As a fitness fiend who loves to mix it up with everything from Pilates to bootcamp, I’m forever reading recommendations of different styles of exercise to add to my routine. If you’re guilty of the same, you’ll have noted how much attention boxing has garnered over the last year; with the likes of Gigi Hadid and Ellie Goulding praising their boxing sessions for their aspirational physiques.
So what are the benefits? A cardiovascular workout that challenges strength, stamina and overall fitness, boxing helps to craft a lean and toned body, while allowing you to punch out the stress of that horrendous 5 o’clock meeting. Hand-eye co-ordination and balance are two other gains from exercising in this way, and (as you’re sure to feel the day after) stabilising your upper body while keeping your feet light and arms strong will really work your core.
In true London form, there is no shortage of places to make a beeline for if you fancy giving it a go. For an instructor who specialises in boxing, there are few better than the guys at Box Clever Sports in Ladbroke Grove. The raw energy that hits you as soon as you enter the studio is sure to get the endorphins flowing, and while they do offer personal training, I would highly recommend their Box Tech classes, offered twice per week.
After taping up your hands (that’s right, they’re serious here!), each class begins with the same cardio and strength warm-up full of jump squats, press-ups, mountain climbers and more. Encouraging you to stay light on your feet throughout, you’re talked through the key boxing moves such as jabs, right-hooks and upper cuts, followed by a routine for you to practice alone or with a partner (note: these will challenge your co-ordination far more than you think!) Professional boxing trainer Pete Liggins describes the Box Tech warm-up as “a fantastic metabolic burn and conditioner’ pumping the heart rate and testing fitness and isometric contraction. Boxing and cardio go hand in hand as boxing rounds are a combination of aerobic and anaerobic energy forms.”
Next up is the punch-bags, where the class work out their anger via a boxing sequence and 30-second freestyle sets focusing on either power or speed. You’ll then find yourself tackling cardio drills and weights: think sprints and burpees, lunges with medicine ball, pikes in the TRX and heavy rope work to target the arms and abs. Despite being tough, these sets are actually a favourite of mine; lasting just long enough to ensure you’re working hard, but not so long that you’re desperate to move on. If the class is particularly busy, this may be swapped for core sets on the floor, but don’t be fooled – they’ll make you hold that plank and v-sit longer than you think!
Expect to have some pretty serious boxers at the other end of the studio (which if anything, just adds to your wanting to punch that bag harder), and be warned: this class will make you sweat!
Why is this workout style so effective? “Boxing works the entire body, not only in terms of aerobic and anaerobic (explosive bursts) fitness but also muscular skeletal,” explains Pete. “It requires not just upper body strength but a vast amount of lower body conditioning too. Punch power, for example, isn’t just about the arms – it’s generated from the legs with an explosive force rotating the hips and torso, requiring strong legs, glutes and core strength.”
If you like the idea of boxing but would prefer less intensity, Box Fit at Frame could be just the thing. Their lively, results-driven workouts are perfect as an introduction to boxing with a more light-hearted vibe. Punching and ducking to an upbeat soundtrack, you’ll still reap the benefits of boxing via their dynamic warm-up and pair-work – one of you wearing gloves, and the other with pads (you’ll swap over later). After a few different routines using classic boxing moves, then comes the cardio – jogging/running around the studio performing different exercises such as jumps and press-ups when instructed. As with all Frame classes, this workout has the fun factor in abundance.
For a boxing beat-out on the other side of the city, try the Work It studio in Old Street, while the more masochistic exercise lovers among you head to 1Rebel. Monikered ‘Rumble’, these super-tough, HIIT-based classes meld boxing, mixed martial arts and cardio training, and will have you feeling the burn in the first five minutes. If you thought spinning at 1Rebel demanded high energy without a pause for rest, just wait until you try this. Fortunately, you can primp and pamper yourself post-workout in their gorgeous changing rooms – a welcome treat after all the jabs and kicks!
Thanks to the vastness of the London fitness scene, even yogis don’t have to miss out on the benefits of boxing. Sign up for BoxingYoga and hit the mat to channel the strength and power of a boxer. Add a little spice into your practice with their mix of ashtanga vinyasa yoga, body conditioning and poses that incorporate boxing technique.
With so many studios to try, there’s no time to waste! Grab a friend, pick a class and get punching!
Words by Zoe Louise Cronk