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Boxing Fitness | The Complete Guide

Updated: Jan 2

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Boxing fitness training benefits

Boxing training is by far one of the best ways to develop whole-body fitness. A typical boxing workout consists of bodyweight exercises, functional resistance movements, circuits, cardiovascular training and pugilistic skills development.


Unlike orthodox forms of exercise, such as gym workouts or a specific fitness discipline (cycling or running), boxing training simultaneously develops multiple components of fitness. For example, in your average, run-of-the-mill boxing session you’ll train cardio, muscle endurance, explosive power, as well as working on coordination, agility and reaction time.


And, thrown into the bargain, you’ll also begin to sharpen and hone your boxing skills which will equip you with a basic arsenal of combat weaponry. In addition to all these physical attributes, boxing fitness teaches self-discipline and self-restraint – hence the reason why true boxers rarely resort to using their fists in an altercation, instead reserving their pugilistic prowess for the ring.


Related: Best reflex punching bag >
Boxing reflex bag.

Other benefits of boxing fitness

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

Another benefit of boxing fitness training is that pretty much anyone can have a go. A pervasive misunderstanding is that, in order to train boxing, you’ve got to fight. This is pure poppycock. Many of the benefits outlined above can be achieved by regularly participating in basic boxing training. And that doesn’t mean you’ve got to go to a boxing gym either – which many novices find quite an intimidating experience.


Boxing training at home

To start training like a boxer requires only four pieces of equipment: 1) a free standing punching bag; 2) a pair of bag gloves; 3) elasticated hand wraps; and 4) a skipping rope. With these items of kit (see examples below) and a few callisthenic exercises thrown in, you could easily develop admirable boxing fitness.


And, if you access our other article – Boxing Basics | The Complete How 2 Guide – you’ll receive descriptions, tutorials and video demonstrations of the primary boxing techniques. That article has been designed and produced by boxers to enable the complete beginner to obtain basic pugilistic proficiency.

But what is boxing fitness?

Stated simply, boxing fitness (or ‘ring fitness’) is a level of fitness that enables an amateur or professional boxer to last a specific number of rounds. In pre-fight training, the amateur must develop the requisite physicality to sustain a high-intensity boxing output for three two-minute rounds. And though this doesn’t sound like much, as any amateur will attest, it is still extremely exhausting.


Professional boxers, in contrast, can compete over either 6, 8, 10 or 12 rounds of 3 minutes. Working backwards, a 12-round competition is reserved for title fights. This is where the big names in the division fight for a world title belt.


Until the mid-1980s a title fight used to be fought over 15 rounds and in the early days of boxing, back when the likes of Jack Dempsey was crushing skulls, the number of rounds was not always stipulated. Boxers simply duked it out until one opponent was knocked unconscious or quit.


The longest recorded boxing match was between Andy Brown and Jack Burke (1893) which dragged on for an unbelievable 110 rounds, or 7 hours, 19 minutes! In contrast, today’s title fights are.

scheduled for 12 3-minute rounds, which equates to 36-minutes of boxing.

Professional bouts scheduled for 6, 8 or 10 rounds are non-title fights. Boxers who compete over these rounds have either recently turned professional or are competing for the opportunity to challenge a title holder. After ascending ‘the ranks’ and defeating other contenders, the boxer will be granted a ‘shot at the title’.


Cardio fitness

To sustain a high-intensity output, so as to remain competitive over the stipulated number of rounds, the boxer must develop a strong cardiovascular base. The two primary exercises that boxers use to improve their cardio fitness (and build strength in the legs) are skipping and running. Most boxers will begin their training day in true Rocky Balboa fashion: 5 am wake-up followed by a slow-paced run. Skipping is typically used as a pre-training warm-up exercise.


The training methods boxers use to improve their ring fitness have changed dramatically since the days when Max Baer was chewing rubber and splitting wood with an axe. Today elite-level boxers, in an attempt to get the edge over their opponent, freely make use of scientific training methodologies such as exercising at altitude, wearing hypoxic masks (which aims to simulate training at altitude), and completing personalised strength and conditioning programmes.


However, irrespective of the contemporary prize fighter’s exotic training preferences, their ability and success are built on traditional methods that are still used in amateur boxing gyms the world over. Such methods include jogging around your local park, participating in super simple bodyweight circuits, pad work and shadowboxing, punching a heavy bag, skipping, sprint training and other forms of high-intensity interval training.


As well as building boxing fitness these simple tried and tested training methods are available to almost anyone. Below is an outline of how you can use them as part of your exercise regime.


How to develop boxing fitness

How to improve your boxing fitness banner.

As with any fitness or sporting discipline, there is a range of basic skills that first need to be developed before you can fully participate and get the most out of training. However, the small initial investment required to obtain the rudimentary skills is well worth it for the huge payoff in improved performance and proficiency.


After you’ve purchased yourself a home boxing set-up (or plucked up the courage to attend your local club), you’ll be able to incorporate regular boxing training into your general fitness regime. To forge boxing fitness and develop the basic skills required to maximise your training input will require at the very least one session per week.


Of course, participation is made easier if you have a punch bag in your garage or home gym. However, in saying that, most commercial gyms have a bag hanging around somewhere and most amateur boxing clubs are open three days per week.


Once you’ve identified when and where you plan to participate in the sweet art of pugilism, it is important to fix the session into your calendar and stick to it. This is by far the most crucial stage of developing boxing fitness: for if you can’t maintain a consistent training regime your body will not adapt and your skills will not develop.


Assuming you have resolved on a minimum of one session per week (though two or three would be better), follow the training plan outline below and begin building your boxing fitness.


 

Boxing fitness session

Boxing fitness training quote.

Any good boxing session will contain four phases. They include:


Phase 1: Warm-up (shadowboxing and skipping)
Phase 2: Low-intensity technical work
Phase 3: Moderate- to high-intensity boxing training (bags/pads/sparring/boxing circuit)
Phase 4: Cool-down and stretch

In total, the four phases, which are explained in more detail below, span the duration of one hour and 30 minutes. However, depending on how much time you have available, this can be contracted.


Phase 1: Warm-up: for the warm-up a boxer will usually spend 10 minutes either whirring a rope or shadow boxing – or a combination of the two. As with any good warm-up, the intensity should increase until it peaks a minute prior to the initiation of the second phase.


Phase 2: Technical work: it is best (in my opinion) to practice technique whilst you are still fresh. For 10 to 20 minutes the boxer will drill movements over and over. Techniques are best practiced under the scrutinising and critical glare of a coach. If you don’t have such a luxury then you’ll have to settle for a mirror.


Phase 3: Boxing training (bags/pads/sparring/boxing circuit): this is the part of the session where the pugilist gets to work on their boxing fitness. But Phase 3 is not solely about fitness. It also affords the boxer the opportunity to let their fists fly in a controlled setting. And those skills that have been diligently and tirelessly drilled can be unleashed on a punching bag or pair of pads. This phase of the session may last for between 30 minutes and one hour – depending on the fitness and experience of the boxers.


Phase 4: Cool-down and stretch: after whipping up a lather of sweat it’s time to deescalate the heart rate and bring down the core temperature. Often this is achieved with 5 to 10 minutes of shadowboxing. Throughout this time duration, the boxer may progress through a whole-body stretch.


 

Boxing training session

Boxing fitness training motivation quote.

Below I have outlined the key phases of a general-purpose boxing fitness workout. By general purpose, I mean that the workout can improve whole-body fitness while offering you opportunities to improve your boxing skill set. In addition, I have included suggested training tasks and exercises.


Phase 1: 10-minute warm-up

For the first couple of minutes perform a series of mobility exercises. Rotate the shoulders, hips and ankles. Also, gently and under control complete a number of small jumps. This will prepare the ankles and tendons of the feet for skipping. Now for the remaining 8 minutes skip. Start off slow building the tempo as the time elapses.


Phase 2: 2 X 3-minute rounds of shadowboxing

It's good practice to shadowbox in front of a mirror. This will enable you to monitor your technique and make corrections. Focus on throwing controlled punches and concentrate on the quality of each strike. The tempo or intensity should be high enough so that you keep the warmth generated during the warm-up.


Phase 3: 10 X 3-minute rounds of bag work

Once you’ve wrapped your hands properly, gloved up and set a countdown timer, work the bag ensuring, again, to focus on technique and the execution of your punches. Remember, you shouldn’t mindlessly wail away on the bag like a Saturday night drunkard thinking he’s Muhamad Ali. Your work ethic should be high, and you should be sweating profusely, but you should still maintain composure over your pugilism.


Phase 4: 5-minute bodyweight AMRAP

After setting a 5-minute countdown on your training timer, you are to work through the following exercises performing ten repetitions on each before moving on:


1) Press-ups

2) Burpees

3) Plank (10 second count)

4) Hill climbers


Phase 5: 2 X 3-minute rounds of shadowboxing

Focus on throwing controlled punches and concentrate on the quality of your technique. The tempo or intensity should be high enough so that you keep the warmth generated during the warm-up.


Phase 6: 5-minute whole-body stretch

Follow the link for the Hungr4Fitness stretching plan >


 

Need more workouts?

Hungry4Fitness book of boxing fitness workouts.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando (and RMC vs. Royal Navy boxing champion), Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health, fitness and wellbeing coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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