From a spectator's point of view, boxing can seem like an intimidating sport. However, the popularity of the sport has led to a number of opportunities for beginners to try it on their own terms.
If you're itching to get in the ring for competition, fun or to promote a healthy lifestyle, consider these tips:
Discover the benefits of boxing
Boxing is an anaerobic sport, which means most of the work your body performs while boxing does not require oxygen. According to LiveStrong, aerobic exercise, such as cycling, uses oxygen to burn fat and carbohydrates, while anaerobic exercise only burns carbohydrates. However, this doesn't mean boxers have to hold their breath while working out. Rather, it means that boxing builds muscle through bursts of activity punctuated by active breathing.
Both types of exercise are necessary for a well-rounded fitness routine. Aerobic exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system and reduces the chance of chronic diseases when combined with a healthy diet. Anaerobic exercise strengthens bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. Boxing also reduces stress levels by promoting endorphin production, and trains eye-hand coordination.
For inspiration, consider checking out these boxing clubs across Canada. Many clubs offer boxing style exercise classes for all fitness levels.
Practice your stance and footwork
If you want to try boxing at a gym, you'll need to determine a few goals. Some gyms focus exclusively on training individuals for boxing competitions. Other gyms offer boxing lessons as a way of fitness training. Talk to a personal trainer to understand which type of training is best for you.
In either scenario, beginner boxers usually start by learning about stances and footwork. If you're familiar with Muhammad Ali's famous phrase "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," you already have a basic understanding of the style of movement necessary to become a great boxer. Athletes in the ring use practiced footwork to dodge jabs from an opponent before striking out.
According to Expert Boxing, beginners should practice a basic stance as well as the step-drag foot movement:
- Basic stance: This position should be familiar to anyone who has watched a boxing match. The athlete stands with raised gloves, keeping his or her dominant hand slightly behind the other. Knees are kept slightly bent, feet placed diagonally to the torso and slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Finally, the athlete's head is kept behind the gloves with the chin slightly tucked. Essentially, this stance makes it easier to both attack and defend as you move around the ring.
- Step-drag footwork: When boxing, athletes should try to maintain a firm footing at all times. Jumping and running waste precious energy and oxygen required for expertly placing jabs. Beginning boxers should practice stepping forward with their lead foot, then dragging the rear foot forward, keeping the feet at least shoulder-width apart throughout the movement.
Learn about breathing techniques
How you breathe in the ring directly impacts your ability to perform well. As a general rule, you'll want to breathe slowly during slow body movements and breathe fast for rapid movements.
"If you want sharp, explosive punches, you need sharp, explosive breathing," noted Expert Boxing founder Johnny Nguyen.
When making fast movements, Nguyen recommends inhaling slowly through the nose, then exhaling quickly through the mouth in one short burst per every fast movement. Making a quick, sharp "Shh" noise through your teeth is a good method for timing your breathes to your punches. You may feel a little silly at first, but the benefits are substantial.
For slow movement, Nguyen recommends inhaling and exhaling slowly through the nose. Before you get in the ring, practice slow breathing by placing your hand on your stomach. You should feel your stomach rise with each breath, not only your chest.
Encourage your friends to join in the fun
Boxing is a journey, and it takes a lot of practice to become proficient in the sport. Even if you have no intention of competing, it's still fun to get your friends involved. Working out with a partner can give you the motivation you need to keep going when you don't feel like heading to the gym.
Remember to ease into the sport if you're a newcomer. Take the time to learn the basics, then ramp up with the help of a skilled coach or trainer.