Going Ballistic

The makers of this video, "Muscles Used In Boxing," might have shaved thirty-some seconds off the length by changing the script to say just this:

"All of them."

Before my first boxing class, I was sure I'd walk into a major gun show. You can't beat an eighty-pound bag and not ripple, I figured.

And then I met Michelle.

"How long you been at this?" I asked her after class one day. No one talks during the actual class, because there's barely a second to catch your breath. If you're not punching, you're doing push-ups, or dips, or jumping rope. Or jumping lunges. Or frog walks. Or sit-ups. It's like gym class on crack.

"Five months," she said. "I love it. Don't you love how you see results right away?"

Now, I don't know Michelle's story. Perhaps five months ago Michelle weighed 200 pounds, but I doubt it; she's a spindly little thing. Twiggy little arms dangling at her sides. No apparent muscle tone beyond what's needed to lift a hand to her brow on days when Frank won't turn on the fans.

Our class is called Fitness Boxing. Only the occasional gal or guy looks as if they box on the side; most of us are there for the fitness.

And yet we do our fair share of jabs, power punches, ducks and hooks. It's a boxing gym, and as we now know thanks to the video, nearly every major muscle group is involved in boxing. Not all of these muscles will pop out past the fat, of course, yet still I wonder: Why do I see a lot of women who look like Michelle?

I can't say for sure, because while they're at the bags I'm swinging a sledge hammer onto a tractor tire. But in my peripheral vision I can see this: They're swatting the bag. They're not giving their all to their punches. They're turning a ballistic* workout [*of or relating to projectiles and their flight] into a cardio routine.

In the kickboxing class I used to attend, there was a gal I like to think of as Perky Woman. Part of our routine included pulsing--a rocking side-to-side motion that warmed up the leg joints while conserving energy for that first punch or kick. Let me say that again: You pulsed to ready yourself to really have at that first power move.

Perky Woman didn't pulse. Perky Woman did jumping jacks.

Good for her, in her mid to late forties, jumping around like that. Really: good for her. But all that jumping stole energy from her punches, and she went through the paces with good form but no power. Perky Woman was getting a great cardio workout--good for her--but reaping none of the ballistic benefits kickboxing has to offer.

Fitness is fitness, right? Anyone who can survive BodyCombat and/or Frank's boxing class is a winner, in my book.

But if you've paid the money, trust the sport. Do it right and let it lead you into the heart of its challenge, whether that be a relationship between force and velocity or the strength to pull a tractor with your teeth.

Personally, I feel like an action figure. The conditioning I get in my shoulders and legs from boxing can't be beat. Maybe I'll tell Michelle how I feel. Flip out on her in the hope that she'll go ballistic someday, too.


  1. You can say what you want about perky girl, but when I took your place in the class that one day, she was still doing jumping jacks at the end of the class while I was alternating between taking extended breaks to the hallway water fountain and trying not to vomit. There's got to be something said for her approach to fitness. Having said that, I share your assessment of her strength--I'd rather get punched by her than you!


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