Float Like A Butterfly

If you train like a boxer, you don’t have to take the hit


My brother and I were huge boxing fans as kids and that continued into adulthood with some course corrections. 

I started my journalism career as a boxing reporter and when we left our home in London, he moved to New York and started training and sparring, I opted for Singapore and eventually started a mixed martial arts / boxing commentary career, that by now has spanned more than a thousand bouts.

Not once did I ever follow my brother’s footsteps in donning the gloves and putting my knowledge to any practical test. Not until last September that is, two months before my 55th birthday. The gym I was using had a punch bag and I had seen some training gloves available at a local sports shop. It was something I’d always wanted to try, without the risk of getting hit in the face.

I decided not to strap my hands as pro boxers would, so was a little concerned about wrist and hand injuries, but the gloves were well cushioned and with a gentle start, I soon learned how to connect with the bag safely.

I downloaded an app that rang a ‘bell’ every three minutes to start and finish a round, with another minute between for the mandatory rest period. On the first session I managed three 3-minute rounds, then four and then six. 

The great news is, you can now incorporate this activity in two Gym Pods located at Buangkok Square Mall and Pasir Ris Park, now fittingly known as Rumble Pods with a keen focus on mixed martial arts (also known as MMA) and boxing. There’s nothing like taking some frustration out on the heavy bag, knowing nobody actually gets hurt. 

As a lifelong football player, I found this exercise a rare aerobic opportunity that involved my upper body, something that would perhaps complement my Covid-inspired tennis obsession. Even if you don’t have a punch bag, shadow boxing will help introduce you to a new and likely unfamiliar form of balance and movement, co-ordinating a light-footed base with more expansive, free-wheeling hand and arm movement.

For those of you in other Gym Pods, shadow boxing with very light hand weights will build up your shoulders and that is what you find becomes activated more than any other muscle group. Keeping those hands up to defend yourself and constantly pumping them out to attack is something your shoulders will make you know about the next day. And in many ways, that’s the great thing – activating rarely used muscles in a different way, shocking the body into developing new fitness.

You can also intensify the ‘punching’ muscles by adding some pulling resistance to the movement. By using the hand straps on the pulley systems at The Gym Pod, you can activate the shoulder and triceps, stepping into that overhand right, albeit with less speed and more controlled movement. Don’t try to throw a punch at speed, focus on the movement as restrained by the weight you’re training with.

Traditionally, boxers never really worked with weight or resistance. It was Evander Holyfield in the 80s who changed the way a pugilist constructed his body. Pulley systems and weights caught on rather more after that, as other heavyweights like Britain’s Frank Bruno became more akin to body builders than the less cut, body beautiful athletes of the prior era; Muhammad Ali being the best and most beautiful example there perhaps ever was.

Boxing is about far more than the heavyweights, where there is no upper limit on where you tip the scales. Every other division requires the fighter to make weight. Fail to do so and your purse is restricted at best, the bout cancelled at worst – and that means no payment at all. As I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many mixed martial artists from all over the world, I’ve come to understand that fighting is the easy part; making the weight is by far the least enjoyable aspect.

The core is therefore a key area for development and the traditional sit up is a basic training tool. This usually works the central portion of the abdominals but the entire mid-section needs to be firm. So, varying the core workouts to bring in the obliques are another focus. You can find core workouts in The Gym Pod’s smart mirror to facilitate these core workouts.

The other iconic gym activity associated with boxing is skipping. Call up some breath-taking YouTube videos of Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson. The amazing Brian Viloria, a Hawaiian former world champion, is widely regarded as the king of the jump rope. Watching him and his showboating routine will inspire you to develop some eye-catching moves and generate great fitness while really enjoying yourself and your emerging skills. Practice makes perfect and there’s a lot to admire when watching the fluid, flamboyant moves of a talented rope skipper. 

I learned that jumping rope isn’t for me though, the pounding that my lower back took when skipping wasn’t at all good for my specific aliments. So take care and go gently as you discover the new movements that your body can take on and go check out the new Rumble Pod!
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