7 Exercises to Improve Your Kicks

A decent kick requires a combination of flexibility, balance and strength. This combination of exercises works on all three to help you kick higher, harder and land safely and ready to throw the next technique.

1. Lateral Stretch

Probably the simplest, but also the most difficult. If you really want to improve your flexibility, you need to stretch every day and push yourself that little bit further each time. With the lateral stretch, simply stand with your feet as far apart as possible and hold your weight there - use your bodyweight to push your legs further apart, and your leg muscles to stop yourself from going further than you're comfortable with.

2. Lunge

A fantastic exercise for building strength - put one leg in front and the other behind with both feet facing forwards. Bend the front knee to at least a 90 degree angle and leg the leg behind drop down, keeping it straight. Go as far down as you can while supporting your weight with your legs. You can either do this as a static exercise, or do sets of lunges.

3. Squat

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and bend your knees at a 90 degree angle - ensure that your heels stay on the floor during the exercise. Like the lunge, you can either hold the position or do sets.

4. Leg Lifts

Stand on your hands and knees, keeping your back straight and flat. Raise one of your legs until it is at the same level as your body - don't let it dip lower than that at any point during the set - and lift and lower it for as many reps as you want per set. The key to this exercise is keeping your abs engaged, your back straight and making sure that your leg doesn't dip down too far.

5. Balancing

Like the lateral stretch, this is a fairly simple exercise that is quite difficult for a lot of beginners, Stand up straight, and lift your leg (keeping it straight) until it's at 90 degrees from your body (you need to be able to kick above waist height in kickboxing). As you're lifting your leg, let your body bend to the opposite side so it ends up in line with your leg - it will act as a counter-weight and keep you balanced. Unlike the squats and lunges, the point to this exercise isn't to strengthen your muscles, but to help you balance and teach you how to use your own body weight to help you lift your legs higher and stay balanced. It's a good idea to experiment with how high you can lift your leg and stay balanced. Make sure all your movements are slow and fluid, and your supporting foot is steady.

6. Multiple Kicks

Use a chair or table to balance for this one if you're not confident enough to kick without. These kicks don't need to be very fast, so take your time with them. Do a series of kicks without lowering your foot - to start with, try a waist-height front kick, roundhouse kick, chest-height front kick and then a side kick, and then lower your foot. Push yourself to kick higher each time, and ensure that you clearly show which part of your foot you are striking with.

7. Leg Swing

While holding on to a chair/table/door handle, keep your legs straight and swing one of your legs sideways away from your body as high as you can. Repeat this 20 times on each leg - you should go higher at the end than you do at the beginning.

Ultimate Kickboxing - North London

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