The at-home boxing workout for building knockout muscles
Tough. Bloody. Masculine. If this is your perception of boxing, think again.
A growing number of fitness enthusiasts, including Victoria’s Secret models like Gigi Hadid and Romee Strijd, are embracing boxing as a workout that burns calories, boosts agility and builds knockout muscles. Even if you're not up for classes, an at-home boxing workout is doable for almost anyone.
Like many, Kathleen Sharpe had a negative opinion of boxing. “It always seemed like such a male sport, one that can be brutal,” recalls Sharpe, the director of a nonprofit organization.
A new friendship with a female boxer—and seeing a boxing class that looked fun, yet tough—led Sharpe into the sport. She boxes once a week as part of her workout regimen and credits the sport for helping her build muscle and sustaining a 30-pound weight loss for 10 years.
“For me, boxing is all about aging well, staying strong and looking great,” says Sharpe.
Teddy Castela, owner and coach at a boxing and fitness gym, witnesses boxing’s impact on weight loss and muscle tone on a regular basis: one of his clients lost 40 pounds through fight preparation, thanks to the 350 to 450 calories boxing torches in a single workout. This whole-body workout also sustains a heart rate at 75 to 85 percent of maximum.
“Everybody associates boxing with hands, arms and upper body, but the punches come from the legs and the rotation—there’s a big core element to it,” explains Castela.
In the ring, boxers bob and weave out of their opponent’s reach. These intricate evasion tactics require balance and agility. To advance these skills, coaches use exercises including balance boards, agility ladders, skipping and footwork drills.
Boxers must also become adept at hitting a moving target, so coaches like Castela help boxers develop their hand-eye coordination, primarily through mitt work (a small target held by a partner used to practice punching combinations, mimicking the action in the ring).
“Once you get sparring, it’s very similar to hitting the mitts,” says Castela.
At Clancy’s Boxing Academy, managing director Kristina Ejem has seen boxers connect over the shared experience of learning a new sport.
Bonding also happens in the ring. “You’re bonded with these people for life because no one else can understand getting punched in the face every other day,” says Ejem.
Some trainers, like Lee Milne, who teaches at Anytime Fitness, focus on developing boxing technique. Others use boxing-inspired moves in cardio workouts that will have you punching, kicking and blocking your way to a serious calorie burn.
Ejem adds that, whether or not you’re learning technique, boxing is one of the quickest ways to get in shape. “It feels great to throw punches and use your body in a different way,” says Ejem.
While many clubs offer beginners’ and Boxfit classes, many also hold recreational workouts similar to a competitive boxer’s routine, with an emphasis on technique, and the option to spar.
Castela says the boxing club clientele are drawn to the competitive atmosphere of clubs where amateur and pro boxers train. Boxing clubs can also provide inspiration for recreational boxers.
“You can see [the] pushing themselves to that limit and see it’s possible,” says Castela.
Women are also establishing a presence—at Ejem’s club, the membership is 60 to 70 percent female.
Once you’re comfortable with the classes at a boxing club, you might want to try your hand at sparring. Applying the skills and strategies you’ve learned in class against an opponent can heighten your workout.
Castela says that members at his club often decide to spar after discovering it’s structured and not a “tough man competition.”
“With sparring, you’re working on your skills or some kind of technique,” says Castela. “Otherwise, no one’s learning anything, and we’re all just getting beat up.”
This boxing-inspired workout will help you sculpt lean muscles and torch major calories. With regular boxing workouts in the comfort of your home (or at the gym), you should look and feel like a champ.
This workout requires very little equipment—just grab a jump rope and some lightweight dumbbells. Do 1 set of each exercise; after completing them all, repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times.
Muscles worked: abs, lower back and shoulders
Stance for punching:
Muscles worked: cardiovascular focus; also works legs, arms and core
Do straight up and down jumps without stopping.
Muscles worked: cardiovascular focus; also works legs and arms
Muscles worked: shoulders and triceps
Muscles worked: pectorals and triceps
PHOTOS BY Scott Yavis