Strength & Conditioning for Boxing
Boxing is a tricky one, being a sport with a long history compared to MMA, there are lots of tried and tested methods of fitness training that understandably, boxers and coaches don’t want to change – because they work!
MMA is different, being a new sport, many fighters have adopted the ‘new’ training methods (consisting mainly of roids and plyometrics) carried out under the supervision of a meathead in camouflage pants with a clipboard/ AKA the S & C coach).
Weight Training for Boxing
Ahh, a controversial one to begin with.
If you’ve done boxing for years, and never done any weight lifting, I would be very cautious and strategic in the way you go about it.
Shoulder and chest mobility can, from my experience at least, be restricted by lifting heavy weights, often, & without stretching.
This is bad news for boxing, as upper-body mobility is crucial – for example when you throw a hook, to create maximum power you need to ‘open up’ the chest to generate the elastic-recoil energy that in turn – generates the ‘KO power’.
This is scientifically called the stretch-shortening cycle – your chest muscles stretch as you ‘cock your arm back’ to throw a hook, and then the chest muscles shorten as you throw the punch and flex your chest.
Ideally Weight-Training would be Periodised
…or put into stages for a beginner to learn technique before trying more advanced and explosive exercises which increase the risk of injury.
Stage 1 – Build a base of strength (and technique with the weight-lifting exercises)
In this stage I always tend to recommend higher reps (at least 8 reps per set), as the athlete needs to learn the technique of the squat, bench press etc. before going really heavy.
Fundamental core exercises and stability-ball work should be included in each stage.
Avoiding injury is imperative, making this phase vital.
Stage 2 – CNS/Strength enhancement.
Compound lifts – squats, bench press, overhead press. Long rest periods (2 mins or more) between sets.
Introduction to deadlift, Olympic lifts and plyometrics with low volume, sub-maximal training loads on these exercises.
Stage 3 – Sports Specific Training
Medicine ball work, explosive work, specific core exercises, landmine exercises, Olympic Lifts (limited use of basic Olympic Lifts, I’m still a bit skeptical about the risk & reward of things like high-pulls).
In all phases include an extensive warm up, including dynamic stretching and foam rolling exercises.
Use static stretching and trigger point work with a cricket or lacrosse ball post workout.
Boxers like to use skipping to warm up, but after pulling my calf last week, I’d recommend some other exercises first.
Academic Research – Weight Training & Punching Power
This paper concludes that of seven resistance exercises tested – leg press, leg extension, standing heel raise (presumably a calf raise), bench press, tricep dips, dumbbell front lateral raise and incline twisting crunch –
only the heel-raises seem to be associated with punching power, whilst bench press was related to power in a boxer’s jab only.
So we best add some calf and chest exercises into a boxing weight-training programme.
This study (which I don’t have access to unfortunately) states that there are ‘5 trainable variables when it comes to throwing a right cross:
(a) increase rear leg drive
(b) following the step forward, land with a rigid leg to increase breaking and transmission of forces
(c) increase the stretch-shortening cycle action of the trunk musculature
(d) increase the velocity of the punch
(e) increase the effective mass. it is possible, through appropriate strength and conditioning programming, to target the development of each.
To address the above variables…
a) include some explosive leg work
b) Focus on technique, but also include some lower body plyometrics
c) The stretch-shortening cycle relates to elastic energy. With an orthodox cross for example, you would normally rotate your waist/hip backwards/clockwise (stretching the muscles), then drive the hip forwards/anticlockwise (shortening the muscles). This can be trained with some medicine ball and band work
d) Develop fast-twitch muscle fibres – everywhere!
You need speed and power, not strength.
e) Get massive bro
Academic Research – Neck Strength & KO Resistance
This paper theorises (not actual proof) that a stronger neck may prevent knock outs, by decreasing the ‘rapid acceleration’ caused by a blow to the head.
Some very carefully selected neck exercises should be included in a boxing S & C programme. Don’t risk jumping into high-injury-risk exercises like neck bridges, not straight away anyway
Other formats of training to consider include:
Vibration training kind of, caught on a few years ago, then seems to have petered out.
However, some research does suggest that it might be useful for developing power in the upper body.
Vibration training has been shown in a growing number of studies to enhance power output.
This is something I need to read-up on more. I’m assuming it would be best to perform sport-specific exercises on the vibrating platform…but I need to confirm – only videos I can find are of women in lycra…
Unstable ‘Platform’ Training
Best way to engage the core, and develop it’s engagement whilst peforming specific movements that relate to boxing
T-RX – can’t really go wrong, and if this guy does T-RX, I’m not going to argue:
Include exercises on one of, or all of the following:
Use with very limited volume to begin with. The best form of exercise to develop power – especially relating to the stretch-shortening cycle, but also great for getting injured and overtrained. Here are some ideas for exercises:
Mobility, and massage (either via a foam roller or a person) are a crucial element of any S & C programme.
Flexibility & Posture
Many people who site down all day for work, or drive alot – have ‘anterior pelvic tilt’. This basically means that your hip flexors are tight and that your bum sticks out.
This will cause issues in terms of your kinetic chain and transferring power from the twisting of your feet and hips, to your fist.
Work on this by stretching your hip flexors as often as possible (I do some stretches everytime I go to the toilet for a wee) and engage your core whenever you can too, ideally by sitting on a stability ball – although I appreciate this is not always possible.
I don’t have any studies or scientific evidence to back this up, but my yoga teacher insists that tensions building up in the hip flexors directly effects the rest of the body. This is bad news as you need to stay relaxed to throw effective punches with ‘whip’.
Fist Conditioning in Boxing
Wolff’s law dictates that adding load or stress to a bone will make it ‘reform’ stronger and denser. In terms of conditioning the hands and body for boxing, this would mean adding progressively higher loads of stress or impact – but with rest in between – vital for the bones and tissues to adapt.
For example, Bruce Lee used to suggest people start off conditioning their fists by literally punching sand.
Rest your fists/hands for a day or 2 after this before doing it again.
When you feel ready, move onto hitting a ‘softer’ punch bag with small gloves on. Again rest your hands for a day afterwards…before doing it again.
The ribs can be conditioned this way too, start off by taking very light body shots, working up to harder ones (under professional supervision).
DO NOT try and condition your chin by taking punches to the face. This is ridiculous and will make you more likely to get KO’d due to the brain damage it causes.
Part 2 will include:
Movement and SAQ
Conditioning – Wolff’s law