Build your fitness with these powerful boxing exercises

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

So said fictional boxing legend, Rocky Balboa, and his words live on.

Whether it’s getting in the ring and fighting a living, breathing opponent, or signing up to one of the sport’s many spin offs (think box fit, boxercise, cardio kickboxing and body combat), boxing is one of the most physically demanding sports out there, working lungs, heart and muscles.

The physical benefits of boxing are numerous. Here’s five for starters…

1. Aerobic conditioning

Boxing works and strengthens your heart and lungs, meaning your blood pumps more efficiently around your body, more oxygen is delivered to muscles and organs.

2. Muscle gain

Throwing a punch uses the muscles in your lower and upper body, demanding power and speed. Over time this builds muscle mass, which increases strength, protects joints from injury and helps you to burn calories at a faster rate..

3. Fast footwork

Boxing relies on being on your toes, quick to duck, dive, rotate and move left and right. The intricate footwork will improve your agility and speed up reaction time.

4. Balance

Boxing will also improve your balance and core stability while fortifying your posterior chain – the ‘powerhouse’ muscles which run from your foot, up through your calves, along the back, through your seat and lower back, along either side of your spine, and under your skull.

5. Strengthens bones

Strength and density of your bones will increase, protecting them against injury and minimising the risk of osteoporosis as you get older.


The benefits of boxing go beyond the immediate and the obvious. It also impacts on your wider fitness regime and will help to improve your performance in other sports.

Look at legendary American swimmer, Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time. Watch the video below to see how he used boxing to boost his fitness in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics.

And it’s not just swimmers who can benefit.


Take running. By being lighter on your feet and having faster footwork, you can improve your ability to land lightly, helping you to strike with the forefoot—not the heel—and minimise the risk of common running injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures.

The power in a punch also comes mostly from the legs, glutes and hips, hence the reason boxing training involves an inordinate number of squats. Building this strength helps runners to run strong and injury free.

What’s more, a strong upper body can also improve a runner’s speed and efficiency, because the abdominal and back muscles help stability and guarantee an efficient transfer of energy from your body to your legs.


Building core strength through boxing exercises will impact on your ability to control a bike and stay upright when it matters most.

As Cycling physio Dr Graham Theobald explains for MBR: when seated, your lower spine needs to be stable and in sync with the pelvis, not moving or twisting.

On long, tough climbs, glutes, quads and hip flexors do the work of powering the pedals. Off-road terrain also places extra stresses on both the bike and body, demanding continual positional changes and adaptations, placing the spine under increased stress.

This is why you need a stable lumbo-pelvic region (core), so that power is transferred directly to the pedals and no energy is wasted.


So how can you incorporate boxing into your training regime? We focus on three of the most effective types of boxing training exercises – and how to get them right…


As Shane McGuigan, who has coached Carl Frampton, David Haye and George Groves, says, “Boxers have big upper backs because they generate their punch power from their back muscles. Although a punch looks like a pushing movement, there is a pulling movement involved too. You can only accelerate as fast as you can decelerate, so the guys will do a mixture of pull-ups and chin-ups as well as bench presses and bent-over rows.”

How to get it right:

  • Lie down on the flat bench.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Raise your chest and tighten your upper-back.
  • Grab the bar.
  • Set your feet. Place your feet flat on the floor using a shoulder-width stance.
  • Straighten your arms to lift the bar out of the uprights.

Or check out the video below.


Boxers need a strong core to give them the strength to throw punches repeatedly. Sit ups are a proven way to build up core strength in the ring.

How to get it right:

  • Sit on the floor with knees slightly bent, hands in the guard position.
  • Lower your torso to the ground.
  • Return to starting position. Twist body and punch one arm to opposite side.
  • Twist body and punch to the other side. Punching left and right is one repetition.

Or check out the video below.


“Boxing is really a strength sport,” says boxing coach, Shane McGuigan. “We do a lot of work on back squats and front squats as well as other pure strength drills like deadlifts. The most important part of the body for strength is the glutes and legs and if you have good strength there you can’t go wrong in any sport.”

How to get it right:

Start doing squats without weights, then add them as you perfect the technique.

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart, knees under your hips.
  • Place hands out in front.
  • Squat down, keeping your centre of gravity over the middle of your foot.

Or check out the video below.

As Rocky said, “Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth.”