Real Strength Training For Boxers!

Recently athletes from all sports have begun to realize the importance of weight training. So, why have boxers been reluctant to realize the importance of resistance training?

Recently athletes from all sports have begun to realize the importance of weight training. Athletes in all sports have the potential to enhance performance by supplementing their programs with weight training. So, why have boxers been reluctant to realize the importance of resistance training? Maybe it's because they will get too big and slow or lose all of their flexibility. Let me share a few secrets with you. Functional muscle will make you faster.

Every movement you make is the result of a muscular contraction. Increasing the size of the functional unit of muscle tissue (myofibril hypertrophy) will result in faster more powerful movements. As far as getting big is concerned; this is not a simple task. People who become large from weight training put a great deal of effort in attaining maximum muscle mass. This requires large amounts of food and proper training and does not happen by accident. If getting big was as simple as just lifting weights everyone who spent endless hours in the gym would look like bodybuilders. On top of the dedication and hard work proper genetics must also be present to display high levels of muscularity and mass.

The proper training program for boxers emphasizes neural training and myofibril hypertrophy. This does not cause significant gains in muscle mass. (Boxers are not bodybuilders; therefore they should not train like bodybuilders). Weight training that involves full range movements have been shown to increase flexibility. Yes, there are people who weight train that are inflexible, but there are also people who have never seen a weight that are inflexible. Incorporate a proper stretching program with your weight training and your flexibility will probably increase. Boxers, don't get to carried away with being flexible. Boxing does not require a great deal of flexibility. Boxing does require adequate flexibility. Excessive flexibility is detrimental to force production (we will discuss this further in Part 2 of the article).

High reps and light weights are the chosen weight training method for most boxers. This is the complete opposite of what the weight training regimen should look like. High reps and light weight do little to improve absolute strength and speed-strength (we will discuss these motor qualities in detail in a moment). This too often used method of weight training is a form of muscular endurance training. Done on occasion this regimen would be fine.

When you hit heavy bags, run, jump rope, etc. you are performing muscular endurance work. When you step in the weight room it's time to switch modes. Boxing is a sport that requires the development of multiple motor qualities. Speed, strength and endurance are all motor qualities that must be developed in boxers.

As we said earlier traditional boxing training develops muscular endurance, as well as coordination, and skill. The goal in the weight room is to increase absolute strength through the use of heavy weights, and to increase speed-strength by moving moderate weights at rapid speeds. The top priority in training to increase absolute strength, and speed-strength is the stimulation of fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is done through the methods we discussed earlier. Keep in mind high rep, light weight work does not recruit fast-twitch fibers. This type of training recruits slow twitch fibers.

Force Production By Muscles

1) IntraMuscular Coordination.

    Motor unit recruitment. All muscle fibers are grouped together as motor units. A motor unit is a nerve and all the muscle fibers innervated by the nerve. All the muscle fibers in a motor unit are the same type. If the fibers are slow twitch in a motor unit the unit is considered a low threshold unit. This unit requires light tension for recruitment. When the fibers are fast within the unit it is considered a high threshold unit. Heavy tension is required for the recruitment of high threshold Mu's. When a motor unit is sufficiently activated the entire pool of fibers contract. If the message from the nerve is too weak nothing happens. This is called the all or none principle. Increasing the number of units recruited greatly increases strength. Beginners usually have little success in recruiting numerous motor units. Advanced athletes have the capabilities of recruiting multiple Mu's, which increases force production.

2) Intramuscular Coordination.

      Rate coding. The firing rate of motor units usually increases with training. This is called rate coding. When a muscle fiber is stimulated it twitches. With increasing nervous system stimulation the twitches begin to overlap. When this happens rate coding is in action, which causes increased force production. When intensity levels are between 50-80% of 1RM increased motor unit recruitment is the main contributor to strength increase. When the intensity level reaches between 80-100% of 1RM in a given movement, the main contributor to increasing force production is the increased firing rate of motor units. Calculate your 1RM,

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3) Intermuscular Coordination.

    This refers to the bodies ability to maximize the synergist effects that varying muscles display in order to perform a movement.

Absolute Strength

The maximum amount of muscoskeletal force that can be generated for one effort (1 RM). According to Tudor Bompa (Romanian strength coach) no visible increase in power takes place without a substantial gain in absolute strength. Absolute strength forms the foundation for increasing speed-strength.

Speed Strength

Strength divided by time, or force x distance divided by time. In Charles Staley's book The Science of Martial Arts Training he lists 3 parts to speed-strength .

1) Starting Strength.

      The ability to turn on as many muscle fibers as possible at the beginning of a movement. (Examples: coming off the line in sprinting, the javelin throw , throwing a quick knockout punch).

2) Explosive Strength. The ability to leave on the muscle fibers once they are stimulated. Referred to as rate of force development (examples: 100 m sprint, shot-put).

3) Reactive Strength Or Reversible Strength. Refers to the bodies ability to store potential kinetic energy in the eccentric phase, and convert it to actual kinetic energy in the concentric phase. (Example: bending down at the knees and immediately jumping upward, powermetric drills).

When developing programs for boxers, keep in mind each person is their own individual. Many strength coaches fail to appreciate this. The same program will not be appropriate for every boxer. The law of individuality should be recognized to maximize training results. Apply the priority principle (giving special attention to weak areas) when designing programs. In the second part of this article we will look at programs my boxers currently use. Part 2 will be published next week .


Hale , J . (2000) Optimum Physique
Staley , C.(1999) The Science of Martial Arts Training. Multi-Media Books .