Boxers have long been regarded as some of the fittest and toughest athletes out of all the various sports. Part of the reason for this is that their training is strict and intense. They also have to keep within certain body-weight limits. Traditionally, the training has only been available to people who actually wanted to fight in bouts and contests. This has changed in recent years, since engaging in fitness activities has become massively mainstream. There are places that offer all the training of boxing without having to be a contender in the ring on fight-night. Though you could do that too if you were to so choose.
How do I benefit from boxing training?
The discipline and dedication required to become great in any sport is very high. You don’t have to aspire to be the next Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali, but boxing training by its very nature pushes you close to your limit. It is not easy to slack off during a training session, as having a trainer is part of the whole process. Their job is to push you harder, a bit like a drill sergeant in the army. The main benefit is that you get fitter very quickly after a few training sessions. You also gain a mental toughness, learn to punch properly (from working the bags), and gain a renewed sense of purpose.
Your heart is worked to an optimal level during sessions, keeping it strong.
Boxing training puts a large emphasis on cardiovascular training, as well as generating speed and power in your movements. You learn the proper form, fighting stance, various punches such as the jab, upper-cut, hook and straight punch. These techniques might give you confidence in situations where you need self defense, as a last resort, but at least you will not be helpless.
A lot of other exercise systems have borrowed heavily from boxing training. From cross-fit and boxercise to tae-bo, they all noticed how the various drills boosted cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength and endurance. These off-shoot training systems have been very popular, but why not go straight to the source and join a boxing gym? Many of them allow you to just come along and train.
Oh yeah, you can also develop a very good looking body with boxing training. Burning off excess fat and building muscle sculpts definition, like you were carved out of marble.
What type of exercises are done in boxing training?
Let’s go through several different boxing workouts and explain how they work.
- Shadow boxing.
You can use your shadow, a mirror or nothing at all. This is one of those wonderful “free” workouts that all you really need is yourself and nothing else.
The idea is that you use your shadow (or reflection, or imagined opponent) to kind of “spar” against. In reality you are just throwing punches and ducking and weaving in thin air. But you are moving and reacting as though you were in a real fight.
This is a great warm-up exercise for bag work.
This is really simulating a real fight, and sometimes sparring can reach the same intensity as an actual fight. You are basically boxing against another opponent in the ring. Usually not hitting as hard, but still measuring up against an actual human fighter. This is also an opportunity to work on specific techniques, which can be done by restricting what one of the sparring partners can do. For example “no head shots for you, only work on hitting the body.”
This workout might be a little too close to the real thing if you are only looking to use boxing training for fitness purposes.
- Weight training.
Lifting weights makes muscles stronger. That is a fact. Boxers use weight training to be able to hit harder and also to better absorb blows from their opponent. Everything from compound movements, to isolating certain muscles and muscle groups can be and is incorporated into boxing related weight training.
- Heavy bag.
This one is a classic. I don’t think there is a single boxing camp in history that did not use a heavy bag as part of its training regime.
A good heavy bag workout will leave anyone drenched in sweat and exhausted. It improves cardiovascular fitness, increases punching power, improves boxing technique as many different punches can be practiced on it. Also coordination, footwork and overall form are honed to high standards on the heavy bag.
- Jumping rope.
Boxers love to do this for the speed, coordination and aerobic fitness it gives them. It really works the muscles that keep you literally “on your toes” which is essential in boxing. It is also used to drop weight if needed for a specific weight class.
- Speed bag.
This really improves eye-hand coordination and hand speed. It takes a while to get competent at it but once a boxer can use the speed bag effectively it is quite impressive to watch. They may switch hands, change rhythm, change speed or even how hard they are hitting the ball for greater or lesser speed.
Mike Tyson used to get up at 4 am and go for long runs. He said he knew his opponent wasn’t doing that at that time, so he gained not only a fitness advantage, but a mental one as well. Of course boxers use running to build endurance and overall fitness. This workout is such a cross-over with other sports, but boxers are known to run a lot.
I hope that from reading this article you have been able to appreciate the work ethic and effort put forth by the world’s professional fighters. Even though you may never enter the ring in anger in your life, you would be unwise to ignore boxing drills as part of a fitness regime, no matter what sport you do.