Strength and Conditioning for Better Boxing
If you’ve ever watched a boxing match, you’ve seen how a boxer has to be able to make fast and explosive movements, like punching and evading their opponent’s punches, over the course of anywhere from 8 to 15 rounds in that bout. That’s why boxers have to perform a combination of both resistance and endurance training when preparing for a fight, to ensure they have the strength and conditioning needed to win.
Whether you’re training to become a boxer, or to simply get in better shape, the fundamentals of fitness are the same. If you want to improve your strength, your focus should be on lifting weights. If you want to improve your conditioning, your focus should be on cardiovascular exercises.
If you're looking to improve your strength and conditioning to enhance your performance as a boxer, there are some specific boxing conditioning exercises -- some involving just your body weight, and some involving certain pieces of equipment -- that we strongly recommend.
Strength Training and Boxing Conditioning: The 1-2 Punch for Physical Fitness
The Difference Between Strength Training and Conditioning
At a very basic level, think of the difference between boxing strength and conditioning training as you would the difference between quality and quantity.
Strength training will help you run faster because it will make your muscles stronger, allowing you to make more rapid and explosive movements to increase your punching power. Conversely, your conditioning determines how long you’ll be able to run before the body gets too tired to make those movements and how long you'll last during your boxing workout. As you might imagine, training in both manners is of high importance for boxers.
In truth, most people understand the underlying difference between wanting to improve their strength and wanting to improve their conditioning but are often confused or misled as to the best exercises for either. We want to help clear up that confusion.
The Importance of Strength Training in a Fitness Regimen
Most people think of strength training as lifting really heavy weights and becoming some enormous bodybuilder, while wondering how a boxing coach could ever help them in this arena. Incorporating strength training into your fitness regimen to supplement your boxing classes doesn't mean you'll turn into the Incredible Hulk, nor does it have to detract time from your favorite sport.
Instead, think of strength training as performing exercise involving some type of resistance, whether that's weights, resistance-based equipment, or even your body weight. This form of exercise could involve doing push-ups, sit-ups, squats, or lifting a dumbbell of light-to-medium weight.
Incorporating strength training into your fitness regimen will make your muscles, joints, and bones stronger, allowing you to improve the quality of your workouts. That, in turn, will help you burn more calories throughout the day and tighten up those "trouble spots" that never seem to get smaller no matter how much time you spend on the treadmill.
The Importance of Conditioning in a Fitness Regimen
While strength training focuses on the major muscle groups in your body, conditioning focuses on the most important muscle of them all: your heart. Incorporating periods of high-intensity cardio can improve your boxing strength and conditioning routine drastically, while shaking things up from your usual stream of Instagram photos.
Again, think about it from the "quantity" perspective. When you focus on conditioning, you're making your heart pump more blood for a longer period of time. Like any other muscle, when you ask your heart to work a little harder than it's used to (in moderation!), it actually strengthens it. That means that the next time you work out, the heart will be able to pump blood and oxygen into your muscles for a longer period of time. You'll be able to put in the hard work for longer, whether you're doing boxing exercises or moving outside of the ring. The benefits of this aren't just exclusive to exercise. By regularly getting your heart rate up, you'll improve how well the heart functions overall, even when you're not exercising.
How To Use Strength Training and Conditioning To Become A Better Boxer
Now that we understand the fundamentals of strength training and conditioning, how do we apply it specifically toward boxing exercises? We'll discuss a few ways you can utilize strength training exercises that will improve the quality of your movements as a boxer and a few tried-and-true ways to improve your conditioning, such that you'll be able to perform as a boxer for a longer period of time.
Best Strength Training Exercises for Boxers - With Equipment
Even though we tend to think of boxing as being mostly about having strong arms and shoulders, in order to deliver stronger punches, the truth is that boxing is a full-body workout. The power we generate for our punches comes from our legs and our core strength, just as much as it does from our upper body.
As a result, any strength training regimen should be focused on the big muscle groups in our body, like our thighs, glutes, abdominals, as well as your chest and shoulders. This is where the classic resistance exercises will serve you best: squats, the deadlift, lunges, the bench press and things along those lines. You want to perform exercises that work multiple muscle groups at one time, which will mimic the needs of your body during boxing.
Again, the focus isn't about building muscle mass and looking like a body builder-- though all the power to you if that's your goal. Instead of worrying about lifting really heavy weights when performing these exercises, just choose a weight that makes the exercise a bit more challenging but still allows you to perform 6-10 repetitions of that exercise in a given set.
Best Strength Training Exercises for Boxers - Without Equipment
If you want to focus on strength training but either don’t have access to or don’t have interest weight training, you still have plenty of options. After all, you'll always have access to the best possible weight available: your body weight.
More often than not, you'll hear boxers say they prefer the old school strength-based exercises, instead of hitting the weight room. Rather, their regimen will include the classic bodyweight exercises: push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, plyometrics (jump rope, for example), and burpees. You can never go wrong incorporating these into your own training regimen, considering these are tried-and-true ways of using your body weight to improve your core strength and body strength overall.
Best Conditioning Exercises for Boxers - With Equipment
Boxing conditioning, is similar to conditioning methods for any other fighting sport. From a pure conditioning standpoint, one of the most fundamental exercises for boxers is jumping rope. Almost every boxer of any skill level will jump rope when warming up and getting ready for more specific boxing-related exercises because it gets your heart rate going, but also because it emphasizes the need to have good footwork and stay light on your feet, both of which are essential for boxers.
Jump rope falls into a category of exercises called plyometrics. Plyometrics teach your body to exert power through movement: maximum force in minimal time. Plyometrics are often hard work, but do wonders for your legs-- particularly your ankles and knees-- as you continue training. Plyometrics are also an effective addition to interval training circuits and routines.
Once you're warmed up, it's time to move on to the more boxing-specific exercises. If you have access to a punching bag (commonly referred to as a "heavy bag"), you’ll want to put on your gloves (do not hit the bag with your bare fists-- you need proper wrapping to support your wrists) and start working through your punches and putting them together into combinations.
The speed bag is another great piece of equipment that will keep your blood pumping, and help you practice keeping your hands by your head since you'll need to keep them close by to hit the bag. If you've never used a speed bag before, feel free to ask any Gloveworx coach to give you a tutorial. They'd be happy to give you one!
If you lack the equipment or want to refine your skills without the force of a bag, engage in some good old fashioned shadow boxing. Stand in front of a mirror in your starting position, with slightly bent knees and a strong boxing stance. Give yourself room to try some combos, battle an invisible opponent, and correct your form as you go. While it may seem silly to beginners, even the pros will regularly add shadow boxing to their daily boxing workouts.
Best Conditioning Exercises for Boxers - Without Equipment
One of the easiest ways to improve your conditioning without the use of any equipment is to simply go for a run outside. Lots of avid runners will tell you that they get a better workout when running outdoors for a certain length of time rather than running on a treadmill for the same period. This is because the outdoors offers different terrains, inclines and declines, which challenge and condition your muscles much more effectively than running on the same surface and the same incline on a treadmill.
It's also essential to incorporate some high-intensity interval training by adding periods of high exertion. This form of training is used by athletes around the world to help them improve their speed and endurance through using the anaerobic energy system for anaerobic conditioning. By incorporating high-intensity interval training into your boxing conditioning regimen, you'll be able to hit the heavy bag with more intensity, last longer when sparring with an opponent and improve your speed during footspeed drills.
Another great way to condition yourself in the manner in which a boxer would is through shadowboxing, which involves nothing but yourself and maybe a mirror. Since shadowboxing simulates the movements you’d otherwise make in a boxing match, you can condition yourself to go multiple rounds of throwing punches without having to be in the boxing ring or the gym.
Feeling Better About Yourself: as a Boxer and a Person
You won't only see strength and conditioning training in amateur boxing. It's also common in Muay Thai and mixed martial arts training. That's because every fighter worth his or her salt knows that training is about more than hitting a punching bag; it's about improving every aspect of your life to improve your sport.
More often than not, the issue for most people is not motivation. We're willing to work hard in the gym and eat the right foods at home because we want to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body, and feel good about our overall appearance. However, there is so much confusing and conflicting information out there, that we're often misled about the best way to achieve our fitness -- or boxing -- goals. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Regardless of whether you want to become a professional boxer, perform better in one of Gloveworx's sessions as an amateur boxer or enhance the quality of your workouts, it's important to implement exercises that are focused on improving your boxing strength and conditioning.
If you want to improve your boxing strength and conditioning, try one of our Blitz Sessions. In these highly customized training sessions, you'll do mobility work, strength training, and full-body functional movements utilizing a variety of training tools. If you have any questions, our Gloveworx coaches are more than happy to provide you with tips or show you a few exercises that will help you go the distance.