What’s it all about?
Boxercise is an exercise class based on the training concepts boxers use to keep fit. Classes can take a variety of formats but a typical one may involve shadow-boxing, skipping, hitting pads, kicking punchbags, press-ups, shuttle-runs and sit-ups. Most boxercise classes are aimed at men and women of all ages and fitness standards. As no class involves the physical hitting of an opponent, it is a fun, challenging and safe workout.
What the expert says …
Clinton McKenzie is a former British and European boxing champion who runs boxing training classes from his gym in south London.
Boxing training is for everyone: Whatever your size, shape or sex. Remember, every boxer will have started from ground level, so anyone and everyone can work their way up to a good level of fitness: attend classes three times a week and you’ll be fit in three months; twice a week and it will take six months. Most people don’t know what to expect, so going to a real boxing gym is essential.
Release your aggression: Boxing training is a great way to do that, making you feel calm because all the aggression is very channelled and controlled. Even though there is no physical contact, it enables you to feel in control of your body and more confident about protecting yourself if you are required to.
Increase your discipline: Many people don’t appreciate that boxing training is about discipline, and it’s a great way to increase that in other areas of your life, too, such as drinking and eating. If everyone took up boxing training, we’d live in a fitter world and a better world, mentally and emotionally.
Focus energy and concentration: Training stimulates your mind and boosts your self-belief. It’s a great sport for overweight children, and it also helps build self-esteem and respect in young people who may be bullied or lack physical confidence – I work with children from the age of 10 and have seen first-hand how it can stop bullying.
Never gulp your water: Professional boxers sit down and sip their water after each round. If you apply this skill as you train, you won’t get a stitch.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? Not everyone can do that, and with boxing training you don’t have to – it’s about expressing yourself and being the best you can be.
Boxercise emerged in the UK in the early 1990s, and there are now thousands of boxing-style classes nationwide. Boxercise, body combat, boxfit and boxing fitness all have one thing in common – they are non-contact. Classes such as body combat and boxercise are generally taught by qualified aerobic and fitness instructors, and the class content is set to music and run from leisure centres and health clubs.
Many local boxing clubs now offer boxing style classes, too, taught by professional boxers and coaches. While these may be a little more hard-core, you’ll get more of an authentic experience. There is no central organisation for these classes, so look online or in your local directory. Prices vary, but generally start from around pounds 5 for a single class, up to pounds 75 a month for unlimited classes with professional boxers. Each class will involve a warm-up and cool-down, with a series of boxing drills and skills. The class will challenge your aerobic stamina with constant moving exercises, plus the short, sharp exercises, such as punchballing, that train your anaerobic energy systems. If you are not used to doing explosive, short-burst activity, expect to be challenged.
Find out more
The Boxercise organisation offers manuals and personal training DVDs. For novices, Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo DVD series, which combines boxing skills, dance moves and martial arts, is very popular and accessible for those keen to try it at home. There’s no specific magazine for boxing training, but if you want to get in the know about the boxing world as you practise your moves, read Boxing News. For inspirational bedtime reading, look up Workouts From Boxing’s Greatest Champs: Get In Shape With Muhammad Ali, Fernando Vargas, Roy Jones Jr And Other Legends, by Gary Todd, and Boxing Fitness: A Guide To Get Fighting Fit, by Ian Oliver.
Silk shorts and flashy robes are not required, but you will need a pair of trainers, leggings or shorts and a light, loose top. Boxing gloves, punchbags and skipping ropes are generally supplied.
It’s addictive: Instructors often report over-training by boxing fans because they enjoy it so much, so keep it in perspective and build up slowly. Three or four times a week is quite enough.
Sore knuckles: Hand injuries are the biggest risk in boxing because there are so many small bones. Knuckles need to be wrapped up when punchbagging to avoid bruising and scraping.
Shin splints: This is a common injury, where muscles at the front of the leg are injured or inflamed by skipping. Use shin supports (from sports shops) and wear good trainers.
Protect your thumbs: These are vulnerable to strains and dislocation; learn to strap effectively, and if wearing gloves, tuck your thumbs in.
Increases mental agility: Sports behavioural studies have shown that the training techniques adopted by boxers using punchbags and sparring lead to superior decision-making skills
Improves hand- eye coordination:… on both the left and right side of the body. Unlike asymmetrical sports such as tennis and golf, your body improves evenly on both sides, reducing postural misalignment
Increases stamina: Research from the Indian Journal of Medicine has estimated that boxing is 70%-80% anaerobic (high-intensity) and 20%-30% aerobic; training increases stamina in heart and lungs
Raises core strength: To take a punch and hold your balance, your abdominals need to be strong and toned – this strong core stability can reduce the risk of back pain and improve posture
Strengthens muscles: Boxing improves muscle strength used in everyday activities, as well as the ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres required for shorter, more explosive movements