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How Do I Kick Back Pain from Kickboxing?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Juil sandals are perfect for kicking back

We’d rather Kick Back than Kickbox

Hi K and A: I read your article on kickboxing and back pain and was looking to get some follow-up advice. I have been working out since my mother threatened me from atop her bathroom scale that puberty would eventually “catch up to me” and I would one day lose my little waify ‘tween bod. I started shadow boxing (first with “kickbutt” and next with P90x) in college when I realized my mother was wrong — it was really beer that caught up to me.

I took such a liking to shadowboxing that I tried 10 classes of heavy bag training. It was love at first punch. However, as I am, and will continue to be for some unknown number of years, a grad student I couldn’t pay to train at any boxing gym. Thus, I bought a 70 lb heavy bag and started a little home gym set up for myself. It’s been 6 months and I’ve started to get killer back pain. I do my best not to flail around but sometimes I hyperextend my joints. Any tips for improving form on my own and helping myself after an injury? Thanks for the help!    Elena, the Tofu Tumbler, Bradley Beach, New Jersey

Hi Elena aka Tofu Tumbler:  We are so glad you got value from our post.  Whether you are in your 20s or 60s, back pain is hard to stomach. Ok, that was a bad word play. However, our answer is good!  For sure it’s better than that beer that stalked you so mercilessly.

It is hard for us to know whether your form is the cause of your back pain since we have not seen you work out. However, we can say that it is likely that attacking a 70 pound bag with anything less than fantastic form can aggravate backs, knees, and joints. Your complaint is quite common, unfortunately.

Kymbelry hangs from the arch entrance at Rancho la Puerta

Kicking back beats kicking rock posts! (Though our posts rock!)

Tip 1 = Make Abs Your Fiancé and Engage Them

Meantime, let’s try to figure out what might be going on. How strong are your abs and how much do you train them? Not how good do they look, but how functionally strong is your midsection? Next time you kickbox or punch bags pay good attention to how much you engage your abs as you strike. The more the abs take on the load, the less the back does so. Basically, your major muscles come in pairs (fancy term you can throw out at the party punch bowl is agonist/ antagonist).  If your ab muscles are not helping out, then their buddy, the back muscles are picking up the work slack. Two employees, but only one is working. Overtime. And peeved about it!

Try this back safe core move from our video series. Very little spinal flexion is needed and you get to leave your head on the ground!


Tip 2 = Tape Up (on video, not with first aid tape) ha ha aha

Have you tried videotaping yourself? Even a poor quality video might reveal habits you are unaware of. If you are locking out joints, the impact has to be absorbed somewhere. A look at yourself in motion might show if/ when you are hyperextending and where that impact is traveling.  Use your phone camera and get footage  from the front, back, and sides as  you are working out. Zoom in for close ups of your torso as your hands and feet make contact with the bag.

Tip 3 = Be aware, which is the first step to assessment and improvement.

 What doesn’t hurt and always helps? Any of the following actions:

1) Follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.


Can’t Kickback with Kickbox Back Pain

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

I have been taking aerobics classes from Alexandra for the past few years. This summer I finally graduated and now I won’t be! Sad. Anyways, the other day at a kickboxing class I kind of tweaked my back. I didn’t work out for a couple days hoping to let it feel a little better, and so now I think it is okay. But sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night my back kind of hurts. I was wondering is there a best sleeping position to help with posture and back?

Thanks! Lily

Sleep on your back or side

A Back Ache Might be the Least of Your Worries

Alexandra: Thanks for the compliments, Lily. I shall be sure to lord it over my sister. Kickboxing and back pain are sadly a combo about as common as college life and parties (but you graduated, so wouldn’t know anything about that)! Way back in 2000 (wow, did they have kickboxing and pain that long ago?) I wrote an article entitled “Injury Prevention in Kickboxing Classes” for IDEA Fitness Source (now IDEA Fitness Journal) that showed that injury rates to the back from kicks was as high as 23%. Can you believe it? Me neither. I was so young then and am surprised I knew how to do research. Guess I was precocious.

 Kymberly: Forget talking about kickboxing, Ms Precocious Thang. I think Lily’s real question has to do with sleeping position and reducing back pain. Lily: I do like the part where you pretend to have liked my sister. She is actually a rather nice person deep down. Deep deep down. Any-who…. my suggestion is to lie on your side with your knees slightly bent. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips and therefore spine aligned. Read this article on reducing back pain while sleeping, keeping in mind that one goal of the article is to sell the nifty pillow. If you buy it, get me one too, will you?

 A: Here’s my point: In addition to sleeping in a better position, you want to avoid hurting yourself in kickboxing again, I assume. Even though you won’t be in my classes anymore, I can still repeat my nags: use your core, chamber your moves, no leg flinging, and keep your kicks low. If you do everything I say (like that’s ever happened anywhere, anytime), you might avoid pulling your back muscles next time.

Punch & Kick using your Core

Take That, Shish-ke-bob Man

K: Let’s also chat a moment about any repeat back tweaks, especially if you want to get back into your kickboxing program and are a little hesitant. If you hurt your back again, take an easy walk or get on cardio equipment for a low resistance, low intensity ten minute walk the days immediately following the tweak. You can see more on how to minimize muscles soreness in our posts, “My Calves Got a Big Stiffy,” and Running, Be Sore No More”  (I am assuming “tweak” means “sore muscles,” not something else involving vertebrae or ligaments or suchlike.) By raising your core temperature and heating your muscles with the cardio activity, you may reduce the nighttime soreness. Unless you work out just before bedtime, in which case you will have insomnia and not be able to sleep anyway, so you won’t have to worry about being woken up by back pain. Problem solved! Feel free to send us your next question about timing exercise so you can get to sleep!

A: I’ll just point out that you wouldn’t have gotten hurt in MY class, Miss Lily!

Readers: Have you ever kicked too high or with bad form and ended up with back pain that prevented you from sleeping properly?

Photo credits: Creative Commons

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