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Even if you’ve got no intention of ever entering the ring, honing your hooks and crafting your kicks are still seriously smart moves.

Boxing and martial arts moves knock out much more than an opponent. The hook is one simple strike that will chisel your arms, shoulders and back—and when you nail your technique, you’ll benefit from a remarkable core workout, too. Master the side kick and with every kick you’ll get double the core activation of a crunch—and then some.

Hook

Correctly perform a hook and you’ll automatically engage the muscles of your core. It’s a phenomenon called reactive core training, where you develop athletic core strength as a result of the challenge placed on the core muscles. Essentially, the core activation you get from this exercise produces the same effect as if you were performing multiple crunches.

Here’s how to master the perfect hook:

  • Start with one foot slightly forward and release your back heel.
  • Raise your fists to chin height.
  • Rotate your shoulder and shift your hip forward.
  • Lift your elbow to shoulder height and punch to midline.
  • The target zone should between the temple and jaw level.

Throwing endless hooks can be extremely empowering and great for stress relief. Add speed and power into the mix and you’ll raise your heart rate and accelerate calorie burn, too. The best thing about this simple boxing move is you don’t necessarily need a punching bag and gloves, you can effectively practice your hook using nothing but thin air.

Side kick

Do the simple side kick right and you’ll get twice the core activation of a crunch, and that’s just the beginning. Knock out a few sets of side kicks and you’ll raise your heart rate, burn calories and get a killer butt and leg workout. What’s more, you’ll improve hip strength and mobility.

How to do the perfect side kick:

  • Set the heel of your supporting leg towards the direction of your kick.
  • Lift your kicking leg, bring your knee across the body and extend your leg.
  • Keep your heel up and your toes down.
  • Strike with the outside of the foot.
  • Retract the knee and bring your foot down.

TIP: Maintaining good form is the secret to side kick success. Start off by striking at knee height. As you progress, raise the target zone to thigh or hip level.

The side kick works all the major lower body muscle groups, particularly the quads, glutes and outer thighs. Side kicks also automatically use the muscles of our core. We call this reactive core training, where our core gets stronger because the side kick forces these muscles to automatically respond.

With no need for equipment you can power through sets of side kicks any time you please, so what are you waiting for? Sharpen your side kick technique and you’ll be in midriff tops and skinny jeans in no time.

Alternatively, you can enjoy the benefits of the hook and side kick and many other key MMA moves in a Les Mills BODYCOMBAT™ workout.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Les Mills

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Bryce Hastings
Bryce Hastings is the Group Fitness Research and Operations Manager for Les Mills International. Literally the brains behind the brawn, he leads groundbreaking research and collaborates with internationally-renown research partners to unearth the latest and most effective fitness techniques. Hastings became a certified Physical Therapist in 1986 and completed his Advanced Diploma in Manipulative Therapy at AUT University Auckland in 1990. He serves as a Research Associate at Auckland University of Technology and has been lecturing part time there for the last eight years. In 1990, Bryce opened his private physical therapy practice at Les Mills World of Fitness in Auckland, the original Les Mills gym established in 1968 by Les Mills Senior.