Boxing is an excellent way to burn calories, get in shape and have fun. Boxing trains both the brain and body, while enhancing the connection between the two.

The sport of boxing has attracted a steadily growing fan base in hundreds of gyms throughout the United States and abroad despite its unseemly association with bruised and bloodied faces, fixed bouts, and tragic deaths in the ring. The caloric burn is often the biggest draw, especially among females, but there are a multitude of benefits reaped from a boxing-based fitness program.

Boxing Burns Calories

Boxing in a ring ranks 13th among 178 cardio-based exercises, according to Wisconsin’s Division of Public Health. A Harvard Heart Letter report helps illustrate the point.

According to their experts, a 155-pound man boxing with a punching bag for an hour may utilize 422 calories, while actual sparring with a partner can burn over 630 calories. As a baseline for comparison, this same man burns an average of 94 calories by standing for an hour, and stretching for that same 60 minutes can burn upwards of 280 calories.

Weight Loss by Boxing

To be fair, the question of how much weight can be lost during typical boxing classes is a complex one. As with any form of exercise, this largely depends upon the intensity of the training session and the level of energy your client puts forth. We are already familiar with the fact that a pound is lost when 3,500 calories are utilized.

An elevated heart rate will naturally require additional oxygen, which in turn leads to a greater level of caloric burn. Boxing workouts definitely raise the heart rate, and clients/class participants often appreciate being reminded that their exercise heart rate should be within the range of 65 percent of its maximum in order to effectively improve their fitness levels. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, known as “The Father of Aerobics”, chose this as the percentage towards which any athlete should aim.

For our 155-pound man, although he is boxing hard, breathing heavily, and effectively utilizing his energy, he would need to spend 5.5 hours sparring to achieve a 3,500-calorie deficit, or punch a heavy bag for over 8 hours!

A research study was conducted at the University of Western Sydney, where scientists separated 12 overweight but fairly healthy people into two test groups. The following measurements were taken before and after the study: waist circumference, body fat percentage, and heart rate.

Group A engaged in a fast-paced walking program 4 times a week for 50 minutes per session. Group B punched a heavy bag for that same amount of time, and also included a variety of boxing-related exercises in 3-minute intervals (2 minutes of activity, 1-minute rest).

After 16 weeks, the researchers repeated their measurements. Group A showed a reduction in waist circumference by an average of a quarter of an inch; body fat dropped 5%, and there was an improvement in heart rate.

As might be expected, group B fared much better. Average waist size was down 2.6 inches; an average of 11 pounds had been lost; the reduction in body fat hovered at around 13%; and of course, the improvement in heart rate was significant. While we cannot argue that brisk walking is good for overall health, it appears that the intensity of boxing programs affects the body in a much more dynamic way.

Burn – Build – Tone

Boxing serves the purpose that many clients are seeking: increases in muscle size and overall toning. While it appears that the moves are only addressing the upper trunk and arms, the constant footwork, as well as the intensity, definitely hit one’s lower half, including the core.

Increased muscle tone and the strength it confers have a positive effect on one’s agility; while boxing clients tend to be on the younger end of the age spectrum, it is worth noting that improvements in agility may help prevent falls later in life. Statistically, falls rank as a major contributor to death among the elderly.

Enhance Mood and Mentality

Physical activity encourages the release of endorphins, our bodies’ natural stress reducers. Runners often comment on achieving a “runner’s high”, which is the result of endorphins flooding the bloodstream.

Boxing can have that same effect. Whether it is the continuous footwork, the punching and jabbing, or the typically high volume of training-related boxing exercises, stress is not only reduced immediately after a session but is reported to remain lessened well after the client leaves the gym.

Ellen Billet of Nottingham Trent University conducted studies that focused on levels of serum phenylethylamine, a substance present in chocolate. 20 young men participated in a research protocol that measured their levels of the chemical before and after a fairly aggressive treadmill session.

The subjects were instructed to work at 70% of maximum heart rate. At the conclusion of the session, subjects were asked to rate their perceived exercise level along with being tested for the presence of phenylethylamine.  The result was an elevated serum average of 77%, concurrent with an upgraded mental status. This number parallels the effect of amphetamines, without inducing nasty side effects or the risk of addiction.

Self Esteem Boost


How many trainers take the time to inquire if the client has any psychological goals he wishes to meet through exercise? Many simply express the desire to “feel better”. What does that require, and how can you make it happen?

Self-esteem can be cultivated in a variety of ways. A non-physical benefit of boxing is that, over a relatively short period of time, you can help a client feel empowered. Boxing moves require a participant to remember many different things simultaneously. You will no doubt deliver many instructions on form and corrections on stance during a typical beginning workout.

Still, boxing exercises have a way of allowing the client to recognize and become aware of his abilities alongside what needs improvement. No longer is a personal training session solely about lifting an increasingly heavier weight load. In boxing, there is also a strong focus on movement patterns.

Even though your client is learning to “fight”, he also picks up tools that enable him to weave through difficult life situations without becoming defensive. Such an attribute is beneficial in all aspects of one’s world. As he feels more self-assured, he will present a more confident version of himself…to friends, work associates, partners and even when meeting new people. If you can foster such a belief in a client, you are empowering his inner self.

Strength comes from overcoming resistance and adversity. Teaching a client through boxing ultimately helps bring on a sense of calm. Whether he ends up facing an opponent or simply perfecting technique and endurance, the ability to zone in and focus on a goal while experiencing chaos (think jabs, uppercuts, and repeated punches) is invaluable.

After all, life can be messy at times, and is not going to be smooth sailing each and every day! Boxing exercises offer the experience of learning mental fortitude, maintaining a sense of calm in a potentially explosive situation, and ridding the participant of unnecessary stress.

Structuring Safe and Effective Boxing Workouts

boxingA proper boxing workout, whether a client is advanced or just embarking upon the sport, begins with a warm-up lasting about 15 minutes.  As in all sport –related endeavors, this is a very important aspect.

A properly designed warm-up increases the temperature of the muscles themselves, facilitating blood flow and pliability of the forthcoming dynamic moves. Drawing the client’s attention to his breathing pattern often occurs during the warm-up.

An example of a boxing warm-up might look like the following:

30 seconds – bouncing gently on the balls of the feet
30 seconds – jumping jacks
30 seconds – high knee lifts
30 seconds – continuous forward punches while maintaining a squatting position
Rest for 5 seconds, then repeat for a total of 3 cycles.

Moving on to more dynamic moves ~

30 seconds – jumping split squats
30 seconds – jumping jacks while crossing arms in front of body
30 seconds – hook punches while maintaining a squatting position
Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for a total of 3 cycles.

Finally, the cardio portion of the warm-up ~

60 seconds – mountain climbers
60 seconds – squat to high knees
150 jump rope skips

Now that your client has his breathing in order, the next step of the workout focuses on shadow boxing. Experts describe this as the time to tap into one’s body and spirit by focusing on posture and technique. Knees are soft with staggered leg stance; a right-handed boxer places his left foot forward.

Hands are raised, determination is on his face, and he is ready to move through a series of basic boxing elements for about 10 minutes.  Commonly included in this phase are the uppercut, the cross, hook, and jab.

Bobbing and weaving help prepare the quadriceps for the exercises to come. At this point is the session, expect your client to appear somewhat fatigued…and yet there is more to come. Allow for hydration breaks when necessary.

The next phase of the program involves mitt work. You hold the mitts up to an appropriate level based upon the height of the client, he will be instructed to complete 3 -minute rounds of combination moves. With a 60-second active rest between cycles, strive for a total of 5 sets. For beginners, you may wish to stop after 3 sets.

If the client is more advanced or looking to increase his endurance, adding the following exercises are a great option ~

Skipping rope 150 times
60 seconds of mountain climbers
30 jumping jacks
50 push-up’s

Finally, end your session with a well-deserved 10-minute cooldown. After this, remind the client to amply hydrate throughout the day, and replenish his glycogen stores with some easily digestible simple carbohydrates (fruit, honey on rice cakes, plain bagel, etc.)

Boxing is the Total Package

While observing a professional boxing match, it may be difficult to discern what is happening in the psychology of athletes’ minds. Being aware of the inner mechanics, and possessing knowledge of all that can be gained aside from strength and proper foot patterns, will enable you to successfully combine all aspects into a safe, successful and enjoyable training workout.

Have you ever trained clients specifically in boxing technique?

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Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!