- Combat sports are more popular than ever in the fitness world.
- Boxing is on the radar of most mainstream gym-goers these days, but kickboxing classes are also on the rise.
- We visited a boutique kickboxing studio in central London to put the workout to the test.
- Flykick’s founders spoke to Business Insider about the muscles you work in a kickboxing class compared to boxing.
- Scroll down for our verdict.
Boxing was one of the biggest fitness trends of 2017 – and if you’re partial to throwing a punch or two on the bag, then you might want to give kickboxing a go.
Its champions say you’ll get a better full body workout and ultimately burn more calories in a kickboxing class – so we went to Flykick, a new pay-as-you-go kickboxing gym that recently opened in Central London, to see how it compares to boxing.
The gym is owned by American former venture capitalist Charlie Kemper and Irishman Ben Leonard-Kane, an ex-management consultant and COO.
The pair, who had both been practising kickboxing or Muay Thai for a number of years, left the corporate world to embrace their passions for fitness.
They have also brought Greg Wootton, a professional Thai boxer and two-time world champion, on board as a coach.
Boxing vs. kickboxing
Thanks to the likes of the Victoria’s Secret crowd, boxing is on the radar of most mainstream gym-goers these days. Many celebrities and influencers claim it’s the best way to get shredded.
However, Leonard-Kane argues that you’ll gain significantly more from a kickboxing class.
When you first start out boxing, you won’t initially get a good full body workout, he said. “Obviously the conditioning side of it it is, but you’re not kicking, and you’re probably not transferring your weight properly. You’re not ducking shots, so your legs aren’t getting a workout.
“From day one here, even if you haven’t done a kickboxing class before, your legs are going to get a good workout. If you’re standing on one leg, you’re strengthening that leg, and kicking with the other – you’re engaging all of the big muscles in your legs, the quads, glutes, hamstrings, that are much bigger than the muscles in our upper body.”
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Three classes in one
As with many boutique boxing classes, Flykick’s 55-minute session is divided into sections, in this case three.
You begin with a high-intensity-interval training session – which is like a hard HIIT class in and of itself. Think one-minute non-stop tuck jumps, then another of burpees, and another of squat jumps – the jumping is relentless.
Once you’ve got your heart racing – which trust me, you will – it’s eight minutes of flow before hitting the bag.
“Stretching is the element that gets neglected most in high-intensity workouts because people put it at the end,” said Leonard-Kane. “People nip out because they want to be the first in the showers. I’ve put it in the middle so it’s compulsory. You can’t miss it by coming in late or leaving early.”
He added that it’s particularly important to stretch your legs properly if you’re kicking at rib height, but that it also allows for social interactions: “I can’t ask you what you did at the weekend when I’m asking you to do one minute of burpees!”
They also throw a mini-ab burning circuit in right at the end, just for fun.
Disguising the burn
Kickboxing is very core-centric, added Kemper. He says you spend most of the class engaging your abs like you would in a plank, but you last longer because you’re kicking and punching, which in turn distracts you from how much you’re working the core, “try holding a plank for 55 minutes,” he said.
“It’s just disguised,” Leonard-Kane went on. “You’re standing on one leg and rotating the weight of your body around that one leg. It’s almost impossible to do an isolated core exercise that’s going to pull in so many muscle groups.”
He added that everyone will come out of a kickboxing class feeling different little muscles that they never knew they had.
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The personal touch
With the added kicks, there’s more choreography to learn in a kickboxing class than your average boxing class.
And Leonard-Kane and his team of trainers are meticulous about correcting your moves. They man each class with at least two trainers, to the point where after a few 2.5 minute rounds on the bag, you might actually start to dread seeing the blue vested-instructor approach you.
“Learning a skill is what makes young professionals tick,” Leonard-Kane said. “That’s why we’ll always have two to three instructors in a class, to actually give people at least one, if not two, meaningful interactions while they’re on the bag to help them progress – that’s a real USP for us.
Kemper added: “If someone can give you one tip every class, you’ll want to come back for one more tip next time.”
‘When you strike something, it feels good’
Leonard-Kane says that as you learn the craft, the class will become more enjoyable.
“Once you put a bit of concentrated effort into getting the basics right, when you learn to transfer your weight you’ll be able to hit harder, which is enjoyable and a stress release. It also makes you stronger and means you’re burning more calories – it’s all self-propelling.”
“And kicking is fun,” Kemper added. “Even if you’re not doing it right, football is built around people kicking a ball because when you strike something it feels good. A lot of people [that come here] say they have never kicked something before.”
When I put the class to the test, I found it challenging. The kicks make the sequences trickier to get a hang of, and coordination really is key, so it might be easier if you’ve done a few boxing classes to begin with.
The class felt much longer than my usual HIIT class – which admittedly is only 30 minutes – and I was definitely worked harder than I have been for a while in a class. There was no slacking allowed!
I saw a few seemingly fit men and women taking breaths with their heads in their hands or leaning on the walls in between pounding the bag – so I certainly wasn’t alone.
But the following day I could feel muscles in my back that I haven’t felt since the time I kayaked down a river for four hours straight- and my glutes and backs of my legs felt noticeably tighter after just one session.
I’ll be back – but maybe after a few more boxing classes, to get a grounding first.
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