Let’s be honest. Boxing is scary. Not cardio boxing. Like “let’s fight someone” boxing. It’s no coincidence that brain injuries are most prevalent among the sport, even when compared to other combat sports such as MMA, grappling, and kickboxing. The repeated hits to the head will take a toll.
But don’t let this scare you. Professional boxers do get quite a bit of brain injuries—but that’s because they spar and fight a lot. But I’m not talking about going pro (or even amateur) as a boxer. What I’m talking about is taking up boxing as a hobby and a form of exercise. If you train smart, you should be completely safe when it comes to boxing, sans freak accidents (that can happen in any sport).
I’ve trained the sport for a couple of years now and it has benefited me in many ways. In this article, I will talk about 7 of the benefits of boxing training.
1) Increases Overall Athleticism
Several years back, ESPN along with a group of researchers decided that boxing is the sport that takes the most athleticism. Being a good boxer requires a lot of endurance, strength, power and a fair amount of speed and agility.
Before I started boxing, I was pretty uncoordinated and lacked a lot of physical traits required to be somewhat decent at the sport. But after over two years of training, I’ve come to develop the required skills and athleticism to hold my own. You are never too old to start anything—and it’s no different with boxing.
Although already having athleticism is a bonus when starting boxing, it is not a prerequisite to train the sport. You can develop the skills needed to be a decent boxer.
After training boxing for awhile, you will feel yourself become faster, stronger, more durable, and more agile.
Boxing is as much mental as it is physical. When starting out, someone going at you and threatening physical harm is a scary thing. Many new people just turn their backs and try to get away as soon as the barrage of punches come. The fight-or-flight response kicks in and your body starts to react by retreating.
But the more you spar, the more you train your brain to stand and fight, instead of retreating (flight). You eventually learn how to take a punch and how to stand and fight even when you are getting your butt whooped. In essence, you are training your mind and body to persist.
The physical and mental toughness gained from boxing will translate into other parts of your life. You will find that your pain threshold will increase, you will become less scared of physical harm, and you will become grittier.
There is not much that will make you tougher than facing physical harm.
3) Gives You Ability to Defend Yourself
This is probably the most obvious benefit of boxing aside from the conditioning. Boxing is a very effective form of fighting.
In order for boxing to be an effective form of self-defense though, you can’t just keep hitting focus mitts and heavy bags, you actually have to do some sparring—some real sparring.
Even after a couple of months of technical sparring at 50 percent max capacity, I saw a lot of improvement in the ability to defend myself. I was able to work on my timing, foot movement, and power. However I still had a lot of trouble with new people who are used to street brawling, going at 100 percent, and throwing haymakers.
You see boxing teaches you to be controlled with your movement and strike at the right time. So when you are sparring with someone that knows how to box, the sparring is used to work on technique, not to kill one another. People that don’t know how to box however, go into a sparring match with 100 percent power and speed. It can feel like they are trying to kill you.
But that’s when I knew I was able to defend myself. It wasn’t until I sparred at near maximum capacity did I start seeing real applicable improvement. When I started sparring at near max capacity, I was able to experience close to what a real fight would feel like. It was then that I stopped having trouble with street brawlers.
4) Increases Self Confidence and Self-Esteem
Both increase with boxing. When you acquire a new skill, become competent at it, and learn to apply to real-world situations, all kinds of things start happening in the brain. You become more sure of yourself and value yourself much more.
Competence breeds confidence. Confidence increases self-esteem.
5) Increases (Stabilizer) Muscles
Boxing works a lot of muscles although the muscles may not get really huge. Specifically, boxing works out the anterior and posterior deltoids, pectoris major, biceps, triceps, and a whole range of core and back muscles.
Why does boxing work out so many muscles?
To punch for the most power, you have to put your whole weight behind it, making the legs, hips, abs, back, shoulders, and arms work together in one smooth motion. This is important because the muscles used in the motion of a punch help support and stabilize movement and posture in the body.
Boxing helped me tremendously with my back problems from three previous car accidents. And when I started boxing, I couldn’t do a single pull-up. Within a year of training, I was able to do 12 reps per set. This speaks to the ability of boxing to work on the many muscles required to do pull-ups.
You won’t get buff from just boxing, but you will be able to increase some muscle mass, especially in areas that are naturally avoided.
HGH is an acronym for human growth hormone. The hormone has long been the holy grail of the life-extension community. although research its life-extending properties have been limited. Injecting HGH is extremely controversial in sports as it gives athletes an unfair advantage in endurance and muscle mass.
However, science has found that there is a natural way to produce the coveted hormone in the body.
Research shows that HGH is produced when you approach maximum VO2 levels when exercising, around 75 to 90 percent of VO2max. When you are doing hard sparring, you will get your VO2 levels up that high. If you can also get to this level if you do hard and fast punching on the boxing bag.
7) Increases Proprioception
Proprioception is also known as bodily awareness, spatial awareness, and hand-eye coordination. In other words, it’s kinesthetic intelligence. Boxing and many other martial arts rely on kinesthetic smarts in order to be effective.
But why does this matter? Because when the body and brain starts to act as one, something incredible happens. The brain starts to learn teaching the body to move much more effectively and efficiently. This in turn makes learning many other skills requiring motor movement easier.
Additionally, science has shown that increasing preprioception also increases working memory, the memory that is responsible for holding short-term information to do math, solve logic puzzles, remember phone numbers, etc.
Studies in rats have shown that exercises with complex movements are better at producing BDNF than just running. BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor is a protein that is important in a healthy brain by protecting your neurons.