Strength Training for Boxing
Boxing is a very technical sport. It requires a lot of power output, a lot of endurance involved, and a lot of other complicated factors that go into succeeding in the sport of boxing. It is exciting to learn about the sweet science and how physical resistance-based training can improve the power output and performance inside the ring.
Let’s hop into the key elements that will make boxers better fighters long term.
1. Power Production
When training boxing, we have to understand power production. Think about greats of the sport, like Tyson and Lewis, Mayweather and Pacquiao. What makes these boxers so powerful and able to dominate so well? It comes back to power production. But what does that entail?
With boxing, we have to realize there is a different realm of power production. We want to have minimal hypertrophy with boxers. We don’t want to do a ton of work that will lead to hypertrophic gains. Hypertrophy can lead to issues later on in the fights, especially higher up in the talent pool. The point is to achieve power production without the hulking physique.
So with creating power production with minimal hypertrophy means it comes back to twitch force and stability. We need to think about doing powerfully based movements that will increase twitch force for heavier hands.
Boxers with heavy hands have great technique. Their technique is more akin to being precise. This means that young boxers need to understand the bodily movement to create stability to minimize any noise in their movement so that all their power can go directly into the strike. The key factor in the weight room is basing all the power production around how quickly the boxer can react and how stable they are when applying that force. More stable athletes will be able to throw a more rapid punch which in turn creates a more powerful punch.
Movements like throwing a dumbbell, explosive push-ups to boxes, clapping push-ups, box jumps, hurdle hops, or even technical coordination movements like a power snatch, power clean, or dumbbell snatch are all great for increasing power production.
2. Force Absorption
In the weight room, increasing force production is great. It is a must. But we also want to increase force absorption. There are a couple of reasons why. First, if we learn how to absorb force, we can, in turn, take hits a little easier. Think about taking a punch on the chin and the rate at which the head snaps back is what happens to the brain. When the brain smacks against the skull at a very high rate and turns into jelly, that is when people get knocked out.
Now if boxers can absorb that blow more effectively, handling the amount of speed being applied by an opponent to the head, chin, or gut, we can train that by training different modalities of force absorption. Movements like the power clean need to be absorbed. Or doing explosive high pulls to build bigger traps and more explosive neck muscles. This will allow us to handle punches more effectively.
Being able to handle punches and absorb blows actually is going to increase our power output because of it. For instance, boxers who learn how to do a drop-off of a box and react quickly over a hurdle rapidly, our bodies learn how to absorb that force, contract, and reuse the force more effectively. This transfers well to the ring.
Boxers can work on their footwork in the ring and then can do specific movements in the weight room that mimic technique. Now our footwork can be applied with plyometric work to not only increase technique but power output.
Finally, when talking about force absorption, we have to recognize dynamic trunk control. Dynamic trunk control is based around co-contractions in the hips and in the trunk. Training boxers in the weight room the skill of co-contractions, like doing split banded twists or side banded jumps, the hips and trunk will provide more stability. As stated earlier, when we provide more stability from the hips and trunks, we can apply greater force into a punch; the twitch force becomes that much higher.
3. Technical Coordination
Co-contractions are a skill. Boxing is skill-based. Boxers have tremendous footwork, precise technique, and punching combs executing.
Now we know a lot of boxers don’t do any type of weightlifting. They don’t want to dip into the realm of power snatching and power cleaning. Pierre Roy, who trained George St. Pierre, a Canadian strength coach focused on weightlifting movements like power snatches and full snatches because of what it does for DTC and understanding how to use the hips from the ground up.
Technical coordination movements also serve as a great tool for a mindset shift towards the understanding technique. Simple weightlifting movements like the snatch and clean help train the way the brain thinks. The movements teach athletes how to coordinate from the ground up, use the hips more effectively, use the feet more effectively, to then stabilize for greater power output.
Technical movements also lead to great force absorption. They also lead to greater power output because athletes learn how to accelerate a heavyweight and catch it in a strong position.
Conditioning is king. Boxers need to have good endurance. But what does this mean for boxers?
In our opinion at Garage Strength, when training in the weight room, endurance has to be focused on long periods of high cognitive function. This means that in rounds eight or ten, boxers need to be able to tap into their brain and be able to execute very precisely.
If we can minimize the noise in movement, boxers can still strike with large power output. These are skills that require a lot of cognitive focus. This is a key to endurance.
So the idea is to focus on increasing relative strength, pound for pound strength so the endurance doesn’t suffer from hypertrophic gains. We also need to do the endurance stuff. Running is perfectly fine. But we can also play with OTM drills or do power cleans every 30 seconds. Doing this for twenty minutes straight is a lot of work that requires high cognitive function.
Besides that, boxers can do bouts on the assault bike or rower. Long-duration bouts are fine as well. In between, do different footwork or shadow boxing drills to develop boxing skills long-term.
One of the easiest things that can be done with sprinting, especially in the world of track and field, is to break down the event and actions into phases. We here at Garage Strength like to break it down into the following phases:
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.