5 Surprising Benefits of Boxing

This is a guest post from Drew Harrisberg, exercise physiologist and athlete for 12RND Fitness.

At its core, boxing is the ultimate stress release, with at least 75% of Australians admit that stress affects their physical health, which can be mitigated with a daily dose of punching, ducking and diving. The boxing workout is great for cardiovascular health, mental health, strength and more but it doesn’t just stop there. Here are 5 more surprising benefits of why I love boxing.

1. Boxing Sculpts the Midsection

Boxing is a great way to develop both functional and aesthetic abs. A common misconception is that boxing is merely an arms workout. Sure, if you box with poor form your shoulders will burn like no other but when you box with proper form it is also a profound core workout. To generate speed and power in boxing you need to utilise hip and trunk rotation. This requires the muscles of the abdomen such as the internal and external obliques to contract explosively (both concentrically and eccentrically) to produce torque as well as to slow down the movement so that your centre of mass remains over your base of support i.e midline stability.

It is also very effective at developing a muscle that many people attribute to sculpting the ultimate abdominal region – the Serratus Anterior (SA). When it comes to sculpting the midsection, most people fall short of their potential by simply focusing on the rectus abdominus aka the visible 6-pack and neglecting the serratus anterior. The SA ties the entire abdomen together and should not be overlooked. The SA is often called the boxer’s muscle because boxers tend to have the best development. The reason for this is because the action of the SA is scapular protraction (think about reaching for a long punch). It’s a functional muscle with aesthetic benefits too. It brings together the 6-pack look. Of course, if your body fat percentage is not low enough to reveal your abs, then no matter how many crunches and leg raises you do or how many punches you throw, you won’t be able to see what’s beneath the layer of subcutaneous fat. In other words, abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen. You need to put in the hard work in the gym to stimulate growth and then let your nutrition do the rest of the job.

2. Boxing Improves Bone Mineral Density

Boxing is a great way to improve bone strength. As an Exercise physiologist, I even prescribe boxing for elderly pollutions who are at risk of developing osteoporosis. The forces through the hands and arms stimulate bones to mineralise and strengthen, ultimately reducing the risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis and potentially even reversing the conditions in some cases. Resistance training, in general, is a great way to mitigate the negative effects of bone mineral loss due to sedentary behaviour. Undergoing mechanical tension caused by external loads on the skeleton (i.e the action of muscles and tendons pulling on the bones) is an effective stimulus to promote bone mineral density adaptations. Boxing ticks this box plus one other. The impact forces of hitting boxing pads/bags transmit forces through the bones and trigger an increase in bone mineral density. Best of all, you don’t even have to get into the ring to box, you can sign up for a class such as 12RND Fitness which covers all the bases when it comes to strength, conditioning and learning the skill.

3. Boxing Relieves Stress

There are many effective ways to manage stress, from breathing techniques to meditation, cold therapy (such as an ice bath or swim in the ocean), listening to music, and my personal favourite – letting out some frustration on a punching bag. I like to call this controlled aggression in a safe environment. Many people believe that combat is in our DNA. Our primal genes are programmed to do it. Now, I’m certainly not saying that we should be fighting one another, in fact, quite the opposite. I’m not condoning violence or aggression but the martial arts gym is a great way to channel your energy safely and effectively to minimise harm (to yourself and others) and maximise the physical and mental health benefits. Plus, knowing self defence is a great confidence-booster. Finally, the endorphin release that accompanies a strenuous workout is off the charts during and after a boxing session. You’ll ride the high for the rest of the day.

4. Boxing Fires up the Heart and lungs

Boxing is one of the best cardio-respiratory workouts you can do. The fitness of a boxer is often unparalleled in sports. Elite athletes who try a stint in boxing quickly realise just how fit you have to be. The nature of the movement is full body and incredibly taxing on the heart and lungs. There’s not a muscle that goes unworked when you smash out a boxing workout. It targets them all. As a result, your heart and lungs are forced into working extra hard to deliver oxygenated blood to the working muscles so that you can maintain a high work output. If you’re somebody who does a lot of road-running and you’re looking for a change from your typical cardio workout, boxing will deliver the cardiovascular benefits without the lower body joint loading that comes with slamming the pavement on a long run every day.

5. Boxing Helps Build Shoulder Boulders

It’s no surprise that the deltoids get a great workout during boxing. After all, they are the muscles that attach your arms to your body. Just look at the physique of any boxer and their shoulders are often a stand out feature. But it isn’t merely because the muscles are contracting, rather it’s the type of contraction that counts. Boxing requires both type 1 and type 2 muscular contractions aka slow and fast-twitch contractions. Your shoulders are always being used at low intensities to keep your arms up to protect your face but when you throw fast, explosive punches, it requires a greater utilisation of the fast-twitch muscle fibres. Also, the delts are forced to work in a variety of planes of motion which helps to give you a well-rounded shoulder workout targeting all three heads of the deltoids. If you currently train your shoulders in the gym with weights, boxing might be the plateau-breaker you’re looking for give you that lean rounded look.