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Expert Edge

Kickboxing Safety

Kickboxing fitness uses sport-specific moves from boxing and martial arts to cross-train the body. Although it has been referred to as a trend, cardio-kickboxing has evolved into a staple class in fitness centers. The introduction of this 5,000-year-old practice of kicks, blocks and strikes is a profitable addition, but does leave facility managers, directors and owners vulnerable to member injuries.

It is common to think that the most dangerous aspect of martial arts-based training is injuries due to contact fighting; however, this should be the least of your concerns. Loyal followers and newcomers in kickboxing fitness are experiencing hamstring tears, hip flexor tendenitis, lower-back strains and knee in-juries caused by torque.

The safety of a member's exercise program should be the priority of every fitness professional. So how does a facility protect against injuries without compromising the workout?

The most obvious and initial step is to make sure that your instructors are well trained. While it's not possible to squeeze a lifetime of martial arts training into a few months, there are several programs available that offer certifications and workshops.

Don't be misled, however, by the number of programs on the market. For every fitness instructor without martial arts/boxing training, there is a martial artist/boxer who lacks the necessary education to be a fitness leader. Here are three things to look for:

- Has the program been reviewed by an unbiased authority on fitness for its adherence to safety guidelines?

- Who actually teaches the program? Look at the background of the instructor or program creator; he should have education in fitness and experience in martial arts/boxing.

- What is the course going to cover? Obviously all courses are going to cover basic punches and kicks. But do they give you the biomechanics and muscle physiology of the movements? This is pertinent information for an instructor. Just as with personal training, if you do not know the mechanics of a lat pulldown, how can you explain it and make sure it is being done properly? Ask for a sample of the biomechanics and physiology section of the course.

Another step to take in ensuring that your program is safe is to recognize the need for progression in the training. Regardless of the fitness level of a member, a trainer needs to make sure that basic techniques and combinations are mastered before expecting more difficult ones to be executed. Progression is a concept that is not as tangible as demonstrating credentials; however, here are some important tips:

- Offer more than one level of class (e.g., beginner and intermediate cardio-kickboxing).

- Classes that use equipment like bags and gloves should require an orientation class. Try offering a bag class as the intermediate class.

- Encourage personal trainers to use basic techniques as drills.

- Make sure instructors keep kicks below hip level. It takes a lot of time to kick high with control.

- Encourage instructors to lead classes between 130-140 bpm.

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