Few things are as intense and satisfying as putting on boxing gloves and punching a heavy bag with all your might. And even better: With every punch, cross, hook and uppercut in boxing training, you push your physical and mental strength to new limits.
“As Rocky said, ‘It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how hard you can hit.’ hand punch and keep going,'” says Noah Neumann, founder of Rumble Boxing. And while you won’t get punched during your average boxing group fitness class, any boxing workout will increase endurance and physical results, Neumann says.
“Whether it’s lifting weights, running or jumping rope, hitting a heavy bag or shadowboxing, boxing training methodology. [improves]strength, agility, cardiovascular response and ability,” he says.
Convinced you should make boxing a part of your fitness routine? Here, learn the benefits of boxing and tips for boxing beginners so you can find your inner fighter.
What is boxing? In addition, the main types of boxing
Boxing is a combat sport between two people, both wearing protective gloves. In a match, boxers aim to strategically strike each other and not get hit throughout the fight.
The good news is that your introduction to boxing doesn’t have to be so drastic. In fact, boxing is now a popular form of fitness, with studios dedicated to specific types such as shadowboxing, heavy bag boxing, mitt work, and more. There are several types of boxing that you can try when looking for a beginner boxing workout.
Instead of facing an actual opponent or a heavy bag, shadow practice with your own reflection—or “shadow,” hence the name—to practice combinations of kicks, kicks, and more. Because shadowboxing doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere, it’s an accessible point for novice boxers, notes Gideon Akande, a NASM-certified personal trainer and three-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion.
Additionally, shadowboxing is ideal for practicing technique, he adds. “Usually when you put a target in front of someone—like a heavy bag or a person—they forget their shape,” Akande says. “They are distracted by their goal. Shadowboxing allows you to slow things down, focus on form, own your technique, and visualize.” (ICYMI, Peloton eventually expanded into boxing.)
Boxing for a heavy bag
Heavy bag boxing is what you’ll see in most boxing group fitness classes, and you’ll need to wear boxing gloves and mitts to participate. Heavy bags can help you develop cardio conditioning, punch strength and proper punch placement, Neumann says. Plus, hitting heavy bags gives you more of a strength workout because the equipment weighs between 70 and 150 pounds and provides plenty of resistance to work with, Akande adds.
Not to mention, you’ll feel stronger after a heavy bag session. “It’s incredibly cathartic to raise your fist and cry against something,” Neumann says. “It’s like a stress ball, but worse.”
Mitt Cork or Sparring
In Mitt, your trainer or partner holds gloves or pads (think: baseball gloves, with extra pads around the palm) while calling out certain combinations of punches and around the ring to simulate a boxing match. Sparring is the next step: You spar with an opponent, meaning you’ll both try to strike and defend yourself – but not at full strength, so no one gets hurt. Sparring is not a complete boxing match.
“The right kind of sparring is an invaluable tool for testing your skills and identifying weaknesses,” adds Neumann. “Sparring isn’t about standing toe-to-toe trying to take your opponent’s head off. Sparring, especially for beginners, is about applying the skills you’ve been training for.”
Benefits of boxing
Are you wondering about the different forms of boxing that you can add to your routine? Fortunately, no matter what type of boxing workout you try, you’ll get some great health benefits. Learn more about the benefits of boxing from the experts.
Develops core strength
Akande says boxing is one of the best core exercises you can do. “A lot of people don’t know how much your core is used,” he said. “It’s because of the rotation that generates the power in your kicks. It’s all shoulder rotation and rotation, and the core is what creates that movement.” Think about it this way: Every time you throw a punch, your trunk (from your shoulders to your hips) flexes dynamically to support the force of your punch. Creating this twist requires a ton of core strength—and your abs will feel it afterward, including your rectus abdominis, your transverse abdominis, and your glutes, adds Akande.
Strengthens the upper body
No surprise here – boxing is a killer exercise for the upper body. “Your arm is a lever,” explains Akanda. “The more you extend that arm, the more weight it takes off the center point of the shoulder blade.” And when you kick and cross nonstop, you’re stretching your arm over and over again—which tires the muscles.
Between kicks, you also keep your arms in a “guard” position (fists clenched, shielding your cheeks, and elbows locked in a straight line under your arms). Maintaining this position requires engaging the biceps, triceps, and back, notes Akande.
Finally, don’t forget your posterior chain—specifically, your back muscles, including your lats. “When you throw your shots, you have to get them back,” Akande says. “Those small back muscles that don’t get a lot of love often start to hurt until you develop that strength and endurance.”
Improves coordination, rhythm and timing
“Swim like a butterfly, sting a bee” – is it familiar? When professional boxer Muhammad Ali used the phrase, he was promoting boxing’s reputation as a graceful, almost ballet-like sport.
“Boxing is known as the ‘Sweet Science,'” Akande says. “It’s not just brute force and strength. The movements are very fluid and go from side to side.” As an exercise that requires agility, dexterity and hand-eye coordination, taking a boxing class is a surefire way to improve your mind-body connection.
Combines cardio and strength
No exercise is more comprehensive than boxing. Not only is it a full-body workout—challenging your upper body, your core, and your lower body—but boxing also combines both cardio and strength to really pack a punch.
“First and foremost, your boxing workout works your cardiovascular system,” says Akande. For example, many beginner boxing workouts are formatted in “rounds” of three minutes of boxing and one minute of active recovery—with little actual recovery throughout the class. However, you will get strength work from hitting the resistance of a heavy bag or mitt. (Note: While shadowboxing offers less resistance because it’s a bodyweight exercise, you can add a strength component by keeping 1 to 3 pounds of hand weights during your boxing session.)
Relieves stress and improves alertness
When you’re in the zone, hitting a cross-hook combo with precision and power, your brain is focused on one task at a time – and that’s a good thing. “You can’t think too much when you’re boxing,” notes Akande. “It automatically shuts off what might have been distracting you at work, at home or in the world. You focus on the moment and what you’re doing, where your feet are and where your upper body is.”
Also, there’s a reason people joke about going to boxing practice after a stressful AF day. “It’s very rewarding,” Akanda admits. “[In boxing,] you have the ability to throw all your weight, power and strength into the bag with minimal impact. It allows you to release some stress and do it safely while still reaping the benefits of exercise.” (And don’t forget that any regular exercise can protect you from the negative effects of stress and reduce symptoms of depression. )
The Five Basics of Boxing
When you show up for your beginner boxing training, your instructor will probably talk you through basic boxing punches and your boxer’s stance (TL;DR: feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your non-dominant foot in front). Here, Akande and Neiman share their best tips for every boxing punch so you’re ready to hit the sack.
- Jab: Your lead (non-dominant) fist is thrown straight forward and fully extended across your body. “The jab is by far the most important jab,” emphasizes Neumann. This is because it forces distance between you and your opponent. Make sure to keep your back hand close to your face so that when you throw that straight punch forward and turn your hand so that your thumb is fully facing down, he adds.
- Cross: Your back (dominant) fist is thrown straight forward and fully extended from your body. Turn your arm like a doorknob as the arm stretches, advises Neiman.
- hook: With both hands, bend the elbow to 90 degrees with the thumb on top of the fist and move from the side to your opponent. The key to a powerful hook is rotation, says Akande. “Roll on the same side of your body as you’re punching and imagine your palm is facing you, pulling your hook away from your body.” So, if you throw a right hook, turn towards your opponent with your right leg.
- Top style: With both hands, bring your hand in an almost straight motion towards your opponent’s chin, turning your palm towards your face. “Hold that mouse across your body, palm up or slightly up,” adds Akande.
The best boxing exercises
While there are plenty of gyms that specialize in heavy bag training, you can also practice new boxing exercises at home with little or no equipment. Try these boxing workouts to find your inner fighter and feel like a badass while improving your cardiovascular conditioning, upper body strength, and core endurance: