So you want to learn how to box. Join the club — boxing’s the workout of the moment, and not just because of the Jake Gyllenhaal-fronted Southpaw.
The biggest reason behind boxing’s surge in popularity? Its model fan club: Gigi Hadid, Alessandra Ambrosio, Kendall Jenner, and more regularly throw punches to stay in shape. And, hello, how cool did Taylor’s squad look in the “Bad Blood” music video? So long, waifish models of yore. Strong is sexy, and we’re all for it.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Boxing’s the model workout of choice for a reason — it works every muscle in your body, building the kind of strength that makes you think (nay, know) you can take on the world. Everyone I talk to about boxing says the same thing: It’s calorie-torching. It’s sexy. It’s confidence-building. “Boxing keeps the body long and lean rather than bulking [it] up,” Adelino DaCosta, founder of NYC-based PUNCH Fitness Center and professional boxer, tells me. “Adding boxing to your workout will lead you to a lean and toned body at a more rapid pace than standard exercise alone.”
Specifically, says BFX trainer and boxing expert Hollywood Hino, boxing “really works to improve muscle tone in the arms and upper body, build a stronger core, and develop firmer quads and glutes.” The natural stretching involved and constant footwork makes you leaner, lengthening muscles and tightening all over.
It’s good for an emotional reboot, too. Looking to destress after a long day of work? Boxing is for you. “Emotionally, boxing makes you feel powerful and strong, constantly testing your limits of strength and endurance,” DaCosta says. “The workout forces you to forget all outside factors; it is you and the current task at hand. You will feel yourself come to a balanced point we refer to as ‘zero’ — the beginning that allows you to think clearly and effectively.” I’m sold.
After taking a few classes myself, I find myself thinking and talking about boxing All. The. Time. I practice punches in the mirror and ask anyone who looks remotely fit whether they have a favorite boxing gym. What is it about boxing that makes it so addictive? “I think it’s a combination of the challenge of learning the technique, as well as just the general empowering feeling of hitting something,” Hino tells me. “Hitting is fun!” Not that we’re advocating violence in any form, but there’s something, well, fun about taking jabs at a big hanging pillow.
Convinced? Good — here’s how to get started.
The three basic moves to master are a jab, a cross, and an uppercut, as demonstrated by Hino, below. You can punch a heavy bag, if you’re at a gym or have one lying around, or just punch out in front of you (that’s known as “shadowboxing”). Once you get the hang of these individually, you can combine them into endless sequences — you’ll be sweating in no time.
Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, with your left foot facing forward and your right facing out at a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees slightly. This is the fighter’s stance. Lift your fists to your chin, keeping your elbows tight to your body. After each move, your hands should return to the same position. Note: The moves below are for righties — if you’re a southpaw, just reverse your stance and swap “left” for “right.”
Jab: This is the starter punch and works Every. Single. Muscle. Get comfy in your fighter’s stance, with your fists at your chin. Extend your left arm out at eye-level, twisting your arm so that your palm faces the ground. Step your left foot forward a few inches with each jab—if you throw 10 jabs, you should step forward 10 times. Pull your fist directly back to your chin and step your left foot back after each jab: Jab, snap back. Jab, snap back.
Cross: This is your attack punch — prepare to feel it in your core the next day. Stand in fighter’s stance with your fists at your chin. Punch forward with your right fist until your arm is straight. Pivot on the ball of your right foot to put your weight into the punch — the power should come from your legs. As you punch, twist your fist so that you’re driving your punch with your pointer and middle fingers. Pull your fist back to your chin, and pivot your foot back to its original angle.
Uppercut: This move takes a little bit longer to master, but your toned shoulders and lean thighs will thank you for it. Bend your knees slightly. Hold your elbows tight to your chest and fists at your chin. Punch forward and up, making sure your punches are coming from your chin — short and sweet. Resist the urge to drop your fist and sweep up. Pivot on the ball of your foot with each punch; keep the other foot planted firmly on the ground. Again, your power should come from your legs.
You can alternate these moves, mix them up, or practice one at a time. If you find yourself boxing often, it’s absolutely worth seeking out someone who can correct your punches and help you get better — either by attending a boxing class or by finding a trainer at your gym who can watch you throw a punch and offer simple corrections.