To Lift or Not to Lift
Despite old dogmas, recent studies, articles and combat athletes are swearing by their weight room gains contributing to their careers. Moreover, weight training for boxers has been documented amongst current champions like Yuriorkis Gamboa and boxing legends such as Roy Jones Junior.
Weight training for a boxer and other combative athletes will cover these main points:
- Improved explosive strength
- Enhanced muscle dexterity and endurance
- Overall speed increase
Nevertheless, there is still some resistance from more traditional perspectives. The main arguments highlighting:
- Sluggish movements
- Uncoordinated footwork
- Unnecessary muscle gain
These, of course, are valid points. You never want to compromise your athletic ability for overall size and muscle. However, when weight training for a boxer begins, there must be a focus on speed, power, and endurance. Boxers must also be explosive and coordinated as well. Overall skill and athleticism must never be sacrificed for size.
Weight training for a boxer – Strength training vs bodybuilding
Comparing strength training to bodybuilding is much like comparing oranges to apples.
Strength training and bodybuilding two are completely different sports
Conventional thought revolves around weights increasing one’s size and muscle groups. With thoughts on bodybuilding, old trainers fear that larger muscles will strain overall endurance and speed. After all, larger body mass means more oxygen and blood flow. Even more so, if you don’t have the correct body type or weight distribution you’ll be sucking air halfway through the 2nd round.
Under no circumstance should boxers begin using a bodybuilding routine. These routines are specifically for aesthetics with results depending on a panel of judges examining muscle groups.
On the other hand, a boxers’ weight training will focus explosive and functional usage. To add, before you focus on explosiveness, proper form and technique must be mastered first.
Things to keep in mind
If you are just beginning your boxing journey, then your focus must be on technique and discipline during your first few days hitting the weights. Eventually, a boxer’s weight training program will incorporate higher repetition with power and explosiveness.
Your weekly weight lifting program as a boxer will include compound lifts at least twice a week. These lifts will be combined with bodyweight exercises to maximize explosive reactions and overall strength without becoming too sluggish.
Incorporated with a regular boxing schedule for the MAJORITY of the week, you’ll have the skeptics scratching their heads at a sudden increase of explosive strength fortified by enhanced muscle dexterity.
Remember to always stay open-minded to different perspectives and know that just because something doesn’t work for one person- it doesn’t mean it won’t work for you .
If you are considering weight training for a boxer, read on:
Before you start:
Any person can pick up a weight and put it back down, over and over again. But the extraordinary are the ones with impeccable form and finesse which are augmented with world class ethic and discipline.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here but – Technique must always the focus. This counts double if it is your first time weightlifting as a boxer.
Before your routine, you should be properly hydrated, have water during your routine and finished a proper warm up at least 15 minutes beforehand. Shadowboxing can also be added for before and after your weight training routine.
A great shadowboxing guide can be found here.
Weight Lifting Program for Boxers
The best routines will involve compound lifts at least twice a week with your regular boxing routine taking up the majority of your weekly schedule. Depending on your athletic ability, incorporate rest days in between when feeling fatigued and exhausted.
Day 1 – Lower Body
Overview: The goal here is to build strength through explosive movements. During lower body days, certain exercises may be substituted for bodyweight drills if boxers feel the need. Fighters like Oscar De La hoya incorporate free weights and Olympic bars to their training programs. These compound lifts will encourage explosive and powerful movements from your lower body as you generate footwork and set up combinations or counters. Keep in mind that a strong core will support your lower body movements and compliment your training. Feel free to add additional core related workouts at the end of your lower body workout. Please note, however, that training your abs every single workout may lead to soreness and strain.
-15-minute Warm-up – skipping or shadow boxing
Optional: Add 1-2 lb weights to your shadowboxing
– Superset squats + box jumps (5 x 5)
Optional: Hold a barbell as you conduct box jumps
– Seated squats (5 x 5)
– Jumping squats (3 x 15)
Optional: Add weights
– Burpees (3 x 30 seconds)
30 second – 1-minute break in between sets
Day 2 – Boxing Training
Day 3 – Upper Body
Overview: For boxers, having a huge upper body can be a disadvantage as cardio creeps up during a fight. Lean muscle, that appropriately corresponds to your endurance can decide how comfortable you are during a bout.
Note that the following exercises have an optional weight vest addition. Keep this in mind as routines start to get easier and you feel you need more resistance.
– 15 minute warm up – skipping or shadowboxing
Optional: Add 1-2 lb weights to your shadowboxing
– Superset Deadlift + Barbell snatch (3 x 15)
– Superset military press + pull ups (3 x 10)
Go easy on the military press as the later pull ups can be difficult
– Dips (3 x 10)
– Walking push ups +rows
An awesome and unique finish. A video guide can be found here.
Day 4 – Boxing Training
Day 5 – Lower Body
Day 6 – Boxing Training
Day 7 – Rest
Note on Rest days
This routine can overwhelm beginners, especially if you don’t have a solid athletic base. Remember to sleep well, eat appropriately and rest when your feeling fatigued.
More specifically if you feel the following:
- Soreness that doesn’t seem to go away
This will be normal especially if you are beginning. Make sure to have at least a 24-hour break
as you start your next athletic workout (boxing or the gym). However, if you are noticing soreness for 2 or 3 days after, overtraining may be the cause.
- Abnormal heart rate
Click here to figure out your heart rate and what is considered normal for you.
- Injured or sick
Overtraining can cause a weakened immune system which opens the doors to bacteria and infection.
If you are feeling under the weather, consider taking a break. Hydrating whenever you can, eat and
The Following Week:
Begin the next week with an upper body day and always remember to alternate the program so you are doing an upper or lower body day at least twice a week. Moreover, write down and keep track of your progress and muscle gain during the program.
What are the Downsides of weight training for a boxer?
Thus far we have talked about weight training benefits. What about the negatives? Athletes of all martial arts should always keep in mind their goals. What are yours? Stronger core? Enhancing strength and power? What about endurance?
You will find it easy to obsess with how much you can squat or deadlift. But don’t forget that the extra 10 lbs in the weight room won’t mean anything in a fight or competition. You are not a bodybuilder and you should never be substituting hitting the pads for curling barbells. The power behind your punches is not determined by how much you deadlift but will supplement this.
While in the weight room, your goals should always remain clear and focused. If you are a beginner then the only way to improve your boxing is to box more!
Weight training is but a piece of the puzzle of a boxer’s training regimen. Tailor your weight training program to work around your boxing schedule of focus mitts, footwork routines, heavy bag training, study, and sparring.
Every athlete is different, this weekly sample routine can be adjusted to match what you are looking for. Find out what you need as a boxer and educate yourself. At the same time, experiment with different routines to be the best fighter you can be.
Why are you in the weight room?