Firstly - Should Boxers Lift Weights?
A question often asked is 'Should a boxer lift weights?' - Now old school fighters and trainers will tend say that a boxer should not use weight lifting as part of their training routine at all. Claiming that by adding extra muscle mass to your frame, you can tighten up, which will slow down your punches and general boxing ability. Plus, adding a lot of muscle mass can badly affect your stamina as muscles are major oxygen users in the body. The more muscle mass you have, the greater your oxygen requirements and the more chance there will be of you running out of fuel towards the end of a fight. Finally, you can also pile on enough muscle to move yourself up to higher weight classes, where you might not want to be fighting.
However, in my view boxers should incorporate some strength training using weights into their workout schedule.
The key for successful weight training for boxing though, is knowing how to weight train properly. You have to seperate weight lifting for bodybuilders or those in other sports, and weight training for boxers. When people ask 'should boxers lift weights?', they don’t separate the question into the different styles of weight training that you can do.
In this section we will discuss some weight training routines that you definitely should build into your boxing training sessions.
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Basically there are four types of body stength - Maximal Strength, Endurance Strength, Speed Strength and Explosive Strength.
Maximal strength - Maximal strength closely matches the idea of a bodybuilder pressing the maximum amount of weight for a low number or even single rep. Maximal strength involves exerting the ultimate amount of force at maximum effort.
Endurance Strength - Endurance strength involves long durations of muscle use to build up your stamina. Endurance strength is often practiced using intense interval training, which involves several different exercises that are performed successively.
Speed Strength - Speed strength involves rapid movements with relatively low resistance. Throwing a series of quick punches while wearing boxing gloves is an example of speed strength. The punches are thrown at maximum speed with the resistance of lightweight gloves, and you can add light wrist weights too if you like.
Explosive Strength - Explosive strength is the ability to expend energy in quick, powerful bursts. Explosive training requires you to complete the movement as fast as possible. These exercises are normally practiced with a good level of resistance, such as free weights or strong resistance bands.
As a boxer, it's best to just forget working on your maximal strength as the last thing you want to do is bulk up with a lot of extra muscle. It's the other three that you want to concentrate on improving with your weight training sessions.
Weightlifting For BoxersBoxers need to have solid, lean bodies, but not be overly muscular. Lifting weights as if you were a rugby player, bodybuilder or regular gym-goer will result in changes to your physique and your abilities, which will detract from your boxing game. But learning to weight train correctly can and will make you stronger and better prepared for the challenges you face in the boxing ring.
So the main key for 'weight lifting for boxer's' is that you should avoid lifting very heavy weights, with low repetition sets. Instead, you should focus on weight training with lighter weights and more reps, ideally between 12 and 15 reps per set. Additionally, when weight training, you should try to focus on building your core strength.
Your 'core' is where your real boxing power comes from as it involves your abdominals, obliques, lower and upper back muscles. Do not spend too much time with bicep curls, focus instead on compound exercises that will help increase your functional strength, not just make your arms look a wee bit better in a tee shirt. When you hit heavy bags, run, jump rope, etc. you are performing muscular endurance work. When you step into the weight room it's time to switch modes.
Boxing is a sport that requires you to develop many qualities. Speed, strength and endurance are all motor qualities you must develop if you want to be a successful fighter.
Traditional boxing training develops stamina as well as coordination and skill. So my goal in the weight room was not to slightly increase my 'absolute strength' through the use of heavy weights, but to increase my speed and power by moving moderate weights more often at faster speeds.
A proper diet is also vital if you want to gain the maximum benefits from your weight training programme. I won't go into detail about that here though as there's already a whole heap of information about boxing nutrition on the boxers diet part of the website.
Strength TrainingNote that this section is entitled strength training and not weight training, as there is a big difference between those two terms. Strength training involves the use of resistance exercises to increase your strength. That resistance can come from several sources such as your own body weight (pull ups, free weights, etc), medicine balls, other-objects (ex. sandbags, tyres, etc), and resistance bands.
Much of a boxers time must be spent training for their specific event. Examples of that include sparring, using the punch bags, working one-on-one with your coach, shadow boxing, partner drills, conditioning workouts, etc. So your strength training workouts are just a small piece of a much larger training jigsaw.
Most boxers do not need to do more than 2 to 3 strength training workouts per week, and remember to always focus more on quality than quantity during your strength training. It is a great supplement to your workout routine, but your main focus should always be to improve your technique and mechanics in the ring, although mixing in some strength training can definitely enhance your overall abilities. The strongest boxer doesn’t necessarily make the best boxer, but the stronger of two equally skilled boxers definitely has an advantage in the ring.
In general, a boxers strength training workout should be brief, yet effective. It's also a good idea to avoid doing any strength training exercises in the week leading up to a bout.
Sample Boxers Weight Routine
Firstly, you have to decide how much weight you want to workout with, always bearing in mind that the weights should not be too heavy in boxing training. A basic guide for boxers is to exercise with weights that are between 60% and 85% of your maximum lifting ability. For example - If the most you can bench press is 100 pounds, your weight training regime should have you doing bench presses of between 60 and 85 pounds.
A Typical Basic Boxers Weight Training Routine Might Be
Dumbbell Snatches......3 sets x 5 reps per arm
Bench Press......3 sets x 6 reps
Plyometric Push-Ups......3 sets x 10
Power Cleans......3 sets x 4 reps
Dumbbell Lunges......3 sets x 6 per leg
Weightlifted Pull-Ups......4 sets x 6
Dumbbell Swings......3 sets x 12 per arm
Note - The bench presses and plyometric push ups should be done together as a complex set. If that term doesn't mean anything to you, it means that you perform one set of plyometric push ups immediately after completing each set of bench presses.
Remember when doing your weight training to move the weight in an explosive way, to maximise your speed and power. For example, when performing the bench press, push the weight up forcefully and quickly - Basically, Train Fast To Be Fast. Do not just concentrate too much on upper body work and neglect your legs though. All properly executed punches begin from down in your legs, and it is reckoned that about 70% of the power unleashed in a punch come from the big leg muscles. Sure your technique plays a major part in that too, but without powerful leg muscles you are reducing your effectiveness at throwing the big power punches that do the most damage. So always remember to include of plenty leg work in your strength training.