Strength Training for Boxing
Jason Van Veldhuysen is a former competitive amateur boxer and martial arts practitioner now coaching boxing out of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. He's driven to help boxers reach their full potential, in the ring and in their training. Here, he will discuss the benefits of strength & weight training for boxers.
Weight training for boxing has come with mixed reviews for decades, it seems that only in the last 15-20 years strength training has become part of a standard workout for boxing trainers and fighters. Of course, the distinction between weight training, strength training and conditioning is blurred. Old school trainers were proponents of small hand weights, Indian clubs, medicine balls, kettle bells, sandbags and other muscular resistance training tools. However, because this type of training was a far cry from the classic Joe Weider bodybuilding methods, it didn’t get grouped into the same bucket of so called ‘weight training’ that many boxing trainers claim will slow you down and ruin your technique.
There is some truth to the claim that weight training will slow down your boxing, and yet there are ways to incorporate strength training into your boxing workouts to increase speed and get the maximum benefit for fight preparation. In this article I’ll dispel that claim yet I’ll also touch on where people go wrong. Based on my own experience and in working with fighters I advocate strength training for boxing for three reasons: First, it prepares your body to more readily take on the gruelling training methods in a standard boxing routine such as hitting the heavy bag, medicine ball work, push-ups, burpees etc. Second, if trained correctly weight training will increase your punching power, overall speed and muscular endurance. Third, it adds variety and fun to your boxing routine thus keeping you motivated.
The most important thing to keep in mind is your ultimate goal. In boxing, your ultimate goal is to hit and not be hit, which means fast, efficient technique that is powerful enough to do damage and allow you to evade your opponent’s offense and counters. It means doing what it takes in your training to make the most of your skills, and to win fights. The minute your ultimate goal becomes obtaining the best physique the question mark surrounding weight training for boxing no longer applies. Although boxers often have great physiques, boxing skill and physical aesthetics are essentially different goals. You must investigate strength training with the end in mind and assess how you can utilize strength training to become the best boxer possible.
The biggest myth about strength training in boxing is that it will slow you down, and here is why that may be true for some.
Weight training, especially at the beginning stages, adds muscle mass to your frame. Your legs and lungs then have to support more weight during a boxing match which can lead to early fatigue. Nevertheless, the mass gained from strength training usually does not slow you down over a short period of time because the strength you’ve gained usually offsets the increase in mass. For example, let’s say you have gained 10lbs of muscle but have also increased your 1 rep maximum squat from 150 lbs to 250 lbs, you have essentially gained 90lbs of force that can be applied through your legs. The extra gain in strength offsets the gain in weight.
However, boxing is not like the 100m sprint or Olympic lifting where you only have to deliver for one explosive burst. In a typical boxing match there are upwards of hundreds of punches thrown and countless exchanges. If you have not trained your body to carry the extra weight into the later rounds it will become a liability.
Another way that fighters go wrong is they spend time weight training that should be devoted to boxing. There are a certain number rounds per week that a fighter must put in to be competitive with his fellow boxer. If a fighter does not have his goals in line and weight training replaces work that should be done in the boxing gym then that fighter will limit their preparation. The minimum number of rounds per workout for fighters is not a hard science and it varies from pros to amateurs and depends on the number of rounds in the fight. For amateurs, I recommend a round plus one on each piece of equipment for each round you will fight. This means if you are preparing for a four round fight you will need five rounds of shadowboxing, five rounds on the heavybag, five rounds on both the double end and speed bag, and five rounds of continuous skipping. On days that you are sparring you can cut out about two rounds of gym work for every round of sparring you performed. You will still also perform your other standard conditioning such as ab work, burpees, roadwork, stretching etc.
Check out this basic Strength Training Program for Boxing which will improve your punching power!
Overall, you can derive a lot of benefit from strength training as it applies to your boxing, just don’t let it take away from your focus and total work in the boxing gym. Make sure that you prepare your overall technique and cardiovascular system to handle the extra gain in weight. The simplest way to do this is once you have achieved a new level of weight and strength, maintain that level and train for 8-12 weeks in the boxing gym at the same pace you did when preparing at your lower weight. Once your system has adapted then you can either decide to stay at your new level of strength and weight or push for a new level.
As a final note, weight and strength do not always go perfectly hand in hand, you may find through explosive lifting that you can continue to add strength without adding unnecessary weight. The key is to monitor your progress closely and take it one day at a time.
Want more boxing advice and discussions? Head over the the Tribesports Boxing Ring!
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