Boxing. A sport of champions. Producer of some of the finest athletes the world has ever known. Ali, Tyson, Joshua – the list goes on. ‘Funston’ is a name unlikely to appear on that list any time soon, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? And so it was, with words of encouragement from my colleagues ringing in my ears and no small amount of trepidation, I visited KOBOX for the first time to trial their Upper Body Workout…
KOBOX is London’s first boutique boxing studio, with locations in the City and in Chelsea. Offering high intensity boxing based classes, which combine heavy bag boxing routines with functional strength training, in an environment KOBOX likes to refer to as ‘Fight Club Meets Nightclub’.
Having received an advisory email upon booking my class, I arrived at the City studio well-hydrated, yet sweating profusely (dread, or just the Central Line?) and was greeted on the front desk with an invitation to order a post-workout protein shake, a nice touch. Descending the stairs I was then fitted with boxing wraps and gloves before being greeted by my trainer Antoine, who took my fellow KOBOX virgins through a short induction before a horde of well-toned, pumped-up fitness fanatics filled the dark, neon-lit studio.
Ding, Ding, Ding – the workout:
Following a short warm-up the gloves were on and I took my place with half the group in front of my assigned boxing bag – one of 24 split into two rows of 12 – whilst the other half lined up along the back wall which was adorned with weights, ropes and bands.
As we waited eagerly, Antoine explained that the ‘boxers’ would see a combination of numbers between 1 and 6 on the wall in front, with each number representing a type of punch. Numbers 1 & 2 were left and right jabs, 3 & 4 denoted hooks and 5&6 represented uppercuts. As the various combos flashed up on the wall, we jabbed and swung in unison (well, sort of), moving around our bags as we did so as clubbing music blared out – think Wii Sports flash mob – and Antoine offered words of much-needed encouragement.
After two, two minute rounds of boxing we then swapped places with the ‘wall group’, to take on a number of upper body exercises while they took their sweaty discomfort out on the bags. The routine consisted of several bodyweight moves, including pikes, planks and press ups, with everyone required to add an extra rep at the end of each circuit.
With four minutes up on the clock, we were then swapped back onto the bags for another two rounds of boxing combinations – with the added bonus of speed and power combos for good measure. Despite the lactic acid building up in my admittedly tiny biceps, I felt a strange sensation taking over. Was it exhaustion? Was it nausea? Much to my surprise, it was actually one of enjoyment.
With another couple of rounds of boxing under our belts, we swapped back onto the floor for a final set of exercises, this time in pairs – at last, there were no hiding places for me! The pair-work required one person to complete a set number of reps of a particular exercise – 10 crunches for example, while holding a dumbbell in each hand – while the other repeated one particular move – shadow boxing with dumbbells in a crunch position – until Person 1 had completed their reps. As the rounds wore on, I could feel my unfortunate partner boring into my head with her eyes, not knowing whether to will me on or drop the 7.5kg shoulder press plate onto the back of my head. With Antoine counting down “30! 20! 10! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!” the round drew to a euphoric close, as we panted and puffed as a group to retrieve our sweat towels and gulp down our water.
A final short, sharp round of freestyle boxing followed, before one minute of the dreaded burpee sucked every last breathe of energy from my quivering frame. Antoine, grinning from ear to ear and still offering words of motivation and congratulations (if I could bottle his energy I’d have no such problems), took us through a short warm down stretch before sending us out the studio with a final high five and pat on the back.
Feeling like I’d gone 12 rounds with Tyson – although thankfully with both my ears still intact – I headed for a well-earned shower before enjoying one of KOBOX’s famous shakes.
Enjoyment? Still a yes. Satisfaction? Hell yes. To paraphrase everyone’s favourite boxer, Sylvester Stalone’s Rocky, “YO ANTOINE… WE DID IT!”