Strapping on headgear and hard leather gloves and stepping into the ring isn't for everyone, but you can learn a lot about overall health and fitness by watching amateur and professional boxers train. Whether you plan on boxing for cardio alone or hitting the pads and getting your hands dirty, boxing is a viable alternative exercise for those seeking a change in their workout routines.
Hopping on the treadmill can lose its appeal after a while. If you find yourself in a workout rut, boxing can inject some excitement into your routine without sacrificing health benefits. Shadow boxing and hitting the bags at the gym can help you burn between 350 and 600 calories per hour, depending on your weight and the pace you keep up. Plus, you won't be sporting a black eye on that pretty face when you go home.
Maybe hitting the bags isn't enough for you and you want to get in the ring and mix it up with an uncooperative sparring partner. If so, start small and work out with a qualified instructor who can show you the basics and hold pads for you. Once you're feeling confident, you can try out some sparring rounds. Sparring and competition increases the intensity of boxing significantly, burning more calories in the process. Boxers also supplement their combat training with jump rope and resistance exercises.
If you're looking to get the most out of a boxing workout without getting punched in the face, consider adding a shadow boxing routine into a rounded body-weight workout, including squats, lunges and jump rope. A 2011 study conducted by the University of Montreal found that high-intensity sparring and bag work required a high level of baseline fitness among amateur and professional boxers. Intense boxing workouts shouldn't be attempted by beginners.
Boxing competition comes with obvious risks, but even intense shadow boxing and bag work can cause injuries, especially when it comes to your shoulders. A 2007 study focusing on shoulder injuries sustained by West Point cadets found boxing to be the No. 1 cause of shoulder subluxations, usually as a result of missed punches. Always use protective equipment in the boxing gym, rest when you need it and don't underestimate the importance of quality technique. Consult your physician prior to beginning a boxing workout regimen to see if it's safe for you.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.