Go the Distance

Fitness aficionados are kicking and punching their way to weight loss with cardio-kickboxing.


Cardio-kickboxing is an aerobic exercise derived from martial arts and boxing training regimens but without the contact. A session typically includes a warmup that may involve weights, stretching, calisthenics and jump ropes; a high-intensity block devoted to “bag work” with a variety of kicks and punches; and a cool-down that may include medicine balls, floor work and toning exercises. 

“It’s one of the few workouts that incorporates your full body,” says Mark Geiger, head trainer at Title Boxing Club (titleboxingclub.com) in Orlando. In addition to improving your heart and lung strength, he says, “you’re constantly rotating your hips, which engages your core. You work your legs because you’re constantly in a ready position, not standing there straight.”

Fans swear by the workout’s effects on weight loss. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that cardio-kickboxing burns an average of 350 to 450 calories an hour.

Title offers 30-, 60- and 75-minute classes, and Geiger emphasizes technique. Knowing precisely how to execute a roundhouse kick or an uppercut punch makes classes more fun, he says, “but you’ll never be punched or put into a pressure situation.”

At 9Round (9round.com) in Orlando, there are no classes or appointments. “When you walk in, we can get you started immediately,” says trainer Brad Hutsell. “It’s a 30-minute workout, so it’s very fast-paced. The goal is to raise your heart rate and bring it back down slowly. We like to call it high-interval training.”

9Round’s premise is 9 stations or “rounds.” The first two are designed to build strength and stamina; rounds 3 through 8 include bag work to build power, improve hand-eye coordination and develop shoulder conditioning and speed. Round 9 focuses on the core.

Hutsell says cardio-kickboxing appeals to people who need variety in their workouts. “A lot of people don’t like running or sprinting,” he says, “but they come in here and it’s almost the equivalent of that” but with a different routine each day.

“Every day you learn at least two or three different workouts,” Hutsell says. “They work different muscles of the body each day, but it’s more to keep it exciting and fun.”

Working out three or four times a week like a professional fighter confers mental as well as physical benefits, Geiger says.

“The whole idea is to get you exhausted but not pushed to the point where you have to give up,” he explains. “A lot of times we hit a point in exercise or daily life where you want to quit, and this really helps you get past that point. You leave more refreshed, more focused, and it makes daily tasks a little bit easier.”

Then there’s the stress reduction aspect. Just picturing the punching bag as your least-favorite person can inspire a vigorous workout.

“A lot of people really like to hit stuff,” Geiger politely notes. 

Getting Started

Before launching a cardio-kickboxing program: Consider your fitness level. If you’ve been a couch potato for years, try starting with a less aggressive workout. Consider your physical limitations. An injury, arthritis or a bad back may prevent you from doing all of the cardio-kickboxing moves. Try low kicks until you develop more flexibility and get used to the moves, then you can move to higher kicks. Avoid locking your joints into a straight position, whether punching or kicking.

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