What Muscles Does Kickboxing Work?

Kickboxing gets the entire body involved.
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Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than some anger management via a good round of kickboxing. Whether the workout involves cardio kickboxing or pulling on some gloves and trading blows in the ring, kickboxing is an intense routine that works most of the muscles in your body. Kick it up for a fun and vigorous workout that will trim and tone your physique.


    Proper punching technique initiates movement all the way down to the toes. Pushing off the back leg engages the muscles of the lower body, then the following hip rotation activates the core muscles. The arm comes out last working the muscles of the back and shoulder. If the punch makes contact with an opponent, a bag or mitts, the muscles of the forearm, biceps and triceps absorb the shock along with the shoulder and back.


    Whether delivering a playground kick to the shins or a full roundhouse to the bag, the entire lower body is significantly involved. Any kick involves one foot leaving the ground, which immediately engages the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals of the standing leg required to maintain balance and provide a base for the blow.

    When delivering a roundhouse kick, the hip of the kicking leg must rotate toward the target. As with punches, the hip generates the force that whips the leg around for an effective kick. Turning the hip and transferring the force from the hips through the extension of the leg works the hip flexors, abductors and outer gluteals of the kicking leg. Similar muscles engage when delivering a front kick, side kick, or even a Jean-Claude Van Damme jump spinning hook kick, though some muscles may work more predominantly than others depending on the type of kick.


    If you've ever been on the receiving end of a kickboxing punch, you understand the amount of work required to block and defend. Hands must stay up by the chin with the elbows tucked in close to the body to create a solid defense for the head and body. Keeping the hands up and the elbows bent generates an isometric contraction that activates the biceps, the latissimus dorsi and the trapezius, if the chin is kept down. Combined with slips, rolls and pulling back, the core muscles join the workout along with the legs.


    Though it may not be the flashiest part of kickboxing, footwork remains one of the most important skills. Avoiding blows is often the best defense. Staying active on your feet not only builds cardio conditioning, good footwork also engages the entire lower body. Moving within a fighting stance starts with muscles in the feet, includes the calves and other muscles surrounding the shins and requires endurance of the quadriceps and hamstrings. The hips and gluteals also become involved when footwork requires pivots, drops, slips or rolls. A good kickboxer must use virtually his entire body for powerful offense and defense.

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