Boxing gyms have come a long way from the gritty, dank cages Rocky prowled in the predawn hours of Philadelphia’s winters. Just as we had the luxury-climbing-gym revolution last year—when men skipped the treadmill and instead flexed their bouldering skills—we’re now witnessing an explosion of ultra-high-end boxing temples.
Leading the way are Box ’N Burn Boxing and Fitness in L.A., Chicago’s Unanimous Boxing Gym, and, most recently, the gleaming Rumble, which opened a 6,000-plus-square-foot location in New York this past January. The knockdown palace, which is partly co-owned by a former Google executive and a master trainer from Bravo’s Work Out New York, is a mix of full-body toning and working the aqua heavy bag (which is much easier on the joints and tendons).
“Our clientele doesn’t just punch a bag for 45 minutes. We have weights and benches,” says Eugene Remm, a head of the EMM Group and a Rumble coowner. “Add our overall cleanliness, and nobody thinks ‘boxing.’” (For more about Rumble, visit mensfitness.com.)
We totally approve of the rise in boxing gyms, and not just because we’ve seen Creed too many times. Boxing isn’t just about fighting—it’s a great workout that boosts mental agility, improves coordination, and blends cardio and muscle sculpting. “Boxing is the only sport where you have to stay on your feet the whole time to be successful,” says Eric Kelly, a four-time amateur national champion who now trains clients in NYC. “Meanwhile, you’ve got to keep a guy’s foot out your ass. That requires every muscle in the body!” Ready to step into the ring wherever you may live?
Here’s your 12-round game plan:
The Beginner’s Guide to Boxing Workouts
You’ve hit YouTube, and after watching highlights of Mike Tyson knocking heads into the cheap seats, you’re amped to learn the ropes. Now what?
“Start by going to a reputable gym,” says Heather Hardy, the WBC international featherweight champ. What constitutes as “reputable” depends on your personal preference. The gym doesn’t have to be beautiful—it can be a hole-in-thewall reeking of Bengay with heavy bags wrapped with duct tape.
Next, pick a trainer. “Let the owner know if you’re interested in competition or fitness,” says Hardy. And you know you: Do you respond better to an earful of growls from a grizzled vet, or pats on the butt from a gentler soul? Make sure the gym trains “whitecollar types,” and steer clear of anyone lacking ring time. “I don’t take the ‘no fighting experience’ trainers as seriously,” says Kelly. “Ever heard of a swimming instructor who hasn’t swam before?”
And don’t be intimidated. The camaraderie found in boxing gyms is second to none, and most boxers are chill cats who are happy to share tips. From the banker throwing a soft punch to the welterweight prospect fighting on HBO next week, each is there to better themselves. “It’s one of America’s last true melting pots,” says Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.
GROUP CLASS OR MANO A MANO: HOW TO DECIDE
Group gigs are great for spinning, but in the boxing space? There’s something to be said for starting out by yourself and locking down the basics, bringing it back to the good old days, when men were men and drank raw eggs to get pure protein power. “One-onone is best,” says Kelly. “You get all the attention. Your trainer can focus on the proper technique and make sure you ain’t just staring at asses and being lazy.”
Your Total-Body Boxing Workout
The beauty of boxing workouts is that you can still become a mini Mayweather whether you make it to the gym or not. Done right, this boxing workout will eventually transform you into a Golden Gloves god.
STEP ONE: Stretch
No muscle goes unused, so spend five to 10 minutes before the bell rings stretching every body part. Work those hamstrings: Stand straight and bend over, with your fingers touching the floor. To prevent tearing your shoulder muscles, place your hand against a wall and lean away, which stretches the fibers.
STEP TWO: Jump rope
Jumping rope is crucial to building the quickness and agility you’ll need to be a ring king. Start out jumping with both feet, then gradually alternate, jumping five on the left and five on the right. Only after you master that will you be coordinated enough to jump back and forth between right and left.
STEP THREE: Shadow box
This drill helps you learn to stay balanced when you punch. It also puts your hammies, adductors, quads, and calves to work as you laterally move side to side. Start with three rounds, sliding and popping combos—which helps refine your evasion techniques—while picturing a foe in your face. You’ll eventually be able to shadow box for 15 minutes (or five rounds) and in the process build a toned trunk.
STEP FOUR: Heavy bag
Learn how to control your “foe” with a jab while also working your core and hips, from which you’ll transfer power to your punches. “The power comes from the ground up,” says Kelly, “and the core must be strong to get the right velocity behind each punch.” Aim for heavy bags attached to a chain, rather than those connected to the wall— the swinging helps hone your body movements. As you hit the bag for three to four rounds, make sure to snap the punch before you bring the hand back.
STEP FIVE: Speed bag
Fast-twitch muscles up top pop as the speed bag goes rat-a-tat. The goal is to build combos, which will improve shoulder strength and train you to keep your hands high. Besides getting those killer shoulders, practicing the speed bag is for rhythm, timing, and relaxation. Punches shouldn’t be thrown with flexed muscles—relax your arm to keep a steady rhythm, which translates to a more fluid motion. Don’t “punch” the bag; it’s as if your hand is holding a bicycle pedal moving in a continuous circle, hitting the bag every time it gets to the top. To improve your accuracy and head movement, sub in a double-end bag.