In the classic American boxing movie, Rocky, the main character trains with minimal equipment. He chases chickens around for agility, uses hanging meat for a punching bag and runs up the steps of Philadelphia's Art Museum. Rocky rises from the ground up, using hard work — not fancy equipment — to become a world champion.
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You can recreate your own Rocky story and learn to box with no equipment. The techniques and theory behind the basic boxing stance and punches are easily accessible through instructional videos or informative books. Once you master those, you can put it all together for a full-body, calorie-torching, muscle-building workout.
Start With Shadow Boxing
Boxing without equipment or an opponent is a training technique known as shadow boxing (essentially, punching the air). You'll need to make sure you have enough space to move around, though, and may want to practice in front of a mirror to adjust your form.
Experiment with throwing different styles of punches, creating various combinations of moves and incorporating defensive boxing techniques. If you're just starting out and need a little bit more guidance, try an app like Aaptiv (or one of the DVDs, YouTube videos or books mentioned below). These tools walk you through basic boxing skills and even offer shadowboxing classes.
With repeated practice, you'll learn to correct mistakes on the fly, ultimately making you a much better boxer.
Read more: The 8 Best Cardio Kickboxing Moves
As you move through your shadow boxing workout, your stance is important. Your non-dominant foot should always be in front. So that means, if you're a righty, your left foot should take the lead and the right foot should sit at 3 o'clock, behind the left and slightly to the side, making sure your feet are shoulder-width apart, says USA Boxing's manual.
Your lead hand (if you're a righty, your lead is your left) should sit at about eye level with your back arm tucked close to the body, nearly touching your ribs. Keep your rear arm in guard (along your cheekbone to protect your face, elbow tucked) at all times.
Avoid standing with your feet too wide or too narrow, as it can impede your speed and balance. "There should be enough weight between your feet, knees slightly bent that you're grounded in the floor," says Olivia Young, founder of Box + Flow in New York City. "If someone pushes you, you won't knock over. You have balance. People typically stand too wide or too short. Like Goldilocks, we're looking for 'just right.'"
Proper footwork is key to successful boxing technique. For starters, your steps will be more of a shuffle. The foot closest to the desired direction of movement is the one that steps first. As you step, your feet remain shoulder-width apart in the same 45-degree position as described above.
Avoid crossing the legs or feet, as this can cause you to lose your balance, leaving you vulnerable to your opponent. Stay on the balls of your feet for agility and evenly distribute your body weight between both legs. At first, the footwork may seem challenging and counterintuitive, as your feet never leave the boxing stance. Keep practicing until it becomes second nature.
There are four types of basic punches: jab, cross, hook and uppercut. When put together strategically, these punches form different combinations. As you begin to build combinations, think logically about your distribution of weight and power.
For instance, if you throw a jab, a cross can often be the next logical punch. On the other hand, following a left hook with a jab may throw you off balance, as your weight is not evenly distributed.
As you throw punches, don't forget to keep your inactive hand in guard. Always come back to your guard throughout your practice in order to build the habit. Boxers get their power from their entire body, not just the arms, Young says. "Everything comes from your core but you need to be pivoting your hips, using your belly and your legs. Use everything you have!"
- Jab: The basic punches start with the jab. You jab with your lead hand (your non-dominant side). A jab is a straight punch, meaning you punch straight out and back. Your body weight shifts to your lead leg and your hips turn slightly to the lead side.
- Cross: The cross is a straight punch with your power hand, the rear hand. Your body weight shifts to your lead leg as you pivot your rear foot and rotate your body to the front.
- Hooks: Hooks are typically used for medium-distance targets. As you throw a hook, your arm comes out slightly to the side of your body, forming a 90-degree angle. With a lead arm hook, your body shifts slightly to the lead side, weight to the lead leg. When throwing a rear arm hook, your body shifts slightly to the rear side, weight maintained on the lead leg.
- Uppercut: The uppercut is used for short- and medium-distance targets. When throwing a lead arm uppercut, slightly bend the knees and dip the rear shoulder to protect your face. Drive your lead arm upward toward the opponent's chin, keeping the elbows bent. The entire time, your rear arm remains rigid in guard. Keep your shoulders drawn down your back, not up to your ears, says Young.
From your boxing stance, work on basic defensive moves so that when you're in the ring, you can avoid getting hit. As you perform the different defense movements, be sure to keep your eye on the opponent at all times, despite that some of the defense movements involve covering your body and face.
- Bob: The bob is when you squat down and stand back up. Imagine squatting to avoid a punch coming in your direction. Guard your body with your arms and keep your chin tucked, eyes up.
- Slips: In slips, you lean your upper body either to the left or right. Bend your knees slightly to give your body more range of motion and keep your arms in guard.
- Bob and weave: A bob and weave sets you up to strike your opponent and involves squatting down and stepping either to the left or right before standing back up. Keep your arms up to protect your face and ribs from a punch.
At-Home Boxing Video Workouts
Follow along with instructional videos to learn the basic moves and even some advanced techniques.
1. Becoming a Better Boxer
This three-DVD set is taught by Kenny Weldon, a former professional fighter turned coach who trained the famous boxer Evander Holyfield. You'll learn how to do various boxing workouts and practice fundamental technique. He walks you through the punches, and when the actors use boxing equipment, you can just punch into the air while perfecting your technique.
2. Ultimate Boxing Lessons
There are endless videos on this Youtube channel, packed with helpful how-to content. The instructor, Mike Rashid, is a professional heavyweight boxer. In his videos, he goes over boxing technique, teaching you how to throw powerful and effective punches. He also goes over defensive boxing moves and strength training exercises to improve your boxing skills.
Helpful Boxing Books
Even though boxing is such an active sport, you can still learn a thing or two from reading a book.
1. Box Like the Pros
One of Muhammad Ali's greatest rivals, Joe Frazier, co-wrote this instructional boxing book. He goes over tricks and tips from his own experience as a legendary boxer. He'll teach you about the rules of the game, how to punch and defend yourself, give you a boxing history lesson and even include some tips on actual matches.
This boxing manual was compiled by the U.S. Naval Institute to teach World War II soldiers how to fight. They interviewed some top boxers of the time and synthesized their tips into one book. It covers the psychology of fighting and the technique of different punches and defense maneuvers.