A boxer’s toned shoulders, sculpted arms and six-pack abdominals come at a price many women don’t want to pay -- getting punched. Fortunately, you don’t have to endure that kind of pain to enjoy the other physical gains. You can adopt the physical conditioning program fighters use to lose weight and get in shape for the ring without hitting, or getting hit by, another person.
You could start boxing by hanging a punching bag in your basement and attacking it, but there are other ways to get the benefits you seek. Investigate boxing gyms or boxing classes at a regular gym. A boxing gym may offer fitness programs that don’t require physical contact. You also could choose to train like a real fighter, sparing and picking up matches. Boxing fitness classes use many boxing tools, such as jump ropes, gloves and punching bags, but ban the physical contact. You can even buy books and follow-along DVDs for home training.
Your weight loss and conditioning gains from a boxing program will come from two sources. You will add lean, fat-burning muscle to your body from strength training and you will burn calories from aerobic conditioning. Some of the boxing drills will also boost your agility and coordination. But exercise alone won’t do for weight loss. You will also need a nutritious, low-calorie diet. You will also need to stay hydrated during the workout and throughout the day and get plenty of sleep for muscle recovery.
Boxing programs emphasize functional, body-weight training to tone and sculpt upper-body and lower-body muscles and build a strong core. Expect to perform a lot of air squats and lunges, pushups from the traditional, wide-hand and narrow-hand positions and an array of abdominal exercises such as crunches, leg raises and bicycles. Some instructors might throw in light dumbbells, resistance bands and tubing for extra sculpting. Advanced programs may use pullup bars for additional arm and back strengthening and plyometrics, exercises based on explosive movements such as broad jumps, to build speed and power.
Throwing punches works the entire body. A powerful strike comes from rotating your hips, back and shoulders and transferring the power to your arms. As you throw jabs, crosses, upper cuts and hooks, you will also tone and condition your legs and torso. For aerobic exercise, most classes involve shadow boxing drills, which entails punching the air while moving like a fighter. You may work with heavy bags, speed bags, target mitts and pads, which also adds to your strength training and cardio.
Boxers need great cardiovascular conditioning to stay on their feet for 10 rounds. In a boxing class, you can expect a relatively high-impact aerobic workout, often using a jump rope, running in place and jumping jacks. Continuous shadow boxing provides a high-intensity but low-impact aerobic program. In a well-structured boxing class, you will be moving most of the time, crossing back and forth over the aerobic threshold from the intensity of calisthenics to striking to jumping rope -- much like circuit training. That’s what makes the program effective for weight loss.
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.