change every 20-60 seconds so you’re not bored, and the fundamental concept of kicking around everywhere is fun.
It has different “levels”
Both instructors I have give you multiple options during the workout itself. Instead of a round kick, for example, opt to bring your knee to your chest to save yourself from some back pain. There are always cardio options as well if you feel strong enough to fully jump off of the ground instead of pulsing during your split lunge. Options range from jumping jacks to squats to burpees during certain sets. In my classes, the expected 60 seconds of cardio is always introduced by, “anything you want—go.”
Before my first class, I was told that you can make it as hard as you want. It’s true – this class is meant to be individualized and adapted based on body injuries or personal preference. Don’t be intimidated if the person next to you is hitch-kicking while you’re choosing a front kick.
Obviously, this is not what kickboxing classes look like, but it gets the idea of a group dynamic across kinda well. A couple times I’ve gone to classes by myself, but more often than not I walk in and out of the multi-purpose room with a buddy. During particularly hard parts of the class, it’s nice to have a familiar face to give the “what the hell did we get ourselves into” look, or to laugh with if the combo is just not coming naturally. At my first class, I ran into my Orientation Leader from the summer, and now we go together every week.
These classes tend to have more or less the same people attending them week to week, so even if people aren’t introducing themselves to each other, the familiarity of your fellow exercisers is comforting. Get some people together after class and grab one of these post-workout foods.
It’s a full body workout
It’s pretty obvious that kickboxing works your entire legs and glutes, but the moves are also geared towards your arms, shoulders, back and core. Maybe punching the air doesn’t feel like it’ll do much, but those shoulder muscles certainly improve after you keep taking classes.
The kickboxing instructor I have twice a week shouts out the target muscle area that we’re working during each move, reminding us that every time we kick our abs are engaged or that we’re focusing on our butts during the sidekicks. Just make sure to stretch afterward, or you’ll be tight for days.
It’s the best core workout I’ve ever had
You don’t need to do crunches to work your core. The constant kicking and cross body jabbing involved in these fitness classes forces you to keep your abs engaged at all times. Each of these basic steps uses your abdomen, and you’ll definitely feel it.
It changes every time
There are the same general combos that I do every time, and the warm-up tends to be more or less the same—maybe the number of 8-counts we do of each more fluctuates slightly. That being said, one of the best parts about kickboxing is how many different combo sets you can make with a couple different kicks and a couple different arm jabs.
Most classes are an hour. Yes, it’s a difficult hour with few breaks in there, but having someone else tell you exactly what to do instead of you walking around the gym trying to come up with your own workout is going to make your hour at the gym count for much more. Depending on your level and intensity, you could burn between 400 and 800 calories in a one hour class.
It’s an emotional outlet
You’re not kicking a person, so you don’t have to worry about others’ injuries. If it’s been a particularly frustrating day at school, work, or with friends/family, taking a break from all of that to go sweat out some toxins and anger will make a huge difference. Focus on each move individually to turn your rage into power. Plus, if you’re working harder, your workout will be much more effective.
It’s easy to document progress
As you begin to take more classes, you’ll notice your kicks getting higher and your endurance growing stronger. I know the split jumps are not my specialty, so when I first started taking the class, I couldn’t get through the rapid fire reps. Now that my legs trained for that section of the class, I can make it through without taking any breaks. Sure, it’s a small step, but it is nice to recognize your personal growth and you continue to take more classes.
It gives your day schedule
Having a workout class at a specific hour forces you to manage your time. I have perfected my schedule to fit with my kickboxing classes, showers, dinner, and meetings. It’s great to have a fitness class to outline your day. Plus, if you often opt out of going to the gym because you can’t think of a workout, this is the perfect way to get yourself up and moving at a specific time. Planning it right after class or work will help motivate you to go, and be sure to grab a pre-workout snack on your way to the gym.