A complete workout for strength, cardio and brain
The images of boxing in popular culture — from icons like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman to classic movies like Raging Bull and Rocky — are strong, powerful and, often, brutal and bloody. But outside of the ring, fitness boxing is an increasingly popular form of exercise. The bonus: In fitness boxing no one gets hit, making it a safe and effective workout.
Boxing provides a surprisingly complete workout, incorporating movements that increase strength and cardiovascular fitness. A typical workout includes jumping rope as a cardiovascular warm-up, followed by shadow boxing (throwing punches without an opponent) or boxing with a heavy bag, rotating through a full range of punch combinations.
“Boxing is a full-body sport, and that’s probably the best benefit in having boxing as your fitness choice,” says Jessica McCaskill, unified super lightweight world champion and fitness boxing coach at Body Shot Boxing Club in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. “You’re going to throw punches through your feet, twisting with your hips, throwing with your back and also your hands and your arms. It’s going to be a full-body workout.”
Mind and body
Fitness boxing also holds many benefits for the mind. The constant movement, focused breathing, hand-eye coordination and attention to punch combinations leaves little room to think about anything else. The routines increase concentration and focus. By working through muscle tension, it can be a great stress reliever as well. Also, the cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that trigger a feel-good response in the brain.
Fitness boxing classes for people with Parkinson’s disease take advantage of boxing’s mind-body connection. The repetition of movements and punches “can establish a reconnection between the brain and the muscles, since they’re losing that connection with Parkinson’s,” says John Winogrocki, coach at Rock Steady Boxing Windy City in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. “Simultaneously learning to protect yourself and going from defense to offense is a puzzle that your brain has to work out and is quite fascinating.”