A key question that may be asked by boxers and coaches is the following: –
On the basis that one of the primary aims of strength and conditioning is to improve strength and power, what would be the focus of a boxer who is already strong and powerful?
This is an excellent question.
A classic example of a boxer who has naturally high levels of strength and power is Mike Tyson, and unsurprisingly, it has been reported that he barely ever lifted weights.
On this basis, it’s possible that some people may believe that boxers who are already strong and powerful are excused from performing any strength and conditioning as they have minimal requirement for it.
However, I’m not convinced that that is an optimal approach – lifting weights is only a small part of strength and conditioning training.
Whilst it’s true that a boxer in this scenario has little need to develop their force producing capabilities and increase the power of their punch, they may have other athletic qualities that need to be developed in order to help them to retain their strength and power over the duration of a bout.
Explosive KO punches are immensely fatiguing to throw, and as such, can gas a boxer if he/she attempts to rely solely on them when they’re in the ring.
Therefore, the strength and conditioning programme needs to do everything possible to delay fatigue and ensure that the boxer is capable of maintaining a high level of punch power during a fight.
Do they even need to lift weights?
Although Tyson rarely, if ever, lifted weights, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach for all boxers in possession of natural punch power.
The reason being that strength training isn’t just about maximising punch force production.
If a boxer has never lifted weights before, there is a strong chance that they will have some weaknesses in the body – regardless of how how hard they can punch.
Although these weakness won’t affect short-term power production, they may be an ‘energy leak’ and accelerate the rate of fatigue, which could cause a decrease in power production in later rounds.
For example, a the core and shoulder stabilisers are heavily involved with each punch and as they fatigue, there is a likelihood that the punches will either: –
- Have less force on impact
- Be produced much more slowly
So, whilst this boxer may have no immediate need to improve the squat or deadlift numbers, thus maximising force production, there may be a requirement for them to lift weights and focus on things like single leg/core strength, shoulder mobility and hip stability.
Stretch Shortening Cycle Development
It’s entirely possible that a boxer can demonstrate huge power production in a single punch, but fails to deliver combinations as effectively.
One contributing factor for this may simply be due to inefficient use of the stretch shortening cycle –
A poor ability of the muscle to produce power following a stretch.
This can simply be tested by comparing a squat jump to a countermovement jump –
Squat jump – boxer squats down, pauses in the end position for a 2 seconds and then jumps up as high as possible:
By pausing in the bottom position, the elastic properties of the muscle are diminished.
Countermovement jump – boxer dips down quickly and then jumps up as high as possible:
By performing a quick countermovement prior to jumping, the muscles are rapidly stretched (like an elastic band) and are therefore capable of producing more force during a subsequent contraction i.e. the boxer will demonstrate a greater jump height in a countermovement jump vs. a squat jump.
Poor use of the stretch shortening cycle would be shown if the boxer demonstrated a squat jump that was ≥80% of their countermovement jump and would indicate an urgent need to include plyometrics training, which would predominantly involve the use of jumps, hops, bounds and medicine ball throws.
By doing this, the boxer should learn to be a lot more efficient when it comes to producing explosive punches.
Energy Systems Development
The most direct way to ensure that a boxer preserves their punch power over the duration of a fight is to train their power-endurance, which is done via specific conditioning and training of the energy systems.
Energy systems development is a very long and complex topic, but one simple method that a boxer can use to develop punch endurance is explosive repeats.
This is where max effort explosive work is performed for a maximum of 20 seconds, and then followed by up to 60 seconds rest.
It’s crucial that the boxer works at 100% during the work period in order to ensure that they produce maximum power – if they don’t do this, then they won’t improve their power endurance.
The long rest period will ensure near-complete recovery and that they can maintain a very high work rate during their work periods.
Although it may be tempting to use a longer work period and a shorter rest period, understand that this will rapidly increase fatigue, which means that maximum power production will no longer be produced during the work period, and therefore, power endurance won’t be improved.
This doesn’t mean more fatiguing protocols can’t, or shouldn’t be used, but in the case of improving power endurance, it’s not the right tool for the job.
Putting it all together
An example weekly schedule for a boxer who tests well for strength and power, but needs to focus on power endurance may look like the following:
|Workout A – Strength & Plyos||Workout B – Energy Systems|
|Plyometrics||Pogo Hops: 3 x 10sec
Jump & Stick: 3 x 5
Rotational Box Jump: 3 x 5
|Explosive Repeats||Treadmill Push|
|Strength||Reverse DB Lunge: 3 x 8-10
Press-Up: 3 x 8-10
|Core||Barbell Landmines: 3 x 6/side
Swiss Ball Rollout: 3 x 6-10
|8-20 seconds||30-60 seconds|
|Movement||Serratus Wall Slide: 3 x 6-8||6-10 sets per exercise|
- The explosive repeats workout can be progress by adding more exercises, performing more sets, increasing the work period and/or decreasing the rest period
- The explosive repeat workout can also be made ‘boxing specific’ by punching the heavy bag
- Explosive repeats will be a lot more effective if the boxer already has a good aerobic base, if not, then this should be the main conditioning focus
- The plyometrics work can be tagged onto the beginning of technical sessions and/or performed as a separate session altogether, if the intensity is very high or there is a high volume of work to be performed
- Good lifting technique in exercises such as the squat and deadlift are still necessary since they may feature as part of energy systems training at some point, and as such, it’s important time is taken to learn how to perform them properly
- When testing the boxer, it’s also a good idea to pay attention to muscular endurance, for example, by observing the maximum number of press-ups they can do – if this is poor, then this needs to be addressed as it will also affect power-endurance
- It’s absolutely crucial that the boxer is appropriately assessed prior to training in order to determine which weaknesses need to be addressed and so that they can be programmed effectively
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