What Muscles Does Kickboxing Work [5 Major Muscle Groups]

Kickboxing is a total body workout that recruits a lot of muscles from your lower body as well as your upper body. Practicing footwork will strengthen your calves, kicking will build your thighs and glutes, while punching works your arms, shoulders, back, and neck. On top of all this, kickboxing provides an excellent cardio workout. You can burn as many as 900 calories in an hour of kickboxing.

What muscles does kickboxing work?

Does Kickboxing Transform Your Body?

Performed at high-intensity several times a week and paired with a healthy diet, kickboxing will change your entire body. In fact, science backs this up. This study found that even amateur kickboxers tend to have low body fat percentages and good musculature. So, it’s safe to say kickboxing is a great way to build a fitter physique.

  • Kickboxing combines cardio activity with muscle-building exercise for a body-transforming workout.
  • Scientific studies show kickboxers have low body fat and well-developed muscles.
  • Work with a reputable kickboxing trainer for best results.

In order to reap the benefits of the full-body workout that is kickboxing, it’s crucial to work with a trainer that focuses on proper technique. Learning to kickbox the right way will protect you from injury, maximize your fitness progress, and teach you valuable skills.

Does Kickboxing Build Muscle Mass?

Kickboxing builds muscle mass throughout your entire body. Although kickboxing is not specifically designed to increase mass, training by kicking and punching a heavy bag exhausts your muscles. This triggers them to become bigger, stronger, and have more tone. You’re not likely to get as massive from kickboxing as you will from weightlifting, but you’ll definitely build muscle.

Does Kickboxing Reduce Belly Fat?

Kickboxing is an amazing weight loss exercise because it raises your heart rate and burns calories. In one hour of kickboxing, you can burn up to 900 calories. This makes it one of the best cardio exercises you can do to burn fat. In comparison, one hour of running or cycling tops out at about 750 calories burned. If you want to torch stubborn belly fat, kickboxing is an excellent choice.

5 Major Muscle Groups and How Kickboxing Works Them

All those roundhouse kicks and combination punches do more than just burn calories. They also work muscles throughout your entire body. Below, we’ll dive into what muscles kickboxing targets and exactly how it helps make them stronger.


Your calves are worked by kickboxing because staying in a fighting stance requires you to balance on the balls of your feet. This puts your calves under constant tension, making them far stronger. If your cardio kickboxing class includes jump ropes, then you get even more work for your calf muscles.

  • Your calves work when balancing on the balls of your feet while kickboxing.
  • Jumping rope as part of a cardio kickboxing class also works your calves.
  • Your quads, hamstrings, and glutes work as you bounce, bob, and weave in kickboxing.
  • Delivering kicks works your thighs and glutes.

Your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are actively engaged when moving, ducking, and kicking during a kickboxing fitness routine. On top of this, your legs are responsible for delivering power as you punch. Kickboxing provides benefits from your calves all the way up to your behind.


Kickboxing builds strong core muscles. When you throw a punch, you turn your hips to deliver power to the bag (or sparring opponent). This engages your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles.

  • Abdominals, lower back, and obliques are engaged when turning your body to deliver punches.
  • Your core works to maintain balance and deliver power during kicking.

That’s not all. Kicking also provides an intense core workout. Lifting your legs to hip height and above engages your abs. Your core muscles also tense to maintain balance as you kick. You may not even realize how much your core works during a kickboxing workout, but you’ll see the results in the mirror.


Kickboxing benefits your upper body in several ways. In order to throw punches, you use muscles in your shoulders (front deltoids) and chest (pectoralis major). Throwing hooks targets the shoulders even more, even recruiting the muscles on the side of your shoulders (lateral deltoids).

  • Your front deltoids and chest muscles are key for providing power during punches such as jabs and crosses.
  • Punches like hooks work the lateral deltoids in your shoulder, as well as the chest.
  • Your rear deltoids are worked when you pull your hands back to guard position following a punch.

Pulling your arms back quickly after delivering a punch also works your shoulders. The muscles in the back of your shoulder (rear deltoids) are responsible for helping you snap back to a guard position after each punch.


In addition to shoulders and chest, maintaining a strong guard position during cardio kickboxing requires your back and neck muscles to work. The trapezius muscles on either side of your neck work while maintaining guard.

  • Your trapezius muscles work to keep your hands high in a strong guard position.
  • The lats are activated by maintaining guard and pulling back into guard after punching.

The lats (latissimus dorsi) in your back are also provided with a workout. Snapping back from punches recruits these large back muscles. Additionally, the act of keeping your hands raised in front of you activates your back muscles.


Kickboxing is great for toning your arms. The act of throwing punches recruits the triceps muscle (the muscle on the back of your upper arm). It’s used in every pushing motion, and punching a heavy bag certainly counts as one! You’ll feel the burn in your arms during a kickboxing class.

  • Triceps are used to deliver punches.
  • Your biceps are activated by maintaining guard and pulling back after punching.
  • Your forearm muscles work when you clench your fist to deliver punches.

Your biceps are also worked during kickboxing. Keeping your arms up and maintaining proper form provides a biceps workout. Kickboxing even works your forearms. Clenching your fist tightly as you deliver punches trains your grip strength, toning your forearm muscles.

How Long Does it Take to See Results From Kickboxing?

Don’t expect to see a massive health benefit and boost in athletic performance after a single kickboxing class. You need to stick with the program for at least 3 months to see real results. This study saw no change in body fat in participants who kickboxed for 5 weeks. Those who conducted the study suggested 12 weeks would be required to see real changes in overall fitness.

  • Stick with kickboxing for 12 weeks to see clear results.
  • Plan to kickbox 3 times per week for at least 12 weeks.
  • If you commit to a kickboxing training program, it will deliver real results.

Plan to attend kickboxing classes at least 3 times per week for 12 weeks before seeing drastic results. It may be hard to power through an entire class at first, but your dedication will pay off. Kickboxing will serve as strength training, skill building, and help lower your body fat percentage.

What Muscles are Worked During Kickboxing?

As physical activity, kickboxing ranks among the best for increasing cardiovascular endurance while improving muscle tone. You’ll see the strength training benefits of kickboxing in the following muscle groups:

  • Leg muscles
  • Core, including abdominals and lower back.
  • Chest and shoulders
  • Neck and upper back.
  • Arms, including forearms.

As you can see, this encompasses every major muscle group in the body. This illustrates what an incredible strength-building tool kickboxing is. With a kickboxing program, you’ll see improvement in strength and coordination throughout your body.

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