Fit Minute: Packing a punch with YMCA’s Donna Miller

Fitness Instructor at the Lynch/Van Otterloo YMCA Donna Miller demonstrates a jab cross on a punching bag. Photo by Ryan Vermette

The sport of boxing is seen by many as a challenging one, requiring you to to land punches and take them at the same time. It is certainly a challenge that not everyone is up for. However, Donna Miller, a fitness instructor at the Lynch/van Otterloo YMCA, shows that you can do the boxing without the fighting for this edition of Fit Minute.

Despite jabbing with your hands, boxing is a full-body workout that works your endurance and strength, Miller says. 

“In strength it works your arms, shoulders, back,  chest, core, and your legs,” said Miller. “So you get all of it, and it builds lean muscle. It also is a great calorie burner.”

She demonstrated two ways that you can get a boxing workout in. The first is shadowboxing, which involves boxing without making physical contact with an object. She recommends this exercise for those who are just beginning, or don’t have any equipment. For shadowboxing, she said you can also hold light weights, between one to three pounds, in your hand.

The second exercise is boxing against a punching bag. For both exercises, Miller demonstrated a jab cross, with the dominant hand and leg positioned in the back.

“You’re in a staggered stance, arms up, your hands and palms are in,” she said.

Miller added that the chin should be down, the core engaged, and the knees bent, with your non-dominant foot in front and your toes facing an imaginary opponent. She also said that the back heel should be in a straight line with the toe. Miller then explained how to execute the jab.

“With the jab, you are rotating your palm down, and pulling your arm straight out to strike,” she said. “As you strike, you are exhaling and you pull your arm quickly back and rotate your palm in.”

With a cross jab, Miller said, it is similar, but with added hip rotation at the end.

“With a cross, you are doing the same thing, you’re going to rotate your palm down for a strike, keeping your chin down, and your back hip turns towards your opponent,” Miller said. “Both hands reach out and there’s a strong exhale and pull back to your guard position, which they call ‘to protect.'”

Miller recommends 30 seconds of a power jab cross that she described as a slower exercise, focusing on form, exhaling, and keeping a tight core. Then, you roll into a quick jab cross for another 30 seconds by speed tapping the bag. She says to repeat both exercises three times for a full-set workout, with a minute of rest between each set for up to three days per week. 

In addition to being good for cardio and strength, Miller says that boxing can also be great for releasing stress.

“It was great even during COVID, people feel better, they feel like they’re releasing a lot of stress,” she said. 


  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.