Jermaine Johnson demonstrates how to throw a cross in boxing

How to Throw a Cross, an Empowering Punch In Boxing

If you’re not already hooked on boxing, you’re about to be.

By Karla WalshJune 12, 2024

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Talk about a multitasker. Boxing (and shadowboxing) not only acts as a major stress-reliever, but it also builds strength, endurance, and hand-eye coordination, all while improving balance and heart health. Once you’ve mastered the basics of boxing, including your stance, a jab, and a defensive duck-slip-roll, you’re ready to up the ante and mix in some new moves. 

One of our favorite strong and effective punches: a cross. Read on to discover how to throw a cross in boxing and the benefits of adding this particular exercise to your routine. Plus, we’re revealing a handful of the most common cross mistakes so you can enter the “ring” ready to cross like a pro.

What Is a Cross In Boxing?

According to Peloton instructor Jermaine Johnson, a cross is a quick, straight punch thrown with your rear hand—often your dominant hand—that extends directly from the chin to the target. The punch is propelled by hip and shoulder rotation. In an actual match, you’d use this when you’re “aiming to deliver a powerful, direct punch to your opponent, especially when they’re within striking range,” Jermaine says.

Along with jabs, hooks, and upper cuts, crosses are one of the foundational punches boxers incorporate into training and sparring routines, explains Zachary Wilson, a boxing coach and physical therapist assistant at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers Williston in Williston, Vermont.

All are “great complements to an exercise training regimen, providing the opportunity for diversity of movement,” Wilson adds.

Boxing Fundamentals

Before you throw a cross punch or perform any other move, it’s helpful to get in the right headspace for a boxing workout. Focus, visualization, and positive self-talk can help you dial in your mental and physical game.

Although the majority of the movement in a cross punch comes from the upper body, your feet set the foundation. As with any boxing or shadowboxing move, a proper stance is essential. This offers enough balance to help you have the power to execute a cross.

How to Master Boxer’s Stance

  1. With your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, step your right foot back if you’re right-handed,or your left foot back if you’re left-handed.

  2. Stagger your feet, with the toes of your back foot a few inches in ahead of the toes of your front foot to promote stability. (Think of a clock: Your front foot should point to 12 o’clock. If you’re right-handed, your back foot should face 2 o’clock, or if you’re left-handed, aim for 8 o’clock.

  3. Shift your weight to your toes, rather than your heels.

You’ve just set yourself up to throw a successful cross. 

But before we go any further, Wilson reminds us that “as a beginner of any new activity, it’s important to start slow and take your time to ramp up. Focus first on proper form before actually hitting a stationary target,” he says, such as a pad or bag. “Improper form or insufficient preparation can lead to injuries. Shadowboxing is a great way to learn proper form.”

The Peloton App has an array of Shadowboxing and Boxing Bootcamp classes that will coach you through how to ace your form (and model each move for you). If you’re feeling uncertain, or have any current or previous injuries or health conditions that might affect your ability to shadowbox comfortably, it’s wise to consult with a doctor or physical therapist before diving in (and definitely before adding impact with a stationary target).

Kendall Toole demonstrates how to throw a cross in boxing

How to Correctly Throw a Cross

Once you’ve settled into your comfortable boxing stance, here’s how to throw a cross in boxing, according to Jermaine and Wilson:

  1. Position your hands up near your chin in a loose fist position, with your elbows bent and positioned in front of your chest, and tucked in.

  2. Push off your back foot to pivot onto your toes. 

  3. Rotating through the hips, spine, and shoulders, transfer your weight from your back foot to your front foot.

  4. Simultaneously, extend your dominant (back) arm straight out at chin height.

  5. After you’ve completed your cross punch, reverse the motion by snapping your arm back into “guard” position, or the starting boxing stance. 

  6. Reset your weight, and you’re ready to throw another punch.

For the most powerful cross, “focus on explosiveness coming from the hip and shoulder rotation,” Jermaine suggests.

To make the cross more challenging, consider adding resistance with weighted gloves or hold one light dumbbell in each hand, Jermaine advises. Or if you have access to a soft punching bag, you can use that for aim and a bit of resistance, Wilson adds.

Key Benefits of Your Cross

Boxing as a whole offers a bevy of benefits. “The benefits of boxing training are well-studied. These workouts have been shown to improve fast-twitch muscle activation, muscle power, cardiovascular endurance, as well as standing balance with quick movements and weight shifting. The cross punch is also a movement across the midline of the body which can be a beneficial challenge for the brain,” Wilson says.

Dialing into the cross punch specifically, the biggest benefits include:

It Will Help You Develop Functional Strength

A cross punch will help you develop functional strength, to help other workouts and daily tasks feel easier. “This skill is transferable! This whole body rotational movement transfers to activities such as shoveling snow or dirt, throwing a ball, as well as lifting a box and placing it on a shelf,” Wilson says.

It’s a Full Body Workout

To throw a cross with proper form you'll be engaging and strengthening your core, shoulders, and back muscles, Jermaine explains. “Muscles utilized during the cross include, but are not limited, to spinal rotators (internal and external obliques), hip internal and external rotators (deep rotators, glutes, tensor fascia lata), and the shoulders (rotator cuff muscles, deltoid, scapular muscles),” Wilson says.

It Promotes Coordination

Like other punches in boxing, a cross punch requires the coordination of many joints and muscles. Unlike, say, a triceps kickback that really isolates the back of the arms, a cross punch involves muscles workout in a coordinated chain. This leads to a more efficient workout (since many muscles and joints are getting a challenge at once), encourages coordination, and is a subtle way to sneak in some mobility work. 

Common Mistakes When Throwing a Cross

To reduce the risk for injury and improve performance, Wilson recommends steering clear of the following common mistakes:

Pushing Too Much Before You’re Ready

Doing too much in one session, especially with insufficient preparation, is a bad habit Wilson often sees among his clients. If you’re not in the right headspace or are overly tired from yesterday’s ride, run, row, strength, or boxing workout, consider a rest day.

Twisting Too Forcefully

Excessive rotation through the knee joint without moving your ankle and hips is a recipe for an injury. Take your time and think of the coordinated chain moving synchronously.

Keeping Joints Locked 

The only time your arm should be fully extended is for a brief moment as you complete the punch. Otherwise, elbows should be bent. Knees should be slightly bent and loose, to allow for twisting without tweaking.

Overreaching On Range of Motion

“With full body rotation, it’s important to understand the range of motion limitations of the hip and spine to avoid excessive stress throughout these joints. Make sure to pivot on the back foot to reduce excessive rotation in the back knee,” Wilson says.

Rushing Through It

If you try to perform too many cross punches in succession, it can be tempting to sacrifice form and power. Aim for a steady pace that allows you to give each punch your all.

“It’s also important to note that if you have a history of shoulder injury, boxing training could exacerbate symptoms, so please consult your primary care physician or physical therapist to see if boxing is an appropriate exercise for you,” Wilson says.

Download the Peloton App to get started with Boxing workouts and master the fundamentals from expert Peloton Instructors.


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Jermaine Johnson

Jermaine Johnson

London born and raised, Jermaine is driven by the belief that you make your own opportunities.

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