When I first left University in 2008, I had my heart set on being a strength and conditioning coach and changing the game within the world of boxing.
At the time, boxing was in the dark ages with regards to strength and conditioning.
Long distance road runs, endless sit ups and chasing chickens was all that was enough to improve boxing-specific strength, power and fitness.
And I knew that I had the right tools to do a better job.
But the truth is, whilst my knowledge wasn’t bad, I really was not in a position to be advising boxers on their strength training, without further educating myself first and getting some experience working with actual people.
A Master’s Degree and a decade of experience in the weight room later, and I’m much more humble and way more confident with what I’m talking about.
So my mistakes and former misguided views on training are now going to be your gain.
As embarrassing as these mistakes are to admit, they have been a valuable lesson in helping me to progress in my career as a strength coach.
So, I want to make sure you don’t fall for the same faux pas that I did, and want to take you through 5 crippling mistakes that even the smartest boxers (and their coaches) could make in the gym.
Mistake #1: Not knowing the true role of strength and conditioning
Despite what many S&C coaches erroneously believe, the role of a strength and conditioning programme is NOT to make someone a better boxer.
It’s to make them a better athlete.
What this means is that it will enable them to maximise their current abilities and skill-set.
It can help to:
- Increase punch power
- Increase work rate
- Decrease injury risk
- Increase movement efficiency
- Decrease recovery time in between rounds
- Decrease the rate of fatigue
So, whatever boxing skills are currently in place, the S&C programme will help to make the most of them and, come fight night, can help them stick to the game plan.
But it will never ever replace boxing-specific training.
Mistake #2: Not understanding how to write an S&C programme
Sadly, you can’t just bunch together a load of weight lifting exercises together an call it a ‘Strength and Conditioning’ programme.
It MUST adhere to a set of training principles and individual requirements.
Once these are understood and respected, then there can be a bit more freedom with respect to exactly how the programme is constructed.
This was something that took a while for me to fully grasp (and I’ll happily admit it’s something I’m still learning), but all too often I see videos on Instagram of coaches who are trying to impress their audience….but inadvertently present strong evidence that they are utterly clueless about how to put together a proper training programme.
When the right programme is made for the boxer, it will help to optimise a boxer’s strength, speed and power without interfering with their boxing-specific training.
So it’s something that’s worth investing the time to do properly.
Mistake #3: Not knowing which exercises to choose
Choosing the wrong exercises is a very easy mistake to make, but one that can have quite damaging consequences.
In a worst case scenario, they can injure the boxer and leave him/her out of action and unable to train for months.
If you’re more lucky, poor exercise selection may simply have no positive benefit on boxing performance.
Whilst this may not necessarily be considered a bad thing, it is a complete waste of training time that could be better spent working on things that will actually help the boxer to become a better athlete.
Choose the exercises based on the demands of boxing AND the requirements of the boxer – if it doesn’t benefit either, then it doesn’t need to be in the programme.
Mistake #4: Not knowing how to coach the right technique
Once the correct exercises have been selected for the boxer, the next crucial task is to make sure that they’re performed properly.
I spent many of my early years in the gym struggling to teach people how to lift properly, but I persevered and am happy to say that it’s now a very strong point in my strength and conditioning arsenal.
Being able to put a good strength training programme is very important, but it’s also of critical importance that it’s carried out and coached properly.
A very common example is any exercise used to train the glutes (the buttock muscles) – instead of stimulating the glutes and strengthening the hips, the lower back is often used instead and the glutes remain unworked.
Not only will this NOT result in improved glute strength, which can affect punching power, but it can also increase the risk of injury to the lower back.
Mistake #5: Not understanding the importance of recovery
Training stimulates the body to undergo various adaptations.
However, these adaptions will only occur during the recovery process.
Once they adaptations have taken place, boxing performance should be improved.
This means that recovery must be taken seriously if a boxer wants to reap the benefits of their training.
Avoid falling into the trap of think that you must train all the time if you want to get results – this will only result in injury and/or burn out.
Yes, train hard, but put the effort into the right nutrition, quality deep sleep and stress management – all things than can help to speed up recovery time from tough training and the rate at which you improve.
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