Benefits of boxing: the home workout that can build strength without kit

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Boxing was a beloved boutique fitness workout before the pandemic hit but you can still reap the benefits at home.

When I told my friend I’d just finished a boxing workout, her eyes widened. “How on earth did you get into a studio in the middle of lockdown?” she questioned. Needless to say, I hadn’t been breaking into closed gyms to hit a punch bag - I’d simply been shadow boxing in my kitchen. 

I’ve been doing this around once a week for most of lockdown. 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.  

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. Since lockdown, 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.”

The benefits of boxing

Why should you even try boxing to begin with? I used to love going to studios such as Kobox, BLOK and Flykick for a cardio workout that didn’t bore the hell out of me. By focusing on the combinations, I didn’t realise how hard I was working - until I stopped and was barely be able to catch my breath. 

My colleague Alyss Bowen, Stylist’s social media editor, agrees: “I used to 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.”

Plus, 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.

When lockdown hit, boxing became just as much about the strength gains as it did the sweat for me. I’d been struggling to do a proper upper body workout with my limited weights selection, finding my 9kgs too heavy for lat raises but too light for bent over rows and floor press. 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. 

“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.”

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

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 lockdown, 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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