Definitive ranking of the best new boxing classes


It’s the biggest trend in fitness right now – throwing jabs and hooks before pumping out two minutes of mountain climbers followed by 60 bent-over rows. Yes, I’m talking about boxing with boutique gyms and classes popping up faster than FBI investigations into Donald Trump. So, to help you work out which one is your bag, I road tested a few. Now, I’m a boxing beginner and before this I’d only pulled on gloves a bunch of times. Hitting stuff just wasn’t my thing – you’d more likely find me in a downward dog, but I needed to mix up my fitness with more intensity and fun. (Sidenote: I have a medium level of fitness. I can run, say, five kay but I can hardly haul a kettlebell up over my head.) So, here’s which class packed the most, er, punch.

ROUND ONE: Undercard – Darlinghurst, Sydney

The lowdown:

Australian PT and boxing coach, Zach Vickers and business partner Keseva Commerford were inspired by NYC’s fast growing boutique boxing brands like Shadow Box and Rumble. So, they opened their own chic studio (and plan to open in other areas soon) and the model-approved workout has attracted the likes of Jesinta Franklin and PE Nation’s Pip Edwards.

The workout:

This fast, furious and flashy 50-minute workout saw us switching between rounds on a punching bag, strength training with free weights and slogging it out on skillmill free-runner treadmills. It was HIIT at its best and hardest. The punching sequences were displayed on TV screens which was a huge help for a newbie like me. Overall, there was good instruction on boxing technique. The lights were dimmed when we started a new round, the electronic music pumped and I could hear the clattering of chains as people punched and screamed (in satisfaction, I hoped) at the aqua bags. Lots of energy, lots of yelling, lots of sweat and my heart rate was maxed out – this workout was high energy and hard core but I loved every sweaty minute of it.

Body benefits:

The full monty – fat burning, toning and overall fitness with a hefty endorphin rush.

Sweat rating:

I was a dripping, red-faced mess. You need a basic level of fitness otherwise this might be an intimidating class. Alas, their protein smoothie bar was the perfect finale.

ROUND TWO: Fitness First

The lowdown:

The gym’s foray into boxing is offered around Australia.

The workout:

Shoes off, boxing gloves on. In this 45-minute class we paired up and alternated between the gloves and pads – no bags this time around – and focused on boxing technique and drills. We started with a simple boxing sequence that got more complicated after each round. I was continually corrected (in a good way) on my stance, posture and how to throw a serious hook – the instructor kindly walked me through each punch in each sequence. This class tested my coordination, memory and endurance as our punches were followed by a stomach-crushing 2000 sit-ups (ok, minus a “0”) and many, many push-ups (I lost count). The vibe was friendly and fun with heaps of exhausted laughs. Actually, a recent study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found group workout sessions are associated with better mental health benefits compared with individual exercise. Well, Fitness First delivered that.

Body benefits:

Toning, core-strength and mentality agility.

Sweat rating:

An arm-numbing and stomach-busting workout for every level of fitness and boxing.

ROUND THREE: 12RND – Australia wide

The lowdown:

12 Round Fitness aka 12RND is a unique new fitness concept with boxing heavy Danny Green behind. Its big sell is maximising fitness results around convenience. You show up anytime between 6am to 10am, 12 to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm and within three minutes join a circuit which has already begun. Sweet.

The workout:

Think F45 in the boxing world, this 45 minute workout is a combo of a HITT workout and boxing class and you bet it’s dynamic and intense. Sweating through 12 rounds of three minute sets is no easy feat for a beginner, but when you break it down it’s totally doable. Say, round two might be one minute of upper cuts and five box jumps, round three a four punch combo and 20 seconds on the rower etc. With the exercises changed daily, there’s no time for boredom and the feeling that everyone around you is pushing themselves harder, makes you want to, too (bonus: there was a warm community vibe). You pop on a monitor to track your heart rate so it makes you accountable. This boutique fitness gym is fun, friendly and inclusive for every level, shape, size, sex and human.

Body benefits:

The lot. Do this for a few weeks and you’ll have a banging body.

Sweat rating:

It’s kind of like you just jumped in a pool – yes, you can seriously get that sweaty.

ROUND FOUR: Flow Athletic – Paddington, Sydney

The lowdown:

Former NRL player Ben Lucas and celebrity yogi Kate Kendall opened this boutique gym in 2013 bringing a mix strength training, fitness and yoga to the hood. I tested their Smash boxing for the promise of just 30 minutes of punching into their aqua bags.

The workout:

I’m all for a workout to be hard and fast, and then you walk out in a world of pain. What I didn’t account for with this HITT/ boxing session was how deeply cathartic it was. I’m not sure whether it was the crap day I’d had, the fact they’re called “tear-drop” bags or the instructor, Anne-Marie, empathetically correcting my technique, but I got lost in the rhythm of the sequences and almost forgot that I had to smash out a few minutes on the rower or treadmill in between. Yet, another awesome benefit to boxing – the mental clarity that comes from punching it all out – and I loved this class for that. However, what I was keen to know was why the water-filled bags? “Water is more flexible which allows for a better landing of your punches,” says Lucas. “This will allow you to punch harder and, given the human body is made of 65% water, it also feels more real. The water bags also reduce the risk of injury, especially to your wrists and hands which is a complaint of many people who are starting out with boxing for fitness.” Overall, I loved this quick, hard and fast workout.

Body benefits:

Stress relief, strength and core stability.

Sweat rating:

Can you count tears as sweat? A solid beginner to advanced workout.

Felicity Harley is whimn’s editor-at-large (follow her on Instagram). After nearly two decades working in – and running – Australia’s leading women’s publications, she now juggles desk life with cleaning-up-after-three-kids life. In her, er, spare time the health and wellness fan drinks coffee and exercises (to stay sane).



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