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How to improve at Les Mills BODYCOMBAT

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

This blog is updated each month to add a new piece of advice from our instructors to improve in your BODYCOMBAT classes.

The thing about Running Knees by Susan Vickery

In BODYCOMBAT 92, track 7 there might be one or two running knees…

Love them, or hate them, they are an endurance challenge and they build our levels of fitness.

Let’s check our running knee technique:

  • Knees: Your knees should drive forwards and upwards. Aim to drive your knees to waist height, or higher.

  • Arms: This is a Muay Thai inspired move and so cup your hands as if you are grabbing behind your (imaginary!) opponent’s neck. Reach high with your arms and pull your hands to your hips (Pull! Don’t just let them drop!). Visualise smashing your opponent’s face into your knee! Remember: the higher your arms, the higher your heart rate.

  • Core: As you pull down with your arms, exhale and crunch your abs and obliques. This is a fantastic core exercise!

  • Hips: Lean forward with your chest and swing your hips to bring more power to the knees, driving them higher. Switch-hop your feet to increase the cardio effect of this move.

Let’s learn to love running knees as they take us to our highest cardio peak in the class making us even fitter!


BODYCOMBAT The Jumping Evasive Sidekick by Susan Vickery

The jumping evasive sidekick is back. I love this move and it looks and feels awesome, but it takes practice, practice, practice to fly.

Let’s break it down into phases… Imagine you are kicking with your right leg

Step one: Take a wide step to the side with your left leg, heel turned towards your opponent (who is on your right), keep your left knee bent and loaded ready to jump.

Step two: Drive your right knee up high into a hop knee and push off your loaded left leg into a jump. Driving your knee up with speed is crucial to get the momentum needed to add lift.

Step three: In the air, extend your bent right knee into a side kick, heel up toes down. Push the kick out and retract it in the same way you would if you were grounded.

Step four: To perfect the silhouette of this move, quickly raise the heel of your left foot to your groin as you jump.

Finally, always land gently, with soft knees.

To grow your confidence in this kick, build on each step sequentially and practice, practice, practice (there’s no secret, just repetition!)

I’m definitely still working on step four… but hopefully, one day, I’ll fly like Rach & Dan!


BODYCOMBAT 92, track 4: Technique check - the kung-fu front kick by Susan Vickery

The kung-fu front kick is back again in BODYCOMBAT release 92 as the opening combination in track 4. Kung-fu is powerful, graceful and precise so let’s master the technique…

Stance: The stance for this strike is called ‘Cat’. In ‘cat stance’ 70% of your weight is in your back leg and 30% of your weight in your front leg (your kicking leg). Turn your back foot to the corner. Your chest is up, your knees are soft, and your hips are down and back so you can load your back leg.

Guard: In this move the guard is ‘Wing Chun’ style, that is: open hands with thumbs tucked into palms. There is a gap between both hands and your hands are primed to parry away any incoming jabs. Elbows are kept close to the body.

Strike: Lift your front knee, kick by opening your knee joint and extending your shin and foot. The strike surface is the front of your foot. The kick is snappy and should sting your opponent. As you kick, swing your front arm as a counter-balance and push your hips forward. Land your kicking foot lightly on the toes with a soft knee ready to strike again.

Now you can kung-fu kick like Bruce Lee show me in your next BODYCOMBAT class!

‘Everybody was kung-fu fighting…’


Les Mills BODYCOMBAT 92 what a doozy! by Tom Shaw

Just got the new BC release last week and I think you're going to love it. My personal highlight is one of the COMBAT tracks, not only is it a really powerful song, but during the track you land karate knife strikes on big beats of the music, you can't help but shout a big YA! with the strike! Very motivating.

We also see a show stopping power track at the end of the class, it's unusually high intensity but involves travelling forward jabs which as you know are a particular favourite move of mine, so expect some vocalised counting on this bit!


How BODYCOMBAT changed my life by Tom Shaw

As some of you know, I've suffered from mental health conditions since the age of 21. A long journey of self discovery, counselling and medications have resulted in me having a more balanced mindset that I am able to manage pretty well on a daily basis.

Obviously the stress of opening and running a limited company had the potential to trigger my mental health again, so I decided I needed something in my life that brought some escapism but also a sense of achievement. Learning and watching Sarah Harcourt's BODYCOMBAT training experience really encouraged me to pursue the type of fitness coaching Les Mills classes provide. I also really liked that it was a continuous and an ever changing programme, so I knew I wouldn't get bored easily.

As you know, I did my course and eventually qualified in the programme, now on a weekly basis the learning of routines keeps my mind occupied and gives me brief moments of escapism, this is really important when days are particularly high pressure. Then there's the performance side of things, standing up in front of you guys and watching your growth, development and pure enjoyment for BODYCOMBAT really fills my heart with joy and gives me a huge sense of achievement.


How a step box can help your BODYCOMBAT kicks!

In Les Mills BODYCOMBAT we see a lot of hopping and jumping movements. In a class it’s not always possible to perfect the action as you have limited time before the track moves on.

To help your body cope with the stresses of these types of exercise try incorporating explosive exercises in your training.

Next time you’re in the gym, grab a step box and practise one footed and two footed box jumps. Do 15 jumps then rest, do 3 sets.

Not only does this improve the power your muscles can deliver it also gives you muscle memory ready for the class.

How to improve in your Les Mills BODYCOMBAT class


Shall I do 1,700 crunches or Les Mills BODYCOMBAT? by Tom Shaw

Movement patterns in martial arts are based on perfect body control, which hugely rely on strong core stabilization. Take my BODYCOMBAT 90 Track which has the Kung Fu Cat Kick, In this we ask you to lean away from your kick and brace the core. When you accidently relax the core, you wobble and lose your form, thus proving you need those abs working to do the moves.

Martial arts experts refer to the core as the “power center”, in a BODYCOMBAT class every move involves the power house, Les Mills have studied this affect and came to the conclusion that in a typical class you will do the equivalent core activation as doing 1700 crunches!


BODYCOMBAT 91 Track 3 – What’s a body rip? by Susan Vickery

It’s been a while since we’ve seen body rip in a BODYCOMBAT release, but in 91 we see this strike as part of the first boxing combo in track three: jab x 8, body rip x 4, power hook x 2 . So what is it?

Let’s break it down…

The body rip is a body shot aiming for your opponent’s stomach.

Stance: This is a low strike, so from a wide, front stance, arch your back and keep your knees soft.

Strike: From boxing guard, punch your opponent’s stomach with your knuckles turned down (this is not to be confused with a body hook where knuckles face inwards!). Your elbows should be at 90 degrees when you strike and remain close to your body. When you execute the punch, your opposite hand remains in guard.

In 91 track 3, we have four fast body rips (right, left, right, left) in succession and so your upper body will rotate as you punch, but movement in your lower body should be minimal.

Now show me your pro body rips in your next BODYCOMBAT class!

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