How To Do Upper Cuts (Personal Trainer Guide)

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

Chris Freytag demonstrating upper cuts wearing workout top and bottom.

The upper cut is an exercise extracted from boxing and kickboxing, but anyone can do it. You don’t need boxing equipment for this exercise; you’re just punching air. Learning how to this exercise properly will offer you an extremely powerful cardio exercise to get your heart pumping and your metabolism burning—not to mention, they’re just fun! In addition to firing up your metabolism, this is a total body strengthening exercise.

This may seem like an upper-body move since the arms and shoulders are the main muscles visibly moving in the upper cut, but it is really a full-body exercise. The power in this move starts from the ground. You use your entire bodyweight, push the power from the ground and up into the punch. To do this, you have to engage every muscle group, especially the legs, core, biceps and shoulders. The move can be extremely effective, but you have to do it right to get the benefits. Once you learn to do it properly, you can always add some resistance like a resistance band or light weights.

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    How To Do Upper Cuts

    One of the best ways to get a solid, strong cardio workout at home is through kickboxing. Kickboxing is filled with moves that not only get your heart rate up but are also powerful and strong. This move gives you a solid punch that resonates all the way to your core. Here is the proper way to do upper cuts:

    1. Begin in a standing position with feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent.
    2. Pull your arms close to your side, bending the elbows and making two tight fists facing toward you.
    3. Punch each fist in an upward motion stopping right about chin level, alternating right and left.
    4. Try to keep your body stable as you punch those upper cuts so your hips should not be moving side to side.

    Benefits of Upper Cuts

    Upper cuts are loaded with fitness benefits all the way from cardio to core strength. They’re faced paced, so they burn fat and calories fast as well. Better yet, there’s no equipment needed! Here are just a few examples:

    Upper Body Cardio

    This move can be part of an awesome cardio workout when used during kickboxing, but they can also be a stand-alone exercise to get your heart pumping without using impact or leg muscles.

    Core Strength

    This exercise also helps strengthen your core by using core muscles including abdominals, glutes and obliques to throw the punches properly. When punching upward and using a firm stopping point, the core muscles engage both to throw the punch as well as to stop it.

    Strong Arms, Shoulders, and Back

    Upper cuts are ultimately an arm move and even though you aren’t pushing weights, your arms, shoulder and upper back are working to give you a strong, powerful punch.

    What Muscles Do Upper Cuts Work?

    Upper cuts work your core muscles including the transverse abdominus, hips and obliques. Whether they are done slow and strong, or fast and powerful, the core is working hard. They also work your shoulders, arms and upper back muscles throughout the motion.

    How Many Calories Do Upper Cuts Burn?

    People often ask how many calories they are burning in their workouts. Upper cuts will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working. As you work harder and faster, you also burn more calories, so your effort will play a big role in your calorie burn.

    Incorporating Upper Cuts Into Your Workouts

    Upper cuts are a fantastic upper body exercise! You could work on them as a stand-alone exercise to help you get fit and strong. However, you could also incorporate them with other exercises and have some great workouts. Here are some ideas to make that happen:

    Upper Body Strength/Cardio Combo Workout

    All boxing exercises improve cardiovascular fitness and overall endurance. They also help to build lean muscle. Working your upper body muscles can be an intense training session. Use this series for your upper body, and you’ll feel it the next day. Get a set of dumbbells and do each exercise for the number of repetitions listed as well as the upper body moves for cardio which you will do for the amount of time listed. Rest for 15 seconds between moves.


    20-Minute Simple Kickboxing Workout

    Kickboxing is a super fun way to burn calories and get your cardio done! Perform each move for 1 minute taking NO BREAK between moves. Finish with a 1-minute break then repeat the sequence!

    Jumping Jacks
    Upper Cuts
    Front Kicks
    Knee Thrust Right
    Knee Thrust Left
    Knee Tucks
    Sprinter Sit Up R
    Sprinter Sit Up L

    One minute rest. Repeat!

    10-Minute Total Body Circuit Training Workout

    Circuits are a fun way to exercise and get your strength and cardio in simultaneously. In this circuit workout, move directly from one exercise to the next with little to no break in between. Rest for 1 minute at the end, then repeat the sequence.

    Rest 1 minute. Repeat. Stretch.

    Other Exercises Similar to Upper Cuts

    If you like this move, here are some others you might like too:

    Targets: shoulders, arms, core

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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