Muscles That Become Sore From Kickboxing

Couple in a gym
(Image: MarkoSubotin/iStock/GettyImages)

Soreness after a workout is like a healthful version of a hangover. You feel good when you're doing the workout, but for the next day or two, you're stiff and sore. Some people enjoy the feeling of muscle soreness, while others abhor it. Either way, it helps to know what you're getting into if you're about to do a kickboxing workout.

A kickboxing workout is so unlike anything else you would find from a typical weightlifting or cardio workout. You use muscles differently when you throw punches or kicks. There's a lot more twisting and turning with your core and explosive use of your lower and upper body muscles.

Keep in mind that soreness doesn't necessarily indicate whether or not your workout was effective. Just because you aren't sore after a workout does not mean you need to push harder the next time. Muscle soreness is a sign that your muscles are repairing microtears, which are usually caused by doing exercises you're not used to, according to an article from Physio Works.

Serratus Anterior

This sneaky muscle spans from the side of your ribcage all the way back to your shoulder blades. It's sneaky because not many people know what this muscle is. Often, the serratus anterior isn't easy to see, even if someone has their shirt off, because it's hard to develop. The serratus anterior has a very specific job, which it performs when you punch something.

The shoulder blade, which is the bone that sits in your upper back and looks like a small wing, is connected to your rib cage via muscles and tendons. The serratus essentially holds the bottom of your shoulder blade, also known as scapula, to your ribcage. When you punch, the muscles of your shoulder and back pull on the shoulder blade and threaten to lift it up. Your serratus anterior has to hold on to make sure the scapula doesn't move.

After throwing punches, whether at a heavy bag or human target, you might wake up with some soreness on the sides of your ribs. That's more than likely the sneaky serratus anterior.

Shoulders

The shoulder muscle also contributes mightily to the punch. The proper name of the shoulder muscle is the deltoid, which is broken into three parts: the posterior, middle and anterior, which all cover one direction of movement. When you punch you use the anterior deltoid, which brings your arm forward. Throw enough punches in your workout, and you'll feel a burn in the front of your shoulder. The day after your workout this might turn into muscle soreness.

Woman boxer preparing in gym with instructor
Your shoulders might burn while you workout and be sore for a day or two after. (Image: sakkmesterke/iStock/GettyImages)

Quadriceps

Your legs are much more massive and difficult to move than your arms. That's why you need powerful muscles like the quadriceps to give your kicks force. There are four quadricep muscles, each of which lies on top of your thigh. They span the length of your femur bone and connect into your knee.

When your quadriceps contract, they help you raise your leg up and straighten your knee. Both actions take place when you throw a kick, which it's a roundhouse or front kick. Out of all your leg muscles, this one does the most work when you kick, and you can expect it to be the sorest.

Obliques

Whereas working your serratus anterior muscle might make the side of your ribs sore, working your obliques will make the side of your waist sore. The obliques help your trunk rotate, which means they're used in both kicks and punches. They're relatively large muscles, spanning from the bottom of your ribcage to your hip bones.

During a kickboxing workout, you'll also get ab workout — possibly at the expense of your comfort the next day. The sides of your waist might be sore from constant and quick rotational movements.

Calves

Similar to the serratus anterior, the calf muscles are unsung heroes of kickboxing. You use them to twist your leg and develop power in your punches and kicks. They also help you move quickly around the ring to avoid your opponent and strike at will.

Jumping rope is popular in boxing and kickboxing training because of the amount you use your calf muscles. Perhaps you've seen fighters who bounce on their toes throughout a fight, ready to move in a split second—they're using their calves, which are comprised of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, to help them move.

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