Forget aerobics, free weights and step machines, here's a workout made to build champions. All you need is a good left hook, a fast uppercut and a kick to match Bruce Lee's.
We're talking kickboxing, a trend that is sweeping health clubs in Orange County and beyond.
LA Boxing in Huntington Beach looks like the set of a "Rocky" movie. The training area is filled with red and blue punching bags, and a boxing ring stands in the left corner. The stereo is cranked up, but instructors' shouts can be heard as students pound out synchronized kicks.
One recent evening, I stepped into this scene, taking a kickboxing class taught by John Adams. It was a one-hour total body workout, making every muscle I know--and many I've never used--shake, rattle and roar.
As a part-time fitness instructor, I found kickboxing an exciting workout for just about any fitness level as well as a creatively designed self-defense class. A beginning student can learn the basic boxing moves in a few weeks, and an advanced student can exaggerate movements to increase intensity.
We began with a five-minute shadow boxing warmup, some running in place and a quick set of lunges. Then we jumped right in, launching into front snaps, high powered kicks with an emphasis on foot placement. We tried front and rear roundabouts, which send the force through the quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscles, and combinations of upper cuts and left and right hooks.
Learning the routine of kicks and punches is not intimidating. Adams, a professional boxer and kickboxing instructor for 15 years, knows his stuff and explains it well.
Suddenly I found myself moving in high gear against the count of Adams' sharp calls, "four fast punches, eight uppercuts, five sharp kicks and remember you're the defense."
Intensity, Adams says, is the most important element in the workout. A student can expect to burn 800 calories during a one-hour session, as well as reap the benefits of cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Since every muscle is being challenged, it is also important to rest 30 seconds between spars, drink water and stretch properly before and after class.
Other than boxing gloves, there is no special gear needed except a willingness to sweat and suffer some minor pains when you kick and punch the bags. Beginners might experience some bruising on the shins. To protect your hands from injury, a special wrap is placed over your knuckles under your gloves.
Kickboxing is a great way to improve your fitness level, but Adams says there are psychological benefits: confidence that you are able to defend yourself, a reduction in stress and enhanced energy.
After my hour of kicking and punching the bag, I can understand where Adams is coming from. But I'm not going to give up my aerobic shoes just yet.