Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.
– Sugar Ray Leonard
The health and fitness benefits of boxing have long been understood. Few sports or exercise disciplines incorporate such a broad range of fitness components as does the art of pugilism.
In a typical boxing session, the pugilist will need to demonstrate superior cardiovascular resolve and muscular endurance output. Moreover, the boxer must maintain mental focus as they coordinate their body through a series of complex and explosive movements.
And this is just training! We haven't considered combat yet.
But that is one of the most common misunderstandings of boxing - viz. that in order to do boxing you have to fight. This, of course, is not true. You can still reap the many benefits the sport has to offer without throwing a single aggressive punch. And the list of benefits is impressive. They include:
1: Fat burning
2: Increased muscle tonality
3: Improved bone density
4: Increased cardio-respiratory performance
5: Augmented muscular endurance
6: Improved core stability
7: Increased power
8: Enhanced reaction time and coordination and agility
9: Develop a combat skill
10: Stress relief
Each boxing benefit has been explained in more detail below.
Boxing Benefit #1: Fat Burning
Boxing training is driven by the cardio-respiratory system and it engages the two largest muscle groups of the body: back and legs. Consequently, boxing is brilliant at burning fat as this is the primary energy source that fuels the fighter though the rigours of training. In addition, boxing training tends to incorporate some of the best know fat burning exercises: running, skipping and circuit training.
Boxing Benefit #2: Increased Muscle Tonality
In conjunction with superior fat burning boxing develops superior muscular tonality. Throughout a training session the boxer may throw in excess of 1000 punches. But also they will engage in conditioning exercises; usually of a calisthenics nature: press-ups, pull-ups, burpees, etc. These exercises are excellent for sculpting and shaping lean defined muscles.
Boxing Benefit #3: Improved Bone Density
All that pounding of sand-filled punch bags, the hours of skipping and circuit training help to compact the bones. Studies have shown that impact exercise, under controlled conditions, can reduce a person’s susceptibility to osteoarthritis in old age.
Boxing Benefit #4: Increased Cardio-respiratory Performance
As mentioned above, few exercises stimulate the cardio-respiratory system quite the way 30 minutes of pad work does. But let’s not forget, other obligatory exercises that boxers regularly engage in include running, skipping and rowing. All of which are brilliant for improving cardio-respiratory performance.
Boxing Benefit #5: Augmented Muscular Endurance
Boxing is a volume sport; hours upon hours are spent performing the same movements over and over again. And not only to develop or master a technique but to train the muscles to be able to perform high-intense movements for protracted periods of time.
Yes, it is true that any boxing match could be won with a single power punch. But few are. The vast majority of matches go the full distance. Thus the boxer must be prepared to duke it out for up to 36 minutes (based on 12 X 3 minute rounds – the standard length for a world title fight). The only way to cultivate this kind of conditioning is to train . . . and train . . . and train some more!
Boxing Benefit #6: Improved Core Stability
Believe it or not but boxing will improve your core stability muscles and your balance. Though this really shouldn’t come at all as a surprise considering that boxing is a highly coordinated, super-fast-paced sport that involves a hell of a lot of twisting and rotation movements.
Boxing Benefit #7: Increased Power
In my years of boxing I’ve had the pleasure of sparring with many excellent pugilists. I can recall one such occasion where, in preparation for the ABAs, my coach put me in the ring with a former top-ten ranked middleweight professional. I can clearly recall watching him on the bag during the pre-sparring warm-up thinking to myself: ‘I’m gonna tear him a new one and win me some gym kudos.’
An ego truly is a terrible thing. But he did look kind of weak, and lethargic, so I thought that I could do him over. When it was time to spar we climbed into the ring and touched gloves. Then we danced around a bit, ‘feeling each other out’ as it’s called.
From nowhere he lurched forward and popped me in the face with a single jab sending my head snapping back. I honestly thought I’d been hit by a freight train. Not to put too finer point on it but that jab about made me shit myself and I spent the next five rounds running. I never forgot that punch, and the subsequent pain, and I never ceased to marvel at that boxer’s power. And he was so unassuming! But that’s what comes with years of pounding the bag.
Boxing Benefit #8: Enhanced Reaction-time, Agility and Coordination
It’s not until the first time that someone steps in the ring to spar that they fully appreciate just how much coordination and agility boxing involves. Even hitting the bag, which, compared to an opponent, is a comparatively stationary target, requires a surprising degree of timing and coordination – not to mention special awareness. With time boxing develops all these skills and more besides.
Boxing Benefit #9: Develop a combat skill
It’s probably not news to you that the world in which you live is a bit crazy. Unprovoked attacks are a daily occurrence (last year in the UK alone there were over 1300 reported cases of violent crime). And though it is true that the vast majority of people are peaceable law-abiding citizens, some aren’t. Some are belligerent and relish seeing others suffer. Though thankfully such people make up only a minute percentage of the population.
However, because there are those out there that would do us harm, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to defend yourself (especially when you can do it whilst keeping fit).
The most effective defence is a good offense. Boxing is arguably the best combat sport for developing formidable offensive skills for the simple reason that the training aims to maximise the power that can be delivered with each punch.
Boxing Benefit #10: Stress Relief
And finally, boxing is a stress buster par excellence. I’m never as happy as I am after 30 minutes on the bag or post punch-up with my sparring partner (only as long as I walk away in the belief that I won, of course).
Boxing’s ability to banish stress is largely attributed to the fact that it enables the pugilist to vent their pent-up aggression. However, this is not the only reason why it is effective in the battle against the silent killer.
It is common knowledge that exercise releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain killer) and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals – dopamine and whatnot. So, whilst the boxer is busy beating ten-bells out the bag his or her body is busy releasing happy chemicals. Which is like a buy-one get two free situation.
But there’s more!
Studies have shown that focused activities are also a great way to mitigate stress. Boxing is a hyper-focused sport that can be both profoundly engrossing and absorbing. And, when you’re being put through your paces on the pads or in the ring, it’s neigh on impossible to ruminate over those stressors.
So now you’re aware of the numerous benefits to be had why not consider incorporating a bit of boxing into your training regime? Acquiring the basic skills can take as little as a couple of sessions and the equipment needed is relatively inexpensive (see range of boxing kit below).
Some reasonably priced quality boxing gear that’ll get you going
Beast Gear Advanced Boxing Hand Wraps (£9.99)
This is a highly rated wrap from Beast Gear. After over 1300 reviews they still retain 4.5 stars. This is because they are woven out of premium quality fabric, they're elasticated and 4.5 metres in length. All essential qualities that any pair of hand wraps must possess.
Gloves: 5 Best Boxing Gloves
RDX Boxing Gloves (£31.99)
Another superbly rated product by RDX. With nearly 1500 reviews this pair of gloves sports nearly 5 stars! They're popular amongst pugilists because they're reasonably priced and fashioned from premium-quality Maya Hide leather.
Skipping rope: Can't skip yet? This article will teach you how
Gritin Skipping Rope (£6.99)
This skipping has received over 14,000 reviews! And still it clings proudly to 4.5 stars! That's phenomenal. Well why's it so good? According to reviewers Gritin's rope is reasonably priced (I should think so at £6.99) and is both durable and comfortable to use.
RDX Punch Bag (£60.01)
I've selected this bag for three reasons. They are:
1: It's manufactured by RDX and they are renown for producing quality products
2: It has received over 500 reviews and still retains very nearly 5 stars
3: For a measly £60 you get a bag, wall hanger, gloves, wraps and a rope . . . and gripper! That's a crazy bargain!
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
Alvarez image taken from: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/boxing/article