Impact vs. Intensity in Training

Sometimes in boxing, the concepts of impact and intensity are mistaken for one another. Learning the differences between the two ideas can make your boxing training sessions more productive and give you the edge in the ring you are looking for. Think of intensity as the skill level at which you are able to do something and impact as the result of that skill level.


The definition of intensity is the measurable amount of energy or strength exerted. It can also mean the high degree of something, in this instance, skill. Northern Ireland athletic coach, Tom Crick, says, “Intensity relates to the power output generated by the athlete during exercise.” Running faster, jumping higher or punching harder is the skill “intensity.” As you learn how to increase your intensity, you are increasing your power output.

In boxing, this need for intensity is very important to beat an opponent. You may have great coordination in a punch like a jab, cross or hook, but without intensity in that punch, you’ll never win, whether the opponent is another person or your goals. The harder the punch, the more difficult it is for your opponent to recover. Maintaining intensity is one of the reasons why boxers train as hard as they do.

It is important for you to understand that intensity and effort are also two different concepts. Intensity can be measured by a force plate while effort is a subjective idea. Effort is the amount of exertion you feel you have generated. Intensity and effort can be confused because often you feel like you have exerted a great amount of energy and believe that means you’ve reached your peak intensity. Intensity has to be objectively identified. A coach or opponent can measure your power output to really determine the level of your intensity.


Impact is defined as the effect someone or something has on something else. In boxing, the impact is how well a boxer does in the ring. Impact is also measurable. Assessing the level of intensity that a boxer exhibits during training can predict how much impact that boxer will have in the ring. Ultimately, the true impact that a boxer objectively has will determine whether or not they succeed in the ring. Learning to achieve goals in training, and to increase intensity and endurance, can create the impact that you want to have as a boxer.

How Intensity Translates into Impact

It is important to understand that in boxing, to achieve sustained high intensity requires that there is active rest and regeneration. Boxers don’t stop moving during the 36 minutes of a fight, except between rounds, so it is imperative that a boxer trains with active rest and bursts of intensity; this mimics the conditions the boxer will face in the ring.

Intensity shouldn’t be viewed as hard work and end up translated as effort. Instead, intensity should be goal setting and measurable value, such as your heart rate during training. Learning to push yourself to reach the level of intensity that you are capable of requires both physical and mental fortitude.

Fatigue and Stress

Fatigue is often evaluated less on the physical signs of stress and more on the psychological signs of stress. The psychology of fatigue may be unconscious or subconscious in nature. If you have an unresolved fear of pain or failure, it may keep you from properly evaluating what you can and cannot achieve. Having someone else evaluate your fatigue will keep you focused and motivated to continue.

What are some signs of physical stress when it comes to pushing yourself in intensity during training? CNS (Central Nervous System) fatigue is one of the things that can happen during intense training. The CNS controls the messages sent to our muscles, and when you exercise upward of 85% of your intensity capabilities, the CNS needs a break. Just like a circuit board that gets overloaded and causes a blackout, the CNS can get overloaded as well. The result is a shut down of messages to your muscles and basically a muscle blackout.

It is important that you recognize some of the systems such as shaking or trembling of the hands, arms and legs. This means you have pushed your body to peak intensity level. For some, that level may be reached sooner than others. How long you have trained will determine how soon you reach this threshold.

If you are dehydrated, your threshold level will also be impacted by the side effects. Remember that your body requires more fuel and more water the more intense your workout is. Here are some other signs of CNS fatigue:

  • Mild leg soreness that causes aches and pains.

  • Decrease in performance/intensity.

  • Loss of coordination.

These symptoms are the body’s way of telling you to stop and rest. The CNS can get so overtaxed that it can no longer provide coordination for the muscles and that can create an environment for injuries.

What Intensity Looks Like in Training

As intensity in boxing is found primarily in the punch, working the whole body to generate the power needed to reach that intensity maximum is important. A workout might look something like this:

  1. Warm-up: Jump rope for 10 minutes, then do 20 squats, pushups and crunches. Finish with 50 jumping jacks and run in place for 1-2 minutes.

  2. Shadow Boxing: Shadowboxing for 2-3 minute rounds with basic jab, cross and hook punches, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat 3-5x.

  3. Heavy Bag: Basic combination for 2-3 minutes with 30 seconds of rest for five rounds. Then use the speed bag (pace yourself so you don’t stop punching).

  4. Finisher: 100 pushups and squats, 200 sit-ups. Try to rest as little as you can.

  5. Foot Drills:  2-3 minutes of side-steps, 2-3 minutes of forward and backward steps, 2-3 minutes of circle drills.

  6. Conditioning: 20 push-ups, jump squats, alternating with rest. 20-yard sprints or 10 burpees to finish out training to get the level of intensity that you want.

If the do-it-yourself approach falls short, there are many coach-led training sessions at Gloveworx that provide the intensity and motivation you need to get the most out of your workout.

Keeping with a basic routine and pushing yourself to do more and punch, not just harder, but better-- by landing solid hits-- will give you the impact that you are looking for in the ring. Watch out for CNS fatigue and keep finding measurable increases in intensity in your training.

Listen to what your coach is telling you about your performance. Push through negative emotions and fears to recognize the potential that you have to increase your intensity and your ability to compete in the ring and the world outside.