Top 5 Exercises for Kickboxing

Updated on March 27, 2019
Andy Campbell profile image

I have trained and competed in several martial arts for 29 years, giving me a wealth of experience on this topic to share with others.

Sports-Specific is Best

If you want to become a wold class kickboxer, there is no substitute for sport- specific training; pad work, bag work, partner drills and sparring. But maybe you’re already going to class a few times per week and are looking for something else you can do outside of the gym to supplement your training.

I am using the term kickboxing here to include most stand-up fight sports such as Muay Thai, K1, low kick kickboxing, above the waist kickboxing, ITF taekwondo, and so on.

1. Running

Running, often called “roadwork” by boxers, is an excellent way to build up fitness for kickboxing as it will help you increase your aerobic capacity and muscular endurance in your legs, avoiding a dip in your performance due to fatigue. If you watch any contact sports, you will see fighters who start out looking great but fade in the later rounds because they seem to “gas” (run out of oxygen). Avoid being that guy!

Another benefit is that running burns a high number of calories, which can help you to compete in your desired weight category.

You can run at low to moderate intensity, over distance, to develop good base fitness or use high intensity sprint intervals to replicate the fast-paced demands of a fight.

A word of caution—always give your body enough rest time to recover from running, particularly after sprint training, as over-training is counterproductive and can lead to injury. I would recommend doing high intensity sprint training no more than twice per week.

2. Skipping

As a kickboxer, you will spend lots of time moving on the balls of your feet and will usually slow down in later rounds as your calf muscles become fatigued. Skipping is a great exercise to build the endurance needed to overcome this problem.

In addition, skipping builds other beneficial attributes for kickboxing, such as improved rhythm, coordination, core strength, balance, shoulder endurance and wrist strength. If you are not already doing so, it’s time to add skipping to your routine, even as a warm up exercise!

Skipping can be hard to learn and even tougher to master. Thankfully, there are many excellent instructional videos available online to teach you how.

3. Squats

Adding bodyweight squats to your routine will help you build good leg strength and endurance for explosive kicking over the rounds.

Having strong legs is particularly beneficial for Muay Thai and low kick styles where a good strong base can prevent your balance being upset when absorbing low kicks or having your kicking leg caught.

In addition, squatting deep with proper form will increase the range of movement in your hips, making it easier to throw middle and high kicks.

4. Push-Ups

Push-ups are an excellent bodyweight exercise for kickboxing, as they will help you build strength and endurance in your upper body (back, chest, shoulders), allowing you to throw more explosive punches for the duration of your fight.

When performed correctly, push-ups will help you develop strong core muscles in the same way planking does. Core strength is beneficial for absorbing body blows and stabilising your spine during the twisting motion of punching/kicking.

There are several variations of the push up which makes the exercise easier for beginners and harder for experts.

5. Strength Training with Weights

It is often said that strength training with weight is bad for kickboxing as it supposedly “slows you down”. This is a misconception, probably born out of the belief that strength training is the same thing as bodybuilding.

Bodybuilders focus on aesthetics as their competition is judged on looks whereas the kickboxer is judged on performance. I would not recommend that you follow a bodybuilding program to become a better kickboxer.

There are however several strength training exercises performed with weights which will improve your balance, muscle/bone density, explosive power and reduce your risk of injury.

Therefore, I believe that strength training, whilst not the be and end all, can give you a competitive edge in kickboxing.

A word of caution—take extra care to lift weights with correct form to minimise your risk of injury. Start light and build up to higher weights as your strength grows. If you are unsure how to perform any lifting technique, seek professional advice before doing it.

So there you have it, my top 5 exercises for kickboxing. Please leave a comment on whether or not you agree with my picks and which exercises would make your top 5. Happy training!

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