Boxing Fitness

hitting punching bag

Boxing can be a great fitness activity for individuals that want to perform cardiovascular exercises but are beginning to get bored with more traditional aerobic activities such as running, cycling, and aerobic classes. For individuals that meet this criteria, boxing just may be the aerobic activity you have been looking for. Individuals that wish to begin a boxing exercise routine must be flexible, have a good base level of strength, and be agile.

Getting started can be a bit pricey at around $140 (a heavy bag, hand wraps, gloves and a jump rope). Fortunately, the health and fitness benefits derived from regularly exercising under the guidelines of boxing easily offset the cost.

Much like martial arts and cycling, many people choose boxing for the benefits beyond physical fitness. Just as cycling can provide a means of transportation, boxing can provide a means of self defense, when necessary. A person weighing in at 180 pounds will typically burn 243 calories after 30 minutes of simply punching a heavy bag. That same person could burn up to 500 calories in 30 minutes once they have trained enough to enter the boxing ring.

The typical training session stimulates all muscle groups, and provides a great combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Many people training for boxing fitness also find it to be an excellent outlet for pent-up aggression and an effective stress reliever. Finally, boxing can provide a very direct means of competition between two people in a controlled environment, and an increased level of self-esteem and achievement.

Competitive Boxing

Boxing (also referred to as pugilism or Western boxing) is a full contact sport in which two people fight one another using only their fists. A round is an interval generally three minutes long, and rounds are linked into series to form a boxing match. These matches are officiated by a referee who ensures that fights adhere to the rules, and calls for the end of a fight due to a knock-out, unfair tactics, or the determination that one of the competitors cannot, or should not, continue.

A boxer is victorious when his/her opponent is unable to return to their feet after being knocked down before the referee counts off ten seconds. A match can also be stopped if the official deems a boxer too injured to continue boxing. If no boxer is knocked out or suffers major injuries, a board of judges or the referee determines the winner after the predetermined number of rounds has been completed.

In addition to other rules, boxers are not allowed to hit their opponent below the belt, hold, trip, push, bite, spit or wrestle. In fact, boxing shorts are higher than normal to give boxers a point of reference to the area below which they must not strike. A boxer must also not kick, head-butt, hit an opponent with any portion of his/her arm besides the knuckles of a closed fist, hit an opponent when he/she is facing away, or strike the kidneys.

Getting Started

boxing match

Begin training for boxing by procuring the necessary equipment and hiring a trainer. A professional boxing coach is necessary to ensure proper form and to facilitate the highest level of fitness while avoiding personal injury.

Training should always simulate an actual boxing match. Start with a five-minute warm-up by jumping rope. After the warm-up, practice punching the heavy bag with a combination of punches called jabs, straight punches, hooks and uppercuts.

A typical boxing workout will include three to five-minute rounds of continuous punch combinations with one-minute breaks between them. While punching the bag during the rounds, keep moving around the bag in a guarded position and return to the guarded position after every punch.

After every punch, or punch combination, the body should be weighted, balanced, and prepared to execute the next combination of punches. This training technique is repeated throughout the entirety of each of the three to five minute rounds.

As training progresses into the ring, more gear will be necessary such as a mouth guard, sparring gloves and a speed ball. Training with a professional will assist an individual in preparing to enter into the ring. Although many people like to work up to sparring and eventually boxing, there are vast health benefits associated with simply training with a heavy bag. Training for a boxing match without ever competing in the ring is an excellent cardiovascular activity that will produce several health and fitness benefits.

Sample Boxing Training Plan

The following is a boxing-specific workout plan designed to take five days and geared towards an intermediate fitness level.

Day 1: Biceps and Triceps

Day 2: Abdominals

Day 3: Legs

Day 4: Chest/Neck

Day 5: Shoulders/Cardiovascular

Typical Injuries Associated with Boxing

boxing head punch

Head Injuries: There have been many studies investigating how common head injuries are for boxers. Overall, the investigative studies concluded and all agreed that nearly 90% of boxers have or will suffer an injury of the brain.

This is not at all shocking, as the same study found that the typical punch from a boxer is comparable to being struck by a 15 pound wood mallet (padded) that is traveling at a speed of 25 miles per hour.

Skull and smaller bone fractures and brain tissue damage as well as clots, lesions, nerve network tears and brain surface damage are all injuries that can be suffered due to a blow to the head. If you suspect that you've suffered any type of head injury, seek immediate medical attention.

Eye Injuries: The eyes are very well shielded from harm by bones above and to the sides. However, this protection is not offered from below the eye socket. Direct contact from a blow is not even necessary for the eye to become damaged, as shock waves from blows in other areas of the face or head (manifested in fluid content) can have a damaging effect on the retina and result in either hemorrhage or detachment, depending on how hard the face is hit.

Abdominal Injuries: These injuries are frequent in boxers and may include liver damage, spleen ruptures or broken ribs. Broken ribs are very painful, slow to heal, and can puncture organs such as the lungs.

Ruptured spleens also tend to bleed heavily and can be fatal in a very short period of time if not addressed immediately after the injury occurs. The liver is much stronger than the spleen but can easily bleed internally as a result of a direct blow. If liver or spleen damage is suspected, medical attention should be sought immediately.

The Training Nutritional Diet

Included below are the guidelines for the most common boxing diet, designed to increase strength without increasing body fat.

During and Before The Boxing Season

For training that occurs during the season, make sure that your diet consists of 40% to 50% carbohydrates, 30% to 40% proteins and 15% fats. By adhering to these percentages, you will get the energy you need to repair tissue and replenish energy without gaining weight and being bumped into a higher weight bracket. This is the best mix for maintaining your optimum weight to power ratio.


Calculate your proper food ratios with the following: Keeping it simple, assume you consume 2,000 calories every day. 50% of 2,000 calories is 1,000 calories derived from carbohydrates. Each gram of a carbohydrate equates to 4 calories. 1,000 calories divided by 4 calories (per gram of carbohydrate) is 250 grams of carbohydrates. In other words, you should consume 250 grams of carbohydrates per day, thus accounting for 50% of your total daily caloric intake.


A great deal of research has concluded that the daily intake of proteins should consist of 1.6 to 1.8 grams per each kilogram that a person weighs. (Remember that each kilogram is equal to roughly 2.2 pounds.) The amount of protein needed for active individuals may even increase to 2 grams per kilogram of weight. For inactive people, the ratio is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight - much lower than what a typical boxer will need.

The added 1.2 grams per kilogram of weight is very important for the repair of muscle tissue and to provide the body with an extra source of energy. If a boxer is exercising intensely for a long period of time, their non-protein energy reserves are consumed quickly and the body may turn to the muscles as an alternative source of energy. As developing muscles is difficult to begin with, the typical boxer would be foolish to risk the consumption of muscle tissue.


Fats are the lowest ratio of calories, but could be raised if the goals for composition are radically different than normal (gaining weight to get into a higher bracket, for example). These additional fat calories should come from monounsaturated and essential sources because the body cannot create them. Essential fats can be found in most fish and nuts. Fats that have a single site of binding are monounsaturated fats, and can be found in oils such as canola and olive or most nuts and seeds.

Referring to the previous example of a daily calorie consumption equaling 2,000, the amount of calories from fat should be around 400. As a gram of fat converts into 9 calories, the total grams of fat you would consume each day is 44.

It is unhealthy to fall below the 15% fat intake to lose weight for several reasons. Not having enough fat in your diet may restrict the body's ability to absorb the essential vitamins that are contained within each gram of healthy fat. In addition, cutting down on fat will almost never have a reducing effect on the overall percentage of a person's body fat.

During the Off-Season

women boxing match

Losing body fat and adding muscle should be one of a boxers primary goals during the off-season. It is not uncommon for boxers to gain weight (in the form of excess body fat) when not training for an upcoming bout.

Once a bout is scheduled, the boxer then try's to rapidly lose the excess weight in time for the official weight in. This gaining of weight in the "off season" and then losing the excess weight prior to a bout is common and part of the discipline required to be successful as a boxer.

Resorting to crash diets can have a negative effect on the body in the form of muscle degeneration or even muscle loss, and thus the reduction of strength and energy. To counteract this, plan your diet for the entire year rather than adhering to your boxing diet only during the regular season. Never allow yourself to raise or lower your weight by more than 10% of your competition boxing weight.