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Thanks to supermodel Gigi Hadid, where boxing was once reserved for men in sweaty, no-frills gyms, now it’s all the rage. Then there’s Great Britain boxer Nicola Adams who took home gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and helped inspire a generation, proving boxing is just as much a woman’s sport as it is a man’s. Boxing is also an amazing full-body workout. And it’s not just about mindlessly punching a bag, either. In fact, boxing includes combinations of moves that require coordination and a sharp mind. It burns around 700 calories per hour and is a sure-fire way to lean out and tone up your arms and abs. It was with these benefits in mind that I visited KOBOX, a studio devoted to high-intensity, boxing-based classes for its Fight Club—seven classes in seven days.
Keep reading for more about my KOBOX experience, and how effective boxing workouts are, in general.
Meet the Expert
What Is KOBOX?
Founded by Cheryl Cole’s trainer, Shane Collins, along with Joe Cohen and Ronnie Shahmoon, KOBOX is a studio that offers high-intensity, boxing-based classes at their three studios in London and online from the comfort of your own home anywhere in the world. Their classes are high-intensity, high-energy, and fun—fully embodying their motto: “Where fight club meets nightclub.”
Gloves are provided, but you need to buy wraps in order to protect your hands (seriously, you'll bleed without them). It takes a few tries to perfect the art of wrapping, but once you do, you legit feel like Rocky. The studio is split into numbered bags (the most luxe-looking, jet-black, high-shine punching bags you ever did see) with corresponding numbers on the walls. When you walk in, it’s like your hidden inner boxer immediately surfaces, even if you never knew you had one. And, if you’ve never thrown a punch in your life, fear not—the trainers are completely warm and welcoming to newbies.
“Places like KOBOX exist to give newcomers a clear pathway into a sport they may have never felt comfortable trying before but always wanted to,” says Purpuri. “We simplify the punches, we give you a safe environment, and you can take it at your own pace. No one is judging. I can almost guarantee you’ll feel amazing for doing it.”
Benefits of a Boxing Workout
Boxing has physical benefits like strengthening the core, toning the arms and legs, boosting your metabolism and torching calories, and improving your agility. Like any aerobic exercise, boxing gets your heart pumping and can, therefore, help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. "A single boxing class combines a blending of a variety of training variables that forces the body to adapt," says Gagliardi. "In one segment of a boxing class, you may be training balance, coordination, muscular endurance, speed, the cardiorespiratory system, and cognition all at the same time."
As Gagliardi notes, boxing also helps release stress and anxiety and improve your cognitive and mental health, thanks to all that hand-eye coordination and the overall intensity. According to a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, those who performed high-intensity workouts for an hour or more released significantly more endorphins than those who undertook moderate exercise regimens. "In addition, boxing is a great workout because it often takes place in a group setting, [which] sets the stage nicely for social support, camaraderie, and inspiration, while also targeting all major muscle groups across all planes of motion,” notes Gagliardi.
What to Expect From a KOBOX Workout
I decided on day one that seven consecutive days felt far too daunting to comprehend and that I would take the week class-by-class, round-by-round, exercise-by-exercise. I feel like this is an important lesson for many aspects of life, whether you’re embarking on a big work project or revamping your house. You need to have an overarching goal and a plan, sure, but you also need to take it step-by-step so as not to feel overwhelmed.
At the start of a class, you can choose to begin on the wall or the bag; throughout the class, you switch between the two. On the bags, each punch corresponds to a number: on your left-hand side, the jab (punch straight ahead) is one, hook (punching across) is three, and uppercut (punching upwards) is five, while on your right side, the jab is two, the hook is four, and the uppercut six.
The trainer flashes up different combos of numbers onto the wall throughout each round. It sounds confusing—and it is, for about 10 minutes—but eventually, you get the hang of it, I promise. KOBOX is as much about serious technique as it is about getting fit, so you’re encouraged to take on a boxer’s stance and block as you would if the bag was about to retaliate.
Each numbered wall section has a pair of gymnastics rings and a medicine ball. Around the room are mats, dumbbells, and weight plates that are utilized at different times throughout class. Each class has a different focus: Mondays and Wednesdays are lower body, Tuesdays and Thursdays are upper body, while Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are full body. Each instructor has a different style, from their playlist to their teaching approach. But what’s standard is that throughout the 60 minutes, you go from punching the bag to various workouts at the wall (think burpees, push-ups, pull-ups, squats with weight plates, bicycle crutches) before switching back to the bag to start all over again. Rather than intervals, and sticking with the boxing theme, each segment is called a “round.” Rounds can last anywhere from three to seven minutes, and the shorter and sharper the rounds, the faster I felt the class went. Needless to say, you’re left soaked in sweat by the end of it. Thankfully, there are showers, complete with fluffy white towels and Ren products on-site.
While I had pushed myself at KOBOX, I had also had a hectic week socially, so I was genuinely surprised to find, by the end of the week, I had lost 2.5 pounds and an inch off my waist. More importantly, I felt faster, stronger, and fitter. I also felt mentally tougher and uncharacteristically proud of myself for pushing through and learning a new skill.
And my results aren’t unique. KOBOX has an enthusiastic fan base because it’s effective—they know what they’re doing. ”On a higher level, it can really craft you into an amazing athlete, but for the majority of us, it’s about breaking down the stigma that is attached to boxing (intimidating, scary gyms, alpha males) and understanding that anyone can box,” shares Purpuri. “We can see it on clients’ faces after they’ve done their first class. They’re so happy they made the step to do something out of their comfort zone and they instantly reap the benefits.”
Purpuri says the growth that clients make is inspiring. “As an instructor, it is so lovely to see the journey our clients go on from their first session at KOBOX and how they develop, not just physically, but mentally, too,” she says. “Seeing people’s confidence build is amazing.”
The Final Takeaway
So, would I embark on Fight Club again? You bet I would, seeing as how I lost an inch off my waist without having to eat lettuce and forgo alcohol for a week. Not to mention that, every so often, it’s good to push yourself to a limit you didn’t think possible—it’s confidence-boosting.
I wholly conquer with Purpuri’s advice: “Make a positive step and don’t worry about it. It’s safe, and it’s fun—don’t overthink, and enjoy the benefits to your mind and body.”
Saanijoki T, Tuominen L, Tuulari JJ, et al. Opioid Release after High-Intensity Interval Training in Healthy Human Subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(2):246-254. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.148