Does kickboxing build muscle?


Kickboxing is a martial art that was developed back in the 1950s in Japan as a way of combining both Karate, Muay Thai, and Boxing together.

Since that time, it has flourished and is taught all around the world due to its many benefits.

Nowadays you can’t visit a community center and not see some form of kickboxing being taught there in a group exercise class.

There have been many purported health benefits associated with learning kickboxing such as improving cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.

Some people are even claiming that kickboxing helps with body recomposition.

But does kickboxing build muscle like some people claim it does?

I know for some of us out there, we would rather do something much more fun than lifting heavyweights in the gym and hearing some musclehead puffing and grunting at every set, meanwhile watching their saliva being sprayed all over the exercise equipment and requiring a full-on lockdown to sanitize the entire gym.

But unfortunately, according to the current research, kickboxing does not help you build muscle, however, it does offer a number of other great health benefits though and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this article.

What Muscle Groups Are Worked in a Kickboxing Class?

Does kickboxing build muscle? kickboxing class throwing kicks

The better question should be what muscle groups are not being trained in a kickboxing class?

In a kickboxing class, you pretty much work on everything.

Your whole upper body will be put to the test as you learn how to throw punches and blocks.

Chest, lats, rhomboids, serratus anterior, deltoids, biceps, etc. the whole shebang will be used in a class.

Your whole lower body will be sore from performing kicks and other various forms of exercise such as squats or lunges.

Your quads, glutes, hip adductors & abductors that help with kicking will be especially trained in a kickboxing class.

And even your core won’t be spared from the workouts as your instructor will make you do crunches, planks, and other core conditioning exercises.

If you’re looking for a full-body workout then your prayers have been answered as you will be feeling sore all over your body for at least a few weeks as you adjust to the kickboxing routine in class and get stronger.

Health Benefits of Kickboxing

Strengthens Bone

Due to the weight-bearing activities of kickboxing and other forms of martial arts, you can expect there to be a positive effect on strengthening your bones and increasing your bone mineral density.

In one study that examined the effects of martial arts training on bone density in adolescents, the researchers found that martial arts training elicited higher bone mineral density levels compared to the control group.

In another review study that looked at martial arts training and bone health in both the young and old population found a positive effect associated with martial arts training and bone health.

Taken together, these studies suggest that martial arts training such as kickboxing improves your bone mineral density and health.

Therefore, if you have a family history of osteoporosis or you want to want to safeguard against the negative effects of osteoporosis, it may be beneficial for you to take up kickboxing.

Helps With Weight Loss

Does kickboxing build muscle? kickboxing class throwing punches

If you’re sick and tired of staring at the wall while sweating your butt off and feeling miserable running on a treadmill than you’ll love kickboxing.

I used to hate running on a treadmill to try and lose weight.

Not only was it extremely boring and repetitive, but it was also putting a lot of stress on my ankle and feet.

Luckily, I discovered martial arts training as a great alternative for weight loss.

When you’re studying kickboxing, nearly all of your muscle groups will be targeted in class.

What this means is a tonne of calories being burned per session.

Most classes are high intensity meaning that you burn a lot more calories per minute as well.

In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a typical kickboxing class can help you burn between 350-450 calories per class.

Now unlike running on a treadmill though, you won’t be putting a lot of stress on your joints and in fact will actually improve the bone health due to the weight-bearing activity, not to mention the other benefits associated with kickboxing that you won’t get with just running on a treadmill.

If you were to attend 5 classes a week, you’d be looking at shedding off 2lbs off of your gut every month in a fun and enjoyable way too!

If you want to lose weight and enjoy the process and at the same time, then ditch the treadmill and learn kickboxing.

Relieves Stress

Exercise and physical activity have long been suggested as a means for managing stress in one’s life.

One way exercise such as kickboxing helps us manage stress is through the release of endorphins, a chemical that gets released when you exercise. Endorphines helps us reduce our perception of pain by binding to pain receptors in our brains. The endorphins act as an analgesic and sedative in helping us relieve stress and pain in our bodies.

In addition, it has been reported to also stimulate a feeling of euphoria and positive feelings when the chemical gets released in our brains.

Furthermore, in one study, the researchers found that martial arts training had a positive effect on stress management through mindfulness exercises.

Taken together, physical activity in the form of kickboxing can have a positive effect on helping you manage your stress levels.

Improves Your Cardiovascular Health

This one should come as no surprise to anyone as martial arts training has long been shown to improve cardiovascular health for individuals.

All that jumping, kicking, punching, will have your heart working overtime in class, leading to improved cardiovascular adaptations overtime.

Most people that study martial arts tend to be in much better shape compared to those that don’t partake in any form of exercise.

Most kickboxing classes have students perform a number of cardiovascular exercises such as skipping on a jump robe, jogging around the floor, performing mountain climbers on your hands and feet, burpees, hitting punching bags, etc.

All of these drills have been designed to help get your heart pumping and improving your overall aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular systems.

The next time the elevator breaks down in your office building and you need to run up several flights of stairs to avoid being late for work, you won’t be the one huffing and puffing, your coworkers will!

Improves Your Flexibility, Agility, and Power

This is another not so surprising benefit of kickboxing.

Most classes usually start off with a stretching session immediately after a warmup when the muscles have been warmed up, making them easier to stretch.

Due to the number of high kicks that are utilized in kickboxing, being very flexible and agile is of utmost importance for excelling in kickboxing.

Through repeated stretching sessions conducted in a kickboxing class, you can expect your flexibility to improve by quite a bit.

In fact, some people become so flexible that they are even able to perform the splits after studying the martial art for a while.

In addition to improving your flexibility, kickboxing has also been shown to improve your power, and agility as well.

In one study, researchers found that after only 5 weeks of kickboxing training, study participants saw significant improvements in their muscular power, speed & agility, and flexibility.

Due to the explosive nature of the martial art where kicks and punches are thrown in a split second to take down your opponent, students studying kickboxing will develop greater power in their strikes along with agility.

Teaches You Self Defense

kickboxing match

Now besides the health benefits, let’s not forget why kickboxing was developed in the first place.

Most people wouldn’t even bother taking up a martial art unless it taught them some form of self-defense.

Unlike some of the other more traditional martial arts out there though, kickboxing gets right to business and you learn how to defend yourself right from the get-go.

Rather than wasting time learning how to perform patterns or sit with your legs crossed and meditating, you are taught how to throw punches and kicks right from the get-go.

Jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, roundhouse kicks, axe kicks, etc will be your new best friends.

Next time a bully tries to start trouble with you, you can serve them a nice knuckle sandwich.


While kickboxing does not help you build muscle directly, it still provides a number of different health benefits that should not be overlooked such as:

  • Strengthening bones
  • Helping with weight loss
  • Stress management
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Improves flexibility, agility, and power
  • Teaches you self defense

If you’re sick and tired of running on a treadmill or sitting down on a stationary bike and staring into space, then kickboxing is a fun and great alternative for exercise that provides a lot more benefits compared to these traditional modes of exercise.

And if your goal is to build muscle, you may want to consider switching over to resistance training which has been proven to help build muscle or better yet, combine it with kickboxing to derive maximum benefit.

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