So you think you want to learn how to box? That is freaking awesome, and this guide is a great place to begin your research into the boxing basics for beginners. You will learn many skills that physically and mentally challenge you. Not only might you get into the best shape of your life, but you will reap the many rewards of hard work and discipline that a sport like boxing can teach you.
Boxing is a great sport, rich with history in many regions across the world. Whether you want to learn a new sport, learn boxing skills for fitness, or begin a road into the competitive boxing world, boxing is something anyone can learn if you so desire.
Boxing is inspiring, it motivates, and has a natural tendency to produce underdog stories. There is a reason Hollywood has produced so many classic boxing movies. Yo Adrian!
Boxing Participation is on the Rise
Since 2006, participation in boxing has been on the rise. Boxing for fitness and boxing for competition has grown from 2 million participants, up to over 6 million in 2015.
In its most basic form, boxing is an inexpensive sport to get into; you can shadow box for free, spar with a friend, or give the heavy bag a beating in the comfort of your own garage.
I’m just speculating, but perhaps the stress of the economic difficulties from 2007-2011 has led people to rediscover the simple physical and mental benefits of the sport, as you’ll find out below.
Benefits of Boxing
- Ultimate Fitness Workout – Studies have shown that boxing workouts are some of the highest calorie burning activities you can do. The average person can burn up to 400 calories with just 30 minutes of regular sparring with a partner or with a heavy bag.
- High Intensity, Low Impact – Boxing workouts for fitness incorporate HIIT (high-intensity interval training) principles that create full body workouts that burn fat, improve your cardiovascular conditioning while being far easier on your joints than activities like running.
- Builds Strength & Endurance – Boxing teaches you an array of awesome punches and techniques, which naturally builds upper body strength and endurance, without the strain (and grunting) of weightlifting. Rope jumping and footwork routines do the same for your lower body.
- Improves Your Mental Focus – In a weird way, boxing improves your mental focus by forcing you to think about only your form and technique. Going through a boxing workout is a great way to clear out the thoughts cluttering up your mind.
- Builds Self Confidence – What could be more inspiring than learning how to punch something, hard. You might start out as a total newbie, but after weeks and months of boxing classes, you start to walk around knowing you have a particular set of skills in your back pocket.
- Great Stress Relief – When you put forth great physical exertion, your body releases a stream of wondrous endorphins that has a way of melting away the stresses of the world. Endorphins can be addicting in a way and are a totally natural way to make you feel better mentally and physically.
- Teaches Basic Self Defense – Boxing isn’t really meant to be self-defense training, but it does teach you some fundamentals that can be lifesaving if you come to some jackass on the street. Remember thugs don’t play by the rules on the street, so I highly recommend specific training for self-defense purposes.
- Great for Youth – Under the right trainers, boxing is a fantastic tool for developing critical self-confidence and positive self-image in youth. It’s not about fighting, it’s about doing something physical that’s hard. Over the years our culture has encouraged sedentary activates like video game and plating on smartphones. Youth need physical activity to maintain a healthy level of fitness, which boxing excels at.
Find a Boxing Gym
Now that you understand the myriad benefits of a boxing regimen, it’s time to go out and find yourself a good boxing gym. Like any other type of gym, not all are equal. Boxing for fitness has different requirements than learning to box for competition. A good boxing gym has certified trainers, quality equipment, and lots of helpful people to help maintain your motivation. The good gyms know how to help you achieve your goals.
Essential Boxing Equipment
Before you even begin throwing your first punches, you need to be prepared with the right equipment. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and buy the best stuff on the market, but you should look for quality gear that will last you a long time. It can get a little pricey, but remember that your gear is an investment in your new hobby. For a lot of people, spending money like this makes them more committed to sticking with it. While not a complete list of everything an aspiring fighter needs, these are the essential pieces of gear that will get you on the right path.
- Hand Wraps – Hand wraps are used to protect your knuckles and hands under your gloves. They are usually made out of cloth and take some practice learning how to wrap up properly.
- Boxing Gloves – Every boxer needs their own gloves. There are different sizes and weights for sparring, competition, women’s specific, and youth-specific. You should invest in a pair that is at the weight limit that is appropriate for what type of fighting and training you plan on doing, whether traditional boxing or MMA gloves.
- Boxing Footwear – Boxing shoes are usually high topped and have a grip that is appropriate for a canvas ring. They are designed to keep your ankles and feet stable while moving around. They are not for running or other cardio.
- Headgear – Amateur fighters are required to wear headgear, so it is a good idea to go ahead and find some good fitting headgear to fight in.
- Mouth Guards – A mouth guard protects your teeth from getting shattered when getting punched in the face, and also helps you not bite your tongue. Practicing with one in your mouth will help you learn how to breathe.
- Heavy Bag – A good heavy bag will help you work on punching power, footwork, and just overall stamina. There are tons of great heavy bag workouts to build your strength. Traditional hanging heavy bags are great, but if you want something more portable at home, go with a free standing punching bag.
- Speed Bag – The speed bag is a small punching bag mounted on a platform and swivel that allows rapid fire punching. A speed bag helps you work on hand speed, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and stamina. It can also help you build some strength in your shoulder muscles. Check out these awesome speed bag workouts. An alternate piece of equipment is the reflex bag, which is attached to a floor base rather than hanging.
- Double End Bag – This is a speed bag type ball that is connected to the ceiling and floor with a rope or bungee. This is a great alternative to speed bags that allow you to practice many different punch combinations.
- Focus Mitts – Focus mitts, sometimes called punch mitts or sparring pads, will let you punch your partner at full power without hurting them. It will help you work on your movement, punch targeting, and overall power.
- Jump Rope – The jump rope is the best cardio tool for any fighter. It will help you work on going longer into the rounds, build up a lot of stamina, and is low impact enough to keep you from getting injured.
- Groin Protection – A good cup and groin guard is peace of mind while sparring hard and training with partners. You never know when a stray blow will take the wind out of your sails.
How to Box for Beginners
Boxing is a sport that anyone can learn, as long as you have some desire and internal fortitude. I want to first go through the boxing basics at a very high-level view. Then we will discuss many of these topics in greater depth later. Let’s review each of these boxing fundamentals that are essential for beginners to learn how to box.
Boxing Basics #1 – Boxing Stance and Guard
Before you ever throw a punch, you need to perfect your stance. There are several different types of stances, but for the absolute beginner, work on that is nice and balanced for both offense and defense.
A good stance starts with placing your two feet about shoulder length apart, with your dominant leg in the back, and the other upfront. Imagine there is a line going down the middle of your body. Your feet should be on both sides of that line, with your dominant one’s heel touching it while pointing out, and your front foot touching it with your big toe.
Your guard should protect your face and body, depending on where they are punching. You don’t want to be facing them squarely, because that gives them a bigger target to punch.
Boxing Basics #2 – Footwork
Footwork is just as important as punching, so make sure you have a good idea of how to move your feet. You should keep your weight balanced so you can move easier back and forth. You should also never be to square to your opponent. Keep your feet spread out, but not too far and not too close together.
Boxing Basics #3 – Learn the Punches
Boxing has 4 main punches that you need to learn to be effective in the ring. They are the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut.
- Jab – The jab is the most basic punch. It is the lead in most combinations and can be used to whittle down your opponent. Standing in your proper stance, the jab a straight punch coming from your front hand which is your non-dominant one.
- Cross – The cross is another straight punch, but it comes from your dominant hand and carries more power than the jab. Use it to finish up combos or to put your opponent off balance.
- Uppercut – Using either hand, the uppercut comes from lowering your arm and bringing up a punch in an upward motion. It is used to strike your opponent on the chin and is a great punch for finishing a combo and delivering a knockout blow.
- Hook – A hook is using either hand in a horizontal motion. It is effective because it comes at an opponent from their peripheral vision. It can be used on both the face and the body and carries a lot of power. Many professional fighters use the hook as a finishing blow.
- Combinations – Combos come in many forms. Often times they are set up by the jab. Work on throwing a jab, a cross, and a hook in quick succession. That is one of the most fundamental combos that most beginning fighters learn.
Boxing Basics #4 – Defensive Techniques
Boxing is not just about punching your opponent. They will be punching back, so learning good defensive techniques is a must. A good training program involves both offense and defense. When you are defending yourself, you will be using all parts of your body: arms, head, torso, and feet.
- Arms – Your arms give you reach, so use them to fend off punches. You can block punches by putting both your arms in front of your face, absorbing the blows. You can also do this to block your body. Finally, you can dodge and slip punches by parrying them in mid-swing with your arms extended. Think of it like you are sword fighting. Your arms are like a sword and shield, blocking and parrying their weapons.
- Body and Head – Moving your head out of the way of their punches by bending at the waist is called a slip. You can also bob and weave to make you harder to hit directly. If you need some time to catch your breath, or if you want to limit your opponents’ power, you can clinch with them by grabbing them and pulling them into your body. When you get into a situation where a flurry of punches are coming in, simply knowing how to cover up your face with your arms and body can save you.
- Footwork – All of your movement in the ring comes down to your footwork. This is why your stance is so important. A neutral stance has your weight centered, so when you need to pull back or sidestep, you can easily shift your weight back and forth to glide across the ring. You can also move your opponent by pivoting around them or create distance by pulling away.
Boxing Basics #5 – Sparring
While you can learn a lot about fighting with just you and a mirror, it is vital that you put your newfound skills into practice with a sparring partner. Sparring allows you to understand how it would feel to fight a real opponent.
There are several different types of sparring techniques, each one designed to work on different aspects of boxing.
For example, a sparring partner wearing sparring pads will allow you to work on your punch power, footwork and hand speed. A low contact sparring session will help you work on your ring presence, your ability to move, your footwork and your body movement. Full contact sparring is a great way to simulate a real fight. It allows you to put together everything you have learned into a complete package.
When sparring, remember to always take it slow and be extra careful. You don’t want to hurt your partner, and you don’t want to get hurt by them either. Sparring is designed to give you real-world experience in a fighting environment, so find someone who is more knowledgeable than you to give you pointers while in the ring.