Muhammad Ali. Rocky Marciano. George Foreman (before the grill!). We know these boxers can throw a mean punch— but how can we become “Lord” of the Ring? Regardless of skill level, anyone can try this Grobby (Greatist lingo for hobby), but rigorous training, strength building, and improved coordination (not to mention some fancy footwork) are the first steps to becoming a real contender.

Eye of the Tiger — The Need-to-Know

Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

Boxing (in some form) has been around since the ancient Egyptand became an official Olympic sport for men in 1904 (its first appearance for women will be at the 2012 London games). Boxing features various weight classes for both sexes, and the number and length of rounds depend on the level of boxing.

Boxing training programs are intended to introduce new athletes to the sport or help established boxers raise their skill level. They vary from gym to gym, but focus heavily on proper form and defensive strategies. Training techniques may include conditioning drills, plyometrics, strength training, sparring, and core training (whew!). All that training has its benefits, including increased strength, muscle tone, balance, agility, and overall cardiovascular fitness.

Studies suggest boxing compares favorably with other cardio programs in the amount of energy exerted and calories burned, making it a great option for those who want to get in shape and work out a little stress (take that, heavy bag!)Cardiovascular response to punching tempo.Kravitz L, Greene L, Burkett Z, et. al. Exercise Physiology Laboratories, University of New Mexico, Johnson Center #1160, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2003 Feb;17(1):104-8.VO₂ requirements of boxing exercises. Arseneau E, Mekary S, Léger LA. Department of Kinesiology, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2011 Feb;25(2):348-59.. Training for the ring also often involves sparring with partners. Some light jabbing and the group setting promotes both a social environment and vigorous workout (not to mention some killer guns!).

Nice Uppercut — Your Action Plan

Boxing training may be a great way to enhance coordination and increase endurance, but it comes with some risks. Boxers (especially the competitive bunch) are at a substantially higher risk for acute injuries to the head, heart, and bones. Amateur boxing mandates headgear, and the players’ objective is to score points by landing punches (compared to knocking out the opponent as in professional boxing), and research suggests modifications make the sport safer for amateursSafety measures in amateur boxing. Jako, P. International amateur Boxing Association, Veress Palne u 33, 1053 Budapest, Hungary. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2002 December; 36(6): 394–395.Medical and Safety Reforms in Boxing. Jordan, Barry D. Sports Neurology Program, Department of Neurology, The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, New York, New York. Journal of the National Medical Association, 1988 April; 80(4): 407–412..

Ready to start training like a pro? Locate an authentic boxing gym for both proper equipment and an experienced coach. Try a simple boxing circuit to get a feel for what training might be like, or give boxing class at the local fitness center a shot. Conditioning with shadow boxing, core training, and footwork practice will be sure to get anyone fight ready, whether or not they plan to actually step in the ring. Just don’t forget those hand wraps and padded gloves!