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Punch, kick and box your way to ‘knockout’ fitness

High intensity, structured knockout workouts are becoming popular again as they help improve functional strength

A shift towards functional training is bringing combative, martial-arts based workouts back into focus.
A shift towards functional training is bringing combative, martial-arts based workouts back into focus. (Unsplash/Thao Lee)

In the trend-happy world of fitness, knockout workouts seem to be the flavour of the season. Whether it’s the adrenaline-pumping appeal of mixed martial arts (MMA) or the empowering experience of throwing punches in a boxing-inspired class, people are flocking to combat sport-based workouts for their physical and mental benefits. 

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Knockout workouts are high-intensity exercise routines crafted to burn calories, boost cardiovascular fitness, and elevate overall strength. They blend elements of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training and cardiovascular exercises to push participants to their limits, and offer a challenging and efficient path to reaching fitness objectives. According to Pinterest data, searches for MMA training surged by 200 per cent in 2023 compared to the previous year.

The term ‘knockout’ implies a workout that leaves you feeling energised. The specific routines and exercises can differ depending on the fitness programme or trainer endorsing the knockout workout concept. Compared to traditional workouts, knockout workouts involve more varied movements, combining aerobic and anaerobic exercises. They emphasise functional strength, coordination and speed, explains Vikas Bhaskar, a Delhi- based fitness enthusiast. “While traditional workouts cover a broader range of exercises, knockout workouts are specifically designed to simulate the intensity and agility required in combat sports,” he says. 

Holistic benefits
“While the concept of a knockout workout might evoke images of intense physical confrontations, it is, in fact, a structured and disciplined regimen. These workouts integrate techniques from various disciplines such as boxing, yoga, martial arts and kickboxing to deliver a comprehensive and balanced session,” says professional body builder Chitharesh Kongarampilly Natesan, known on social media as ‘The Indian Monster’.  He explains that such workouts are are effective for building muscle strength, which also make them the ideal choice for those seeking a sculpted physique. As the routines engage all major muscle groups, they are full-body workouts that also stimulate the mind. 

Beyond physical benefits, knockout workouts are also a healthy outlet for stress and tension. Furthermore, since many of these workouts take place in group settings, they facilitate social interaction and camaraderie among participants. “As individuals become proficient in the techniques, they experience a sense of accomplishment that boosts their confidence in other aspects of their lives,” says Natesan.  However, it’s important to seek guidance from a professional trainer to ensure proper form and technique are maintained and to minimise the risk of injury, while maximising the benefits, he advises. 

According to Dr. Shyam Sundar Reddy Parupati, interventional cardiologist at KIMS Hospital, Hyderabad, knockout workouts are a holistic solution to maintaining cardiovascular health and fostering endurance and resilience. These dynamic sessions elevate your heart rate and enhance circulation and oxygen delivery to muscles. As you throw punches, kick, or engage in rapid movements, your cardiovascular system responds by improving its efficiency, thereby strengthening both your heart and lungs, Reddy explains.

 “The sustained intensity of these workouts contributes to lowered resting heart rates and improved blood vessel function. Integrating cardio elements into knockout routines creates a powerful synergy, optimising not only your cardiovascular system but also amplifying the benefits for your muscular health,” he notes. 

Knockout Fight Club, a martial arts gym chain headquartered in Delhi, has been offering a wide variety of classes such as boxing, kickboxing, muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 15 years. Mannan Dattah, CEO of Knockout Fight Club, says that these workouts have gained momentum as a fitness movement due to their emphasis on real-world applicability. 

 “Knockout workouts, which involve activities like lifting another person or engaging in dynamic movements, often mimic real-life scenarios and promote functional strength. The exercises require coordination and balance and use various muscle groups, therein providing a more practical approach to fitness,” Datta says. Unlike machine workouts at the gym that isolate specific muscles, combative workouts enhance overall body functionality and prepare you for everyday movements.

A shift towards functional and holistic training, has brought these martial-arts based workouts back into focus. As people prioritise functional movements over traditional machine-based exercises, fitness exercises incorporate a diverse range of activities that align with natural body mechanics and daily physical demands.  

In fitness, this is not the first instance of exerciseholics readily adopting new trends. Think back to the 1990s and Billy Blanks whose Tae Bo classes amassed a devoted following. Echoing the cyclical nature of fashion, the kickboxing fervour of the ’90s and 2000s is making a comeback, luring youngsters for a second round of engagement in the ring. 

Tanisha Saxena is a Delhi-based independent journalist. She writes stories that are on the intersection of art, culture and lifestyle.

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