What Muscles Are Used in Kickboxing?

What Muscles Are Used in Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is well known to be a great workout for the entire body. Many people who have no ambitions in competing in Kickboxing as a combat sport still choose to train it because of all the benefits it can provide you with. Due to the art’s fast-paced nature, you will get stronger, quicker, more flexible, and gain much better balance and control of your body.

A regular Kickboxing training session includes technique, strength, and cardio workouts and drills, making your entire body go to work. Different drills work on different muscle groups, while pure sparring engages the entire body, including your core. Therefore, if your objective is to put on some muscles and get in a better overall physical condition, Kickboxing will easily do that for you.

You can work on specific muscle groups when practicing Kickboxing, just like you would if only going to the gym. Some people find going to the gym a bit monotonous, though, so it’s great to replace that with a more active and intellectually challenging workout. Working on combinations, keeping your focus at all times will improve your mental strength and sharpness as well as your body.

What muscles are used in Kickboxing?

As we already mentioned, Kickboxing is an incredible full-body workout. It is such an active combat sport, having many aspects; movements, transitions, and brutal power behind strikes. So, you must engage your entire body at all times to maximize efficiency.

Focusing and engaging the core is something you have to learn in practice, namely in sparring. So, if your entire body has to be active, you have to work out your entire body, and your training will be designed to do just that. Let’s take a look at what muscles and muscle group Kickboxing makes you use the most.

1. Legs (Quadriceps, hamstring, calves, glutes)

Having “chicken legs” will be a thing of the past if you take on Kickboxing. Due to the constant movement, changes of direction, speed, and stance, your legs are in perpetual motion, meaning your leg muscles are activated the entire time you practice. That includes your quadriceps and glutes, which are crucial when throwing kicks. 

Upper leg strength is fundamental in Kickboxing, so you will feel these muscles work and will usually be sore all the time at the beginning of your Kickboxing training. However, not only will your buttocks and quads get bigger and stronger, but your hamstring will get much stronger and resilient, making you a lot more flexible and quick on your feet.

Part of the resilience in kickboxing training comes from your gear, and therefore it’s definitive that you don’t compromise on the Best Kickboxing Shorts. The shorts you wear can fundamentally impact your workout progress, let me tell you how.

To add to it, your lower leg muscles will get a lot tougher as well. When learning the proper stance for Kickboxing, you’ll repeatedly hear that you need to be agile on your feet. To be able to move quickly while also being aware of defending yourself takes a lot of hard work, staying light on your feet and your toes all the time.

Not to mention the balance and flexibility you need to have in your legs when throwing any punch or kick. You need to rotate with the strike and put your entire body’s strength behind it, and that begins by working well on your feet. You’ll get stronger calves, your ankles will toughen up, and your shins will be as hard as a rock.

Apart from sparring, leg muscles are constantly worked on and engaged in all kinds of drills. Squats, jump-rope skipping, lunges, and bag work are all essential in Kickboxing training and work incredibly well on strengthening your legs.

2. Lower torso (Abdominals, obliques, spinal erectors)

The abdominal wall is probably the most crucial part of your body for success in Kickboxing. It is constantly engaged and under pressure, both on the attack, when engaging and throwing punches and kicks, and on the defensive side, when taking shots, blocking strikes, retreating or changing stances, etc.

That is why you will do many abdominal workouts in practice, including sit-ups, leg raises, and much more. Your abdominal wall is where your center of balance is, and it’s crucial to be able to have control of that center of balance at all times. 

Kickboxing movements – especially kicking – make your center of balance move. If your abdominals aren’t strong enough to control it, you will not perform well at any level in Kickboxing. Therefore, you’ll focus a lot in training on working the lower torso muscles – lower back, hips, and abdomen.

You’ll get more visible abs – the more popular name for rectus abdominus – but your other core muscles will get highly engaged and stronger as well. Obliques and spinal erectors aren’t the kinds of muscles you’ll show off like your abs, but they are essential to make any significant progress in fitness and body strength.

For those that are unfamiliar with what oblique muscles and spinal erector are, we’ll clarify. The obliques are muscles in the abdomen, on the sides of your rectus abdominus (six-pack). They range from right below the ribs all the way down your abdomen. Those muscles are not that easy to exercise, but they constantly work in a Kickboxing workout.

On the other hand, the spinal erectors are muscles that go from your lower back all the way up to your spine. They are critical in maintaining balance and are essential for a correct posture and a healthy spine.

3. Upper torso (Chest, upper back, neck)

Gradually, we’ve worked our way to the upper torso. This area includes chest muscles, your upper back (latissimus dorsi, teres major), and your trapezius and neck muscles. This is also an area that’s under constant pressure and tension. 

The Kickboxing stance requires you to have your arms up the whole time, which leads to the upper torso muscles being active the entire time. If your arms are not up at all times, it means your guard is poor, and you are exposed to damage. To stay protected at all times and put yourself in the best position to attack effectively, you need great strength in your chest, upper back, and neck muscles.

The pectoral muscles (chest) are used in Kickboxing for basically every part of your game. They have to be strong to perform any punches, but especially hooks. You also need constant tension in the pectorals when holding your hands up in guard. They are the muscles that allow you to shift quickly between attack and defense and the ones that put extra force behind every strike.

They don’t work alone here, though. There is also a lot of pressure on the upper back and neck muscles, maybe even more so than the chest. While keeping up your guard is the primary element that keeps these muscles toned, the back has to be strong to support punching and adding force to the punches.

The latissimus dorsi and the teres major muscles are the ones we tend to call the “triangle” or the “butterfly”. You will get a much stronger back with Kickboxing, and you will work extensively to strengthen these muscles because they are crucial as much as any other part of your game. Throwing punches, defending, blocking, keeping your guard up – all these will highly rely on the strength of your upper back.

What gets your trapezius and neck muscles so strong is the constant head movement you need in combat. If your head is static, it makes for an easy target, so you need to learn how to manipulate your opponent with head movement, both for defense and offense. The ability to do so, though, will rely heavily on your neck and shoulder muscles strength.

4. Arms & Shoulders

Finally, we reached the final group of muscles that will get a lot stronger from practicing Kickboxing; the arms and shoulders. You won’t necessarily work on these together as a group when doing strength workouts, but they will definitely be under the most pressure in every Kickboxing match, sparring, or training.

Keeping your arms up at all times can be a fantastic deltoids (shoulders) workout on its own. But, Kickboxing isn’t just keeping your hands up. You need to be active all the time. You need to be fast-paced, throw punches, kicks, block, dodge, counter, etc.

So, it’s not only holding the weight of your arms up all the time. Every movement creates more weight and pressure on the shoulders and arms, meaning they have to be as strong as possible to endure a whole training session, let alone a match. You will feel the burn in the first practice already, and your shoulders will get bigger fast.

Your arms will get buffed too. Not only your upper arm (biceps, triceps), which is to expect because of the punching and guarding but your lower arm and hand muscles too. Keeping your wrists locked and fists clenched all the time fill cause constant tension in all the muscles of your lower arms, including your fist, even fingers.

Kickboxing is an incredible workout for the entire body to sum everything up concisely, both cardio and strength-wise. Even if you have no plans to compete in the sport, it is still great as a physical and mental exercise and as a self-defense tool, if need be. 

Your entire musculature will get stronger, but the muscles that get the most buffed from Kickboxing alone (meaning, without including other strength and cardio exercises) are the deltoids, trapezoids, abdominals, triceps, and legs (quads, calves).

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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