Gone are the days when boxing was thought to be primarily a male domain. Now, more women than ever are lacing up their gloves and stepping into the ring – or at least hitting the heck out of a punch bag. After the inclusion of women's boxing in the London Olympics 110 years after it had featured previously, more and more women are taking up the sport. Whether you're facing off against an opponent, boxing pads or even utilising your legs in a kickboxing class, boxing is a great way to boost your mood, burn fat and build your self-confidence.
"Women are actually better boxers than men as they lead with their legs," says Matt Spooner, head coach at UFC Gym in Sydney, who also trains actor Leonardo DiCaprio. "Even a 60 kilogram woman can hit with a force of 40 kilograms," he says. "If a 90 kilogram man uses just his arms to box, he'll only achieve a force of around 10 kilograms. That's why women tend to be better boxers – they use their legs for power, whereas men rely on their arms."
A boxing class raises your metabolic rate for 48 hours after your training session.
Power of the punch
Although boxing might seem to be just an upper-body exercise, it actually works your legs and core tremendously when the correct technique is used. "Boxing is especially good for toning and building strength and power in the chest, triceps, shoulders, midsection and the upper and lower back," says trainer Kris Etheridge, the owner of Kris Etheridge Fitness, a private training studio in Toorak, Victoria.
A typical class usually involves a 10-minute workout, followed by two three-minute rounds, followed by a short rest phase of 30 seconds to 60 seconds. "This sequence is usually repeated for the duration of the workout," Etheridge says.
And as women have found out, it's all about your technique, not necessarily strength, that makes them so good at boxing.
"Learning to box correctly is worth it," Spooner says. "Using your body correctly will ensure you're getting the most out of your workout and not wasting energy."
He suggests practising the following sequence to ensure your upper body isn't taking the brunt of a strike.
"Start from the ball of your foot, step forward and using your ankle, knee and hip you use your core to rotate and as you land on your foot, your punch should land on target. There should be very little effort required from your arm." By avoiding overuse of arm strength, you'll be able to avoid neck, shoulder and arm injuries.
"Many athletes use boxing training to improve their power, strength and explosiveness, as well as to improve their anaerobic threshold," Etheridge says. "This is the rate at which their bodies can remove performance inhibitors such as lactic acid, allowing them to perform at a higher level for longer."
And if you're looking to melt fat, boxing is one of the highest calorie-burning exercises there is. "It uses all the muscles in the body," he says. "Plus it pushes your heart rate above what you could maintain for a sustained period of time, because you employ short rest periods to catch your breath briefly before pushing your heart rate back up." This process occurs for the entire duration of the exercise, allowing you to burn maximum calories, tone up and elevate your fitness.
The best news of all? "A boxing class raises your metabolic rate for 48 hours after your training session," Spooner says. Usually, your metabolic rate returns to near normal after ending aerobic exercise, such as walking or running. So that 680 calories you just burnt in an hour is just the start to a trimmer, more toned and stronger you.
Fitness Ring Boxing and Kickboxing Studio, Richmond