What Are the Best Muay Thai & Kickboxing Workouts?

What Are the Best Muay Thai & Kickboxing Workouts?

Muay Thai is a martial art that combines standing strikes and grappling techniques. It is a flexible form of fighting since it allows full use of your fists, elbows, knees, and legs. In comparison, kickboxing is a hybrid combat style that draws inspiration from other sports including karate, boxing, and Muay Thai, this martial art relies on making standing strikes with only your fists and legs.

Because of their shared emphasis on switching between limbs while moving, Muay Thai and kickboxing have often been mistaken for being alike. But the truth is that they are distinct styles. Muay Thai is about honing nearly every available body part into a weapon. As such, Muay Thai emphasizes strengthening muscles equally throughout every section of the body, including ones also utilized in kickboxing and additional ones that its counterpart does not exploit. While kickboxing does not provide as diverse an arsenal, being limited to just fists and legs is not necessarily a bad thing. Sections of your body are kept fit so that they can support your limbs while your strength and endurance are improved. You learn to get the most power out of the assets you have available.

Despite their differences, Muay Thai and kickboxing are both viable options to choose from when getting into a workout routine. While martial arts styles have their uses in fighting or self-defense, the intense training that comes with learning the forms are good ways to stay in shape. If you are interested in unorthodox drills to burn any unwanted body fat, then this article will give you previews of workout programs for Muay Thai and kickboxing, workout equipment that will aid your sessions, and how your health will benefit from the exercises. But before diving into workout programs, it is a good idea to first compare and contrast aspects of Muay Thai and kickboxing.                    

Comparison of Muay Thai & Kickboxing

There are reasons why people assume Muay Thai and kickboxing are the same. Both sports employ similar techniques using the hands and feet, emphasize the importance of paying attention to footwork, and encourage maneuverability to aid in offense and defense. Because fighters from both styles have the appearance of using similar moves, it is assumed that either Muay Thai or kickboxing are a categorical variant of the other. 

It takes looking for subtle differences to figure out how to make the distinction between Muay Thai and kickboxing. Muay Thai favors careful deliberation of your movement; maintaining a steady defense that is periodically broken by precise strikes. Fighters do not employ complex moves, instead opting for simple yet quick attacks or counterattacks when the opportunities present themselves. While contact is allowed throughout most of the entire body, mainly middle shin kicks are relied on. Meanwhile, kickboxing encourages constant movement even when not engaged to increase evasion. When in combat, fighters can attempt combinations using both their hands and feet. They also have a larger moveset when it comes to kicks as they can utilize their feet and lower and middle shins.

Neither martial arts style neglects the overall physical condition of your body. But depending on which one you prefer, there may be emphasis on bulking up certain body parts over others. That being said, here are lists of possible workout programs and exercises that you could take a page from when approaching your regimen.    

Muay Thai Workouts & Exercises

Muay Thai training tends to follow a traditional layout when it comes to the exercises used in workouts. In most variations, they make sure to include skipping rope, shadow boxing, and movement drills. While these practices do not necessarily originate from nor belong to Muay Thai alone, they are integral to building the muscles fighters of this discipline exert.

The steps in a Muay Thai workout usually include the following:

  • Warm-up
  • Stretches
  • Shadow boxing
  • Movement drills
  • Strength training
  • Rest

Excluding warm-up and rest, the order of the steps can be rearranged how you see fit. It is suggested you push the stages with intense exercises towards the end so that you can ramp up the difficulty over time rather than right at the start.   

Skipping rope is ideal for warm-ups as it is not very taxing on muscles in the lower body. As you have to jump over the rope at a consistent rate, your calves, ankles, and feet become strengthened. You also learn coordination as you control the speed of the spinning rope with your hands while matching it up with the motion of your legs. If you do not have a jump rope, then any alternative warm-up exercises that help your cardio will do.     

Stretches continue the warm-up process as muscles are loosened so they are better prepared to take the strain of fast-paced activities. Make sure to slacken every section of your body before picking up speed or you might end up injuring yourself. Stretch as far as possible with your limbs and joints, but not to the point of hurting yourself. The range of your flexibility will increase so long as you are consistent in your stretches.  

Shadow boxing is where you practice sparring against an imaginary opponent. Although more befitting self-defense, putting yourself in the mindset that you are under attack motivates you to keep constantly moving. Fervently throwing out punches and kicks, weaving around fictional strikes, and constantly shifting the position of your body works up a good sweat. Even if you never intend to become a martial artist, taking this step seriously will help your stamina and fitness.   

Movement drills involve standard fitness exercises that cover your whole body mixed in with punches, kicks, and grapple maneuvers. A balanced body has to be able to carry the full impact of a fighter’s blows which is why attention is given to the arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders, and abs.

Listed below are examples of exercises that have applications in both combat and fitness:  


  • Jabs
  • Teep Kicks
  • Parry
  • Knee Walking
  • Check

Strength training involves building up muscle mass in every section of your body so that you can endure weights that get progressively heavier. It helps build up your stamina so you can keep pace with the speed of your workout.

Listed below are examples of strength training exercises:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Plank
  • Push-ups

In between every other step and after the conclusion of each session, take the opportunity to rest your body so that the muscles can recover. These breaks range from a few seconds to a few minutes so do not distract yourself with electronics or work. You can still be active at a more comfortable pace by stretching or hydrating yourself. 

Kickboxing Workouts Exercises

Kickboxing shares many of the exercises used in Muay Thai. Excluding exercises that incorporate knees, elbows, and grappling, kickboxing workouts rely on similar ones that solidify muscle groups. This includes punching and kicking moves as well. As it was born from elements of Muay Thai, skipping rope and shadow boxing can be added to the routine. However, these are optional as not all kickboxing workout programs include them.       

The steps in a kickboxing workout usually include the following:

  • Warm-up
  • Kickboxing Moves
  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Abs
  • Rest Stretches

Again, the order of the steps can be altered based on your preferences except for warm-ups, rest, and stretches. Besides the inclusion of combat combinations, kickboxing workouts tend to follow the layout of a standard bodybuilding plan. Each session has time frames allotted to exercises specific to a certain muscle group. 

The list of general exercises mentioned above for Muay Thai are appropriate for kickboxing as well, but here are a

few more suggestions for how to reinforce your muscles:

  • Russian Twist
  • Deadlifts
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Punch-outs

Kickboxing moves is the step that practices how to throw punches and kicks. The arms and legs benefit the most as the body goes through the motions of repeating strikes until they become second nature. Combinations are done step-by-step by alternating between punches, kicks, blocks, and footwork within single sets. 

Listed below are examples of exercises that have application in both combat and fitness:

  • Uppercut
  • Hook
  • High Kick
  • Front Kick
  • Back Kick
  • Slip

Muay Thai Kickboxing Workout Gear

Muay Thai and kickboxing workouts challenge you to treat your body as if you are preparing for an important fight. To aid the process, you may want to acquire workout gear that can keep up with your movements as they become sharper. Your choice of attire has to allow freedom of movement, evaporation of sweat, and relative comfort while in motion. There is also additional equipment made to absorb the impacts of your punches and kicks if you wish to get more hands-on in your approach.

Below are examples of items that are not necessarily required but could enhance your workout experience:

  • Muay Thai Gloves :If you intend to punch something solid, you may need gloves to prevent injuring your knuckles. Feeling impacts through your gloves will help you gauge how b your arms have become. You will need to be careful they are the appropriate size and weight to make sure you make the most of your sessions.  
  • Muay Thai Shorts :Short pants with hems that have large openings above knee height. This is to prevent restricting full use of your legs during kicks. Made of a lightweight yet tough fabric, this product combines comfort and durability.
  • Spat Pants: Form-fitting long leg pants made of a soft and moisture-resistant material. Besides showing the shape of your muscles in the lower body, they encourage sweat evaporation so you are not sweltering while moving. Despite covering your legs completely, you are still able to move your legs uninhibited during kicks.
  • Tank Tops :Sleeveless shirts that have large openings to allow good air flow and improve sweat evaporation. They are made of flexible and tough materials that help them follow your movements without riding up or tearing apart.
  • T-Shirts :Short-sleeved shirts that prioritize comfort over functionality so these may not be the best choice for workouts. However, the neckband is made of soft and tough materials that keep from chafing. If you prefer wearing casual clothing that can still hold up in intense exercises, these are suited for you.
  • Punching Bags :Equipped with a detachable chain, these are well-built and long-lasting inflated bags that can take the damage of your best punches and kicks. It can be taken down from its overhanging and used on the floor during grapple practice.

Health Benefits of Muay Thai Kickboxing Workouts

After putting in weeks of effort into your Muay Thai or kickboxing program, you may start to notice that your mental and physical health have seen improvement. Your motivation for choosing martial arts for a fitness program may have been to refine your physical appearance, but you have the added benefits of also maturing as an individual.

As expected, engaging in exercises that require you to move at a brisk speed aid in weight loss. The burning sensation in your muscles is a sign of an increased metabolism. A heightened metabolism means that you are getting rid of extra calories and therefore burning through excess body fat.  

Thanks to an increase in your stamina, the muscles in your heart become sturdier. Cardiovascular muscles are able to pump blood at a faster rate, allowing better oxygen flow throughout your body. This will help make exertion during everyday situations like running to work easier to handle. This also lessens your chances of contracting heart-related illnesses such as a heart attack.  

Attempting punches and kicks that require you to aim far and high gives your joints added flexibility. Your spine and limbs are able to bend further than before without causing discomfort. Also, thanks to the exercises that require you to control multiple body parts at the same time, you become comfortable in coordination.   

Despite the pain of pushing your body’s physical limits, you may find that either martial art can be a good form of stress relief. If you are weighed down by negative emotions, these are safe ways for you to vent your frustrations. Intense physical exertion causes your body to release endorphins which will help cheer up your mood. 

As your physique becomes bulkier yet leaner, you will develop a positive outlook on your self-image. Before you began your workout, there may have been physical feats that you thought were impossible to accomplish. But now, you can flawlessly imitate the movements of martial artists and look good while doing it.

Pushing through your workout program without succumbing to the temptation of giving up will toughen your mental fortitude. When your limbs feel like they are about to collapse, your mind will be able to tell them to keep pressing on. You refrain from returning to bad habits such as overeating and will become adamant in fulfilling personal commitments.     

Photo credit: @southsidemixedmartialarts

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