(Test Ride)

CKO Kickboxing Is The Best Full Body Workout I’ve Ever Done

Four weeks straight, three times a week — it whipped me back into shape.

Photo: CKO Kickboxing

In Test Ride, TZR staff reviews the popular fitness workouts, equipment, and trends making waves in the wellness industry to see what all the buzz is about. Ahead, TZR’s Kathy Lee shares her experience with taking CKO Kickboxing classes at the Park Slope, Brooklyn location in New York.

I haven’t worked out since last summer. Not even a single at-home virtual class or biking loops around the park. With the demands of work, an increasingly hectic schedule with two kids, and a mild but growing fear of injuring myself, I’ve been quite sedentary. Excuses, I know. I could have at least done a 10-minute virtual class and built up from there. But, alas, I finally got it together and signed up for a kickboxing class at CKO Kickboxing.

I was a bit intimidated at first since I’ve never tried kickboxing before, only boxing, but I was pleasantly surprised at how inviting the studio felt, from the staff to fellow members in class. The instructors taught me techniques on how to kick the bag properly, and corrected my form along the way so I didn’t injure myself. And the fact that others in the class were at different levels made me feel at ease.

“Kickboxing differs from boxing in that it is a full body workout,” says Adriana Zito, cofounder of CKO Kickboxing Park Slope. “You use every muscle group and your entire body benefits from kickboxing with a strong focus on your core, which is the foundation of your body.” Each session involves high intensity interval training (HIIT), with drills that push you to exert maximum force in short periods of time. It not only builds strength but also muscle endurance with each workout.

Kathy Lee

The Class

Each session at CKO is 45 minutes long, broken up by 12 rounds, similar to traditional boxing. For those who have a short attention span like me, the rounds offer variety of movements to keep you motivated until the next. Also, the energetic mix of music helps, too. Each class begins with a warm up round to get the heart rate up, which can be anything from walk outs to jumping jacks. Depending on the instructor, the rounds may alternate between punching and kicking the bag to circuit training (think burpees, drop squats, frog jumps). Or, you may even have a combination of both in one round, such as a jab-cross combo to drop and push-up. The fluctuation in heart rate helps to burn more calories, according to Zito.

In boxing, there are four main punches — jab, cross, hook, and uppercut — and footwork for movement. The goal is to be light on the feet while throwing your punches. With kickboxing, you combine the punches and footwork with kicks, with three basic ones being roundhouse, push, and knee kicks. Combinations of these movements are instructed throughout each round, from offensive (punch and kicks) to defensive (slips, rolls, bobs, and weaves), building from the last, requiring one to stay alert and quick with their moves. I stayed behind a few classes to correct my roundhouse as I initially kicked with my feet — causing pain and bruising — and not my shins, which is the correct part of your body to hit the punching bag with and should not result in injury or pain.

The Facility

I frequented both the Park Slope and Carroll Gardens locations in Brooklyn and, while the Park Slope location was larger and recently renovated, both were no-frills and simple in a way that focused on the workout and not other unnecessary distractions. Both studios are fully lit with natural light pouring in through the floor to ceiling windows and there are no mirrored walls or showers, which in my case was OK as they are both so close to my home that I could shower there and be on my way.

My Takeaways

Out of all the workout classes to kickstart my fitness routine, I went with kickboxing because it offers a full body workout in a short period of time and is the most engaging. After working from home for over two years, my hips and backs were chronically bothering me and I wanted to strengthen my core, glutes, and legs. My goal was to feel stronger, correct my posture, and get into the routine of exercising again.

Committing to kickboxing three times a week for four weeks straight, I gradually increased my endurance with each class, able to hold my planks longer and punch and kick a little harder with each class. My quads, glutes, and deltoids are more toned, and I generally feel more active as well.

After trying kickboxing, I don’t think I can return to just boxing. I’m not a fan of ab exercises and learning how to do the kick movements engages your ab muscles without you even realizing you’re doing so — just my kind of workout. For me, exercise is more mental than physical, so this format of spurts of high intensity drills is just what I need to keep me motivated. Also, what’s not to love about hitting a bag after a long and hard day? It’s the best stress reliever I can think of and it whipped me back into shape.