Get A Knockout Body

Boxing meets boot camp in this badass twist on HIIT.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Boxing meets boot camp in this badass twist on HIIT.

Photography Chris Fanning
Photography Chris Fanning

Boxing has always been a gritty sport, but it’s getting a classy makeover. Capitalising on the boom in HIIT workouts (no pun intended), high-end group boxing studios are popping up all over, and it’s primarily women who are throwing the punches. Chains in the US like Title Boxing Club and Work Train Fight fill their spaces with sleeker versions of heavy bags. At Shadow Box, gym-goers sign up for their preferred bag just as they would with bikes at a spinning studio. But unlike spinning, this sweaty cardio is an intense upper-body workout on top of all the footwork.

“You use your entire body – shoulders, arms, abs, butt, and legs – to throw a punch,” says Michael Tosto, owner of Title Boxing Club NYC in New York City (the chain has 150 branches in the US). And the benefits add up fast: Exercisers who did a 50-minute high-intensity boxing routine four times a week cut their body fat by 13 per cent in three months, according to a new study in the journal BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation. Plus, punching stuff is therapeutic. “When you hit the bag, you release stress-reducing hormones that can make you feel calm and relieved,” says sports psychologist Gloria Petruzzelli. But you probably didn’t need an expert to tell you that. So skip the cardio machines at the gym, and head to the heavy bag for this 30-minute session from Michael. Cue the Rocky theme song.

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1.    Jab Forcefully quick- snap a punch with your non-dominant hand straight forward, turning hips forward slightly and rotating fist palm-down as it connects with the bag at shoulder height.

2.    Cross Forcefully punch dominant hand across body, pivoting on back foot to turn hips forward slightly. Rotate fist palm-down as it connects with the bag at shoulder height of opposite arm.  

3.    Uppercut Draw one bent arm down and back (fist turned up), opening hips and bringing fist to just above hip. Forcefully pivot feet to swivel hips, driving fist up to connect with the bag at shoulder height.

4.    Hook Draw one arm back at a 90-degree angle at shoulder height, turning fist to face you and swivelling hips and feet perpendicular to bag. Forcefully pivot feet to swivel hips forward, arcing arm towards the bag (maintain 90-degree angle) until fist connects with it.

Fighting stance Stand with feet staggered (non-dominant foot forward) and fists by chin.
Fighting stance Stand with feet staggered (non-dominant foot forward) and fists by chin.


0 to 4 minutes

Do the following moves for one minute each.

● Jumping jacks

● Alternating forward lunges with a twist

● Squat jumps

● Alternating 180-degree squat jumps Jump, turn in midair, land in a squat facing opposite direction. Stay in continuous motion and alternate sides.

4 to 7 minutes

Do 10 reps each of the following moves; repeat circuit as many times as you can.

● Push-ups into side plank Push up, lift left arm to rotate body into side plank on right palm; push up, do side plank on left palm. That’s one rep.

● Triceps dips

● Crab walks

● Triceps push-ups (Point elbows straight back.)


7 to 26 minutes

From fighting stance, throw any combination of jabs, crosses, uppercuts, and hooks (how-tos above) for three minutes – same as in pro boxing rounds. Mix and match in any order, alternating hands with each punch. (“Punch with intensity while maintaining proper form, and generate all of your power from your core down rather than your arms,” Michael says.) Active rest for one minute, alternating lunges and high knees to keep heart rate up. Then do it four more times for a total of five rounds.


26 to 30 minutes

Do the following moves for one minute each.

● Plank (on palms)

● Leg lifts Lie face up on floor, arms by sides. Raise extended legs straight up, then lower them to hover above floor.

● Crunches

● Cross-body mountain climbers Alternate bringing knees to opposite elbows.




30 minutes (a quickie version of Michael’s usual one-hour class)


A heavy bag, gloves, and wraps. Most gyms have these, though it’s worth getting your own wraps and gloves, which protect the bones in your hands and wrists, Michael says.


You’ll loosen muscles and crank up your heart rate with a warm-up that includes strengthening plyos, then you’ll do five three-minute rounds of all-out boxing intervals with one-minute breathers between. Wrap up with four core exercises. Do this routine three times a week on nonconsecutive days