Have you fallen into an exercise slump and can’t seem to get motivated? Don’t be discouraged—we’ve all been there. For something new, try introducing a boxing workout to your routine. Boxing has grown in popularity over the last few years, with celebs like Gigi Hadid and Adriana Lima endorsing the sport as a great workout, and more and more gyms are offering beginner classes, making boxing accessible even for those who haven’t spent time around a ring. Meanwhile, folks are starting to realize that footwork around a bag and learning to punch (and kick!) safely and swiftly are great ways to relieve stress while also building muscle, stamina, and discipline. There are tons of resources available for boxing beginners to get acquainted with the sport, and you don’t need to go to a boxing gym to learn the basics. We break down everything you need to know to get fit by throwing a few punches at the gym, or even in the comfort of your own home.
The Surprising Health Benefits of Boxing Workouts
You might think boxing is all about upper body strength, and if you box, you’re going to get giant, hulking arms. If you pursue boxing regularly, your arms will become stronger, but boxing is truly a whole-body workout. “The health benefits of boxing are numerous—it’s a total body workout,” personal trainer and kickboxing instructor Monique “Moe” Adams tells HealthyWay. “You are engaging several muscle groups through every punch and kick you execute. Your core is engaged the entire time and you are working both upper and lower body for maximum calorie burn.” Boxing is so much more than just throwing punches! Even beginner-level sessions will get your heart rate going. Boxing is a great cardio option “because your heart [has to] work harder at pumping blood around your body,” fitness trainer Miriam Amselem tells HealthyWay. Boxing workouts have the power to strengthen your cardiovascular system, improve coordination, alleviate stress, and build muscle—all while burning some serious calories. What’s better than that?
Boxing Exercise Fundamentals: The Jab
Throwing a punch is a lot more complicated than you might think. You’re not just tossing your fist into the ether in front of you, hoping to make contact. A punch, or jab, as the pros call it, involves very specific setup and execution. “The number one mental tip I tell my students is to first picture their target,” says Adams. “Imagine yourself delivering the jab with the maximum power and be ready to do some major damage.” After you’re mentally set, it’s time to prepare your body to execute on the move. “Feet have to be a bit outside of hips and hands have to be in front of the face, as if blocking a punch,” says Amselem. “Engage your core by pulling your belly button into your spine to get your entire torso ready.” Guarding your face by keeping your arms up is key to proper form. Amselem says that before you move your arm, “you have to pivot your foot and bring your hip around in the same direction, so your shoulder will be right on top of your hip.” Finally, Adams says to “extend your jab 90 percent, aim for your target’s nose, and let all the power come from your body.” Of course, you probably won’t have a human target, so imagining striking your bag at nose height is the goal. Also, don’t forget to breathe! Your breath plays an important role during any exercise—and boxing is no exception. Think of matching your breaths to your motion; slow movements require slow, deep breaths, and fast movements require short, quick breaths. When you set your body and stance, inhale slowly through your nose. Then, when you’re ready to punch, exhale quickly in short bursts as you execute the perfect jab. It sounds complicated, but after you run through the motions a couple times, throwing a jab will become second nature!
Warm-Up Exercises for Your Boxing Workout
Before you begin your boxing session, you should always prepare yourself with a proper warm-up routine. “Your warm-up should include dynamic and rhythmic movements that serve as a dress rehearsal for what you are about to do,” says Adams. You want your blood flowing and your muscles moving before getting into any serious physical exertion. Amselem suggests two different warm-up sets to prepare for a good boxing workout. Note that the American Heart Association recommends a warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes before any exercise and recommends intense workouts like fitness boxing begin with a warm-up that’s on the longer end of that spectrum. Of you do both of these warm-up sets, cycling through each exercise for a minute apiece, you’ll be in great shape to begin your boxing workout:
Warm-up I: Lower Body
Jumping jacks, lunges, jump rope, squats—rotating through each movement for one minute each
Warm-up II: Upper Body
Shoulder raises, bicep curls (with light weights), push ups—rotating through each movement for one minute each Adams suggests a handful of good warm-up moves including step touches (side to side), reaches (both over the head and across the body), squats, shoulder rolls, and knee strikes, all of which can be used to spice up your pre-boxing routine. Adams notes that any side-to-side motion will help prepare your body for your boxing workout combinations.
Boxing Workout Combinations for Beginners (and Beyond)
Once your body is warmed up, you can get into the workout. You can start boxing with or without a punching bag. In fact, even the pros practice shadow boxing, which involves sparring with an imaginary opponent rather than hopping in the ring with another person or unleashing on a bag. That said, having a stopwatch or your phone for a timer is a necessity. For a solid beginner workout, Adams suggests the following timed combinations: Three rounds, lasting one to three minutes each, with a 30 to 45 second break in between. Note that in certain combinations, you’ll begin with a right lead, meaning your right leg and right arm will be forward. A left lead, on the other hand, involves your left leg and left arm being forward.
- Begin with a right lead
- Triple jab/cross 25 times
- Jab/cross/hook/uppercut 25 times
- Take a 30 to 45 second break
- Repeat the entire combination on the left lead
Combination II—The Triple Jab Cross:
- 3 right jabs followed by 1 left cross for a 4-count combo
Combination III—The Jab/Cross/Hook/Uppercut:
- Right jab/left cross/right hook/left uppercut for another 4-count combo
Amselem usually has her clients throw combinations of single arm jab, uppercut, and straight punch for three minutes, plus front kicks, followed by a 60 second “break” during which they practice lunges, planks, or squats. “[This workout] is a calorie and fat torcher which they all love when it’s over and love even more when they see the results,” says Amselem. Once you get comfortable with these moves, try working out with a heavy bag. With boxing’s growing popularity, you can probably find one at your local gym if you don’t have the room or the desire to bring one home. When you use a heavy bag, you introduce more resistance into your practice, which ultimately helps you build more muscle.
Cool-Down Routines for Boxing Workouts
Cooling down after a difficult workout is just as important as warming up. The cool-down process brings your heartbeat and breathing rate down slowly, which helps prevent dizziness. It also helps prevent post-workout soreness. “Cool down should include static stretching for flexibility gains while incorporating deep breathing—bringing your heart rate down and relaxing the body,” says Adams. “Following a boxing workout, stretch your shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest, and back. If your workout included kicks, stretch out your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.”
How to Get the Most Out of Your Boxing Workout Classes
While it’s great to be able to learn and practice something in the comfort of your own home, changing up the setting and putting your skills to the test in a class is also beneficial, so don’t be scared of signing up for a boxing class! When you’re ready to try out a class, it’s important to start with the right attitude. “Be ready to have some fun,” says Adams. “Grab a towel and plenty of water. Remember, this is a new activity for you, so give yourself permission to make mistakes. Any new fitness format you try for the first time will have a learning curve.” It’s always a good idea to stick with combinations you’re comfortable with at first, and slowly bring new moves into your practice. You don’t want to go too hard right away or develop incorrect form or bad habits. Remember: A good boxing workout begins with the fundamentals. Want to learn more about boxing classes? Check out Senior Editor Taylor’s reflections on her first experience at TITLE, the importance of hand and wrist wrapping, and why short and sweet might be the way to go the first time you hop in the ring.