The side kick is a staple and both a defensive and offensive move in Karate, Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts, and it has been especially popularized in Tae Bo, Turbo Kick and Les Mills BODYCOMBAT. While Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and the Avengers made this move look very easy in the movies, there are a number of steps and techniques to keep in mind.

Fun fact: The side kick automatically strengthens your core. It’s a reactive core training move that has as much or more muscle activation in your core, compared to a traditional crunch.

Beginner considerations: If you have hip, knee or ankle injuries you might want to skip this exercise. This exercise requires balance and coordination, so if you are prone to falls, you may want to practice this move with a support.

Best practices

  • Shift your weight onto one leg as your base supporting leg.
  • Step the heel of your supporting leg toward the direction of the kick.
  • Lift your kicking knee across your body—this is your chamber and sets the height of your kick.
  • Extend your leg out to the side, aiming for the target zone of knee, thigh or hip level. Make sure to keep your heel up, toes down and strike with the outside of your foot.
  • Retract your knee—that is, return to your chamber—and bring your kicking foot down to return to standing.
  • As you get better balance, you can work on increasing the velocity of the kick.
  • Keep your core tight and focus on controlled movement.

Make it easier: Practice the chamber only. If you really need it, use a support like a chair or a body bar to help you balance, or have a trainer or friend nearby to support you.

Make it harder: Make it compound movement. Transition from other movements into the side kick. For example, step laterally and down into a squat, and then step back out and execute a side kick.

Photo credit: Tom Casey,
Model: Vinh Duong, 24 Hour Fitness