Shadow boxing - boxing with no bag or pads - is great to build strength from home

Strength training: 5 full-body benefits of boxing

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Think you need a fancy gym or to take to the ring to mix boxing in with your strength training routine? Think again. Here, we explain the five full-body benefits of shadow boxing and how to box from home, without a punch bag. 

Boxing is one of the most accessible, heart rate-rising, strength-building workouts you can do - yet most people associate the sport with intimidating, professional boxing rings or ‘boxercise’ classes at boutique studios.  

But you don’t need a gym, any previous experience or kit to get a good boxing workout in - and have a lot of fun whilst doing it. `

Boxing is actually “just such a fun way to train. It’s not only about beating someone - or a bag - up,” laughs boxing coach from Kobox Zoe Purpuri. When lockdown hit last year, her teaching has had to pivot from teaching in-person classes with bags to instructing over Zoom. “The way everyone has managed to adapt and make it work is absolutely incredible. Boxing is a vital part of my home workouts now.”

So whether you’re still working out from home or have returned to the gym, here’s why you should think about incorporating boxing into your strength training routine. 

The benefits of boxing

Boxing is a fun workout

Why should you even try boxing to begin with? When there aren’t restrictions in place, I love going to studios such as Kobox, BLOK and Flykick for a cardio workout that doesn’t bore the hell out of me. By focusing on the combinations, I don’t realise how hard I’m working - until I stop and am barely be able to catch my breath.

My colleague Alyss Bowen, Stylist’s social media editor, agrees: “When I can, I box two or three times a week because it feels like a really fun intense workout. Often, with HIIT or strength training, I get bored easily as it feels very much like a ‘workout’, whereas boxing feels like a fun, different activity.”

Boxing works your whole body

Want to hit your traps, shoulder, biceps, triceps, forearm, chest, quads, glutes and abs all in one movement? Look no further. 

“A lot of people may only think that boxing works your upper body, but it’s actually a full body workout,” says Zoe. “You use your upper body to punch, your core to get you into the positions and to power the punches, and your legs to stabilise the movement.”

Shadow boxing can be done anywhere

Boxing is just as much about the strength gains as it is the sweat for me. When working out from home, I’ve found myself struggling to do a proper upper body workout from home with a limited weights selection. But after joining an Instagram Live boxing workout, I found it was the one workout that left my arms aching without needing a whole variety of kit. 

Boxing with no equipment at home can improve strength
Benefits of boxing: how shadow boxing can improve strength and fitness

Boxing is less impactful on your lower body

Boxing can be better for those who can’t run or jump as “although there’s lots of moving around and it’s high impact on your arms if a bag is involved, it’s way less impactful on your lower body than going for a run,” says Zoe. If you’ve just hit a heavy leg day but still want to work up a sweat, ten minutes of shadow boxing in your kitchen or mat area at the gym is perfect to get your heart racing whilst allowing your lower half to rest. 

Boxing is a great stress reliever

Then, there’s the mental health element. Perhaps it’s all in my head, but there really is something unbelievably satisfying about punching and kicking. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you really can’t think of anything else other than your moves. “It really helps me to switch off as I’m so caught up in the movement,” agrees Zoe. “It’s just my time to tune into something that’s completely removed from work, the pandemic, daily chores and other thoughts.” 

How to do boxing at home

The key to getting your home boxing workout in is shadow boxing - which is basically “punching air” says Zoe. It might sound weird, but “everyone, even professional boxers, should be doing shadow boxing, as you think way more about your technique.

“It’s a different kind of workout to if you were hitting a bag, but you can still work on speed and push super hard without hitting anything. It’s also much easier to work on footwork, and thinking about where your body is going and what you’re doing,” adds Zoe. 

For that reason, it’s perfect for every level. Boxing at home can be a great introduction for those who have been too intimidated to attend a boxing class, or it’s a great extension of the same skills for those who are more advanced. 

It starts with six key moves (cross, hook, jab, uppercut, slip and roll), which can be put together in different sequences and patterns, explains Zoe. To perfect these moves, there are a few things to remember. 

Firstly, every time you throw a punch, you should exhale. “Then, it’s all about foot placement. Your most dominant foot goes back, so if you’re right handed you will place your right foot back. Then it’s about making sure you transfer your weight between your front foot and your back foot throughout the move,” Zoe says.

She also stresses the importance of twisting the hips. “The power doesn’t really come from your arms - it comes from the hips. So the more you twist, the more power you’ll get, even without the impact of a bag,” she says. 

“Staying on your toes and keeping your energy high is what’s going to give you that cardio workout,” she also reminds. 

Until you understand the moves well enough to programme your own session, I’d advise signing up to a class online - they’re cheaper than doing them in the studios, but with the same great instruction. 

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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