Updated: Jun 30, 2021
The benefits of boxing training
Boxing training is by far one of the best ways to develop whole-body fitness. A typical boxing workout consists of callisthenic (bodyweight exercises) circuits, cardiovascular training and pugilistic skills development.
Unlike orthodox forms of fitness training, such as gym training or a specific fitness discipline (such as cycling or running), boxing simultaneously develops multiple components of fitness. For example, in your average, run-of-the-mill boxing session you’ll train cardio, muscle strength and endurance, 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 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.
Other benefits of boxing 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
The truly great thing about boxing 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 enumerated above can be had by regularly engaging 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.
To start training like a boxer requires only four pieces of equipment: 1) a punch bag; 2) a pair of gloves; 3) 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 2-minute rounds. And though this doesn’t sound like much it is, as any amateur will attest, still very 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 weren’t always stipulated. Boxers simply duked it out until one opponent was KO’d or quit.
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 they 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’.
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: 5am wake-up followed by a slow-paced run. Skipping is typically used 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 the attempt to get the edge over their opponent, freely make use of scientific training methodologies such as exercising at altitude, wearing hypoxic masks (which is kind of like training at altitude), and completing personalised strength and conditioning programmes.
However, irrespective of the contemporary prize fighter’s exotic training predilections, 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 interval/resistance/HIIT 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
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. But the small initial investment required to obtain the rudimentary skills are 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 all amateur boxing clubs 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
Any good boxing session will contain four phases. They include:
Phase 1: Warm-up
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 1 hour 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 ad nauseum. 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 the imaginary opponent of a punch bag or pair of pads. This phase of the session may last for between 30 minutes and 1 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 achieved with 5 to 10 minutes of shadow boxing. Throughout this time duration the boxer may progress through a whole-body stretch.
Training session (1 hour 2-minutes)
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 shadow boxing (1-minute rest) – preferably in front of a mirror practice the techniques that you have learnt from this article. 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 3: 10 X 3-minute rounds of bag work (1-minute rest) – 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 of your pugilism.
Phase 4: 5-minute Calisthenics AMRAP – for 5 continuous minutes you are to work through the following exercises perform ten repetitions on each before moving on:
3) Plank (10 second count)
4) Hill climbers
Phase 5: 2 X 3-minute rounds of shadow box (1-minute rest) – preferably in front of a mirror practice the techniques that you have learnt from this article. 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.
Best boxing gear
Hand Wraps by Beast Gear (£9.99)
The advanced boxing hand wrap by Beast Gear is an excellent product. Made, as always, from quality materials these hand wraps are elasticated – a must! – and they’re 4.5 metres long, meaning you’ll be able to apply a hefty wrap which will reduce hand injuries.
Boxing Gloves by Beast Gear (£49.99)
Firstly, these gloves look awesome (in my opinion), and though it’s true only fools judge books by their covers, this pair of gloves live up to their looks. The Simian boxing mitt from Beast Gear are made from genuine cowhide leather which guarantees that they will last for years. Also, your knuckles are protected behind a multi-layered shield of premium quality padding thus reducing hand injuries. These are a perfect pair of general-purpose boxing gloves good for bag work, pad work and sparring.
Skipping rope by TechRise (£5.99)
The TechRise rope is excellent for both beginners and advanced boxers alike. Because it is made from lightweight materials it is not as physically taxing as heavier ropes thus enabling you to focus more on technique as opposed to fighting fatigue. Also, a lighter rope is more forgiving when you miss-time a jump and whip the side of your leg. In addition to being easy to handle, this rope is constructed from durable materials meaning it provide a faithful training companion for years.
Heavy Boxing Bag by RDX (£59.99)
RDX’s heavy boxing bag is ideal for a home boxing set-up. Its weight and size will enable you to maximise your boxing workouts (nothing worse than a light bag) without having to splash the cash on commercial gym-quality bag. The manufacturing quality of his bag has brought it a lot of lofty praise and it is one of the best rated products on the market. Thrown into the bargain you’ll receive hand wraps, a skipping rope, gloves, fixings and a key ring of a miniature boxing mitt.
Heavy Bag Stand by Century (£122)
Century offers one of the most reasonably priced heavy bag stands. Constructed from industrial-grade materials Century’s stand boasts a maximum bag weigh of 45kg. And though this may not sound like a particularly impressive load capacity, compared to ceiling hangers, it isn’t far off the upper maximum of the majority of floor stands – without paying through the roof. Other features include protruding pegs at the corner of each support. These pegs enable you to load weights (barbell discs) onto the stand so as to prevent it from moving around during ‘vigorous workouts’.
(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.