What to Expect Before Your First Kickboxing Class

Kickboxing class

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If you’ve decided to try your hand (or foot) at kickboxing, congratulations! You’ve chosen a form of fitness that will work your body and benefit your mind. But since kickboxing isn’t an everyday activity for most of us, you may come to your first class with questions about what to expect.

Here’s what to know about starting kickboxing in a group fitness setting:

Do You Have to Have a Certain Fitness Level to Kickbox?

Great news: you don’t have to have any prior experience with punching, kicking, and jabbing to attend a kickboxing class. Even beginners don’t need to feel this type of exercise is out of reach.

“Kickboxing is an option for nearly all fitness levels,” says certified level III kickboxing instructor and licensed social worker Paige Harnish, LISW. “The most important part of kickboxing is listening and observing to learn proper form.”

If you have concerns that you might get overwhelmed at your first class, simply let your instructor know you’re just starting out. That way, they can show you modifications to make as you master the moves and gain confidence.

“As beginners build stamina and strength, they may focus on form over the span of several classes prior to adding more power and speed,” explains Harnish.

Which Muscle Groups Kickboxing Works

“In a kickboxing class, there’s a major emphasis on your core,” says NASM certified personal trainer and kickboxing instructor Josh Vela of Daily Burn Fitness.

In addition to the muscles of your core, you may engage your glutes, inner thighs, quads, biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles, depending on the moves a workout involves. Even the small muscles in your hands and feet may get worked as you jump and jab.

Besides strengthening individual muscles, kickboxing is also a high-energy form of cardiovascular exercise. As your heart gets pumping, you can expect to torch calories by the hundreds.

How to Prepare for Your First Kickboxing Class

Every kickboxing class will look a little different. Before you get kicking, it’s up to you to determine what type of class you’re looking for.

“If you are new to kickboxing, know that there are many different styles, so take the time to determine what type of class appeals to you and your goals,” says Vela.

“For example, are you looking for a more technical class with an authentic ‘fighter’ experience? Or are you perhaps a more rhythmic soul who would enjoy kicking and punching to upbeat music?” Your personal preferences and goals will determine which type of kickboxing class suits you best.

There’s also the question of equipment. If you opt for a class that uses a punching bag, make sure your gym supplies this crucial item. Most gyms provide them for class, but it’s always best to find out for sure. The same applies to boxing gloves—find out beforehand whether you’ll need to bring your own or if the gym has gloves available to use or rent.

Of course, it’s smart to account for the length of time your class will span, too. If you’re not used to a 60-minute cardio and strength session, you may prefer to start with a shorter class. And before you punch it out, take some time to warm up. A few full-body stretches like a downward-facing dog or toe touches can limber your muscles and help prevent injuries.

Finally, don’t forget to dress the part! A wardrobe of comfortable, fitted clothing is best for kickboxing. “Baggy clothing may catch, fall down, or reveal private areas during the fast-paced kickboxing moves,” notes Harnish. “Moisture wicking or aerated fabrics are also ideal. Most women will wear spandex capris and a tank top, and most men will wear shorts with spandex underneath and a lightweight top.” 

Preparing for the Emotional Component of Kickboxing

Kickboxing not only works your muscles and gets your blood pumping—it may have a unique impact on your mental health as well. “Kickboxing is an excellent form of stress management,” Harnish points out.

Paige Harnish, LISW

Challenging the body physically helps to tap into inner power, outwardly expel stress, and gain keen mental focus. Kickboxing can lead to a sense of accomplishment, control and discipline, which can be very motivating.

— Paige Harnish, LISW

Some people have found that kickboxing helps release anger and aggression, or even allows them to tap into and overcome past trauma. If you have a history of trauma or domestic abuse, be aware that you may experience some powerful emotions as you use your physical power to fight an invisible opponent.

Kickboxing Safety Tips

For most people, kickboxing is a safe and fun workout. However, with any high-energy exercise—especially one that involves punching and kicking—there’s always a risk of injury. If your kickboxing class involves a punching bag, you may incur injuries to body parts that make contact with the bag. And if you get too close to a fellow class member, you could find yourself with an accidental black eye. 

Be sure to follow these safety tips when participating in a kickboxing class:

  • Wear shoes with tread to prevent slips and falls
  • Keep a safe distance from other participants
  • Hydrate throughout your class
  • Stop kickboxing if you feel light-headed or dizzy, or if you experience pain performing any moves
  • Always follow your instructor’s guidance

Consult with a health care professional before your first class if you have a health condition you think may impair your ability to kickbox.

Post-Class Recovery

After your first kickboxing class, hopefully you’ll experience a sense of energy and empowerment. Cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins—the body’s natural mood boosters—so if kickboxing leaves you feeling like you can take on the world, enjoy!  

On the other hand, you may also feel sore. “Don't be surprised if you notice soreness in multiple muscle areas after class,” says Harnish. “If anything hurts, be sure to touch base with an instructor to ensure you are practicing proper form.” And remember that, most of the time, soreness is an indicator of an effective workout.

It’s normal, too, to feel like you didn’t master everything in your first class. Don’t worry too much if you uppercutted when you should have cross-hooked—or even if you fell down while trying to roundhouse kick. Between listening for cues, learning new moves, and ­­­using multiple muscle groups, there’s a lot to take in during a kickboxing class. Give yourself some credit for trying something new and challenging, then get back at it in your next class.

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  1. Valentish, J. 'You feel like you're getting your power back': how martial arts helps recovery from trauma. The Guardian. 2002.