General Points Of Conditioning For Boxers

Because boxing is an explosive sport, ballistic training methods are especially effective during weight training for boxing. Learn how to improve your strength and agility for boxing!
There are several general concepts, which helped to shape the specific program. First, the work profile of boxing is repeated 3-minute rounds of activity, often with high intensity bursts within a round. The rounds are separated by 1-minute rest intervals. Thus, the relative contribution of anaerobic energy release pathways is considered extremely important, with aerobic capacity playing an important role in terms of facilitating rapid recovery. Extreme conditioning is required to fight effectively for 10 intense, 3-minute rounds and anaerobic endurance is a key aspect that cannot be overlooked.

Short of an early-round knockout, boxers cannot afford to win only the early rounds of a fight. They must maintain an intense, but measured pace throughout a long and competitive bout. So conditioning counts almost as much as skill for boxing success. Optimal physical conditioning provides the platform from which the skills can be used. The best way to simulate the demands of boxing is to use conditioning methods, which mimic the work/rest ratio and integrated bursts of power that typify boxing.

Boxing is a highly individual sport. Fighters possess unique styles that create specific physical demands. Some rely on explosive strength ("power"), for others it's starting strength ("speed"), and for most a combination of the two ("speed-strength"). True champions change their style in a way that will make them more able to attack the weaknesses of any given opponent. Improvements in specific capacities can be made, but they are only helpful if integrated into the fighter's style. For example, extensive footwork exercises may not benefit the power puncher who fights stationary and looks to deliver a blow that starts with the legs and drives right through the opponent, and wins that way. Similarly, a fighter who relies on punching speed and fast footwork should not put all his training hours into heavy-bag work and muscle mass development. So, the program designed must not only be specific to boxing, but also specific to the boxer.

Ideally, the boxing punch consists of synchronization between arm, leg and trunk actions. The punching movement of a boxer consists of leg extension, trunk rotation and arm extension, in succession. The more effective the coordination between arms, legs and trunk movements are the greatest and the impact force of a punch. The leg muscles play a vital role in the power developed in this sequence. Increasing leg force development and coordinating it with trunk and arm action is probably the most effective way to increase punching power.

Because boxing is an explosive sport, ballistic training methods are especially effective during weight training for boxing. This kind of training method requires the athlete to perform each repetition explosively, with maximal intended velocity. Finally, in my view, the best way to weight train for competitive boxing is via a cycled training schedule. This type of training schedule integrates workouts and exercises that will meet all the basic performance demands of boxing, strength, power, speed, agility and strength endurance.

Conditioning Plan

The 12-week macro cycle was broken down into four mesocycles of three weeks duration. Each 3-week period had specific goals, and each subsequent 3-week period built upon what was established in the preceding periods. The conditioning goals for each mesocycle were as follows:

Weeks One, Two and Three

    1. Maximize muscle mass.
    2. Minimize fat accumulation during hypertrophy phase.
    3. Improve general strength and fitness foundation, including moderate aerobic threshold intensity training.
    4. Begin training to increase anaerobic threshold.
    5. Introduce light plyometrics.

Weeks Four, Five and Six

    1. Maximize limit strength of muscles/movement used in boxing (emphasis on legs).
    2. Increase anaerobic strength endurance.
    3. Begin training specific skills (weaknesses areas).
    4. Concentrate on between-workout recovery.
    5. Introduce explosive strength and starting strength with moderate plyometrics.

Weeks Seven, Eight and Nine

    1. Maximize explosive strength.
    2. Specific event skills must predominate all skills training sessions.
    3. Continue anaerobic threshold training.
    4. Maximize between-workout recovery.
    5. Incorporate weighted plyometrics and hill/stairs running.

Weeks Ten, Eleven and Twelve

    1. Maximize ballistic strength (starting strength) using "shock" plyometrics (built on a 9-week base of plyometrics progression).
    2. Heavy emphasis on anaerobic threshold.
    3. Maximize between-workout recovery ability.
    4. Heavy emphasis on skills.
    5. Emphasize speed, agility, and ballistic movements.
    6. "Overspend" drills in final preparatory period.
    7. Begin "complex training" (description below) as a replacement for normal weight training.

Training Techniques & Sequences

(abbreviated terms are described after the table)
Mesocycle One
Session Training Mode Frequency
Morning Workouts Boxing Skills
Lower body exercise
Upper body exercise
Versaball
Daily
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs, Sat
Mon, Wed, Fri
Noon Workouts 3 Minute Drill (4-6sets)
Plyometrics
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs, Sat
Evening Workouts Weight Training Mon-Fri

Mesocycle Two
Session Training Mode Frequency
Morning Workouts Sparring/IE
Lower body exercise
Upper body exercise
Versaball
Daily
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs, Sat
Mon, Wed, Fri
Noon Workouts 3 Minute Drill (7-9 sets)
Weighted Plyometrics
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs, Sat
Evening Workouts Explosive weight training Mon-Fri

Mesocycle Three
Session Training Mode Frequency
Morning Workouts Sparring
Lower body exercise
Upper body exercise
Versaball
Daily
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs, Sat
Mon, Wed, Fri
Noon Workouts 3 Minute Drill (10-12 sets)
Shock plyometrics
Mon, Wed, Fri
Tues, Thurs
Evening Workouts Complex training Mon-Fri

Click Here For A Printable Version Of Mesocycle 1-3!

Explanation Of Training Terms & Details

Boxing Skills & Sparring: Personal boxing skills regimen is up to the boxer and his coach. However, boxer, coach and trainer must communicate to establish precisely what physical and mental capabilities this form of periodized conditioning would provide the boxer any benefits. In this way, the boxer's skills were in perfect sync with his fight strategy and his conditioning efforts right up to the fight. Use of the heavy bag early in the 12-week macro cycle has to be carefully monitored due to the severe ballistic nature of this training medium.

IE: Impulse/Inertial Machine. This machine is used to develop starting strength in jabs, uppercuts and hooks. It is tough and requires total body coordination. The boxer's problems are that he did not use good total body coordination's in his punches. He tended to be an "arm-puncher." This training apparatus was employed to develop this motor sequence and use his legs more when punching.

Cybex Upper Body Exerciser - (upper body exercycle)

Upper body exercise load setting/intensity Work Duration Rest Duration Reps
Mesocycle One Max 1 minute 1 minute 5
Mesocycle Two Max 90 seconds 1 minute 8
Mesocycle Three Max 2 minutes 1 minute 12

Click Here For A Printable Version Of Cybex Upper Body Exercisers!

Lower Body Exerciser - (exercycle)

Lower body exercise load setting/intensity Work Duration Rest Duration Reps
Mesocycle One Max 1 minute 1 minute 5
Mesocycle Two Max 90 seconds 1 minute 8
Mesocycle Three Max 2 minutes 1 minute 12

Click Here For A Printable Version Of Lower Body Exerciser!

VersaBall: This is a more comfortable variation of the old medicine ball. Upper body plyometrics teaches explosive and starting strength in all punches and requires total body coordination. VersaBall throws were made from the following positions.

  • Right and left jab positions (single arm)
  • Between legs (double arm, for back)
  • Overhead (double arm, for midsection)
  • Chest pass (double arm)

Weight Training: Initially (during mesocycle one), you (the boxer) will follow a modified bodybuilding and basic strengthening program using a "variable split" format. A, B and C specify whether the workout is to be an easy one (A), a moderately difficult one (B) or a high intensity one (C).

Variable Split Exercise Listing

The precise schedule of when to do an A, B or C workout have to be matched to different recuperative abilities.

Chest A workout
B workout
C orkout
Bench press
Add dumbbell bench press
Add incline dumbbell bench press
Shoulders A workout
B workout
C orkout
Seated dumbbell presses
Add frontal dumbbell raises
Add lateral raises
Back A workout
B workout
C orkout
Bent rows, back extensions
Bent rows, back extensions
Add pull-downs
Arms A workout
B workout
C orkout
EZ curls, pushdowns
Add hi, moderate and low rep system
Add dumbbell curls, dips
Safety squats, keystone deadlifts
Legs A workout
B workout
C orkout
Safety squats, keystone deadlifts
Add lunge walking, glute-ham raises
Add twisting squats, leg curls
Midsection A workout
B workout
C orkout
Russian twists
Add pre-stretched crunches
Add sidebends

In mesocycle two, you will switch to a sports-specific weight training program.

In mesocycle 3 you will use a "complex training." This form of training targets limits strength, explosive strength and starting strength/amortization in one "set" of exercises. The exercises are performed back to back and include jumps, bar exercises, and depth jumps - in that order. The function of the complex method is to peak the athlete. My experience has been that it is a better peaking program than simple bar exercises or plyometric exercises alone.

3-Minute Drill: 3-minutes of combinations of forward and backward sprints, skipping, hopping, jumping and "carioca" (football) drills for both upper and lower body.

Start out with only three, 3-minute drills with one minute rest between each gradually (over the first mesocycle) work up to six 3-minute drills with one minute rest between. Take pulse after each drill (your target rate), and again after one minute rest (you target rate). Below are the instructions to the trainer responsible for monitoring your 3-minute drill training and plyometrics sequences.

Bear in mind that this drill is NONSTOP - pushing you to the absolute limits of your anaerobic tolerance.

The 3-Minute Drill Sequence:

Jog or step-ups to warm up, then

  • Sprint 40 yards
  • Stop and sprint backward
  • Stop and sprint backward
  • Jump in place high ten times
  • Get in a pushup position and give me your legs
  • Run forward on your hands
  • Run backward on your hands
  • Run left
  • Run right
  • Jump up and down on your hands 10 times
  • Stop ... get up ... carioca left 40 yards
  • Carioca right back to the starting position
  • Skip 40 yards
  • Skip backwards back to the starting position

Each 3-minute drill is performed on verbal commands from the trainer. Notice that jumps, hops and skips should be performed with intensity. Always tape your wrists and wear gloves (protection from debris and potholes)!

Click Here For A Printable Version Of The 3-Minute Drill Sequence Instructions!

Plyometrics: This is a way of improving starting strength, explosive strength and amortization through total concentrated force output in every move you makes. On days where the midday workout is limited to plyometrics, they should be relaxed, with much rest between bouts, with each bout only lasting 10-20 seconds.

The Plyometrics Sequence

    1. Jog or do step-ups to warm up
    2. Easy (not "all-out") jumps, hops, skips, and then
    3. Do 20 yards of skips
    4. Again
    5. Hops like a kangaroo
    6. Again
    7. Repeat 3, 4, 5, and 6 backward
    8. One-legged hops 30 yards (both feet)
    9. Hops on hands 10 yards
    10. Repeat 9 backward
    11. Repeat 9 left and right

In second mesocycle, do all of the above with a weighted vest.

In third mesocycle, incorporate bench hops, 10 reps.

In third mesocycle, incorporate twisting skips 40 yards, and twisting the other way back 40 yards.

For those not familiar with Plyometrics training, I'll give you more information in my future articles, until then. TRAIN HARD and BE SAFE.