Boxing is a brutal, basic sport — and it can also serve as a brutal, basic workout to help you knock out your fitness goals.
Even when you don’t have gloves or an opponent, the principles of the “Sweet Science” can be applied to make you a more formidable athlete. And if you’re frustrated and you want to unleash some pent up aggression during your workout, there’s nothing better than grabbing some boxing gloves and whaling on a heavy bag.
Drilling for the sport can help to improve your cardio stamina, endurance, balance, and coordination. You’ll be working your upper body, lower body, and core, and the intense, fat-burning workouts can help to drop weight, too — plus you’ll be able to handle yourself better if someone starts swinging at you.
But it takes more than just effort and grit to make the most of a fighter’s fitness routine. You’re going to need to funnel that intensity into specific movements and drills to really begin to reap the benefits.
“A great boxer has to have focus, coordination, power, speed, and endurance,” Michael Olajide Jr., a former championship middleweight boxer, told me.
To help you hone your skills, we tapped some top fighters to act as your cornermen. Hit these workouts to improve your punching power — and you’ll have a new outlet to de-stress on even your most frustrating days. Just make sure you throw on some wraps or gloves before you attack the bag to keep your hands in good health.
Warm Up Like a Champ
Three-time welterweight champ Antonio “the Tijuana Tornado” Margarito suggests implementing a series of stretches to prime the muscles before hitting the ring.
Arm circles: Draw large circles with your arms, first in a forward motion, then backward.
Crossovers: Swing both arms out to your sides and then cross them in front of your chest.
Shoulder slumps: Tuck your chin toward your chest, drop your shoulders, and bring your chest slightly forward. Next, pull your shoulders back, raise your chin, and lift your chest while arching your back slightly.
Hip circles: With your hands on your hips, spread your feet beyond shoulder-width apart. Move your hips clockwise in a circle, then counterclockwise. Repeat with your arms extended out to your sides.
The Knockout Workouts
1. Fight Off the Shadows
Perfect your strikes on air with some shadowboxing. That way, you’ll know how to punch and string together punch combinations before you start pounding away at the bag.
Jab: A quick punch using your forward hand (left for righties, right for southpaws)
Cross: A punch across your body from the back hand (right for righties, left for southpaws)
Hook: A sweeping strike from across the body using either hand (not demonstrated above, but used in the other workouts below)
Uppercut: A punch upward using power from your hips to strike with either hand.
Start shadowboxing by stringing together punch combos for 30 seconds to one minute. For an extra challenge, hold 2.5 lb. or 5 lb. weights for the drill. Strike for 3 to 5 rounds, resting for a minute between each one.
2. The Golden Gloves Speed and Power Circuit
You’ll need more than just punches to get in fighting shape. Add a rope, slam ball, speed ladder, and box to push your conditioning up to the next level.
Perform 3 to 5 rounds, resting 2 minutes in between rounds
- Jump Rope: 60 seconds
- Overhead Ball Slam: 10 reps
- Ladder Drill: 60 seconds
- Box Jump: 10 reps
- Shadow Box: 90 seconds
3. UFC Power Punches
Whether you’re facing Wanderlei Silva in a cage match or a 75-pound bag in your basement, the same rules apply: “Once you’re warmed up, you should be throwing each punch at full blast,”. Use this demanding six-round routine to build mental and physical tenacity.
Grow your intensity: Clock each round at 3 minutes, resting 1 minute between rounds. With each round, you’ll add one punch to your sequence.
Punches per round:
- 1. Warmup. Strike the bag at 50 percent with a variety of punches
- 2. Up your power to full strength and launch jabs
- 3. Jab, throw a cross, and repeat
- 4. Jab, cross, hook, repeat
- 5. Jab, cross, hook, uppercut, repeat
6. Jab, cross, hook, uppercut, body punch, repeat
4. Punch and Pull
Use light dumbbells and a stretch band with a handle to balance out your strikes and build punching power with this drill.
Run through six cycles of the exercises described above to simulate three rounds of heavy boxing work.
5. Under the Line
Use a slack line for this workout, or just imagine one for the purposes of the drill. You’ll be shifting and squatting under the line, so a good stance is key.
Hold 2.5 lb. or 5 lb. weights and advance back and forth down the line for a minute straight, throwing crosses and left hooks. Then, rip through 30 air squats right away. Perform the whole series six times to mimic the action you might face during two 3-minute rounds in the ring.
6. Middleweight Lightning Hands
Shadowboxing allows you to rack up high reps without the resistance of a bag to slow your punches. “You’ll tone your shoulders, back, and core, which will help you throw faster punches”.
Hit on beat Play five songs that have strong rhythms and last 3 to 4 minutes each. On every fourth beat (count out loud to keep yourself on track), unleash one of the punch combinations below, and then bring your hands back to your starting stance before the next beat. The shifting tempo of some tracks may require you to punch continuously until the song slows.
Combos for each song:
- 1. Left jab, left jab, right cross
- 2. Right cross, left jab, right uppercut
- 3. Left body punch, right body punch, left uppercut
- 4. Right uppercut, right cross, left hook
- 5. Right cross, left hook, right hook