You don’t have to be Floyd Mayweather Jr. to be good at boxing. In fact, according Alberto Ortiz, founder and owner of New York City’s Work Train Fight boxing gym, all you need to be able to do is lift your arms.
“When I first opened my gym in 2009, there was a stigma about boxing,” he says. “People thought it was all Rocky or Muhammad Ali. I had to convince them that boxing is more than getting punched in face—it’s a complete, total-body workout.”
Another common misconception is that boxing is primarily an arm workout. Sure, you’ll shred your tris and bis, but Ortiz says you’ll actually be targeting more of your core and legs. “You’re working your obliques because you’re crunching to the sides and twisting,” he says. “And you’re constantly bending from the hips and bouncing on your toes, which uses your quads, hamstrings, and calves.”
Not only is boxing a physical workout, but it’s also a mental challenge. “You have to be extremely present and focused,” says Ortiz. “When you’re focused on hitting the mitts with your trainer, you leave all of your relationship and work problems behind.”
Ready to jump in the ring, zone out, and tone up? Add this boxing-inspired warm-up and workout to your weekly routine and soon you’ll find yourself in fighting shape.
This total-body cardio warm-up takes three minutes—as long as a professional boxing round. Before you get started, practice the boxing stance: Keeping your knees slightly bent and your fists just below your chin, turn your body about forty-five degrees to the right and take a step back with your right foot. (If you’re left-handed, switch sides and put your left foot behind your right.) That’s your starting position.
0:00 – 0:30 seconds
Starting in the boxing stance, squat slightly and twist your body to the left while pivoting your right foot. As you turn, bring your right arm and fist up, toward your target. Then pull your elbow back and reassume the boxing stance. Next, throw a left uppercut: Keeping your knees slightly bent, pivot to the left with your right foot while twisting your body to the left. Then, keeping your weight forward, twist back to the right toward your target while bringing your left arm and fist up. Repeat the movements, alternating between them, for 30 seconds.
0:30 – 1:00 minute
Starting in your boxing stance, throw a jab: Extend your left arm, twisting your palm toward the floor, and step forward with your left leg. Next, bring your left arm back to the starting position near your chin while stepping back with your left leg.
To throw a straight cross, assume your boxing stance, with your knees slightly bent and your body turned slightly to the right. Shifting your weight forward onto your left foot, pivot your right foot, hip, and shoulder, and extend your right hand, palm toward the floor. Pull back quickly, into the starting position. Do 30 seconds of jab-crosses.
1:00 – 1:30 minutes
Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Instead of rising to your starting position, jump up so that your feet leave the floor. That’s one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds.
1:30 – 2:00 minutes
Do 30 seconds more of jab-crosses.
2:00 – 3:00 minutes
Combine all the movements into one freestyle routine, throwing jabs, crosses, and right- and left-uppercuts.
Training for a sport isn’t the same as logging a sweat session at the gym. “If you’re boxing, it’s not about burning calories or fat—it’s about getting good at the movements and building a skill,” says Ortiz. “It brings you back to when you were a kid, when you wanted to be a baseball player or a ballerina.” With that in mind, add some or all of these exercises to your next workout routine for an added punch. Complete 8-10 reps of each.
Boxing requires a lot of twisting, which engages your entire core. But the ducking, weaving, and dropping are especially good at targeting your oblique muscles.
1. Sit on a mat with your knees bent and your torso elevated (your back should form a 45-degree angle with the floor). That’s the starting position.
2. Holding a medicine ball in front of your chest with both hands, twist your body to the right, then back to the starting position. Repeat on the left side. That’s one rep.
In boxing, speed is key. Perform these squats quickly to target your quads, get your heart pumping, and dodge your opponent’s mean right hook.
1. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees and sink down until your thighs are roughly parallel with the ground.
2. Next, quickly spring up, into the starting position. That’s one rep.
Lateral Band Walks
Boxers have to shuffle, bounce, pivot, and more. Lateral band walks will strengthen your legs and hips.
1. Place a resistance band around both legs, just below your knees. With soft knees, step to the right for 10 paces.
2. Side step your way back to where you started, leading with your left leg.
Straight Punches With Dumbbells
Strengthen your shoulders and arms—and build up a powerful one-two punch, with dumbbell punches. (Bonus: You can also do weighted dumbbell uppercuts.)
1. Holding a pair of dumbbells in each hand, slowly extend your right arm—like you’re throwing a punch—while twisting your wrist so the dumbbell turns towards the ground.
2. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left arm. That’s one rep.
Strong core = strong boxing stance. This exercise targets your abdominals, with a little extra emphasis on the all-important obliques.
1. Lie on the floor with your arms behind your head and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Next, keeping your core braced, raise your torso and slowly rotate it to the right.
2. Return to the starting position, then repeat the movement, this time rotating your torso to the left. That’s one rep.
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