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Boxing workouts for women

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Boxing isn't just for the boys

For the first time, women are competing in boxing at the Summer Games. Canada will be watching Mary Spencer, middleweight boxer from Windsor, Ontario, who faced defeat at the World Championship and then earned a wild-card entry to compete. The sport is a growing trend for women who want an intense, exciting workout that burns fat and builds confidence, says trainer Sammie Kennedy. She's extending an invitation to women to test their ring smarts.

Woman boxing in gym

Not just for the boys, boxing, UFC, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting and kickboxing are increasingly attracting women, with 40 percent of MMA enthusiasts being female. Sammie Kennedy, a Toronto trainer, launched Femme Fitale, a new program for women to learn kickboxing and MMA skills — without the intimidation factor of being around male partners twice their size who've been doing it for years. The workout includes partnered pad work instead of air punching and cardio kickboxing.

Boxing moves outside the ring

"Doing kickboxing with pad work and MMA conditioning is the perfect routine to take a woman’s exercise program up to that next level,” Kennedy says. The use of kickboxing pads pushes women to burn more calories by engaging their muscles in each move, she says. Empowerment comes with learning actual self-defense techniques that can be used in threatening situations. The program is designed to be increasingly challenging so that women will see themselves getting stronger each week, with a focus on trouble spots, such as abs and glutes. There's a reason why actress Hilary Swank looked so great in the award-winning film Million Dollar Baby.

The perception that boxing is too dangerous for women is changing as more women are choosing kickboxing to be part of their weekly exercise routine. Mixedmartialarts.com reports that kickboxing is considered the fastest-growing sport in the world, with women’s interest on the rise, and women represent 40 percent of UFC enthusiasts, a number that will continue to grow with more media coverage of the sport, Kennedy says.

Sparring with a partner builds skills

As the saying goes, "A great boxer plays chess and the average boxer plays checkers." Developing the jabs and punches in a partner workout helps women learn the sport's competitive skills of timing, footwork and moves to out-think and surprise the opponent. Watch for those perfectly timed counterpunches in the ring at the Summer Games.

Refining boxing skills is also about coordination: Moving the head, bobbing and weaving, slipping and ducking by bending at the waist to remain in punching position are all effective types of movement in boxing that build strength and endurance. The payoff in the Femme Fitale program is a sleeker, more toned physique and a shot of confidence.

This kind of a workout demands focus and hard work, but the benefits are many, Kennedy says: “There is something so exhilarating about punching and kicking — not only are you getting in a great workout but you’re also achieving more mental clarity and stress relief, all positive things.”

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