Many people use the term cardio kickboxing interchangeably with aerobic kickboxing or fitness kickboxing, and BodyCombat — one of the popular Les Mills workouts taught at 14,000 gyms around the world — is a specific brand of this type of workout. But Cardio Kickboxing is actually a trademarked name for a specific workout created in 1992 by martial arts champion and former kickboxing judge Frank Thiboutot, so in fact it’s a similar but competing workout to BodyCombat. Both use authentic kickboxing and martial arts moves in a high-impact choreographed aerobic workout that promises to burn substantial calories.
These workouts, as well as most generic knock-offs, are based on martial arts and kickboxing, and set the moves to high-energy music. BodyCombat and Cardio Kickboxing include series of kicks, strikes, blocks and punches during each session, choreographed to the beat of the music. You can take the classes at gyms and health clubs, or get a DVD if you prefer to work out at home. Both programs have the primary goal of being a high-intensity workout rather than teaching you proper fighting form for competitive martial arts or real-world self-defense situations, but they do give a sense of empowerment and confidence to the student, and a foundation to build further practical training on if desired.
If you take BodyCombat at a club, you’ll notice that new releases come out on a regular basis. That’s because every quarter the program is updated with new choreography and music — everything from retro to pop to alternative rock. Cardio Kickboxing, on the other hand, focuses on classic dance club music including trance, house and electronic. Like most fitness kickboxing programs, BodyCombat requires no special equipment, although some people like to wear kickboxing gloves to help with punching form and attitude. Cardio Kickboxing is unique among this type of workout, because while it does have sections that are done without equipment, it also promotes the use of standard kickboxing gear like gloves, hand wraps, heavy bags, speed bags and jump ropes.
Typical BodyCombat Workout
BodyCombat starts with a warm-up that incorporates tai chi and introduces some of the moves to be used later in the class. It then alternates through a series of combat and power training tracks. The combat tracks mix in upper and lower body martial arts and kickboxing moves in simulated fight combinations, and progress from easy to intense before backing down for recovery. Karate songs use lots of strikes, while taekwondo songs showcase kicks. The power tracks are based on rounds of boxing, focusing on the upper body, and the first one is meant to push you aerobically to increase your speed and endurance. Towards the end, there is always a high-energy muay thai track, using punches, knees and elbows to work the abs, before the workout heads to the floor for a core-strengthening mat routine. The 55-minute session promises to burn an average of 737 calories.
Typical Cardio Kickboxing Workout
The true Cardio Kickboxing workout is harder to find than BodyCombat, and the routine may vary by the club. But Frank Thiboutot designed it to be closely related to tournament kickboxing, and it’s endorsed by the International Kickboxing Federation, so the moves are based on that sport’s inspirations: boxing, karate and muay thai. Thiboutot’s original workout featured three segments: the first is an introduction of the fundamentals so you can get to know the moves. The second is an aerobic kickboxing routine without equipment, and the third introduces mixed martial arts equipment. Expect fitness elements like crunches, squats and shadow boxing as well as drills with a jump rope, medicine ball and heavy bag. The official claim is that the one-hour workout burns an average of 1,000 calories.
- Les Mills: About BodyCombat™
- Les Mills: Our History
- The Olympic Club Bermuda: BodyCombat
- Cardio Kickboxing: Cardio Kickboxing FAQs
- YMAA: Frank Thibitout
- LA Times: Kick-Boxing Craze
- ACE Fitness: ACE Research Team Counts Calories, Confirms Benefits of Cardio Kickboxing
- International Kickboxing Federation: 5 Star Mission
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