Boxing is often labeled as old-school in nature. The perseverance and mental fortitude required from a successful fighter is unique from other sports. When a boxer demonstrates courage and tenacity inside the ring, he is often labeled as a "throwback" to the golden days of boxing.

Unfortunately, this old-school mentality often causes more harm than good. Boxing has been plagued by archaic training myths for many years. These myths continue to mislead many aspiring fighters today.

As sports science and performance nutrition evolve, boxing often stands still, refusing to accept the advancements seen across the board in mainstream sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.

Today's Boxer

Today's athletes are bigger, faster and stronger. Science has evolved at an alarming rate. We now understand the intricate nature of how the human body works. This knowledge has a direct carryover to the world of boxing.

Boxing is an explosive, anaerobic sport. The act of throwing punches, round after round, while contending with an attacking opponent is a daunting task. Boxing is perhaps the most physically demanding sport of all.

As a boxer, you must punch, slip and block with split-second movements and reactions. A boxer must be prepared to fight with intensity, round after round. Your body must be conditioned to throw the same explosive punches in the last round that you started with in Round 1.

An Anaerobic Sport

A boxer must train in a sport specific manner if he wishes to be successful inside the ring. Many old-school trainers continue to preach the importance of long, early morning roadwork sessions. The great majority of boxers today still run 4 or 5 miles on a daily basis. These long aerobic running sessions do little to prepare the boxer for the physical demands he will face inside the ring.

Boxing is anaerobic in nature. The sport has been estimated as approximately 70-80% anaerobic and 20-30% aerobic. Anaerobic means to conduct an activity without oxygen. Anaerobic exercise, like boxing, stresses the muscles at a high intensity for short periods of time.

A perfect example is a fast combination that a fighter throws in the ring. The aerobic portion of the match takes place when the boxer circles the ring, perhaps catching a quick breath. Aerobic exercise is defined as low intensity activities performed for extended periods of time.

It is clear that a long slow distance (LSD) running is not a sport specific form of conditioning for boxing. A fighter must pattern his training after the physical demands of the sport. Why spend 100% of your time running in an aerobic manner when the sport is primarily anaerobic in nature? There is no answer to this question.


Rather than wasting valuable training time with LSD running, a fighter should make more valuable use of his time by training in a sport specific manner. One of the best ways to condition the body for boxing is through interval running. Intervals consist of intense, sustained running for a set distance or time.

Common intervals for boxers consist of distances of 200, 400, 600 and 800 meters. Amateur boxers fight 2-minute rounds. These boxers must be prepared to fight hard for the duration of the round. The 600-meter interval will closely mimic the anaerobic demands imposed upon the body during the bout.

Professional fighters fight for 3-minute rounds. The 800-meter interval is perfect for these boxers. A general rule of thumb is to run one more interval than the number of rounds you will be boxing. For example, if you are fighting a 4-round bout, it makes sense to run five intervals.

Sample Interval Routines

Let's look at a sample routine:

  1. 1-mile warm-up
  2. 6 x 600 meters - 1 minute rest period between each interval
  3. 800 meter cool down - light jog

It is important to run the intervals at an intense pace. You must maintain this pace for the duration of the interval. Interval training should bring your heart rate to anaerobic levels. Over time, you will gradually lower your heart rate, improve recovery time between intervals, and improve your running times.

Let's look at another sample routine:

  1. 1-mile warm-up
  2. 2 x 800 meters - 1 minute rest between intervals
  3. 4 x 400 meters - 1 minute rest between intervals
  4. 4 x 200 meters - 30 second rest between intervals
  5. 800 meter cool down - light jog

Interval running sessions should not be conducted on consecutive days. It is best to run intervals 2 or 3 days per week. These workouts are intense in nature. Your body will need adequate time to rest and recover. You should not run intense intervals on days that you will be sparring. It is best to save interval sessions for days when you do not box. You want to enter the ring with a fresh pair of legs.

A sample routine you can use for non-interval days is listed below:

  1. Two mile run (moderate to fast pace)
  2. Sprint 100 meters
  3. Shadow box 1 round (3-minute round)
  4. Run backwards 200 meters
  5. Sprint 100 meters
  6. Shadow box 1 round (3-minute round)
  7. Sprint 100 meters
  8. Jog with hands up throwing punches 400 meters
  9. Shadow box 1 round (3-minute round)
  10. Sprint 100 meters
  11. Run backward 100 meters
  12. Jog 400 meters
  13. Walk to cool down

This sample workout integrates shadow boxing, sustained running and 100-meter dashes. A similar program has been used at many US Olympic training camps.

It is important to recognize the difference between sprints and intervals. Intervals require a sustained effort for extended distances. Sprints typically consist of 200 meters or less. Sprints require an all out effort, but last no more than 10-30 seconds. Both forms of running are important.

A boxer must maintain his strength and explosiveness for an entire 3-minute round. It is not enough to sprint for 10 seconds at a time. A weekly running program should consist of intervals, sprints, and an occasional aerobic run. One or two distance runs per week are recommended as active rest, to give the boxer a break from the intense running sessions.

Bring The Anaerobic Theme To The Gym

The anaerobic nature of interval running must continue in the gym. It is recommended that a boxer perform his roadwork in the morning. By running early in the morning, the boxer has all day to rest and recover before conducting his boxing workout.

The actual boxing workout will consist of two primary forms of training - skill training and conditioning. Boxing is a skill sport first. It is also a sport that requires tremendous conditioning. The most skillful fighter will have difficulty contending with an opponent who has superior anaerobic endurance and power.

Boxing is not an easy sport. The road to the top is a long journey, which requires many long nights in the gym. While at the gym, the fighter must work to develop his skills and physical condition. Both areas must be emphasized. A well conditioned fighter without skills will be unsuccessful, and vice versa.

Skill Enhancement

The skill enhancement portion of a workout will consist of shadow boxing, bag work (heavy bag, double end bag and speed bag), punch mitt work with a trainer, sparring and defensive drills. A successful boxer must master his technique. He must also develop his defense. A fighter must learn to slip punches, block punches and react with counters. It takes time to learn the sweet science. Boxing is not a sport that can be learned overnight.

Time For Conditioning

Due to the complexity of the sport, many fighters spend long hours working to perfect their technique. How does the fighter find time to work on his conditioning?

This question is common among aspiring boxers. The answer is simple. The boxer must bring the anaerobic training theme to the gym. When a boxer hits the heavy bag, he should do so with intensity and diligence. A boxer cannot "go through the motions" when preparing to fight.

Whether hitting the mitts, the bag or inside the ring sparring, the boxer must make best use of his valuable time. This means training with intensity. A boxer is a unique breed of athlete. The physical obstacles faced inside the ring are foreign and barbaric to the average individual. Boxers are not average.


To be successful in this sport, you must train with intensity. To be the best, you must train the best. There are no shortcuts or magic pills that will take you to the top of the mountain.

Boxing is an explosive, ballistic sport. The ONLY way to prepare for this sport is by training in a manner, which mimics the demands that you will encounter inside the ring. The ring is a lonely place for the fighter who is not in shape.

About The Author

Ross Enamait is personal trainer and the author of the best-selling book The Boxer's Guide to Performance Enhancement.

About the Author features over 4,000 pages of speed, agility, strength and power programs for every sport. Plus you can have a professional strength coach create a personalized program...

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