Many will tell you that the best way to get fit is by actually jumping in the deep end and going to a boxing class. However, if it’s been a few years since you’ve done much in the way of moderate to intense exercise then it can be a good idea to build up a certain level of strength and cardiovascular fitness in preparation.
Without question, boxing is a demanding sport physically. Having a reasonable level of cardiovascular fitness will enable you to get more out of classes. My boxing coach once told me “it doesn’t matter how technically great a boxer is, if he/she isn’t fit, then it’s useless”. In boxing, fitness truly is king. Here’s what you can do to get off to a great start:
- Skipping – if you haven’t skipped before then it will take a little while to perfect your timing and coordination. Skipping is almost always incorporated into boxing classes, whether as the warm up or at some point during cardio training. No one wants to be the person repeatedly tripping or slapping their shins with a speed rope, it will no doubt be really demotivating. By practicing some basic skipping beforehand you will be increasing sports specific fitness levels, improving your footwork by learning how to bounce and stay light on your feet with your heels off the ground and feel confident going into a class knowing that you can do some basic skipping.
- Road Work – I haven’t met anyone who enjoys going for a long, steady run but roadwork is a necessary evil for boxers. The distance and speed will be up to you depending on your current fitness levels but aiming for a distance of at least 3-4 miles at a reasonable pace should get you off to a good start.
- Interval Training – Boxing as a sport requires short bursts of high intensity followed by short rests. This can be seen as rounds between a fight and when increasing/decreasing intensity when on the heavy bag or sparring/fighting. One of the best ways in my experience is to sprint as fast as possible for 25 seconds, walk for 40 seconds and repeat. It doesn’t take long to feel the impact of this. When this becomes more comfortable, you can increase sprint time and potentially decrease the recovery period.
Upper body strength and stamina will help to make your punches stronger whilst helping you to keep your hands up for longer. You’ll understand the importance of keeping your hands up after a few rounds of sparring!
- Pull Ups – They work your entire upper body and are a quick way to identify your strength levels. Pull Up bars are in every park across the country so if you aren’t a member of a gym get yourself out there and see how you fare. I’ve trained with a lot of people who haven’t been able to do a single pull up when trying for the first time, should this happen, don’t let it put you off, keep trying and the results will come. Being able to do 10 repetitions and 3 sets of good quality pull ups could be something to aim for depending on current ability.
- Push Ups – No equipment required for this one! Push ups are a compound exercise, meaning they involve the use of more than one muscle group and joint. To do a push up your arms, shoulders, chest, back and abs are activated. No matter how strong you are, push ups should be a challenge when done correctly. A full military push up with chest touching the floor and arms then fully extended is a great way to get your upper body muscles working. If you’re just getting started then 50 push ups a day might be the way to go; if you can do this already then move the goal post to 100 or 200 repetitions, broken up into sets of 25 or 50.
- Sit Ups – Strong abs and core are an absolute must in boxing, whether you need abs of steel to take the sting out of a body shot or generate extra punching power, a strong core is key. There are countless abdominal exercises which we could cover here but to get the ball rolling for you, we’ll focus solely on sit ups. As with push ups, your limits will depend on your current level so work to your ability and be sure to push yourself a little bit further each time.
- Punching – Don’t worry if you’ve never boxed before, we’re not going for technique with this initially, your boxing coach will no doubt cover that. Punching a heavy bag is exhausting and there is nothing that I’m aware of that can replace this sport specific fitness. By putting everything you’ve got into the heavy bag means you won’t be as surprised at just how quickly you’re hitting your limits and feel ready to give in. If you’ve never punched a heavy bag before, don’t be surprised if a minute feels like a lifetime!
Boxing is a highly intensive form of exercise, so it can be a good idea to consult a doctor before getting started. This isn’t the usual disclaimer, we really mean it, particularly if it has been a long time since you took part in an intensive form of exercise.
I have countless friends who have been saying for years that they are going to start boxing or martial arts ‘when they’re fit’ inevitably they never seem to get fit enough in their minds to get started. My advice is to jump into a class as soon as you’ve hit a reasonable level of fitness. You will (almost certainly) never train as hard as you will do in a boxing class so if you want to see real gains in your strength, fitness, coordination, confidence and a great deal more then stepping into a boxing class or club is the way to go.
Lastly, most people assume that they’re walking into a lion’s den filled with pumped up, aggressive people all wanting to knock their head off. While you’ll probably get to know some of these over the years, the vast majority of people in boxing gyms are just like you, they just got started a few months or years earlier.