There’s no denying that regular exercise does a body well. The CDC names being active as one of the best things you can do for yourself thanks to its long list of benefits, which includes weight management, improved brain health, and more. But finding a workout that you enjoy and that offers all of the physical and mental benefits you desire can be a challenge. Especially for moms who are strapped for time as it is. That’s where knockout workouts come in. Named as a top fitness trend for 2024 by Pinterest, these combat-inspired workouts prove to be challenging, rewarding and most importantly, fun.
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While you may feel intimidated if you haven’t participated in a karate, boxing or jiu-jitsu class before, professional trainers ensure that once you start, you won’t want to stop. On top of actually getting stronger and feeling more capable (these classes include a range of moves from body conditioning and ab exercises to cardio), there’s a sense of community and strength that comes from doing intense workouts. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re physically attending classes, working out on your own, or using an app for guidance—the benefits remain the same. To share more insights about the knockout workout trend, we spoke to four fitness experts. Read on for all of the ways that participating in these workouts can empower you physically and emotionally.
What is a knockout workout?
Knockout workouts, also referred to as combat workouts, have elements of fighting in them. Although many of these workouts won’t actually involve sparring with another person—boxing classes have punching bags for a reason—they do instill a sense of capability, thanks to the inherent self-defense skills involved.
Depending on who’s leading these classes, your experience can be vastly different, which means there’s ample opportunity to find the one that’s best suited for you. Some may focus more on HIIT and cardio moves while others put a stronger emphasis on strength and muscle-building.
Certified personal trainer, Nicole Greco-Peepas, says “Contact sports actually sparring with someone or hitting something can be very rewarding. It’s not your typical gym training.”
At Rumble Boxing, a group fitness boxing studio with locations all over the US, the focus is on the combination of lifting weights and boxing for a full-body workout. Certified trainer, Julia Stern, says, “These workouts take the traditional group fitness model and add real value to someone who may not be accustomed to working out on their own in the gym. The lights, music and fun experience allow for an escape from the mundane.”
Depending on where you take class or what program you follow at home, it’s likely you’ll see a variety of different movements, but with a common thread including punches, squats and some cardio.
For instance, Wendy Cope, Southeast Regional Group Fitness Manager at Crunch Fitness, says they offer several different classes in their gyms: in Cardio Tai Box you’ll work on kicks and punches, in the Force Field class, you’ll work on 360-degree target drills and slicing movements using Knux (shadowboxing hand weights), and in the PunchHIIT class, you’ll partake in ground-and-pound-based exercises. “Essentially, we’ll incorporate anything that works agility, engages the core, and leaves you dripping in sweat,” she says.
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Benefits of knockout workouts
Being that knockout workouts can incorporate so many different movements and elements—both physical and mental—the list of benefits is lengthy. In terms of a workout for a busy mom, Cope says, “A knockout workout gives parents the opportunity to really let go of the frustration and pent-up emotions that this job entails,” adding that “being a mom is the toughest job there is.”
“There’s a certain euphoric feeling when you can hit a boxing bag; it’s very physical,” adds Greco-Peepas. This feeling she talks about is backed by science—we know that physical activity that gets your heart rate up can cause a surge of endorphins (runner’s high, anyone?).
But, specifically with boxing, the act of hitting a bag or even the air gives you a release for your emotions. “Punching a bag allows you to express your negative emotions in a healthy way and manage your feelings,” explains Irina Kapetanakis, the owner of Rumble Boxing, NYC and Hoboken, New Jersey. “The physical act of punching also helps to relieve the muscle tension that tends to be caused by stress.”
Beyond stress relief, there’s also proof that knockout workouts can help improve mental health as well. A 2022 study found that “Non-contact boxing exercises, usually in a high-intensity-interval training group setting, provided significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Non-contact boxing provided a cathartic release of anger and stress, with evidence of improved mood, self-esteem, confidence, concentration, metabolic burden, strength and coordination.”
Combine all of these mental benefits with the physical movements that are changing your body, and it’s easy to see how well-rounded a workout you get when you participate in this kind of movement.
“Boxing is a full-body workout,” Kapetanakis adds, pointing out that it gets your brain involved, too. She explains that as you’re focusing on different body parts with each movement, you also have to concentrate and think hard about the combination, which “allows for you to forget about everything else and really take a break from real life outside the studio.”
In addition to the mental and physical effects, there’s also a sense of community that tends to come from these types of workouts—you are letting your anger out on an inanimate object next to a stranger, after all, so there’s a sense of vulnerability involved. And you’re all in it together. Plus, if you’re taking class at the same time on the same day every week, it’s only natural that you’ll get used to seeing the same faces.
What you need for a knockout workout
Cope recommends “coming ready to play.” She says to wear sweat-wicking clothing that allows you to move with ease throughout the range of motion of exercises. “Be sure to wear comfortable shoes that offer support and stability as you kick and punch your way through class.”
If you’re doing your workout at home, you don’t have to get a punching bag, but should you want to hit something (we get it), there are freestanding bags that you can purchase. And if you are making contact with a bag, whether it’s at home or in a studio/gym, it’s recommended that you have both hand wraps and boxing gloves—many locations will offer them for purchase or to rent, but it’s smart to do your research before your first sweat sesh to ensure that you’re prepared.
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Where to find knockout workouts
If you already belong to a gym, you should check if they offer any knockout-type classes, because similar to Crunch, many gyms will have some sort of group fitness training that incorporates boxing moves. If you prefer to take a class somewhere that specializes in these types of workouts, a quick Google search should help to pinpoint a studio near you. Rumble has studios scattered throughout the US and they also offer an app called XPASS that allows you to stream their custom boxing workout from home. Other popular apps that have boxing built into the curriculum include Peloton and FightCamp.
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Nicole Greco-Peepas is a celebrity personal trainer who specializes in boxing. She is also the founder of NGPmethod.
Julia Stern is a certified trainer at Rumble Boxing.
Wendy Cope is the Southeast Regional Group Fitness Manager at Crunch Fitness.
Irina Kapetanakis is the owner of Rumble Boxing NYC and Hoboken, New Jersey.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of Physical Activity. CDC.gov. Published August 1, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
2. Bozdarov J, Jones BDM, Daskalakis ZJ, Husain MI. Boxing as an Intervention in Mental Health: A Scoping Review. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2022;0(0):155982762211240. Doi: 10.1177/15598276221124095