What is the Best Type of Workout for Self-Defense?

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You need look no further than the nearest headline, online or in print, to understand that we live in a dangerous world. In even the most modernized, first world countries, odds are you will have to defend yourself against a personal attack sometime in your life. The following workouts and exercise programs are excellent for sharpening your mind and body, so you can defend yourself and your loved ones in a physical confrontation.

Krav Maga

This is Israel’s national martial art, used by the Israeli military. It is an extremely “hard-core” method of self-defense. When you master Krav Maga you learn to incapacitate another individual, whether that means gouging eyes, planting a kick to the groin, chopping a throat, or doing some other serious physical damage.

This is a simultaneous defense/attack method, meaning that you attack and defend yourself in the same move. Krav Maga incorporates the following physical fitness forms and self-defense techniques:

  • Boxing
  • Greco-Roman wrestling
  • Throws and grappling
  • Wing Chun
  • Karate
  • Brazilian jujitsu


Knowing how to throw explosive punches full of speed and power can be important in a self-defense situation. Boxing workouts also stress proper foot movement, and developing a firm base so you can’t get knocked down.


Kickboxing, as the name implies, trains you to kick as well as box for self-defense. Your legs are longer than your arms, which means that kickboxing can help keep an opponent at a distance better than the close quarter aspect of traditional boxing.

Muay Thai

This style of self-defense emphasizes punching and kicking, and using your knees and elbows. It is a more complete fighting method than simple boxing. Muay Thai is an advanced form of kickboxing.

The Soteria Method

Avital Zeisler was sexually assaulted when she was 19. Her father urged her to enroll in a Krav Maga class, which helped the young woman learn to defend herself. However, she says that not all of the techniques fulfilled her personal mission to discover how “a woman could defend herself against a larger and stronger attacker.”

She developed the Soteria Method to teach women exactly that. It equips women with the mental and physical tools and skills to defend themselves in just about any physical confrontation situation.


When it comes right down to it, the best workout for self-defense is the one that works best for you. Whether you stick with one of the physical fitness regimens listed here, or decide on another, any physical activity that improves your health and sharpens your mind will boost your chances of defending yourself against an attacker.

3 Essential Workout Moves for Self-Defense

By performing these moves, not only will you strengthen the muscles used – and each one targets different muscles – you’ll also learn some simple self-defense moves you can use in the event of an attack. The self-defense movers are:

1) Horizontal Elbow Strike – 1 minute with each arm

This move targets the quads, hips, upper back and shoulders. While it can be done without actually hitting a target, the move is better defined if hitting either a hanging or stand-up punching bag.

Start by standing sideways to your target with your feet shoulder-width apart to give you a solid base. Bring up your non-dominant arm so your elbow is horizontal with the floor and pointed at your target 3 to 5 inches away. Now grab the fist of your raised arm with your dominant hand. While lunging out with your non-dominant foot drive your raised elbow forcibly forward into your target. In a real attack the target could be the face or throat. Step back immediately to prevent your attacker from grabbing you.

2) Knee Strike – 2:30 to 3:30 minutes with each knee

Muscles worked with this move include quads, inner thighs and lower back. Start by facing your opponent with a staggered stance having your dominant foot 3 to 5 inches behind your non-dominant. Have your fists in front of your face. Tuck your chin in while at the same time thrusting your dominant leg up and forward into the attacker’s groin. Retract immediately and prepare your next move or leave the area. A follow-on move could be the Horizontal Elbow Strike.

3) Back Elbow Strike – 3:30 to 4:00 minutes with each elbow

This move targets the quads, glutes, obliques and abdominal core and is a good move to use if someone comes up behind you. Start by facing away from your opponent with your feet shoulder-width apart with your non-dominant foot 3 to 5 inches behind your dominant foot.

Raise your non-dominant arm so that it is horizontal with the floor. Grab the fist of your raised arm with your dominant hand. Turn at the hips in the direction of your raised arm while at the same time driving your raised elbow back with your dominant hand. Recover immediately and follow-up with a knee strike or another move or leave the area.

These two elbow and one knee moves not only teaches you some self-defense, but are great fitness moves. By doing a circuit of all three, most of the major muscle groups are worked in just one workout in less than 10 minutes.

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