Does Kickboxing Build Muscle?

Ever lace up your gloves and wonder, “Does kickboxing build muscle?”

In short, kickboxing can tone your body and increase your overall strength, but for significant muscle growth, you're likely to need weight training as well. Intrigued?

Let's dive deeper into why this is the case, and how you can maximize your kickboxing workouts for strength and endurance.

Keep reading to uncover the science behind it all.

Understanding Kickboxing as a Workout

Let's get to know kickboxing a bit more, shall we?

To truly understand how this workout can affect our muscles, we need to take a peek behind the curtain.

From understanding the exercises involved to figuring out which muscles are being worked, there's a lot to explore.

Here's the lowdown on kickboxing as a workout.

Examination of the Typical Kickboxing Workout: What it Involves, What Muscle Groups It Targets

Kickboxing – it's not just throwing punches and kicks into the air.

This workout is a blend of aerobic and anaerobic activities that can give you a serious sweat session.

From fast-paced jabs and hooks to intense knee strikes and roundhouse kicks, you're constantly on the move, making it an effective cardiovascular exercise.

But which muscles are you working exactly?

The answer? Just about all of them. Kickboxing is known for its full-body workout potential.

When you throw a punch, you're engaging your biceps and triceps, while your core and back muscles help stabilize your movements.

Your shoulder muscles also get a piece of the action.

The kicks, on the other hand, target your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, with your calves working hard to maintain balance.

Don't forget, your core is continuously engaged for balance and coordination, making kickboxing an awesome workout for the abs.

Comparison of the Calories Burned in Kickboxing vs. Other Exercises

We've established that kickboxing gives you a full-body workout, but how does it stack up against other exercises when it comes to calorie burn?

According to the Harvard Medical School, a general 30-minute kickboxing session can burn anywhere from 180-223 calories, depending on your body weight.

Now, compare this to running, which can burn around 240-355 calories, or swimming, which can use up about 180-266 calories.

On the other hand, weightlifting, known for its muscle-building properties, burns only 90-133 calories in the same amount of time.

These numbers might be surprising!

While kickboxing might not match running or swimming in pure calorie burn, it certainly surpasses weightlifting, and remember, it's also working a broader range of muscle groups at once.

But remember, calorie burn doesn't always directly translate to muscle building.

To delve deeper into that aspect, we'll need to understand the science behind muscle growth.

The Science Behind Muscle Building

Now that we've got a handle on the mechanics of a kickboxing workout, let's dive into the muscle mystery, shall we?

Building muscle isn't just about breaking a sweat.

There's some real science involved.

So let's strap on our lab coats and take a closer look at how muscles grow, and why kickboxing might not pump you up as much as weightlifting.

Overview of How Muscles Grow: The Role of Resistance, Tension, and Metabolic Stress

Muscle growth, or hypertrophy, isn't a complicated process, but it does require specific conditions.

Essentially, your muscles need to be challenged by work that's outside their comfort zone.

First up, we have resistance. When you lift a heavy weight, you're creating a kind of stress that your body isn't used to. In response, your muscle fibers suffer small micro-tears.

Don't worry, it sounds worse than it is.

These tiny tears are a good thing because they trigger your body to repair and rebuild the tissue, making it stronger and larger over time.

Next, we have mechanical tension.

This is the force that's produced when a muscle contracts, which is crucial for muscle growth.

If you're doing a bicep curl, for example, you're creating tension in your bicep muscle.

This tension can lead to those micro-tears we just talked about.

Lastly, we have metabolic stress.

When you workout, your muscles need more energy, and in the process of producing that energy, they generate by-products that cause a sort of “burning” sensation.

This is metabolic stress, and it also contributes to muscle growth.

Explanation of Why Kickboxing Might Not Build as Much Muscle Compared to Weightlifting

So how does kickboxing fit into all of this?

Well, kickboxing primarily offers a cardio workout, which means it's great for burning fat and improving your cardiovascular health, but it's not the best for building muscle. Why?

Remember those micro-tears we talked about? Well, to create enough of them to trigger significant muscle growth, you need substantial resistance, and that's something kickboxing lacks.

When you're punching or kicking in a kickboxing class, you're primarily moving against the resistance of air, which isn't enough to cause significant muscle growth.

Yes, you're working your muscles, but without the heavy resistance provided by weights, the potential for muscle growth is somewhat limited.

Weightlifting, on the other hand, involves moving heavy weights which directly challenge your muscles and cause the necessary stress and micro-tears needed for growth.

But don't throw in the towel on your kickboxing class just yet.

Kickboxing might not turn you into a bodybuilder, but it can still contribute to muscle development in other ways. Keep reading, and we'll explore how.

Can Kickboxing Help in Building Small Amounts of Muscle?

So we've established that kickboxing might not be the ticket to Hulk-like biceps, but that doesn't mean it's off the muscle-building menu entirely.

Let's take a closer look at how kickboxing can still play a part in your muscle growth story, particularly if you're a beginner stepping into the world of physical training.

Kickboxing, while primarily a cardio and endurance workout, can indeed help build small amounts of muscle, particularly for those who are new to physical training.

As you start to include any form of exercise in your routine after a period of inactivity, your muscles experience a level of stress that they aren't accustomed to.

This can lead to those micro-tears and the subsequent repair process that's central to muscle growth.

When you start kickboxing, you’re recruiting a range of muscles – from your arms and shoulders, right down to your legs and core.

As these muscles adapt to the new form of exercise, you may see some muscle growth and definition.

This is particularly true for your legs and core, as they are heavily involved in maintaining balance and executing kicks.

However, it's important to note that these gains will usually plateau after some time.

This is because, as your muscles get used to the exercise, they'll become more efficient and won't experience the same level of stress and strain that triggers growth.

Without adding additional resistance, like you would with weightlifting, the potential for continued muscle growth is limited.

That being said, one of the biggest advantages of kickboxing is that it can lead to a more toned appearance.

This is because it helps burn excess body fat while slightly increasing muscle mass.

As your body fat decreases and your muscle tone increases, you'll start to see more definition, which can give the appearance of a more muscular physique.

Kickboxing and Strength

Even if kickboxing isn't a one-way ticket to Muscleville, it doesn't mean it can't pack a punch in other areas.

If your goal is overall fitness, increasing strength, or improving endurance, you might find kickboxing to be your ally.

Let's check out how kickboxing can boost your strength and endurance, and give your body that toned look you're after.

How Kickboxing Can Enhance Strength, Even if It Doesn’t Build Large Amounts of Muscle

You might not get swole from kickboxing, but you can certainly get stronger.

While muscle size and strength are related, they're not the same thing.

You can increase your strength without significantly increasing your muscle size, and kickboxing can definitely help with that.

When you throw a punch or a kick, you're using multiple muscle groups at once.

You're engaging your core for stability, your legs for power, and your arms for execution.

This full-body involvement requires coordination and, you guessed it, strength.

In addition, the repetitive nature of kickboxing – the constant punches, kicks, and movements – can help enhance muscular endurance.

This is your muscles' ability to exert force repeatedly over a period of time.

Over time, you'll find that you can throw more punches and kicks, or go through a whole class without feeling as fatigued.

That's your strength and endurance at work!

Benefits of Kickboxing in Toning the Body and Enhancing Endurance

Besides building strength, there are other great reasons to embrace kickboxing.

As we mentioned before, kickboxing is a total body workout.

This means it's great for toning your entire body, from your arms and shoulders down to your legs and core.

Because kickboxing is a high-intensity exercise, it's fantastic for burning calories and blasting fat.

This, combined with the toning effect of the workout, can lead to a leaner, more defined physique over time.

Not to mention, kickboxing is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, also known as your aerobic endurance.

Those high-energy classes will get your heart rate up and keep it there, which over time, can lead to improvements in your heart and lung health, and your body's ability to use oxygen efficiently.

Complementing Kickboxing with Resistance Training

So, you're sold on kickboxing but still keen on gaining some serious muscle? No problem!

There's a way to combine the best of both worlds.

Let's explore how you can complement your kickboxing routine with resistance training for a well-rounded workout plan.

The Role of Weight Training in Building Muscle for Kickboxing

Weight training is a crucial player in the muscle-building game.

Remember when we talked about those micro-tears and how they help in muscle growth?

Well, resistance exercises like weightlifting are pros at causing these micro-tears, much more than kickboxing alone.

When you lift weights, you’re challenging your muscles with high levels of resistance.

This resistance causes tension, which leads to those all-important micro-tears.

Your body, in turn, repairs and rebuilds those muscle fibers, making them stronger and larger over time.

By incorporating weight training into your routine, you can achieve the muscle growth that kickboxing doesn't provide.

In fact, the combination of resistance training for muscle growth and kickboxing for cardio, endurance, and toning can make for an incredibly well-rounded fitness routine.

Specific Recommendations for Incorporating Weight Training with Kickboxing

So how do you combine these two seemingly different workouts? Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Balance your week: If you're kickboxing three times a week, consider adding two days of weight training on the days you're not kickboxing. This allows you to recover from each type of workout properly.
  2. Focus on compound movements: When you lift, focus on exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once. Movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups are all great options. They mimic the full-body nature of kickboxing and help maximize your time in the gym.
  3. Train for your goals: If you're trying to build strength for kickboxing, use a weight that allows you to perform 6-12 reps with proper form. If you're looking to build endurance, use a lighter weight and aim for 12-20 reps.
  4. Don't forget recovery: Rest is crucial for muscle growth. Make sure you're giving your muscles time to recover between weightlifting sessions.

Making the Decision: Is Kickboxing Right for You?

So you're pumped and ready to start kickboxing… or are you?

Making the decision to embark on a new workout regimen isn't something to take lightly.

It's important to ensure that the choice you make aligns with your personal goals, capabilities, and interests.

Let's delve into some of the factors to consider when deciding if kickboxing is the right fit for you.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Kickboxing as an Exercise Routine

As you weigh your options, consider the following:

  1. Your fitness goals: Are you looking to lose weight, build muscle, increase your cardiovascular fitness, or all of the above? As we've discussed, kickboxing can help with toning, fat loss, and cardiovascular health, but won't significantly bulk you up.
  2. Your interest and motivation: It's much easier to stick to a workout routine that you enjoy. Kickboxing is high-energy and varied, which keeps things interesting. But if you don't enjoy the intensity or the movements, it might be harder to stay motivated.
  3. Your physical condition: Kickboxing is a high-impact activity that involves a lot of quick movements and potentially some jumping. If you have joint issues or other physical conditions, it may not be the best choice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new workout regimen.
  4. Time and resources: Do you have access to kickboxing classes or videos? Are you willing to invest in gloves and wraps? Can you commit to regular workouts?

Understanding That Individual Results May Vary

One last thing to remember as you decide whether kickboxing is right for you: everyone's body is different.

How your body responds to kickboxing (or any exercise routine) may differ from someone else's.

Factors like your current fitness level, diet, genetics, and consistency with your routine can all affect your results.

Kickboxing can be an enjoyable and effective way to increase your fitness level, but it's not the only path to fitness.

Remember, the best workout routine is the one that you enjoy and can stick with consistently.

So whether you're drawn to the high-intensity, full-body workouts of kickboxing, or you prefer a different routine, the most important thing is that you're moving and taking care of your body.


In conclusion, kickboxing might not turn you into a muscle-building machine, but it packs a powerful punch in other areas.

It's an excellent way to increase strength, burn calories, and tone your entire body.

For those keen on muscle growth, combining kickboxing with a weightlifting routine could be the knockout combo you're looking for.

Ultimately, the best workout is the one that aligns with your goals and keeps you coming back for more.

So, whether kickboxing is right for you is a decision only you can make. Ready to step into the ring?