I’ve said boxers are creatures of habit, and it's true. We repeat successful patterns because, in such a dangerous sport, we cannot afford to take a lot of chances on things that aren’t proven. Still, variety is the spice of life, so it's important to be able to adapt your workout to a variety of situations. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of my favorite exercises for different kinds of workouts that are easy to do at home with minimal equipment.
This article is broken into four (4) main sections: Cardio, Arms, Abs, and Legs. If you’re looking to shake up a certain part of your routine, add some of these exercises to your training. Heck, roll a die!
Cardio is a key ingredient to any healthy workout schedule. It helps keep your heart rate in check, teaches you to control your breathing, trains your body to function efficiently when you’re tired, and improves your workout recovery.
Long Distance Running
The classic cardio option for boxers is long distance running. We usually run at 5am with inspirational music playing in the background and people cheering us on. Wait, no that’s Rocky. In all seriousness, long distance running is a great way to work cardio into your fitness routine. The trick here is to keep it low and slow. It’s not about speed. Focus on keeping a steady pace and controlling your breathing--in through your nose, out through your mouth, and remember that nobody is born a marathon runner. Personally, when I started out, I couldn’t even run a whole mile. I stuck to a half mile for nearly a month before going farther.
Swimming is a fantastic cardio option if you’re sore or just want to give your joints a rest. Swimming is also a great recovery or “rest day" option. It’s non-weight bearing so it’s easy on your joints. I recommend just doing some laps in the pool. Personally, I like to use breaststroke, but as long as you keep a good rhythm, it’s perfectly fine to do freestyle. Try to keep your strokes steady, and you’ll be surprised how much it pushes you.
Tabata Heavy Bag
This is a fantastic workout for anaerobic recovery and has the added benefit of working your shoulder conditioning as well. Tabata workouts emphasize high-intensity movements in short spurts, followed by an equally short period of rest. I personally do 10 seconds on, going as hard and fast as I can, then 10 seconds off, at a full rest. Try this for 3 minutes at a time. The trick here is to really push and never let off the gas during the work period because it’s so short. Like my coach says, “Anyone can be Pacquiao for 10 seconds.”
Arms are obviously important for boxing, but working out your arms almost always works the supporting muscles in your torso as well. This can be a tricky area to target otherwise, so working your arms is a great way to get more bang for your buck!
The power punch-out exercise is simple. You throw punches with 100% power at the heavy bag. The best way to do this is over 3-minute rounds. If you’re a beginner just starting out, I recommend 1-minute rounds instead. This exercise is all about quality over quantity. Don’t worry about throwing fast combinations or head movement. Focus on power, rotation, and form. Imagine punching through the bag.
This is the classic home exercise with a twist. To do Spartan push-ups, set your hands at 45 degree angles from each other: one underneath your shoulder like a standard push-up, and one behind, nearer to your pectoral line. Lower yourself down into a push-up, then explode upwards and switch your hand positions. Now, the hand in front should be whichever one started behind. Remember, safety first! If you feel like you might damage your wrist with the explosive switch, simply do a regular push-up in this position, and then switch your hands without the explosiveness once you’re back in your start position.
Plank Get Ups
This is a fantastic exercise for toning your arms. Its deceptively difficult, but super rewarding. To do these, start in a push-up position, lower down to your elbows and then climb back up to your hands. That’s it. I know it sounds easy, but do this for 1 minute with a steady rhythm, and you’ll be cursing my name. Make sure to do these on some kind of mat though, otherwise you’ll rub your elbows raw.
Working your abs is awesome for both general fitness and for competition, as the large supporting muscles in your abdomen and hips control your rotation speed at the waist. Not to mention, a well-toned core looks and feels amazing!
Boxer’s Twist/Russian Twists
This is a great exercise for your abs, upper back, and obliques. Take a seat on the floor with your feet held about 5 inches off the ground and your back at a 45 degree angle with the floor. Then, twist your body at the waist to tap the floor with your finger tips, alternating sides as fast as you can. I usually aim for doing 3 sets of 1-minute rounds with a 30 second rest in between. The best thing about this exercise is that you can do it without any equipment or, for an added challenge, with a medicine ball. Regardless of the weight, it’s an effective exercise. Over time, you can push yourself to go for more reps, longer sets, or heavier weight.
V-Ups are like a cross between a crunch and a sit-up. I find that they are easier on my lower back and tailbone than the others. Lie down on the ground with your legs straight out and your hands stretched above your head. Then, lift your upper body at the waist and your legs at the same time to meet in the middle--forming a “V”. If sit-ups and crunches are getting old, definitely give these a try.
Side Plank Lifts
Side plank lifts work your obliques and are a great addition to any workout where you want to target those often under trained muscles. To get into a side plank position come onto one elbow, with your arm at a 90 degree angle in line with your shoulder and the floor. Stack your feet and raise your body in a straight line facing to one side. Then, lower your hip slowly to touch the ground, and lift back up. This is another of those deceptively easy exercises that when done correctly gives you an intense ab workout. Remember, keep your core tight the entire time!
It’s leg day! Your legs are the pillars that hold the rest of your body up, and it’s important to give them the attention they need to make sure they develop at the same rate as the rest of your body.
High knees are an amazing workout for muscle tone and muscle endurance in your legs, and they’re easy to do just about anywhere with no equipment at all. Simply alternate between bringing one knee up as close to your chest as possible, then the other--like running in place but emphasizing the upward motion. The trick here is to get your knees as high as you can, as fast as you can. Aim for 1 minute non-stop with a minute rest in between sets.
Speed Jump Rope
Jump rope is traditionally seen as more of a plyometric or cardio exercise, but you can modify it to be a fantastic workout for your calves. To do so, use a slightly shorter jump rope with a thick, heavy cord. This will allow for more rotations in a much shorter time, meaning your calves will be activated more often, and thus forced to exert more effort. Again, try to aim for 1 minute with a minute rest.
This is actually a boxing technique exercise that Mike Tyson used to create his explosive angle changes. Angle bumps also happen to work your legs harder than just about any other boxing technique I’ve ever used. To do these, you’ll want to square up with a heavy bag. Then, you slip to either the right or to the left, essentially squatting down on that leg and leaning your body slightly over it. Then, using the explosive power of your legs and hips, turn and rocket your body to the side of the bag, doing your best to land in a stance you can punch out of. Try and switch sides back and forth as rapidly as you can for 3 minutes, adding in some punches if you want to practice some angle punching.
There are tons of great exercises out there to keep your at-home boxing training motivating and fresh. I hope that some of my favorites will be a great addition to your workouts! Let us know on the FightCamp Facebook Community what exercises you love mixing into your daily routines! And for more at-home boxing and kickboxing training and inspiration, check out our YouTube Channel, Blog, and App for the latest on-demand workouts and training tips.
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