In case you haven’t heard, boxing is all the rage right now — and for good reason. It’s not only a great way to let out all your pent-up feels (and way cheaper than therapy) but also a killer total-body workout that’s sure to get you in fighting shape.
Boxing targets everything from your core to your arms to your brain. After all, those combinations aren’t going to remember themselves. A 2014 study even found that boxing workouts three times a week can change your body composition and improve your self-confidence.
But before you can jab and cross like a pro, it’s essential to build up some endurance, says Brian Pedone, boxing trainer and founder of Quiet Punch. “Cardio is the baseline; once you have that, then you work on your technique.”
Check out these 13 boxing-inspired cardio and conditioning exercises that’ll help you build endurance, balance, and agility — whether you’re hitting the ring or just rolling with the punches of daily life.
Perform each exercise below for 1 minute. If you’d like to focus on one exercise (jump rope, for example), build your way up to 10 minutes by adding 30 seconds at a time.
Once you master 2 minutes of any exercise, combine 5 to 6 moves with no rest in between to create a killer 10- to 12-minute cardio workout. Or scroll to the end to try the 12-minute workout we created.
1. Jump rope
A classic cardio warmup for boxing, jumping rope is a great way to get your heart pumping.
Here’s a quick refresher: Grab the handles and swing the rope over your head, then in front of your body. Hop over the rope as it skims the floor and land lightly on the balls of your feet.
No rope? No problem. Simply rotate your wrists in the same motion and hop over an imaginary rope.
Make it harder: Switch it up by alternating legs or trying double-unders (passing the rope under your feet twice in one jump). You can also try crossing the rope in front of your body during a swing.
2. High knees
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bring one knee at a time up toward chest. Aim to get lifted knee in line with hip so thigh is parallel to the floor.
Continue to alternate as quickly as possible. Swing your arms as you would during a sprint. Remember to land lightly on balls of feet and toes to propel knees upward.
3. Heel tap
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend right knee to bring foot toward butt. Switch legs and continue to alternate as quickly as possible to get your heart rate up. Reach fingertips back to touch each heel.
The idea is to bring your heels as close as possible to your butt to get the maximum strengthening and stretching benefits for your hamstrings.
In a real match, you’d use this move to prevent a takedown by your opponent, but when you’re just training, think of this as a boxer’s version of a burpee.
Start in boxer stance, with left foot in front (or right foot, if you’re left-handed); right foot behind you, turned out at a 45-degree angle; and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Hands should be at jaw, fists clenched, protecting face.
Place hands on the floor and jump feet back to a wide-leg plank. If mobility allows, let hips dip to the floor and back arch. Immediately hop back up to starting position and repeat.
5. Sprinter hops
Start in a sprinter’s position with right knee bent, left leg straight out behind you, and left fingertips on the floor. This should look and feel like a low runner’s lunge.
Bring left knee forward and up. At the same time, drive through right foot to explode off the floor and hop. Reverse the motion to return to starting position. Repeat on opposite leg.
6. Jump squat
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Send hips back and bend knees to lower into a perfect squat. Drive through balls of feet to jump off the floor.
Land lightly by rolling from toes to heels, then send hips back and bend knees to return to a squat position. Repeat. You can place hands in prayer position in front of chest for balance.
7. Lateral hop
Stand with knees slightly bent. Pushing off left foot, extend right leg out to right side to hop and land on right foot. Reverse the movement to repeat on opposite leg.
Keep alternating legs while swinging your arms like a sprinter. This should feel like ice skating without the skates.
8. Tuck jump
Start standing. Jump and use your lower abs to draw knees up until nearly in line with hips, parallel to the floor.
Engage core to keep spine long and chest lifted. Be sure not to bend over — it helps to place your hands in front of you to tap your knees. Land softly on balls of feet and repeat.
9. Shadow boxing
Shadow boxing is a prime way to polish your form, footwork, and breathing technique.
Start in boxing stance and throw a couple jabs and crosses. As you do, dance around with fast footwork.
Try hopping forward and back, taking lateral steps, or even incorporating squats to simulate ducking under your opponent’s punch. You really can’t mess this one up since you just make it up as you go along.
10. Mountain climber
Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders. Bring one knee in toward chest — almost like doing high knees in a horizontal position. Alternate legs, engaging core to support spine and keeping hips level with shoulders.
11. Plyo push-up
Start in high plank position with core engaged and wrists under shoulders. Bend elbows and lower your chest to the floor to perform a push-up. At the bottom of the move, push off with explosive power to pop your upper body off the floor.
Land back on your hands and repeat. For this version, be sure to keep elbows tucked in at sides and bend elbows as you land to lessen the impact.
Make it easier: Start by doing the push-up on your knees to build strength, and then progress to a basic push-up. Once you have that mastered, try the plyo push-up on your knees, and then progress to the version above.
12. Fast feet
Stand with feet hip-width apart and fists at jaw in guard. With knees slightly bent, shift weight back and forth between feet, staying on balls of feet for agility and speed.
The quicker you move, the harder it is! Keep core engaged and upper body as still as possible.
13. Footwork switch
Start in boxing stance with fists in guard. Hop and rotate at your hips to land with feet facing one side and body facing forward. Hop again to fighter stance on the opposite side.
If you’re a righty, this alternate stance is referred to as “south paw.” It’s often used as a tactic to throw off an opponent. Continue to switch your stance as fast as possible.