This website is not endorsed or affiliated with Turbo Kick or Powder Blue Productions in any way. I created this page to document my personal thoughts on Turbo Kick as an independent resource to those who are considering becoming Turbo Kick certified. FYI, the proper spelling is "Turbo Kick" (two words) and not "Turbokick".

What is Turbo Kick?

Turbo Kick (TK) is the trademarked name for the cardio kickboxing program developed by Chalene Johnson. It is produced by Powder Blue Productions. Some of you may know it as TKB (Turbo Kick Boxing), which is a name used exclusively by 24 Hour Fitness. In addition to Turbo Kick, Powder Blue also produces music and choreography for several other exercise formats, including PiYo (their version of Pilates/Yoga).

     Back to Top    Certification

Turbo Kick Certification

Turbo Kick Certification Schedule
Time Activity
06:30-07:10AM Check-in
07:10-07:15AM Welcome and Protocol
07:15-07:30AM TKB Background, Warm-up/Cool-down
07:30-08:25AM Combat Breathing, Form & Technique
08:30-10:30AM Round 16 Workshop
10:30-10:35AM Quick Break
10:35-11:00AM Learning the Choreogrpahy, Exercise Physiology
11:00-12:00PM Music utilization, Cueing, Attire, Creating a party
12:00-12:30PM Lunch time
12:30-01:00PM Exercise and Pregnancy, Injury, Incident Reports, and FAQ's
01:00-01:30PM Review technique, answer questions, review study guide
01:30-02:15PM Practical testing (Round 16 Master Class)
02:15-03:00PM Written Test


I participated in the Bay Area Turbo Kick certification at the Hillsdale 24 Hour Fitness gym in San Jose, CA on Sunday, April 27, 2003. We were given some TK materials: the day's schedule, a manual, some TK FAQs (frequently asked questions) and a CD/DVD box with Round 16. The class was well attended with approximately ~45 participants.

     Back to Top    Certification

Welcome and Protocol

Amy Nestor was our energetic and enthusiastic presenter. One of the first questions she asked was who was already teaching at or was planning to teach at 24 Hour Fitness. The vast majority of people raised their hands. Afterall, the session was held at one of their gyms as part of Group Xpedition.

We were given a preview of the day's schedule, with emphasis placed on the written and practical exams. Some students were worried about the written exam, and Amy allayed our fears by making us raise our right hands and swear an oath to the effect that we should put our trust in her because she would try her best to help us pass, and that we WOULD pass as long as we paid attention to what she said.

While the written test is pass/fail, the practical exam is more complex. Each participant can receive one of three ratings: "in training", "pass" or "gold". Individuals who achieve "in training" should work on improving form before attempting to teach. Most people achieve "pass". It's for those who can successfully execute punches and kicks according to TK specifications most of the time. The coveted "gold" ranking is reserved for those who are able to consistently execute TK-style cardio kickboxing, and may even become TK presenters some day. It's usually achieved by those who either have a martial arts background or have been TK participants for a long time, and who exude confidence, energy and all around positivity.

     Back to Top    Certification

TKB Background, Warm-up/Cool-down

Next, Amy talked about the genesis of TK. She noted that other group exercise classes, notably step aerobics, have been in existence for over 10 years, and have evolved significantly during that time. Instructors have increased the complexity of the choreography in their classes to keep existing participants interested and challenged. Unfortunately, the uninnded result is that newcomers feel alienated and too intimidated to even try a step class with the instructor screaming "double knee tick tock straddle, ham straddle ham exit" (part of one of my latest combos). Some gyms (such as the Palo Alto Family YMCA where I teach) have a "basic step" class to accommodate newbies, but other clubs only have a single level classes to handle steppers of all levels (yikes).

Enter cardio kickboxing (KB or CK). Remember Tae Bo? The program popularized by Billy Blanks? Billy did a great job raising the general public's awareness of KB. Chalene & Co. have taken the same concept, and have devised a KB format that is suitable in a group exercise setting. Theoretically, the choreography is supposed to be simple enough so that even brand new people to the activity can follow the class safely even though they may not be familiar with the terminology beforehand.

Who should teach cardio kickboxing: martial artists or group ex instructors? On one hand, competent martial artists may have impeccable fighting form, but their particular style of punches and kicks may not be suitable in a group exercise setting. Moreover, the instructors may have only limited experience with effectively incorporating music into their routines. On the other hand, aerobics instructors have considerable group exercise training but may not be familiar with martial arts or boxing to teach a reasonably authentic cardio kickboxing class. TK is an attempt to combine the best aspects of both groups.

I'm glad that Amy highlighted something I emphatically agree with: the TK methodology is certainly one style of KB, but it's certainly not the only way. She says TK is approved by the major fitness certification organizations out there (e.g., AFAA, ACE) and thus it doesn't include contra-indicated moves. There are plenty of other other certification workshops out there which also claim the same thing.

I've attempted to summarize some of the workshops I'm aware of and my opinion oft each. I'm not trying to compare them directly with each other because I'm mixing and matching my experiences of reviewing videos versus live workshops.

  • Tae Bo is probably the most famous program, thanks to Billy Blanks' ubiquitous infomercials. From reading his website, loyal participants absolutely swear by him. Others are impressed by his motivational skills but not his moves. "The King of Contraindication" is a moniker I've seen somebody use to describe him. My only personal experience with Tae Bo is from trying one of his videos. I didn't care for it and almost didn't sign up for TK when I read somewhere that the two were very similar.
  • Eversley Forte runs a workshop called Cardio Athletic Kickbox. Instead of attending a workshop in person, I bought his video "Cardio Athletic Kickbox II - Play Hard, but Play Safe", which is supposed to be for intermediate/advanced home kickboxing workouts. I didn't think it was intermediate, and certainly not advanced, nor was I impressed with the production quality of the tape. The moves and choreography were basic and uninspiring. Eversley didn't portray an explosive and energetic quality on camera (unlike Cathe Friedrich, for instance).
  • I have taken the YMCA Martial Arts certification which is based on Thomas the Promise. It focused on safety and form and included an incredibly helpful section on contact cardio kickboxing (but not sparring). We were taught how to use hand wraps, hold focus pads, etc. In the certification, we were given some basic choreography and the tools to create our own routines.

There are plenty of other workshops and certifications out there and it's difficult to evaluate them merely by reading their descriptions. All of them claim to be created by highly qualified fitness professionals, some who have won martial arts/boxing championship titles. One quick screen for judging a program is to see whether you can earn CECs/CEUs for them from nationally recognized certifying organizations. Also speak to people who have actually gone through a particular course and can tell you what they liked and disliked about it. Better still is to speak to somebody who has taken multiple certifications and can compare and contrast them.

The next part was a discussion of the warm-up, and its four goals:

  • Gradually warm up the body
  • Increase body core temperature
  • Pump blood into the large muscle groups
  • Rehearsal effect (practice moves)

I can still remember all of these points because Amy provided visual reminders for each. Not only did she show us the cues/clues, but she made us go through the motions ourselves. We also went over the purposes of the cool-down, which is the opposite of the warm-up.

     Back to Top    Certification

Combat Breathing, Form & Technique

When I kickbox I exhale forcefully on punches/kicks, making a "hup" or "kiop" sound. TK has a term for this: combat breathing!

For form & technique, we were taught the TK method of executing punches and kicks which is slightly different from what I was taught in Thomas the Promise. Here are some of the differences I've identified:

  • For uppercuts, I bring my fist upwards (as the name of the punch suggests) and visualize popping somebody under the chin. In TK, however, the fist, wrist and arm goes up and outward towards your opponent, like you're punching them in the gut.
  • With hooks, you imagine punching somebody in the side of the face. For Thomas the Promise hooks, your knuckles face away from your body at the end of the punch. I prefer the TK method where your knuckles face upwards towards the ceiling.
  • For TK knee digs, knee strikes and front push kicks, you are supposed tuck your hips and squeeze your glutes. It looks like you're leaning backwards, but you're not.
  • TK knee strikes are only supposed to come to hip level. I bring mine a lot higher and aim for chest level. Also, during a TK knee strikes, you're supposed to raise your arms and then bring them down forcefully. I tell my participants to use their arms if it helps them visualize the move, e.g., you're grabbing an opponent's collar and smashing their head into your knee. However, when one performs knee strikes in that manner, there's a tendency to use momentum and bend the back, so leaving out arm motions may assist one to focus on the leg and ab muscle movement.
  • For TK side push kicks, you use the outer blade of the foot as the contact surface. A lot of martial artists kick like that. I prefer to use the entire sole of my foot.

These are just some of differences in technique between TK and various other methods. They're not necessarily more or less correct. My approach has been to take multiple workshops, and extract the best elements from each.

     Back to Top    Certification

Round 16 Workshop

For the R16 workshop, we were joined by a bunch of existing TK instructors. Now instructors are more rowdy than your average group ex participant, so the workshop was brimming with energy and excitement with people whooping and hollering throughout. It's by far the most animated class I've ever been in as well as the most dangerous. I will bet money that we violated all sorts of fire codes and safety limits by packing the studio so densely. People were punching and kicking all over the place, sometimes in the wrong direction because they couldn't see/follow/remember the routine.

In response to popular request, the music was pitched up, which excited the frenzied mob even further. I had intended to put a lot of effort and energy into the R16 workshop, since it was supposed to partially count towards my practical exam ranking, but I simply refused to execute my punches and kicks fully because there was insufficient space. I practice what I preach: safety first. My goal was to learn R16 choreography, but my first priority was to avoid hitting anybody, while dodging flailing arms and legs.

Later on, we were told that the workshop could have been held in the gym instead of the studio. The gym was larger and had a platform where the presenters could stand and demonstrate the moves. The drawbacks were that it had no mirrors, and the accoustics were poor. An executive decision was made to go with the studio because the atmosphere would be better. It's a shame that it came at the expense of safety.

     Back to Top    Certification

Learning the Choreography, Exercise Physiology

Before taking the certification, I had done TK a grand total of two times. Unlike some testimonies I've read, I didn't fall it in love with it immediately. In fact, I didn't care for it at all the first time because the instructor made it seem like hi-lo with punches and kicks. I liked it better the second time around with another instructor, but I noticed two major differences with what I was used to (1) there was a ton of choreography (2) a lot of the moves start on the upbeat as opposed to the downbeat.

If you want to teach TK, be prepared to learn a lot of choreography. Each standalone program is called a round. The first round is the hardest to learn, but the more rounds you learn, the easier it is to pick up new material. I was impressed at how quickly the experienced instructors caught on in the R16 workshop.

I'm accustomed to 8-count drills, so 32-count KB combos initially seemed like too much choreography. I was worried that participants would find it too complex, and hence their form would suffer. What really floored me was the fact that EVERYTHING is choreographed, including the warm-up, cool down, abs and combo transitions. That stressed me out to no end, until I decided to introduce modifications and teach it my own way (more on this later). I was relieved to find out that modifications are not only approved by the TK Authorities, but encouraged, so that each instructor makes every round "their own".

Modifications are encouraged up to a point, but you should refrain from completely changing a combo beyond recognition so that you end up substituting your own moves or even moves from another section in a different round. Otherwise, what you teach isn't Turbo Kick so you shouldn't call it that. That's probably one of the few hard and fast rules of Turbo Kick. The only other I'm aware of is that you're not supposed to use TK music for other formats, e.g., step.

If you want to incorporate selected portions of different rounds in a single class, you're supposed to match it up with the appropriate music. For example, say you're teaching Round 16 but you'd like to do Round 17 combos from Section 6 onwards. What you're supposed to do is switch to Round 17 music at the point where Section 6 starts before carrying on. What you're NOT supposed to do is continue using R16 music, while cueing combos from R17.

There are different ways to switch music. The easiest way is to change CDs. That take time, so most people do it only once per class, if at all. The most logical point is either just before or just after the turbo section (I forget which). If you are lucky to have a multiple CD changer at your gym, you can load different rounds/CDs in each deck and then use the remote control to switch. You can also create your own TK mixes using a software program. It takes a lot more upfront work, but provides the most predictable transitions. I hear that MixMeister software is popular among instructors given its price/performance.

Downbeat/upbeat. I'm used to performing moves on the downbeat, but in TK, some are executed on the upbeat. For example, for single knee strikes, I'm used to raising my knees on counts 1 & 3. In TK, single knee strikes (e.g., in the warmup) are really done as step knee strikes so the knee comes up on counts 2 & 4.

Now that I've taught three rounds, I see a pattern with regards to how they're designed. The following is recreated from a post written by Linda from turbokickfanatics. I'm recreating it here with some minor edits:

  • Section 1: Warm Up
  • Section 2: Punches (lower body heating and punching combos)
  • Section 3: Kicks
  • Section 4: Punches and Kicks
  • Section 5: Turbo (anaerobic drill)
  • Section 6: Recovery (lower intensity recovery from Turbo)
  • Section 7: Finale (higher intensity, primarily punches)
  • Section 8: Finesse (dance-oriented, slower paced, cardio cooldown)
  • Section 9: Leg Strength Endurance (focus on form, especially kicks)
  • Section 10: Abs and Upper Body strength training
  • Section 11: Cooldown (usually yoga/tai chi blend)
Sections 2-4, and 6 have an A (long combo) and B (short combo) to them. In the later rounds, there is one song associated with each combo. You start by doing the A or long combo from a right lead (one song), then the B combo from a right lead (another song), then the A combo for the left lead (yet another song), and then the B combo for the left lead (still another song). That makes up one section. Each section provides a number of layers which serve as more advanced options. Layers are additional choreography that makes the workout progressively more challenging and allows the instructor to continue teaching the same round while being able to add new material in subsequent classes to keep it fresh.

The signature turbo portion of the round is an anaerobic section where the music is faster. The beginning is easily identified by a siren. A lot of instructors do back-to-back turbos. I've started to do that recently as well but stop at a total of 2. I've heard of instructors doing 3, 4 and even 5 turbos in a single class. At the time, Amy didn't seem to be a fan of doing more than 2 turbos because she said it made turbo seem "less special". More is not always better.

     Back to Top    Certification

Music utilization, Cueing, Attire, Creating a party

In group exercise, music is used to motivate and coordinate participants. TK music is 32-count, and instructors are encouraged to teach on the 32-count phrase, if possible, but definitely on the 8-count. Apparently, the combos are choreographed to the music, which is why why you're supposed to use at least a variant of the documented moves for any particular TK song. I've found that this is true to an extent, e.g.,, a combo will be arranged such that a kick is punctuated by a corresponding musical chord, but at the end of the day, the music is 32-count so it will work with any 2-, 4- 8-, 16- or 32-count combo.

Amy gave pointers on how to cue and when to cue. I thought this part of the training was helpful, especially to newly certified ACE group ex professionals because there is no practical exam in ACE! The concept of 32-count is covered in the ACE manual, but it's difficult to understand what it is just by reading a book (although I've read some pretty darn great primers written by members of It's much easier to learn when somebody plays 32-count music and points out how the phrasing works and what to listen out for.

To help push participants to work through a particularly difficult set, you can count down repetitions. However, this technique should be used sparingly. Motivational cues are also important, but they are secondary to safety and form cues. Speaking of which, you are supposed to review form (preview basic punches and kicks) at the beginning of EVERY class.

Amy encouraged us to create a party atmosphere in our classes. If participants think of TK as a fun activity, and not a chore, they will look forward to class and be more likely to stick to their fitness regimen. It all begins with instructor attitude. When you walk into a class, smile, hold your head up high, and be confident. Greet participants, ask how they're doing, and be prepared to pump them up. As an instructor, your main responsibility is to be a coach to your participants so that they have a safe and challenging workout.

With respect to apparel, we were given guidelines on what to wear. Powder blue and black are the colors of choice. Image is important, so to exude an air of toughness associated with kickboxing, we were advised to avoid pastel colors (I think powder blue is a pastel so I'm confused about that) and flowery patterns. We were also told not to wear skimpy outfits like daisy dukes (short shorts) or sports bras. Then somebody pointed out that Chalene and the other instructors in the TK DVDs wear sports bras. "OK," came the reply, "but not revealing bra tops." It's a tad hypocritcal for them to say that given that some of the Turbo wear (the "strappy top" comes to mind) sold by Powder Blue itself provide such minimal coverage that they would make a prostitute blush. Instead, it would be more appropriate for them to suggest to instructors to follow their employers' guidelines with regards to appropriate clothing and also use what participants wear as a decency barometer.

As I mentioned before, Powder Blue has a line of their own fitness clothing available for purchase. Some people who buy into all of their merchandise hook, line, and sinker. Turbo gear is cute, but expensive. For example, I really like their classic "57" pants, but have trouble justifying paying even their web special price when I can go to Sports Basement and purchase two pairs of pants for the same price.

With regards to shoes, we were told that martial art footwear (the slipper-like foot covers) did not provide sufficient cushioning for impact moves in Turbo Kick. Running shoes were also unsuitable because they are designed for forward/backwards motion and not lateral movement. Running shoes usually don't provide any ankle support and the sides of the sole are like a wall so if you catch the edge of the shoe on something, you'll fall.

Lately, I've seen more and more footwear designers sell studio/aerobics shoes that are appropriate for step, hi-lo and kickboxing. I myself have RYKÄ Supras: the most comfortable aerobics shoes I have ever owned. I was so pleased with them that I bought an extra pair. I don't think there is such as thing as studio shoes for men; the closest substitutes would be basketball shoes, cross-trainers or even volleyball shoes. Also, be sure to register for the various instructor alliance programs to purchase discounted merchandise.

     Back to Top    Certification

Exercise and Pregnancy, Injury, Incident Reports, and FAQ's

Pregnant women should consult with a doctor before embarking on any new exercise program or even continue with an existing one. They should modify their movements for Turbo Kick, including lowering kicks (their joints become more mobile/loose) and replacing high impact moves with lower impact ones. Pregnant ladies should also monitor their heart rate and may need to exercise at a lower intensity to avoid overheating. Consult with a professional for additional guidelines.

Exercise inherently carries some risk, and an instructor can be sued if a participant becomes injured during class. Members may sign all sorts of waivers that appear to indemnify the gym and its instructors from these incidents, but they don't always hold up in court. If anybody falls during your class, fill out an incident report, no matter how insignificant it appears. Be sure to follow your gym's policies and procedures. Keep your CPR current at all times and always CYA: Cover Your Assets.

The FAQ was more of a Q&A section about certification, especially as it pertains to 24 Hour Fitness requirements. Apparently, you can teach TKB at a 24 Hour facility just with TK certification and current CPR. You don't even need group exercise certification from an accredited organization such as ACE or AFAA for up to a year. That's a long time. While the TK workshop addresses safety factors, especially as it pertains to cardio kickboxing, there's a lot more injury prevention information regarding general group exercise covered in these national certifications that I believe every instructor should learn before teaching.

The two most popular and widely-accepted certifications at most gyms are ACE and AFAA. ACE consists of a written, multiple-choice test. That's it. Some consider it harder (and thus more prestigious) than AFAA because it covers an extensive amount of theory including human anatomy and biomechanics. AFAA's written test is much easier but some think it's a more well-rounded certification because it contains a practical component.

     Back to Top    Certification

Review Technique, Answer Questions, Review Study Guide

The review section of the certification was disappointing. We were told to perform various punches and kicks while the presenter and the other master trainers walked around the room correcting form. It would have been much more helpful to have somebody at the front of the class demonstrating the moves at the same time, or at least demo them once at the beginning. At least it would have been helpful to me since I have previously taught other forms of cardio kickboxing, and I was not as familiar with the TK moves (e.g., remembering to execute a front PUSH kick vs. a front kick).

If you want more practice and review of TK form, I'm told that you can purchase a TK form and technique video from their website. I haven't been able to locate it yet.

There weren't enough presenters to check on everybody's form. Even at the beginning of the certification workshop, we were warned that the ratio of presenters to participants was so small that each presenter would only have time to get to each participant maybe once during the entire day to give feedback. So if somebody walked by to tell you that you needed to extend more on your cross punch, you had to burn it into your brain immediately because it was unlikely you would be reminded again; it was doubtful that anybody would come by with feedback regarding any of your other punches or kicks either.

The review session consisted of going through the questions on a review sheet and filling in the blanks. PAY ATTENTION TO THE REVIEW SHEET - because a variant of the material reappears as questions on the written test.

     Back to Top    Certification

Practical Testing (Round 16 Master Class)

Each person tested obtained a number to stick on his/her clothes for identification. We lined up in rows in ascending numerical order. A couple of presenters went on the stage to cue and lead everybody through R16 while Amy went around grading participants. We were told that only the first row of participants were tested at any one time, so everybody else behind them should conserve their energy until they got to the front row.

The good news is that this was the second time we had seen R16 so I had some familiarity with the combos. The bad news is this was the only the fourth time I had done TK (the third time was the morning workshop!) so I wasn't used to all the choreography. Amy waited until we had settled into a combo before starting to grade. I also noticed that she only tested people during Part A of each section.

Here's something from a turbokickfanatics post on GOLD vs PASS RANKING:

Some participants receive the pass and are just below a "Gold" and want feedback on what they need to improve to obtain it. Most often they are just missing that something special that a "Gold" instructor has. The "Gold" certification is supposed to be reserved for those who are complete and total stand-outs. Not only is their form near PERFECT, but these people are able to put "explosive" power and energy behind it.
Gold rankings are supposed to be reserved for those who have a MOTIVATING style and demonstrate a bit of showmanship. Presenters are asked to look at Gold participants as those who could potentially be a presenter or teach other instructors technique.
These things are difficult to communicate in an evaluation, but most people recognize when they have risen to that level and conversely understand when there's more work to be done (though not always).
Someone who has perfect form but kicks with their heel, will not likely receive a "Gold" ranking. Someone who has PERFECT form but tends too loose it when put to the music will not receive a "Gold". Someone who has PERFECT form but lacks 'EXPLOSIVE' power, would also receive a "Pass". If it were easy to get it wouldn't be as rewarding to work toward it! Chalene also reported that there have even been a few instructors move from In-Training to Gold!

TK certification is also available through home study. Part of the requirement is to make and send in a home video of yourself executing TK moves. Here are the TOP 10 MISTAKES and 10 TIPS FOR A "GOLD" RANKING as it applies to home study:

  1. Too little power... not explosive
  2. Form that looks too mechanical, not fluid or smooth
  3. Too tense/tight
  4. Failure to turn out the supporting foot on kicks/knees
  5. Rounded shoulders/poor posture
  6. Not pivoting
  7. Snapping kicks, as opposed to "pushing" the kick
  8. Uppercuts too close to your own chin...remember 'out, up and away'
  9. Failing to bring your guard in the direction of your opponent
  10. Failure to really adopt and demonstrate the form covered in the Technique video.
  1. Pack some real power behind that punch! Put your whole body into the punch.. not just the shoulder.
  2. Don't let your fear of over extending the elbow translate into tiny little punches w/ no extension!
  3. Let's see that great personality!
  4. Relax .... have fun!
  5. Don't worry about being perfect on every execution...
  6. Make every movement "believable" by visualizing what you're doing... That is to say if you're executing a knee strike, don't just lift the knee and pull the arms down. Instead, imagine pulling down an attacker ...hard.... with a strong upper body and powerful thrust of the hips.
  7. Carefully review the technique video! Pay close attention to the portions that cover the Upper cut and the front push kick. These are the areas where people tend to develop some bad habits.
  8. Stand up tall and avoid using a "boxers posture". Instead, roll the shoulder back and stand proud.
  9. Smile!
  10. Video taping makes movement look small and sloppy. So do a test first to see if your punches look too short, lacking in power, etc. If so, exaggerate the movement and try again.

     Back to Top    Certification

Written Test

It's multiple choice and not hard. Take note of anything the presenter emphasizes, pay attention during the review section, read the questions carefully, and you'll be fine.

     Back to Top    Certification

My Perspective on Turbo Kick

You may only purchase TK rounds if you are a certified TK instructor. Each Turbo Kick round includes all the materials you'll need for a single (~60 minute) class: CD with music, choreography notes, and a DVD showing Chalene & Co. teaching the round. There used to be a VHS option as an alternative format to DVD, but this is being phased out.

Is TK expensive? The certification is great value because it's comprehensive, and you are given the latest round. At $50 each, new TK rounds are expensive unless you teach multiple classes a week. However, you don't have to buy the latest rounds as they become available unless you teach at a club that says that you have to. Powder Blue offers great deals and discounts for older rounds. For example, I was certified on R16, and at my certification, I bought a pack of 11 rounds called the "Elite 11". It consists of Rounds 6-15 plus "Best Of Volume 1" which is a mix of different sections from different rounds. I bought it for less than four regluarly priced rounds yet it will last me until at least 2005.

Each TK round has a variety of outstanding mixed 32-count music including dance, hip hop, pop and rap (mix). To my knowledge, there is no heavy metal our hard rock. Every few weeks, turbokickfanatics members are solicited for input on song selection for upcoming rounds. The music (except for the Turbo section), is 138 bpm.

There is a ton of choreography in Turbo Kick, especially in the later rounds. As somebody who had not previously taught a formatted routine, I had to climb a huge learning curve to memorize all the moves. Even the warm-up and the abs section is choregraphed. So is the tai chi/yoga cool down, but I use my own and add a lot more stretching.

For the most part, TK choreography is well thought out and synchronizes naturally with the music. Each section builds up to a 16-32 count combo. A suggested method of breaking down combos in a series of layers is provided in the choregraphy notes. If you are teaching a new round, or teaching to participants new to TK, I recommend that you break down the combos even further than suggested in the choreography notes and stick to the more basic layers which are 4-8 count. Add layers only after participants are familiar with what's already been taught and are ready for a new challenge. I don't even know what all the layers are in some sections of R16 because I have never taught them.

One of the most commonly asked question is: is TK "dancey"? It CAN be dancey, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. If I were to evaluate workouts on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "no dance", e.g., spinning and 10 is "all dance", e.g., hip hop, I would rate hi-lo 8-9, step aerobics 7-8, Turbo Kick 6-7, and cardio kickboxing drills 3-4.

Turbo Kick can be dancey because some of the moves are more similar to hi-lo than cardio kickboxing. In fact, the Turbo section is primarily hi-lo (e.g., "skis", "skates") with some kicks and punches thrown in. It's great anaerobic exercise that gets everybody's heart rate up. Most of my participants like the challenge of working at a higher intensity and it signals a break in the round. If you're not a hi-lo fan, not to worry: the Turbo section is short.

Another clue that TK can be dancey is the fact that some instructors preview combos before doing them. To me, if you have to preview something in cardio kickboxing, it's probably on the dancey side.

Aside from Turbo, there are dancey moves scattered intermittently throughout the round but there aren't that many of them. So far, I have encountered:

  1. Hip-shaking (side hip stretch) during the warm-up: I replaced this with single squats
  2. Clapping 3 times in a row: I'm willing to clap once to signify a change in the routine or to signal participants to get their hands back to guard position, but I don't see the need to clap 3 times in a row in cardio kickboxing. Ever.
  3. Hip swishing: this showed up in R15 and I promptly changed it to kicks

I'm not a fan of dancey moves in kickboxing classes because I think it reduces the realism (ring ambiance) of kickboxing. It's the same reason why I wouldn't even dream of doing a grapevine in a kickboxing class either. Some people point out that one of the reasons they like TK is because it can be dancey - it adds to the fun factor of working out. Find what works for you.

Will my participants like TK? It depends. My participants wanted me to switch over to TK (or my version of it) after I taught one class, but I think they're more enamoured with the music more than anything else. Others who are more interested in bag work and contact kickboxing may not appreciate it as much.

I've also noticed a strong correlation between how much a participant likes TK and their existing cardio kickboxing experience level.

What if I don't like the music/choreography? Since the choreography for each combo is matched to particular song, you have have limited options if you want to use TK music but don't like the choreography in a particular section (I mean more than half the combo, not just a couple of moves) or if you don't like the song. Since you're not supposed to substitute your own combo in a TK routine, or even use choreography from another TK round, you have three alternatives (1) create your own TK mix (2) switch rounds at the point where you want to skip over a section (3) not teach that round altogether. I guess you could also (4) use the music, change selected combos but just not call your class Turbo Kick (call it Cardio Kickboxing or something like that), but I'm not sure what Powder Blue would think of that.

How long does it take to learn a round? That depends on how good you are at memorizing routines in general. I don't have a dance background, so it takes me a long time to learn anything, even step combos that I've put together myself! The first TK round took me about 6-8 hours. Subsequent rounds were easier to learn because a lot of moves are repeated across rounds, e.g., the warm-up and parts of turbo. As Chalene once wrote, each round builds upon the last, so a combo from a previous round may show up in a later round with some slighty modifications while maintaining the same "theme". I've just finished learning my third round, and it only took me a couple of hours to get it this time. What I find helpful is to keep a copy of the music in my car and listen to it on the way to work while cueing outloud.

Speed rounds are abbreviated 30-minute TK rounds. You can create your own, or buy pre-mixed versions from the TK website. They consist of the warm-up (starting from the march 3 knees section), section 2, section 3, skip 4, Turbo, and finally recovery at a lower intensity (serves as the cooldown). It's a good way to fit TK in a 30 or 45-minute class. To fill a 45-minute class, you can tack on 15 minutes of your own abs and strength work. Other instructors teach two different back-to-back speed rounds to fill a complete 60-minute class: 1st Round -- warm-up through TURBO, 2nd Round -- Section 2 and 3, TURBO then a simple cool down..

TK is simultaneously easier and more difficult to teach than free form cardio kickboxing. TK is great for instructors who are too lazy or don't have time to come up with their own choreography (me). It's especially good for average instructors because they can just memorize the TK combos and go through the motions by rote. It is especially easy for mediocre instructors who teach at fitness chains that mandate TK because regular participants will already be familiar with the routine. I've heard that some participants can do the entire round on their own even if there wasn't an instructor present just by listening to the music. On the other hand, TK is incredibly difficult to teach WELL because there is so much cueing involved compared to 8-count drills (for instance) due to the volume of choreography involved. With TK, you can easily spend all your time cueing the moves at the expense of providing sufficient safety and form pointers. It takes an exceptional instructor to do it all.

Most classes I teach are 55-minutes long, so I don't have time to teach the entire TK routine, especially since I go through a form check of the basic punches and kicks at the beginning of class. I skip the Finesse section to make everything fit because I'm not sure what it's there for. The choreography is complex but fun and is usually done to slower hip hop music. It looks impressive, but doesn't really do anything for me. Maybe it's a cool down? I don't know. Finesse is difficult to pull off unless you teach a regular TK class. Other instructors skip the Endurance section to save time. I've heard that some instructors try to cram everything in by pitching up the music. I don't recommend that. That's like telling your boss you don't have time to finish all the assignments you've been given, and instead of reducing your workload, he/she just tells you to work harder and faster.

     Back to Top    Certification

Additional Turbo Kick Resources

Is TK for me? I created this web page to provide what I hope is useful information to those of you who are considering taking the TK certification. My goal was to be as objective as possible. Even though I like Turbo Kick and teach the format, I'm not somebody who loves everything TK, so I've tried to convey what I think are negatives of the program as well.

However, this is still just one person's opinion. The best way to determine whether you'll like TK is to try a class, preferably a master class taught by a Powder Blue presenter. These classes are free and are used for promotional purposes to recruit more TK instructors. Check the TK website for the most up to date schedule. The next best option is to take a regular TK class, e.g., at 24 Hour Fitness, although how much you'll enjoy it may be instructor dependent.

If you can't get to a class, I also encourage you to consult with more experienced instructors who are part of the turbokickfanatics group on Yahoo!Groups. Unlike me, several of them really are TK fanatics in the truest sense of the word. They are a supportive and knowledgeable group. Some of the members have truly impressive backgrounds including martial arts and professional boxing. Chalene and other presenters read the boards so you'll often hear from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The moderator, Laura, does a fabulous job of keeping the dialog relevant and getting reliable answers if none are readily forthcoming.

For a more balanced perspective, I also suggest visiting the BoxAerobics discussion board at You'll find equally informative posts by instructors who have taken the Turbo Kick certification but don't teach the format: they themselves don't like it, their participants don't like it, their clubs don't support it, etc. Before submitting a question, however, be sure to search for threads with "Turbo Kick", "Turbokick" or "TK" in the subject heading to make sure the topic hasn't already been covered.

     Back to Top    Certification

Calorie Expenditure

Posted by Chalene to the Turbo Kick newsgroup in November 2003. From the revised TK manual:

In nearly every class students will ask you how many calories they can burn in a Turbo Kick class. The answer is not a simple, finite number. The truth is, many factors are at work. A simple honest answer is "a lot!" However, to accurately determine caloric expenditure during a one hour Turbo Kick class, consideration of recent studies conducted by the American Council on Exercise (renowned educator and researcher, Dr. Len Kravitz, Ph.D.) and a team of researchers from the University of Mississippi are essential. Both studies measured heart rate, caloric consumption, oxygen consumption and ratings of perceived exertion for each of four kickboxing concentrations: upper-body predominant (e.g., upper cuts, jabs); lower-body predominant (e.g.,kicks); and combination of upper and lower body; and conditioning (e.g., jumping jacks, simulated rope jumping).

The study included 15 female participants with an average weight of 135 pounds. Not surprisingly, more calories were burned during exercises utilizing a combination of upper- and lower-body movements. Furthermore, participants in the ACE study also maintained a heart rate of 75-85 percent of maximum, well within the recommended 65-85 percent range for aerobic exercise.

Overall, caloric expenditure in this experiment ranged from 6.45 calories per minute (with predominately upper-body exercises) to 8.3 calories per minute (with an upper/lower body combination). Caloric findings indicate that most (Non-Turbo Kick) cardio kickboxing participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories per hour - less than original estimates, but enough to be considered sufficient exercise.

Interesting considerations: Participants of this group were exclusively women. The reported findings did not indicate the speed (beats per minute), or intensity, at which participants were asked to perform the exercises. The findings also failed to note the duration (length of time) that participants were asked to remain within their target heart rates. For example, the standard kickboxing class might include less than 30 minutes of intense cardiovascular work, paired with 15 minutes of warm-up, and 15 minutes of cool down and conditioning.

Participants (in this type of class) remaining in their target heart zones for a sustained period is unlikely. Finally, the studies compared the intensity of the kickboxing activity to that of a brisk walk. Most likely, Turbo Kick participants would equate their aerobic/anaerobic intensity of a typical one-hour class to that of a fast jog or a 5K paced run. Experts estimate running at a 5K pace of 7 to 8mph to burn between 9 and 10 calories per minute. Dr. Carl Foster's research, associate professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and Coordinator of Sports Medicine and Sports Science for the United States Speed Skating Team, concluded that working in intervals expended nearly twice as many calories as steady state aerobic exercise. A participant working at a "comfortable" level of intensity in a steady state could expect to burn as much as 500 calories per hour, wear as someone working in 1:1 work/recovery intensity could expect to burn up to between 700 and 900 calories (if working continuously for one hour). The typical Turbo Kick class includes 45 minutes of aerobic/anaerobic cardiovascular conditioning, followed by 15 minutes of conditioning.

To date, no scientific analysis has been commissioned on the calorie expenditure of the average Turbo Kick class, and thus, further research is warranted to compare reported findings with regard to all varying types/styles of cardiokicboxing. Based on the most recent data collected, specific class structure and adjustments for anaerobic/aerobic conditioning vs. steady-state conditioning, professionals have estimated Turbo Kick to burn between 500 and 800 calories per hour.

Obviously, a broad range exists due to the mere fact of individuality. Take a look around the room the next time you're in a Turbo Kick class. By examining the participants, this exposes a wide variety of body shapes and sizes, varying energy levels as well as varying skill levels. Consider that the following will affect caloric expenditure from person to person:

  1. Intensity
  2. Full use of levers (extending punches and kicks)
  3. Combined upper and lower body exercises
  4. BMI (Body Mass Index)
  5. Metabolic rate

The harder you work, the more calories and fat you'll burn.

     Back to Top    Certification

Fun Turbo Kick Facts

Did you know... (Email from Chalene to Yahoo! "turbokickfanatics" group in September 2003)

  • For Round 1, we called Turbo Kick, Tae Box, but after a glutney of other programs began using similar names, we dumped it and decided to name it after our signature "turbo" section.
  • Chalene developed the "Turbo" section by accident, when the "tape" she was using to create Round 1, mysteriously just speed up to warp speed in class for about a minute. She went with it and just started running with high knees and jacks. The students loved it and thought it was planned. She kept it.
  • When taping the first Round we only recorded the class on the right side of the breakdown, assuming instructors would just want to see what the choreograph looked like and wouldn't care about seeing the left and the right. (We were wrong)
  • Our first year we had just one part-time employee.
  • Turbo Kick has always had 11 sections.
  • Chalene has used other instructors to lead the Round when she was "too" pregnant.
  • Turbo Kick did not discover the magic of changing combos with the music until Round 6ish, and completely by Round 7.
  • Anna-Rita first appeared in an early Turbo Kick Round after an instructor "flaked". Anna-Rita was just a student with great form at that point. She later morphed into "Zena".
  • In our first year of certifying Turbo Kickers, they just got a manual and had the "option" of buying Round One. We later decided we had a better chance of having people fall it love with it, if we just gave it to them.
  • It takes approximately 60 to 70 hours of editing the music (this does not include searching for the perfect music) to finish one Round.
  • The music comes first. The choreography is developed around the music.

     Back to Top    Certification

Turbo Rules! -- by Chalene Johnson

Edited excerpt of email from Chalene to Yahoo! "turbokickfanatics" group in February 2005

Hi all!

Here's the Turbo Kick Theology put in simple terms:

I created Turbo Kick to make life easier for instructors and help create consistency, safety, longevity and of course fun! It should never take away an instructors creativity, ability to modify, or understanding of their students needs.

Personal opinion: I don't care much for rule mongers. In fact, as our presenters will tell you, I am vehemently against "policing" our instructors because I don't believe that one size fits all. Actually we find that fellow Turbo Kick instructors do far more criticizing and policing of those who stray from the format than we do. I appreciate that people care so much about the reputation of our program!

Consistency: My goal has been to create a level of consistency amongst our instructors so that people know what to expect when they take Turbo Kick. The same way that you know your Starbucks in the Washington will taste the same as the Starbucks from Detroit.

Form and Technique: I would prefer that our instructor teach a consistent style of kick and punch, not that it's the "only way" or the "right" way, but it is a consistent way we have found to be safe, big on calorie burn and easy to master.

Class format: Consistency should come in the flow and format of the class, i.e. punches and a good lower body warm-up before kicks, adequate recovery after an anaerobic drill, etc., but giving the instructor permission to skip the finesse, and do two Turbos, or change the legs section to all push-ups! That's where your creativity and understanding of your students needs comes in! Change it up! Don't like the jab, cross, jab knee in the B section... change it to something similar that works for you if you want!

Turbo Style: Consistency in the form of a positive environment. Avoid belittling, mocking or spotlighting poor form, rather highlight those who perform well and helping others to improve without intimidation. Turbo Style means that you morph each year so that your kickboxing class in 2005 doesn't look like your kickboxing class from 6 years ago! Changing with the times is essential to the longevity of kickboxing.

Mirroring the Music: Consistency in that your moves, the choreography and even the way you respond and moves reflects the music. If you're just putting on any old music and doing our choreography, I'm sure it's great, but it's missed the whole point of Turbo Kick. Your class wont feel like Turbo Kick. TK is "an experience", not just a workout. Turbo Kick is driven by the instructors interpretation of the music and the sound effects.

In general: We do have specific guidelines in our training manual. They are specific because it helps to create consistency. However, exceptions to those guidelines are ultimately in the hands of the individual instructor. When in doubt, ask, but the bottom line is, you know what works best!

Every Sunday I take a Turbo Kick from an instructor who totally changes it up. She mixes mutliple Rounds. Sometimes we skip sections 8,9,10 and 11 and do all Cardio, finishing with a brief stretch. I like it! It works with this group. It still feels like Turbo Kick, it's just a very advanced, all cardio version and her own twist.

When I sub a non-Turbo Kick class I do Turbo Kick, but it's a completely watered down version. I typically just do the Long combo through the both the long and the short combo music. I stick with just the first few layers. I pitch it down. I stick with the same 8 counts until 80% of the folks have it! The Turbo Section is a mix of running, jacks and simple stuff that still reflects the music. The class is formated for your convenience, but you can't ignore what's happening in your class!

I personally would be more disturbed by an instructor who was mean, belittling and negative when teaching than an instructor who has decided to make up their own kicking section.

To answer some FAQ...

  1. If there's a particular song which is offensive or just plain annoying and you're crafty enough to mix your own music, feel free!
  2. If you want use all your own music for the last 15 minutes (sections 8,9,10 and 11) Feel free!
  3. If you want to do the choreography from Round 12 with the music from Round 23 ..Feel free. It's not ideal and in my opinion it's like reading a book without any punctuation.
  4. Think the choreography has too much dance/hip hop? Silly... you cant teach it completely athletic! It's just an option. But that hip hop/urban dance groove has become a major part of the evolution which seperates TK from other forms of kickboxing. It's hip hop, not dance ;)
  5. Think the music is too fast? Actually we are well below the guidelines when it comes to speed. ALL of our materials are recorded at 138 BPM. Most other programs are around 150. So those of you who pitch it up slightly are probably still within industry standard guidelines.
  6. ??

Having said all that... I will mention that often the coordinator and sometimes the popularity of Turbo Kick dictates what is acceptable in certain areas. I know that some chains do not allow VIP's to teach the new Round until a certain date so that everyone has a chance to learn it, practice it together and then "launch" it as a team. Some areas demand multiple Turbos, faster tempos and going straight to the advanced sections. Some members would walk out on an instructor if their version of the Round differed too greatly from what they knew to be the Round.

So... bottom line...there are very few hard, cold, inflexible, restrictive, or unbending "regulations" when it comes to TK. Never say never. When someone's teaching practices come into question with regard to their use of our trademarked name, we'll always give the instructor the benefit of the doubt and look into the circumstances before denying their use our trademark.

I hope you've found this review useful. Please email me if you think I've missed anything important. Best of luck choosing a certification -- keep kicking!!

     Back to Top    Certification


Copyright © 2003-2005 Lauren Wu. All Rights Reserved.