Go the Distance

Think about your toughest workouts-times when you lifted so heavy your head ached, or you ran so long your lungs burned. Now imagine doing both those things simultaneously, for 12 three-minute rounds, while being punched in the face. That’s what a boxing match is like-a constant output of power and stamina that tests a fighter’s psychological resolve as well as his physical limits.

This month, it’s our goal to give you a taste of this kind of training (without making you taste leather in the process). We’ve put together an all-out endurance program based on the routines real fighters perform when readying themselves for the ring. But be warned: These workouts hit back. The pace you’ll be working at will place a great demand on your cardiovascular system. Just as fighters must learn to dig deep and continue the battle when they’re tired and hurt, adapting to these exhaustive workouts will prepare you for tougher weight workouts, cardio sessions, or any other physical activity you’re into. Not only will you sculpt a knockout body-lean and tautly muscled-you’ll gain the mental fortitude to gut through bouts of anything life can throw at you.

Since not everyone has a legendary Gleason’s or Kronk Gym in their neighborhood, we made sure the workouts don’t require any specific boxing equipment, such as a heavy bag or focus mitts (although you will need a jump rope). Most of the time, you’ll use your own body weight, performing familiar exercises like pullups, pushups, and jumping jacks-all full-body movements and great calorie burners. You’ll also use a medicine ball, a longtime favorite of boxers for its ability to improve punching power and core strength.

The most important aspect of each workout is explosivity. You must move fast-popping up into the air, chucking the ball onto the floor, or throwing punches with bad intentions. More challenging still will be maintaining this intensity over the course of a circuit-one set of each exercise done back-to-back with no rest. Most athletes, such as football or baseball players, train to be explosive for only short periods, such as charging to make a tackle or running to first base. In fact, maintaining power for longer than a few seconds, and generating it repeatedly with little rest in between, is almost unheard of outside of boxing. That’s where exercises like the burpee (the full-body power move seen in Workouts A and C) become so effective. You’ll drop from a standing position into a crouch, then shoot your legs behind you and go into pushup position. Immediately reverse the motion, tucking your legs under your chest and then exploding upward into a jump. An old-time drill used by combat athletes and soldiers, the burpee is intended to tire you out, forcing you to work harder at the other exercises when you’re already in a fatigued state.

While the first few sessions might leave you on the floor to be counted out, persistence will eventually reward you with superior conditioning. Soon you’ll be able to maintain a high output of exercise for prolonged periods, and you’ll find you can recover quicker between weight-training sets and cardio intervals.

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