As shown on TV, boxing looks like a brutal sport, and it absolutely is.
The entire objective is to land as many blows to your opponent as you can as hard as you can to fell them before they fell you.
Physical dominance IS the point.
But boxing doesn’t have to be competitive.
A lot of aspects of boxing, from the punches to the footwork, can help improve your health and physicality in a myriad of ways.
And you don’t need a fearsome opponent to train.
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What is boxing?
Boxing is a combat sport in which only punches are allowed.
As a sport, it is a contest between two opponents in which the goal is to knock your opponent down, render them incapable of standing, or score the most points.
When done solo or in controlled sparring, boxing is also a fitness activity that involves rapid footwork and punching.
Benefits of Boxing
When it comes to fitness, boxing largely tests (and enhances) quickness, power, and agility.
The benefits of boxing for those who develop (and stick to) a routine include –
- Improved functional strength (mainly upper-body and core, but some lower-body)
- Improved power
- Improved hand-eye coordination
- Improved flexibility
- Improved agility
- Improved balance
- Improved posture
- Improved heart health (including lower blood pressure)
- Improved respiratory rates
- Improved endurance
- Improved sleep
- Enhanced immune response
- Weight loss
- Pain relief
- Improved joint health
- Improved cognition (especially quick-thinking)
- Increased alertness
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced depression
- Improved overall mental health
The agility and rapid pace of boxing has also been shown to reduce falls in older people, people with Parkinson’s disease, and people rehabilitating after a stroke.
Benefits of Boxing for Females
While the benefits of boxing are mostly the same for everyone, boxing provides one additional benefit for women worthy of mention.
Both strength training and anaerobic exercise are great hormone regulators, and boxing is both. (Boxing also provides aerobic exercise, but to a lesser degree.)
This can be especially essential to women, who experience more extreme hormonal fluctuations than men.
Boxing can lessen the extremes of your monthly cycle as well as prove an effective (all-natural, substance-free) hormone regulator throughout menopause.
Is boxing dangerous?
As a sport? Yes. Very.
Multiple studies have shown that repeated blows to the head from boxing not only damages the brain over time, leading many boxers to develop a neurodegenerative condition known as “punch-drunk syndrome” years after their first match, but has more immediate effects as well.
A study at the University of Stirling from 2019 found boxers’ routine sparring leads to short-term brain impairments, including decreased memory and brain-body communication.
You simply can’t take too many hits to the head without your brain suffering the impact.
Fitness boxing, however, removes the danger aspect from boxing.
The best thing about a punching bag is that it doesn’t punch you back.
Is boxing hard?
Boxing as a sport is hard. It requires rapid footwork, leaning and dodging, and powerful hits to do it well.
It also requires substantial endurance.
When it comes to fitness, boxing isn’t nearly as difficult.
Though it does still share some aspects of competitive boxing.
To perform fitness boxing at a level where you get the best workout, you will still need plenty of strength and endurance, but you will also develop those things over time from boxing.
Is boxing hard to learn?
No. Boxing for fitness is largely about patterns – where to place your hands, where to place your feet, when to lean, when to duck.
For most people, it’s not particularly hard to learn or repeat these patterns.
The challenge is doing them well and increasing your pace.
How long does it take to learn boxing?
There are only four basic punches in boxing – the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut, which can be thrown in a variety of combinations.
But there is also a considerable amount of footwork.
Most people can learn to throw solid punches while moving on their feet and maintaining proper form within a couple of months (with regular workouts of about an hour a day, two to three days per week).
But when you are boxing for fitness, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.
You’ll start making progress with your health and movement from day one.
How often should I train at boxing?
To make steady progress with your boxing, and help train your muscles for automatic response, you should train two to three times per week.
Can you box everyday?
Though it looks heavy-duty (and is when you’re getting punched in the face), boxing is actually a low-impact activity.
This is due mainly to the fact you are moving your body in natural ways (even a punch is a basic arm movement) and it doesn’t involve much weight-bearing (just your usual body weight) or jarring.
Due to the low-impact, when you first start learning to box (basic punches, basic footwork) you can practice every day.
Just pay close attention to your upper back and shoulders, which are the most likely areas to first develop pain if you’re overtraining.
Once you start to really work with a heavy bag though (throwing punches with oomph), you need to cut back some.
The resistance of a heavy bag creates a different dynamic for your muscles, forcing them to exert greater effort.
Like any strength training, the work involved in throwing a hard punch can cause micro-tears to your muscles that take time to heal.
Punching a heavy bag can also cause soreness and bruising to the hands (even with gloves).
If you are fitness boxing with a heavy bag, you should only box two to three times per week with a day of rest between.
How often do boxers train?
Leading up to a match, pro boxers train 5-6 days a week.
However, they reduce their training in the week or two leading up to a match to give their bodies a chance to recover.
Is boxing a good workout?
Boxing is an excellent workout.
It has aerobic, anaerobic, cardio, and strength-building aspects, all while remaining low-impact.
While boxing provides a more intense workout if you are sparring with a partner than it does if you are punching and shuffling on your own, you can still get a very good workout with a heavy bag or even by punching the air.
Is boxing good for losing weight?
Boxing at a rapid pace is a great calorie-burner and an excellent way to lose weight.
Calories Burned Boxing
It is estimated a 150-lb. person will burn roughly 13 cal./min. while fitness boxing (that’s 800 calories per hour!).
This puts boxing in line with intense calorie burners like HIIT and cross-fit. (This number is representative of a boxing class which closely simulates an actual sparring match and keeps up the pace.)
Even alone with a heavy bag, though, you can still work off the pounds.
It is estimated a 150-lb. person burns 7 cal./min. punching a heavy bag, or over 400 calories per hour.
Does boxing burn fat?
The close relationship of boxing to other HIIT exercises makes it an excellent fat-burner.
Does boxing build muscle?
Despite it being a full-body workout and requiring intense power, boxing is not a great muscle-builder on its own.
It does build some (mostly in your shoulders), but it’s far more effective at strengthening and toning muscles to make them more visible.
The reason boxing doesn’t build much muscle is because it is low weight-bearing and offers only occasional resistance.
Since resistance is key, you’ll actually build more muscle punching a heavy bag than an opponent.
Muscles Used In Boxing
Just because it doesn’t make them grow all that much doesn’t mean boxing isn’t putting your muscles to work.
What you don’t gain in bulk, you will gain in strength and power.
For more on the muscles used in boxing (specifically with a heavy bag) see Does a Punching Bag Build Muscle?
Boxing for Beginners
When you’re ready to start boxing, you have a couple of main options, depending on your goals and personal preferences.
These options are:
- Learn to box at home on your own.
- Find a nearby boxing gym.
Boxing for Beginners at Home
Training at home is a perfectly reasonable method of learning to box if your goal is solely to box for fitness.
Videos are sufficient for learning the basic punches and footwork that are used in boxing, and provide fairly decent guidance when it comes to form and movement. (For help getting started, see our top picks in Boxing Workout Videos.)
Even fitness boxing video games (the ones where you actually stand up and perform each movement) provide some useful guidance when it comes to boxing moves and technique.
As with any sport or exercise you learn on your own, the major concerns are overexertion and improper form.
These two things together lead to the vast majority of injuries while exercising.
So, be vigilant about choosing videos that provide high-quality instruction (again, see Boxing Workout Videos to help you get started) and always listen to your body.
Boxing at a Boxing Gym
If you really want quality boxing instruction (or have any intention of sparring with another person), you should skip the home workouts and head to a boxing gym.
Boxing gyms offer several benefits for beginner boxers.
The first major benefit of a boxing gym is that it gives you access to equipment like heavy bags and speed bags so you can try them out without having to eat those expenses yourself.
The second major benefit of a boxing gym is the high-quality training you’ll receive from qualified instructors.
The third major benefit of a boxing gym is that it will give you access to sparring partners if you want to take your fitness boxing to the next level.
Boxing Classes for Beginners
If you do choose to go the boxing gym route with your boxing, you have a couple of options when it comes to boxing training for beginners.
Boxing gyms typically offer one-on-one training sessions and group classes.
Classes are less costly and teach you the same basic techniques, which make them ideal for those boxing solely for fitness.
If you are worried about having to spar if you go to a boxing gym, don’t.
Sparring isn’t part of most beginner boxing classes (at many boxing gyms, it’s a completely separate class) and you won’t be alone.
Many people train years in boxing gyms without ever sparring. It’s always optional.
Boxing Equipment for Home
If you do decide to start boxing at home, you don’t really need any equipment to get started.
In fact, as long as you box solely for the cardio and aerobic/anaerobic benefits, you never really need equipment to box.
The rapid footwork and arm movements of boxing are a good workout even if you only punch at the air.
As you start to advance in your training, though, you may want some equipment, such as a heavy bag or speed bag, wraps (or sleeves), gloves, and boots.
These things will add resistance to your training and a new dynamic to your workouts.
If you want to add a heavy bag (which provides the most resistance) to your fitness boxing routine, see our heavy bag guides:
- Stay Fit With a Good Punching Bag for Home Workouts
- 4 Ways to Hang a Punching Bag (The Right Way)
- How to Use a Punching Bag Without Hanging It
- Can You Use A Tree To Take Your Punching Bag Workouts Outside?
If you want to work on your quickness, it’s a speed bag you’ll prefer.
For help getting started with a speed bag, see our guides:
Boxing Equipment for the Boxing Gym
As already mentioned, one of the nice things about a boxing gym is that it provides equipment.
This includes gloves and wraps (or sleeves), which you’ll need to start safely swinging at a heavy bag.
Before you go all in on that gym-provided protective gear, though, you might want to keep in mind how many people have used it before you.
While you can expect equipment at a boxing gym to be good quality and well-tended, you can’t expect it to be as clean and fresh as you might like.
If you think stinky used equipment will affect your experience, you should consider buying your own gloves and wraps (sleeves/glove wraps) before you go.
The good news is casual boxing gear is fairly inexpensive.
You can often get all the protective hand gear you need (for fitness-level boxing) for around $50.
To get started, here are a few (fairly inexpensive) boxing gloves we like for beginners:
Some wraps/sleeves/glove wraps we like:
Note: You don’t need wraps AND sleeves. One or the other is all that will fit under your boxing gloves.
If you prefer a sleeve/glove wrap, make sure you get one with good support for the wrists. S
leeves/glove wraps are sufficient for most gentle boxing, but don’t provide as much wrist support as traditional wraps.
If you want to throw powerful punches at a heavy bag (or person), get wraps.
If you’ve ever watched a boxing match, you’ve seen the traditional uniform – loose shorts well-fitted at the waist, shirts optional. (Women typically wear solid compression sports bras with good coverage, like this one from Title – Title Boxing Women’s Sports Bra.)
At the boxing gym, you will see many people in this same uniform – shorts and no shirt or just a sports bra – but you have other options as well.
Good clothing for a boxing class or your first day at a boxing gym include:
- Shorts (either snugly or loosely fitted, as long as you can easily move in them)
- Leggings (shorter leggings are ideal because you will get warm quickly)
- Tank tops (with thicker straps that will stay in place while throwing punches)
- T-shirts (snug or loose, as long as they don’t impede arm movement)
- Flat shoes, like Converse or trainers, that allow you to better feel the floor and have more bend at the soles
Do I need boxing shoes?
You don’t need boxing-specific shoes to get started at a boxing gym or with boxing classes, but boxing shoes do have some advantages.
Boxing shoes (or boots) are designed to flatten the feet, protect the ankles, and provide maximum flexibility.
They are also pricey and not necessary when first learning to box.
Despite its visibly violent nature, boxing is more than just trying to put an opponent on the floor.
It’s a full-body exercise requiring stamina, agility, and an ability to think on your feet.
Boxing is aerobic, anaerobic, cardio, and strength training all rolled into one, an excellent-fat burner, and has been shown to improve hand-eye coordination, balance, mental health, and self-esteem.
Basically, it’s a great overall exercise, good for both the body and the mind, and you don’t have to be willing to take a punch to the head to do it.
Need some inspiration before you head to the boxing gym? Check out Boxing Quotes for Inspiration.
Want more yuks with your boxing content? Check out Boxing Puns.