Over five million people in the U.S participate in boxing, and it’s easy to see why. Boxing is a unique way to lose weight while learning how to defend yourself.
While the combat sport may seem intimidating at first, boxing welcomes everyone. Boxing is inclusive regardless of how much you weigh or how old you are.
If you’re considering starting to box, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits and basics of boxing and what you can expect during boxing training.
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Table of Contents
Before you get the lowdown on some boxing techniques, you may want to know how this combat sport can benefit you.
When you’re really going at it in the boxing ring, you’re bound to reduce stress. While some people prefer meditating or drinking teas of various flavors, your stress relieving may involve a more hands-on approach.
Think of it as therapeutic boxing, where you focus on mental health rehabilitation.
To elevate your stress-relieving boxing experience, you can put your earphones on and listen to your favorite track.
Along with stress relief, boxing can improve your mood and overall mental well-being.
One of the main benefits of boxing is educating yourself about self-defense.
After mastering some basic techniques, you’ll be more confident when attempting to defend yourself and your loved ones.
Once you have your first boxing session, you’ll probably feel the muscle aches the next day, and it won’t just be in your arms.
Boxing targets muscles in your midsection region. In other words, you’ll be getting an ab workout as well.
Your core strength is crucial in boxing training. It’ll give you a stronger push and pack more power into your punches, especially when you use your obliques.
Apart from power, you’ll also get better stability when you engage your core.
Enhance Heart and Lung Health
Since boxing is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you’ll be reaping the benefits of maintaining adequate heart health.
In addition to being a HIIT workout, boxing also provides cardio training.
Now, the intensity of boxing training is felt in your body as your heart begins to pump more oxygenated blood to supply the body’s working muscles and lungs.
After continuous training, you can expect a higher level of aerobic fitness.
Improve Bone Health
A non-active life is usually associated with higher risks of developing bone issues such as osteoporosis. As you repetitively hit your target, the impact felt in your hands triggers the enhancement of bone mineral density.
Broadly speaking, any action that involves muscles or tendons contracting on the bone can stimulate healthy growth in bone density.
Weight loss doesn’t have to mean long boring cardio sessions. Boxing is essentially HIIT which gives you a better chance at weight loss since you burn many more calories.
For instance, a 30-minute boxing session can make you burn 300 to 400 calories, depending on its intensity. Meanwhile, an hour walk can make you sweat out 200 to 300 calories.
Decrease Blood Pressure
Since you improve your heart health from boxing, you also, in turn, lower your blood pressure.
Whether it’s systolic or diastolic blood pressure, boxing can help regulate the increased pressure in your blood vessels.
When combating obesity, a study showed that boxing had a higher efficacy rate than brisk walking in lowering blood pressure.
Boxing Rules You Should Know
You’re probably excited to learn all kinds of moves as you enter a boxing class, but you’ll want to get down a few rules:
- You can’t punch anywhere below the belt of your opponent.
- You’re not allowed to shove, trip, kick, wrestle, hold, or bite.
- You can’t hit with your wrist, backhand, inside your glove, side of the hand, back, elbow, head, or forearm.
- You are prohibited from hunching down below your opponent’s waist.
- You can’t hit the opponent if they’re already on the floor.
- Don’t spit your mouthguard while playing.
What to Consider Before Boxing
After getting an idea of the benefits and rules of boxing, there are a few things, as a beginner boxer, you want to consider first.
Where Will You Box?
This is mainly divided between boxing at a gym or your home. Each choice has its pros and cons.
For example, boxing at the gym may be more effective since you’ll have someone to coach you through it.
Nevertheless, home boxing is much more convenient and comfortable for some than going to the gym.
What Equipment is Needed for Beginner Boxers
Whether training at home or the gym, you’ll want to prepare a boxing kit for your next session.
You don’t always need equipment to train in Boxing because you can do a lot with your own movement and footwork.
But it certainly helps feel the part and get used to the tools needed for sparring.
Number one on this list is boxing gloves. These will basically help cushion any blow you make. You can’t go to any boxing ring without them. They’ll be your primary piece of equipment.
Although the gym may provide you with boxing gloves, it’s best to bring your own.
Chances are, if you’re borrowing the gym’s gloves, you’ll likely stick to one, and you may come one day to find them gone or torn. Plus, it’s much more hygienic to use your own boxing gloves.
The fit you want to purchase is usually determined based on weight.
If you weigh between 120 lbs and 150 lbs, then 12 oz. should be sufficient.
A 14 oz. pair is fit for those weighing between 150 lbs to 185 lbs.
If you’re below 120 lbs or above 185 lbs, then 8 oz. and 16 oz. sizes are best, respectively.
Before you wear the boxing gloves, you need to use hand wraps. They will protect your knuckles, wrist, and hand from any injury.
Additionally, they tighten your hand into a more compact fist.
Think of hand wraps like socks since they absorb most of your hand’s sweat. Unless you want sweaty boxing gloves, you can buy two to three hand wraps, depending on how much you train.
Your face is a likely target from your opponent. If they hit hard enough, you could potentially lose a tooth. This is why you’re going to need to get a mouthguard.
It’s too risky going in the ring without any mouth protection because you could risk getting a weakened jaw as well.
Even though the gym may offer mouthguards, I highly suggest getting your own. Since its users can bleed from their jaws, it can get contaminated with blood-borne illnesses like hepatitis.
You can use a punching bag if you’re not a fan of sparring with an opponent. The bag will also give you an impact to push through and a more efficient workout.
This equipment will also prove most useful if you’re boxing from home.
You can also optionally purchase speed bags. Like punching bags, they provide you with an object to hit. Plus, they focus on your hitting precision.
Apart from that, a speed bag also improves your hand-eye coordination, speed, stamina, and foot stance.
Although boxing doesn’t generally allow the opponent to take a hit at anything below the waist, you can’t be too safe.
Groin protection will give you a barrier from any incoming low blows.
Once worn, they should feel comfortable, and you’ll be able to move around without issue.
Other Optional Boxing Equipment
Sometimes, you may require additional items in your boxing training, especially if you’re home training. Nevertheless, more often than not, they’re mostly optional.
Although this isn’t a tool you’ll directly use when boxing, jump roping can help you establish faster footwork.
In addition to this, it also improves your cardio strength, making you last longer in the ring.
You’ll be able to be more light on your feet as you throw your punches, as opposed to staying too grounded.
As Muhammad Ali, also known as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, once said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Boxing shoes are mainly used in gyms or rings if you need a better foot grip, especially if the floor is smooth.
They allow you to move more freely and safely. Typically, you shouldn’t feel like you’re wearing them.
Sometimes boxers work in the gym barefoot when shadow boxing or similar, but boxing shoes are often worn for the best grip on the surface.
As a beginner in the boxing ring, you may need some headgear to protect your head from any hard blows, particularly during sparring sessions.
The gym may provide headgear, but it’s probably covered in the last user’s sweat, so you may want to get your own.
According to studies, using Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) approved headgear reduces the risk of concussions. It also decreases the risk of superficial injury.
You can use mitts if you’re training from home with a partner. These will help you better your hit precision and encourage you to use more power in your punches.
If you’re going to the gym, they probably already have mitts, and your coach can use them for your training.
There’s nothing more motivating than setting goals. Whether you’re trying to compete, lose weight, or learn how to defend yourself, all these goals will push you forward in your boxing training.
Otherwise, you may be inclined to give up more quickly and fall back on training sessions.
How to Get Started
Boxing involves a myriad of combat techniques. Although it may seem like you’re doing a repetitive series of punches, there’s much more to it.
To get into boxing for the first time, there are five main aspects to know for perfecting your boxing techniques. They are punches, stances, footwork, sparring, and defense.
A great course will teach you all these fundamentals in detail. This is the one I recommend above all others:
Perfect Your Boxing Stance
The most essential part of boxing is how you hold and balance yourself in your stance.
You’ll need to work on the basic boxing stance as a beginner. This stance will allow you to use basic attack tactics or defense mechanisms.
- Place your left foot toe and right foot back heel on a center line. If you’re left-handed, switch feet.
- Keep your toe pointing toward your opponent while your back foot is at about 45 degrees.
- Remove your back heel slightly from the ground.
- Bend your knees a bit to have a bit more range when moving around.
- Keep your head straight. You can optionally tilt your chin downward, but don’t lean too much where your shoulder is behind your head.
- Put your dominant hand near your cheek to protect your face. The other hand should be covering your chin from afar.
- Your palms should face your side.
- Elbows should be tucked in for better protection against opponents.
- Relax your body and avoid any tension.
Master Your Punches
When it comes to punches in boxing, there are a few kinds to master.
These punches are one of the most powerful throws in boxing. Most fighting combinations conclude with a cross to ensure maximum damage to the opponent.
Before you throw a cross, you’ll want to make sure the opponent is within reach in a straight line.
- Start with the basic boxing stance.
- Initiate the punch using your dominant hand from the back.
- The cross should travel a pathway from your chin toward the opponent in a straight line.
- Spin your shoulders 180 degrees and for added power, move your hips and torso with the punch.
- Keep your punching palm facing the floor and your knuckles facing up.
- Push your weight with the punch.
- Retract your arm back into a basic boxing stance.
You can use a hook to attack your opponent from their side, whether you want to target their head or body. Now, there are two main kinds of hooks, namely, rear and lead.
This hook uses the rear hand from the basic boxing stance.
- Engage your core and move your back hand away from your face.
- Move your elbow at a 90-degree angle and push your fist toward the opponent’s side.
- Pivot your back foot to move your leg in a forward position.
- Twist your torso and hips with the punch to move your weight toward the punch.
The lead hook uses the front hand to target your opponent.
- Starting with your basic boxing stance, shift your weight from the front leg to the back to build the punch’s momentum.
- Move your upper body slightly toward the front leg and push your front hand slightly away from your face.
- Engage your core and push your hip a bit forward.
- Pivot the front foot and hit at a 90-degree angle with your elbows jutting horizontally.
- Make sure to flex the bicep and tighten your fist right before you hit the object or opponent.
This is one of the most basic yet effective types of punch. The jab is mostly about creating a distraction for your opponent, so you can land some more powerful punches like a cross.
As you’re in the basic boxing stance, you’ll be using your lead hand to land the jab.
- Push your arm forward with your palm facing down and knuckles going inward and facing up.
- With the punch, take a small step forward and push your weight with it.
- Retract your arm and go back to the basic boxing stance.
Similar to the hook, uppercuts come in two main forms, lead and rear. Both of these can land a strong blow on your opponent, especially when done with combinations.
- Move your weight toward the lead leg.
- Push your arm out of your face while keeping the back of your hand facing the opponent and the knuckles moving upward.
- Turn your hips forward and allow the lead foot to pivot as your hand makes an impact.
- For protection, put your rear hand up near your face.
- Put your back foot heel down and raise the lead foot’s heel.
- Push the hip forward.
- Bring your arm out while keeping the palm facing you and hit the opponent.
- Guard your face with the lead hand.
An overhand punch is mostly used when your opponent attempts to block a hit through slipping or bobbing. The punch comes from over your shoulders and head.
The overhand has several benefits. For example, your opponent will not see it coming since it comes from your back.
- Move your shoulder backward and keep your elbows arched at a 90 to 135 degrees angle.
- Take a step forward with the punch. Both the hit and foot should land at the same time.
- Lean slightly towards the lead foot when throwing the overhand.
- Pivot the rear foot during the punch.
Work on Your Footwork
Boxing works on all of your body, including your lower body. While you’re throwing your punches, your feet need to be light enough so you can move more flexibly.
In other words, you can’t stay in your grounded stance the whole match.
Not only does footwork move you closer to your opponent, but it helps deliver a more powerful blow with each punch. You’ll want to keep your feet wide enough where you’re balanced.
If it’s too wide, then you’ll shorten your stance and lose range to hit the opponent. Meanwhile, if it’s too narrow, then your footwork will become stiffer.
In addition, you don’t want to keep jumping around, or you’ll waste too much energy.
Learning how to move your feet and box can take time, so be patient, as not everyone has the natural coordination.
Overall, there are two main footwork options you’ll want to focus on as a beginner boxer. These are the step-drag and pivot.
In boxing, you want to avoid crossing your legs, which may often happen when you try to walk.
Instead, the step-drag method allows you to move forward by placing your lead foot ahead and then dragging the rear foot with it.
This technique will keep you grounded while still moving swiftly around.
If you’re moving ahead or towards the left, use your lead foot first. On the other hand, if you want to go backward or to the right, the rear foot will lead instead in a step-drag motion.
Pivoting your foot in boxing mainly involves twisting your front foot. This technique allows you to dodge a punch or find a better attack range.
You can move your rear foot back where it crosses with the front foot from a frontal view and pivot the front foot towards the rear foot.
You can typically pivot the front foot at a 45 to 90-degree angle.
Understand Sparring Techniques
Sparring combines what you’ve learned from training on footwork, punches, and defense. Sparring requires you to have a partner, whether you’re at home or a gym.
The practice gives you an honest look into what a boxing match may feel like.
As you spar with a partner, you’ll have a better grasp of reaction time, and both of you will eventually improve your boxing technique. Generally, you’ll want to wear protective boxing equipment such as headgear and gloves when sparring.
Types of Sparring
There are a few kinds of sparring when boxing you can apply to your training, such as technical and open sparring.
Also referred to as a non-contact activity, technical sparring allows you to focus on your body movements and footwork.
Conditional sparring, as its name suggests, involves boxing with agreed-upon conditions or restrictions. For instance, a condition could be that both boxers aren’t allowed to do any kind of punches other than a jab.
Another restriction could be that the boxers can only throw punches at the body. These conditions give the trainee chances to improve upon specific techniques or punches.
Open sparring is like a full-contact boxing match. You get to test all the boxing skills you’ve developed. The main difference between this and an actual match is that a coach will probably step in to give you feedback on your technique or what you can improve upon.
If you’re at home with a boxing partner, be careful while open sparring since it tends to get intense. This is particularly true if one or both of you are competitive.
Tips When Sparring
- You may get nervous before your sparring match, but these nerves will only make it worse for you. Try your best to remain relaxed.
- Ensure that your partner is in the same weight class to make things equal.
- Use 16 oz boxing gloves.
- Keep your head and hands up to protect your face.
- Avoid overtraining for a sparring match beforehand to avoid muscle fatigue.
- Don’t aim too high with your boxing combinations since advanced options usually come with practice.
- Always lean back on the basics regarding stance, punches, defense, and footwork.
- Warm up with a few drills before the sparring match.
Keep Your Defense in Check
After learning all about the attack, it’s time to defend yourself.
Defense is crucial; without it, you’re bound to be unable to handle an entire boxing match. The blocking technique is the first thing you want to focus on in defense.
Since you’re a beginner boxer, you’ll want to start learning how to block before moving on to more advanced moves like slipping or rolling.
Which Parts to Focus on in Defense
That being said, there are four main body parts you’ll be using when in defense mode. They’re your arms, feet, head, and torso.
Your arms are your main defenders. You can use them to block and absorb any move coming your way.
To block your head, you must move them higher in the basic boxing stance. To defend your body, just lower the arms towards your body.
Alternatively, you can reach out your hand to block your opponent’s hit, although this would be a more advanced move known as parrying. It’s similar to how you use swords to deflect an attack, except with your arms.
Defense involves a lot of footwork to deflect a hit. You can use a step-drag to move backward or sideways to avoid a punch.
To make footwork easier on you, I suggest maintaining a basic boxing stance, where your weight is evenly distributed.
That way, you’ll have more leeway to move around without shifting your weight too much during each step.
You can move your head to defend it by twisting your waist to move your head to the opposing side of the punch. This move is called slipping and requires a lot more practice, especially for beginners.
Another defensive move for your head is called bob and weave. You may have seen boxers train for this technique by ducking their heads side to side under a rope.
That’s how they avoid a head punch, by tilting their heads the other way. They then move under their opponent’s arm, narrowly missing their hit.
As a beginner, you can protect your torso by blocking it using your hands. In more pro boxing matches, boxers use a technique called clinching.
If you’ve watched a match, you may have seen a couple of boxers seemingly hugging each other, but one of them is clinching their opponent.
It occurs when you entangle your opponent’s arms and hold them to give you a breather. Although if the referee thinks it’s gone on for too long, they’ll probably break it up.
How to Block Body Punches
If a punch is coming near your torso area, you can block it by constricting your elbows near your body. If the hit is coming from either your opponent’s left or right hand, bring your right and left elbow down, respectively.
How to Block Head Punches
To keep your head safe, use your hands to block your face. If the punch is coming from your opponent’s left or right hand, then raise your right and left hand towards your face, respectively.
Focusing on Your Counter-Punch
In essence, a boxing match is a series of punches and counter-punches. For beginners, you can begin by initially blocking and then getting a jab in.
Most counter-punching involves combining your attack and defense strategy.
Nonetheless, the block first then hit method may not always work out. For example, if you’re opponent jabs you, your block may not be fast enough. That being the case, you can get your own jab in, followed by a punch and ending with a block.
Countering Other Punches
Other punches, like a cross or uppercut, may get a bit harder.
You’ll have to intercept these attacks with another punch or jab. Alternatively, you can block first, then counter with a jab or cross.
Boxing Combinations for Beginners
After getting the hang of the basics of boxing, such as punching, defending, and footwork, it’s time to familiarize yourself with combinations.
These series of moves allow you to do the most damage to the opponent.
I recommend starting these combinations with a punching bag before moving to a partner.
Now, combinations can vary in the number of moves. It can be as short as two moves to a more powerful five-move combo.
You may encounter boxing trainers using a number system for their combinations where they assign different numbers to each move. With these numbers, you then create a series of punches.
- 2-Right Cross
- 3-Left Hook
- 4-Overhand Right
- 5-Left Uppercut
- 6-Right Uppercut
Once you’ve established the number system, you can create a combination. For instance, a 1-2 would entail a jab and right cross. Besides that, there are multiple other combinations.
Tips for Boxing Combinations
Before attempting to master combinations, you may want to first master your punches at least. There’s a lot that goes into perfecting a combination.
- Don’t be shy. You can feint a punch to confuse your opponent in the middle of a combo.
- Keep your head moving every two to three punches to increase your range.
- Don’t forget your footwork practice.
- Quality over quantity. If done correctly, two solid throws can cause more damage than a weak four-combo move.
- Don’t be too redundant with your combinations; try changing them to be more unpredictable.
Everyone can have their own boxing style. Nevertheless, there are four main fighting styles in boxing that pro-boxers may focus on.
The swarmer is a fighter who capitalizes heavily on their defense and attack techniques. They’re all about the punches and barely give any time for their opponent to counterattack.
Famous swarmers include Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier.
The out-boxer favors a contrasting technique to the swarmer, where they keep a distance between themselves and their opponent.
They only get close to scoring a few punches before backing off again. A couple of popular out-boxers are Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sluggers are hard hitters. They don’t rely on repetitive punches. Instead, they focus on landing a big blow, knocking out their opponent. Some famed sluggers include George Foreman and Sonny Liston.
Boxer-punchers combine the fighting style of an out-boxer and a slugger. They can efficiently take out swarmers.
They strategize by using speed and power to win their match. Famous boxer-punchers include Sugar Ray Robinson and Oscar De La Hoya.
What is Boxercise?
If you’re not looking to spar with an opponent but still want to reap the benefits of boxing training, you should consider boxercise.
It mainly includes the drills and training methods boxers use to help them in the ring.
Generally, a boxercise class can involve press-ups, jump rope skipping, sit-ups, shuttle runs, and hitting punch bags.
The training also includes shadowboxing. This is an exercise where you hit an invisible opponent. Boxers shadowbox as a warm-up for the real thing.
The major advantage of boxercise is that you don’t have to worry about someone hitting you or risking any injury. On top of that, you get similar health benefits to boxing from boxercise.
If you want to complete a drill, you can start by warming up with some skipping, shadowboxing, and stretching.
Afterward, the bulk of the workout can include hitting a speed bag, a punching bag, and a double-end bag. You can also do more shadowboxing.
Occasionally, these sessions might involve games like tag boxing that help you to develop coordination.
Next, you can do some basic workout exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of the workout to avoid sore muscles the next day.
Boxing Mistakes to Avoid
Chances are, you’re not going to perfect your moves on the first try. There are several tips to follow, and it can be tough to listen to and understand them at first.
Since you’re a beginner, you’ll likely run into a few rookie mistakes. If you know about them beforehand, you’ll have better chances of avoiding them.
It’s often easy to forget your legs when you’re boxing. Nevertheless, using your legs will give you that extra torque in your punches.
Not only do your legs do the job, but your hips and waist as well.
Additionally, using your feet while boxing will avoid too much stress packing on your shoulders.
Besides that, some may overdo footwork and jump around, which, in turn, wastes energy. Instead of hopping about, I suggest a step-drag motion and focusing on your foot pivoting technique.
Your basic stance is what keeps you balanced and sturdy. Some beginner boxers may slacken their stance and move their hands down or their feet too wide or close to each other.
That’s why you want to remember to keep your stance by the center line, hands up, chin down, knees slightly bent, and feet at shoulder-width apart.
You also want to keep your eyes on your opponent. Your partner could use your distraction to their advantage and get a few hits in.
That being said, maintaining the basic boxing stance will allow you to quickly attack or defend.
It’s easy to lose yourself in a match and keep on punching. Nonetheless, repetitively throwing out combos will only tire you out. You can keep the combinations to a maximum of four to five hits.
Some beginners may feel that a jab isn’t powerful enough to use and underestimate it when it’s essential to use in every fight.
It’s the fastest and simplest punch that you can’t do without.
Another mistake you should be aware of when jabbing is that you don’t want to shift too much of your weight forward with the punch. It can throw you off balance.
Instead, you can step into the punch and back out again.
In addition to this, while throwing any punch, try to avoid lifting your rear foot completely off the ground. By doing so, you’ll lose both power and balance.
Broadly speaking, you may run into training mistakes that could hinder your boxing performance.
One of the most common issues is eating too soon before your training session. You should at least wait two to three hours after eating to box.
That way, you’ll food will digest properly and your body will have time to use the carbs and nutrients you ate.
Another issue you could find is having no partner during training. You need an opponent to practice your sparring and technique with. A punching bag won’t give you the real deal.
Defense is a critical element in boxing. You may sometimes fall short on defense due to a few beginner mistakes.
For example, you may put your hands too low and provide more leeway for your opponent to target your face.
This especially happens after you go for a punch. You also don’t want to keep your hands too high where your eye vision is blocked.
All in all, you want to keep your guard up and don’t underestimate an opponent.
Final thoughts on boxing for beginners
Boxing is an ideal sport to let off steam and get in shape. The combat sport heavily targets your upper body, giving you cut abs.
Our beginner’s boxing guide should help you get a comprehensive outlook of what to expect when going into the boxing game.
You’ll have most of what you need to know about boxing training, from punch types and defense techniques to equipment and rules.
But if you’re looking for something more guided with video workouts, you can do 3x per week; Luke Howard’s course is my personal recommendation:
Trying out boxing may have a rocky start, but you’ll become stronger and more confident.
As the fictional pro-boxer Rocky once said, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”