What comes to mind when you think about a boxing gym?
Dingy basements and backstreet warehouses? The stench of sweat? Guys knocking lumps out of each other? Spilt blood? Missing teeth?
While some of your perceptions may be true – boxing gyms are more often than not located in the worst parts of town and do resemble underground fight clubs – most of them are pure poppycock.
Misconceptions about boxing hold many people back from taking part in this incredible sport.
If you’re a first-timer, you’re not going to get punched, and you’re certainly not going to be asked to spar. The training is also as difficult as you want it to be. Your effort determines the intensity.
Many gyms have beginner boxing classes that cater to people with no or little experience. You can learn boxing with people at a similar skill level in a controlled environment.
If you would like to try boxing but your fears and anxieties continue to hold you back, then this post is for you. Here’s exactly what to expect from a beginners boxing class.
Most classes will start with some gentle exercise. Warm-ups could consist of skipping, shadowboxing, circuit training, or some light pad work with a partner.
Don’t worry if you can’t skip. Jogging on the spot while punching is a good replacement exercise.
Similarly, there’s no need to fret if you’ve never shadow boxed in your life. You’re not going to be judged on your technique as the purpose of the exercise is to get the body loosened off.
Warm-ups usually conclude with some stretching.
Pad Work (a.k.a Mitt Work)
When you’re asked to partner-up, try to find someone with a similar build (and experience preferably). However, this isn’t crucial, and as you’ll find out, people that have been going for a while have their training buddies and you’ll end up partnering with whoever’s left. It’s like being picked for high school basketball all over again – but don’t be disheartened, everyone has to be the new guy at some point.
Focus pad training at a beginners boxing class can take many forms.
Most commonly, your coach will demonstrate a combination and then ask everyone to practice it in pairs. Your instructor will then examine each pair and give them pointers on their technique.
Sometimes you’ll be given a little more leeway (especially if you’re experienced) and you and your partner will take it in turns to call out combinations for the duration of the round. If this is your first time, let your partner know, and they’re usually only too willing to show you the ropes. Alternatively, just stick to the basics and call the jab, jab-cross, or jab-cross-hook.
Another variation of this is flash pads. Here your partner won’t call out combinations but “flash” the pads in front of you. You then hit the pads quickly with whatever combination you wish.
To start you off on the right foot (or should that be hand?), remember that you punch with the same hand that is flashed i.e. right pad shown means you strike with your right hand. This means that your hands will be crossing over your central axis, and you will be rotating your shoulders and hips as you throw – correct technique.
If there are enough punch bags for everyone, then you may do a few rounds on the bag.
Depending on the experience of the group, you may be shown combos to practice, or instructed to just smash the bag for a two or three minute round.
There’s no need to get fancy. Stick to what you know even if it’s just repeating the jab-cross. Concentrate on keeping your guard up and good form when you’re throwing punches. This is more important than rattling the bag with slick ten punch combos.
It’s also probably not the best idea to put 100% power into your shots. If you’re a beginner, your haphazard technique will most likely land you with a staved wrist or torn muscles.
What to Wear
Whenever I invite someone along to training, I often get asked, “What should I wear?” I’ve never given it much thought before, but it’s obviously a question on the minds of newbies.
There’s no strict dress code for boxing. Wear whatever is comfortable and allows you to move around freely.
I find a t-shirt, shorts, and light trainers work well. In time you’ll build up your kit, and boxing branded attire and boxing shoes will replace your usual gym gear. But until you know you’re serious about boxing, there’s no need to rush out and buy a load of new gear.
Whatever you do, don’t buy an Everlast or Tapout T-shirt. Nothing against these brands, but it seems that every newbie boxer and UFC fan is sporting them.
Do You Need Your Own Gloves?
No. Most gyms will have communal boxing gloves. However, don’t be expecting anything fancy. In fact, don’t even expect these gloves to be sanitary.
Communal gloves are often years old and have been sweated in by every new recruit. They’re often foul-smelling and filled with nasty bacteria.
I would advise you to buy your own boxing gloves as soon as you have the slightest inclination that pugilism is your new hobby. At the very least, buy hand wraps to act as some form of barrier to the nasties lurking in gym gloves.
Yeah, be aware that attitude is the determining factor.
Your attitude will determine your overall experience and how others perceive you. Your instructors are not expecting you to be the next Mayweather at your first training session. What will really impress is a good attitude.
Be respectful to your trainers, your fellow students, and the gym. Observe and abide by any gym rules, and treat the facilities and equipment as you would do your home – unless of course you reside at Casa Crap.
Show a willingness to learn – but don’t ask too many questions. And above all else, try your best. It doesn’t matter if you suck. Giving it your all is the surest way to make a good impression and to improve in the shortest time.
Don’t worry about your fitness or lack of ability. We all start from different levels of fitness and experience. However, if you do want to get in semi-reasonable shape before joining a gym, then jogging and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is recommended.
Realise that beginner boxing classes are not going to be as brutal as the Rocky-style training montages you imagine. Yes, they’re challenging, but they’re also a whole lot of fun. Your body will be in its best shape ever, and you’ll be learning a skill for life.
You really have nothing to lose by giving boxing a shot. So what are you waiting for?
If you’ve recently attended your first boxing class, give others inspiration by sharing your experience in the comments below.