If you think it's just a sport for the rough and tough, you're wrong. Boxing is now one of the most popular fitness regimes out there and if it's a lean, toned, strong body you're after then this could the sport for you. Think Hilary Swank. Think Mark Wahlberg from The Fighter and see some amazing results.
What's it all about?
Scrap any ideas you have about beating a punching bag by yourself, boxing is very much a social sport. Classes are usually made up of around 15 to 20 people and concentrate on pad work and sparring. This means you face opposite someone and throw combination punches at them which they block with their padded gloves. Then you swap and block theirs.
What can I expect at a class?
A typical class will start with a 10-minute warm-up, followed by about half an hour of boxing and finishing with a 10-minute warm-down. Classes will teach you how to punch properly it's about technique not strength.
There are three main moves to employ: hooks ("side" punches), jabs (straight forward punches) and up-cuts (punches going upwards). Your instructor will tell you which combinations you'll be doing, and may also get you to change partners part-way through the work-out.
Don't think that boxing is an easy ride, though: it's seriously hard work. Boxing is a high intensity, full body workout that will keep you moving the whole time. When you're not throwing a punch, you're ducking and weaving or doing squats and abdominal work.
What benefits will I see?
Weight loss, increased agility and coordination, muscle tone and greater fitness all result from boxing. Many people think that boxing is all about the arms but it is actually a cardio work-out for the whole body. It's especially good for toning your bottom and quadricep muscles, which is perfect for women who want to lose weight around their bottom and thighs as part of an overall reduction programme.
There's no need to worry about bulking up, Hilary Swank-style, either. Boxing is very much a high repetition work-out so you'll see tone rather than muscle. It's also very empowering and people really get pumped up and stuck into it during the moves. While it's not a self-defence lesson, by the end of the first class, you should be able to throw a solid punch.
Is there anything to be cautious of?
Weak wrists are probably the only thing that might present a problem however once you learn how to box properly, you shouldn't be putting any unnecessary strain on your wrists. The aim of your punches is also important. Align your punches correctly and your knuckles should feel no pain. You can also wrap them with tape for extra support.
Learn to punch straight, too, for the sake of your partner the last thing they need is a broken nose! It may feel easy to punch straight when it's one jab at a time, but after 100 consecutive punches and 20 sit-ups, true aim can prove to be more of a challenge! A couple of sessions with a personal trainer should see you right, if you can afford it.
Will I get hurt?
There is absolutely no body-to-body contact allowed in boxing, so any risk is minimal. One thing to check when you're signing up is that the instructor taking the class is qualified to teach boxing. They must have some kind of boxing certification otherwise, if for some reason you do get hurt, they are not covered by insurance. If you're new to the sport, make sure that the instructor takes some time out to explain the moves.
I've never boxed in my life. Will I be able to do it?
Boxing is all about technique so once you pick up the moves you should be fine. If you're not particularly fit then that's not a huge problem. Boxing is actually easier for a lot of people than running, especially for those with excess weight. "I’ve never come across anyone who can't box", says Paul Van Wyk, Group Personal Training Instructor. "It's easy to modify the exercise to suit you so everyone of all ages and fitness levels can participate."
It's not just a sport for the guys either; women actually pick up the combinations faster than men and have more flexibility through their mid-section. "The rotation of the back is where all the strength comes from for a punch, not the arms", says Van Wyk.
What will I need to bring?
Check with your gym or centre what is provided. Some places provide gloves and others expect you to bring your own. Usually a pair of gloves and a pair of mitts are all that are required between two people, so don't feel that you have to double up on gloves.
You might want to buy your own boxing gloves inners, though, and particularly if the gym provides gloves for you boxing is a sweaty sport and gloves don't always smell that great. Other than that, bring a small towel, a bottle of water and a partner and make sure you've taken off all jewellery. Wear what you feel comfortable in and remember that you're going to get hot.
How much is a class?
Classes range from around $15 and there are always deals if you pay for multiple classes up front. Most gyms offer indoors or outdoor classes as part of their membership programmes as well. You can also opt for a personal trainer, though this obviously comes at a price.
How long until I see results?
If you do two classes a week for a month you will definitely notice a difference in weight and tone. As long as you follow a healthy eating plan and try and include one further cardio class in your schedule a week then you'll see quite dramatic results.
If it's rapid tone and weight loss you're after then boxing is something you should definitely check out. It is quite a full on work-out though, and isn't for everyone. Just go along to a taster class with a partner and see what you think.