Boxing Workouts: These Exercises Will Change Your Game
3… 2… 1… K.O.
*ding ding ding*
Yeah, those are the last words any boxer wants to hear. Big, scary, defeating words. We understand how that feels, and that’s why today we’re going to help you avoid ever hearing them. The best defense, as they say – is offense. And to avoid getting knocked-out, you’ll need to improve your game and become as good as boxing as humanly possible. And to achieve that, in turn, you’ll need to know the right boxing exercises.
First off, there is no “magical secret exercise” that will suddenly improve your boxing skills. Life is not like the movies, where an afternoon of jogging in the sunset will make you gain an edge on your competition. Or where breaking bricks with your fists on your sparring partner’s six-packs will make you the next Muhammad Ali. Most of the time, the best exercises are the most dull exercises. But excel at these – and you’ll become a good boxer with effort and time. That being said, here are the best boxing workouts according to us!
We’ll start simple, but simple doesn’t mean useless. Rope jumping is an exercise that acts like a necessary foundation for all the other exercises. When building a house, the foundation is the key surface on top of which everything else rests – pillars, walls, floors, roofs, furniture – you. If you have a shaky foundation, a weak foundation, or an inconsistent one – your entire house will tear down, sooner or later. And neither you nor we want that.
To be sure, legs are your foundation. Jumprope is one of the best exercises for full-body conditioning – besides routinely used in boxing training, it is also used in a variety of other sports disciplines. It will gradually build your stamina to insane levels, while at the same time increasing your muscle efficiency and adding lean muscle mass to your legs. You’ll be in sore need of this when in the boxing ring and taking hard punches! Strong legs and quick reflexes will keep you stable and grounded and able to withstand an attack, opening the opportunity for you to strike back at the opponent.
But your legs isn’t the only thing being worked on here – jumping rope also engages your arms, shoulders, backs, even abdomen. It will help you learn rhythm, and learn your body. In the beginning, jumprope is usually very intense – most novices can’t last more than two minutes of jumping. This is natural and understandable. But in time, you’ll learn to time your jumps and precisely which muscles to activate and when, which will make you much more efficient and enduring. Your body will thank you, and your boxing partners will have a worthy opponent on their hands.
If jumprope was simple, this is a degree more complex, but still not difficult. Basically, as you probably already know, shadowboxing is simulating a boxing match against an imaginary opponent – but without all the downsides from it. You won’t get hit. You won’t have to wait them out for a minute or more to actually engage. The opponent is all in your head – and exactly this is the advantage of shadowboxing. Like a video game, you can make your opponent tougher or easier, slower or faster, stronger or weaker. Shorter or taller. It depends. This, practically endless customizability allows you to perform any move you want at any speed you want, against any opponent you want.
People often underestimate shadowboxing as being too mental, or unnecessary. But shadowboxing can really push your limits if you are intent on pushing your limits. Just because your opponent is imaginary doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t react to it. It’s very physical, you move around, hop, practice legwork, practice evading and punching and counterpunching. It may not fill you with adrenaline from really punching a heavy bag, but it can really get you pumped against that imaginary Rocky Marciano inside your head. Excel at shadowboxing – and you’ll excel in the ring. Reality can’t match what your mind can throw at you, so give shadowboxing your time of day and be prepared.
Speaking of shadowboxing, let’s move on to the real thing. Now, of course, sparring can’t really push you (at least not mentally) as those imaginary opponents in shadowboxing can. But sparring has one thing that shadowboxing doesn’t – real people. Who land some real punches, that dish out some real hurt and punishment. Fear sets in here. While you and your sparring partner may still be the best of friends, the point of sparring is to actually fight a little. And even the most innocent of punches can cut your face, launch a tooth out of your mouth or do some plastic surgery on that pretty nose of yours.
So, besides fear, of course, there’s the excitement! Your opponent is real. And sparring is the exercise where you can actually employ, in practice, everything you’ve practiced on your own before. It’s in the boxing ring, so it’s time for some real boxing, and a real test of your boxing skills. Every muscle will be engaged, your mind will be working overtime to predict, move your body and focus, and needless to say, this can be exhausting. You’ll be swinging at the air a lot of times, you’ll get hit. Your legs will tire because you won’t be the master of all of your movements – a dodge can be countered by your partner, a balancing movement can be cut short. Your breathing will be put to the test. This is boxing. What did you expect?
But, no worries. Sparring, while intense, can be lots of fun and even relaxing. The best strategy is to do it more often, but in shorter bursts. For example, you can have a bit of sparring as a warm-up, then do other exercises. Then do another session of sparring, this time a bit more intense one. Then go back to other workouts. Finally, do one more final session of sparring, a more relaxing one, a more technical one. Try to agree with your partner on practicing some tactics and combos. Once you get all those moves coded in your muscle memory, you’ll be ready for a match, because your body will know them.
#4 MITTS / FOCUS PADS
Basically, padwork is a combo of shadowboxing and sparring. Working with the mitts (or doing padwork, as it’s also called) can be compared to sparring – but without the pain. Okay, just a little bit of pain maybe. On your hands, if you punch too hard! But anyways, the point with doing padwork is actually developing coordination and focus. That’s why they’re also called focus pads.
While doing padwork, you will either be on the defense or the offense, depending how you decided with your partner. If you’re the one having the gloves on, and the partner wearing the focus pads, then you’re into an excellent exercise honing your focus and precision. The point of padwork being always precisely hitting the mitts of your partner, and them moving around – you can sort of “chase” the targets and try to hit them. This develops your focus and accuracy.
On the flipside, if you’re the one having the mitts on, they padwork is excellent for developing some catlike defensive reflexes. Ever seen how a cat lashes out with their paw? Sometimes they do a flurry of fast swats with their paws, one over the other, like boxers. (Boxer cats FTW!) So if you’re wearing the mitts on, you’ll be that cat, and your partner will be the annoying human. The point is you’ll have to anticipate and counter all of your opponent’s strikes. Useful? You bet. So useful that evolution included as an instinct into lions and cats (of all sizes). So, if you want to be king at defense, get yourself out there and do some padwork!
#5 DOUBLE-END BAG
It’s all in the name people. It’ called double-end(ed) because it’s attached to both the ceiling and the floor. You’ve seen this. A small, nasty bag stretched on a rope from top to bottom. Hit it, and it hits right back. But this is exactly the point of double-end bags – to be nasty. Fast. Dangerous. Responsive.
Being a mix between the speed bag and the heavy bag, the double-end bag can be your perfect bag to practice on. While the heavy bag can be hard on your hands and too static, and the speed bag can be too predictable, the double-end bag is neither. It moves fast, it feels better on your hands, and it is much more intense than slapping a speed bag. A double-bag can actually launch itself at your face with a much larger range than a speed bag.
Hitting a double-end bag develops your reflexes, timing, speed and strategies. These bags react very fast and have a great range, so prepare to duck or dodge every time you punch the bag. It comes as close to a living opponent as possible. Furthermore, the double-end bag is perfect for developing your chest and conditioning your arms and hands, and you can practice every combo imaginable on it. If you want to focus on a bag exercise – do it with a double-end bag. If you can. We dare you. Now go out there and change your game!