The Knockout Workout

Boxing drills aren't just for pugs anymore—they'll jump-start your fitness for mountain biking, paddling, climbing, and more

Jul 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

SWEAT SET: Cotton-and-polyester hoodie ($30) by Champion; polyester track pants ($60) by Puma; leather-and-nylon-mesh boxing shoes ($80) by Everlast

A body built to box is a body built to last.

As we know from Million Dollar Baby and The Contender, Sly Stallone's reality-TV show, boxers are in phenomenal shape. How could they not be? The workouts engineered to build great fighters with the stamina to go 12 rounds make for a powerful one-two punch, resulting in one of the most comprehensive cross-training plans around. The good news for you is that it's possible to benefit from this training style without ever getting in the way of a flying fist.

According to Brach Poston, a former University of Nevada at Las Vegas strength coach who's now a doctoral candidate in integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, training for the ring delivers a bevy of performance boosters that carry over to other sports. A well-conditioned boxer enjoys heightened hand-eye coordination, ideal for throwing and swinging sports like baseball and golf; lightning-quick reflexes, necessary for hoops, mountain biking, and skiing; improved core strength, great for paddling; and better foot speed, for racket sports such as tennis and racquetball. Moreover, your newfound defensive skills will boost your self-confidence—which will in turn give you an added edge in pretty much any athletic endeavor you pursue.

Around the country, more and more athletes are turning to boxing to give them a performance advantage. Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. swears that regular pugilistic workouts have improved his speed and agility in his other athletic passion, ice hockey. University of Southern California football star Winston Justice credits his four-days-a-week off-season boxing sessions with turning him into a favorite to win the 2005 Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation's best collegiate lineman.

Adding to the sport's appeal is its low-maintenance practicality. You don't have to step into the ring to begin your training; your garage or back porch will do just fine. Plus the equipment is beautifully uncomplicated (our picks begin below), and the twice-a-week workout outlined on page 50 takes less than an hour. That leaves you plenty of time to apply your freshly honed agility and fleetness to any adventurous pursuit.

Everlast Indoor-Outdoor Heavy Bag
"If I could have only one piece of workout equipment for the rest of my life, it would be a heavy bag," says Dave Gaudette, 55, owner of the Front Range Boxing Academy, in Boulder, Colorado. "It works every muscle from your ankles to your neck." The 70-pound Everlast model is packed full of recycled-rubber scraps for even density, while its vinyl skin makes it suitable for either indoor or outdoor installations. Lay into it out on your back patio.

Everlast High Performance Super Bag Gloves
Boxing gloves fall into three main categories, and the difference boils down to ounces. Bag gloves like the Everlasts are generally four to 12 ounces each. Fighting gloves are a little beefier—they usually run eight or ten ounces. Meanwhile, training gloves, at ten to 20 ounces, are typically heavier still, to build hand speed. All three varieties are padded with impact-resistant foam rubber.

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