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Kicking Exercises and Tips

Kicking Exercises are just what they sound like - fast paced kicks in an effort to build fast twitch muscle fibres in your legs. However done improperly they hold the potential to injure yourself.

I should also note that the primary purpose of these kicking exercises are for EXERCISE, not for self-defense or fighting. I will note the various uses of some kicks, but please remember the primary goal here is to promote kicking as a form of exercise.

With that in mind I am going to be teaching 3 different styles of kicks you can try at home. Shin Kicks, Side Kicks and Back Kicks.

#1.

Use a large open space that has no obstacles or walls nearby. Accidentally kicking a wall and hurting your foot would be counter-productive.

#2.

Next you should be doing some stretches. Because you are going to be doing an exercise that explores the limits of your flexibility I want people reading this to make an effort to stretch before you begin any workout that contains kicking.

Start by sitting on the ground and doing a variety of poses that explore the limits of your flexibility, similar to the poses mentioned in the How to do the Splits post.

#3.

Warm up your leg muscles by doing about 30 to 60 seconds worth of jumping jacks and another 30 to 60 seconds worth of squats (or jump squats if you want more of a challenge).

#4.

Don't worry about height when you kicking. Stand upright and start by doing low kicks in the air aimed at an imaginary target about 1 foot off the ground. This is known as a Shin Kick. It may not look like much, but aimed at someone's leg it would be difficult to block and successful contact means the other person will be in pain and possibly have difficulty walking.

When doing Shin Kicks your legs should be spread further apart with your leading foot pointed towards the imaginary target. Your kicking foot will be spaced further back and the foot should be angled off to the side for extra stability.

Every few minutes you should switch sides and practice kicking with the other foot. Try to focus on the quality of your form and accuracy, not your speed.

Shin Kicking can also be used for tripping an opponent, except instead of kicking the person with the toe or the base of the foot you are instead angling your foot in from the side in an effort to knock them down / make them lose their balance. This is demonstrated in the graphic below.

In a situation where you feel threatened, kicking someone in the shins and then running away is a fairly effective means of self-defense. The other person could be potentially prone if you tripped them, or they might simply be unable to run quickly due to the sudden pain. The pain would be temporary however, so if your plan is to run do so quickly.

#5.

This is not the impressive Side Kick you may have seen in the movies. You need to work up to that.

Instead your goal here is to kick sideways and hit something that is approximately at groin level. eg. An opponent's family jewels.

To do this kick you first need to be facing towards your target, your feet slightly spaced apart and your leading foot slightly off to the side for extra balance. During the kick you will first raise your knee up towards the target, and then in one motion you will kick outwards while rotating your body. Use your arms to maintain your balance (potentially you could use one arm to perform a simultaneous punch like in the image below, but your primary goal should be to maintain your balance).


Done properly a sidekick should be both accurate, fast and with minimal loss of balance. These three things are important because:

  • You actually want to hit the target properly so it does more damage.
  • Your kick should be fast enough that your opponent cannot catch and twist your foot, leaving you at a disadvantage.
  • You don't want to lose your balance. If you fall the fight is practically over.
My tae kwon do instructor in South Korea taught that you never want to kick an opponent unless you either already have the advantage or if you can be absolutely certain of your success. He argued that kicking an opponent too aggressively and without a degree of caution was too risky, especially against any experienced opponent who knows how to counter such a kick and turn it against you.

For our purposes however side kicks still make for great exercise - both for muscle speed and strength, but also as a balance exercise.

#6.

The third and final kick I am going to teach today is the Back Kick.

Similar to the Side Kick, you start by raising your knee up in front of you and then kick backwards at an imaginary target at roughly groin level. Your primary goal during this kick is to learn how to maintain your balance, so note how your arms stay tucked close to your body and most of your balance is achieved not with your arms, but with your torso / core muscles.

7.

Don't over do it with any of the above kicking exercises. Focus on form and balance, not speed. There is no point hurting yourself by trying to kick superfast. Speed will come with practice.

After completing your kicking exercises for the day I also recommend doing a series of exercises such as:

Lunges
Sit Ups
Push Ups
Squats
Jump Squats
Jumping Jacks
Skip Rope or Skipping
Yoga
Etc

The goal here is to build up your leg muscles and also your core muscles (abs, lower back, etc). That way the next time you practice kicking exercises the muscles in question will be stronger and you will have better balance.

Happy Exercising!

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