Boxing is my favorite sport hands down. (pun intended) I grew up in a family that our favorite pastime was to “put the gloves on” while having family get togethers. As a result, I started at the young age of 8 practicing the sweet science. My first fight was at the same age and I won it by knockout in the first few minutes. Since then, I fought a few more fights (all wins) and have taught a lot if people the sweet science and good technique for this awesome sport.
So I have a bit of experience with getting ready for fights and have put years into learning how to train for this sport in order to be better as a fighter. With all of my experience, I have come to the conclusion that this sport along with others, does not know how to prepare its fighters to perform at higher levels. Now before you start screaming blasphemy, I am not saying that it is always true. Just that in general and in most fighting and boxing gyms there is a lot of misconception when it comes to fighters strength work.
The approach that is often taken in strength training when it comes to building strength and power is often one of three things:
1. It isn’t done. Because, doing resistance work makes you slow.
This thought is very rare now, but there are a very small pocket of misguided well-meaning people who believe this idea. However, the truth is that strength especially when done explosively makes you faster and more powerful. ( more to come on this fact later in the post.)
2. Light weight and high reps are what’s needed.
Again a misguided an unscientific approach to strength work for athletes. again it is a matter of training in the right way with the proper progressions for this awesome sport.
3. Only body weight should be done for a fighter.
One can get very strong with body-weight training only and there are many progressions in this mode of strength work that can get you results continually. However, there are certain movement patterns that cannot get the power that a fighter needs to hit harder, go longer and so-on. in my opinion there must be some sort of external loading at some point to become a better fighter.
The truth is that training for boxing has the same needs as any sport, however the time that should be spent on every quality needed in the sport will be different and the individuals needs must be addressed to give them the tools needed to be a better fighter.
First thing first a fighter needs to mobile and stable:
Having these aforementioned qualities as an athlete are the building blocks upon which any effective strength and conditioning program should be built.
A lack of thoracic mobility and hip rotators mobility will lead to an under-effective kicker or puncher. The lack of full rotation in these parts of the punching pattern will lead to a lack of ability to full force. In full ranges of motion there is power and endurance.
In the same way a lack of the scapula functioning well in the fighter could lead to shoulder problems and once again a lack luster performance by the fighter.
There are many other movement patterns that need to be considered as well in addition to just the rotational aspect of the fighting sports. I just choose to use the preceding reasons as an example due to the nature of power generation and torque needed to be successful in these pursuits.
After or while we are establishing these qualities a good base of strength should be developed in order to boost the performance of the athlete. This is the absolute strength phase which will shortly be converted to power and then strength and power endurance.
So you see in order to increase power one must first increase their maximal strength for a set period of time. this time period can be for 2 or more weeks depending on the needs of the athlete and the time until an event. Also the movements that the fighter is weak at in my mind should be emphasized until some sort of balance is established and then the conversion to power must happen.
Of course at this point many coaches may tear their clothes and scream training blasphemy and proclaim how heavish lifting will make the athlete “slow and tight. ” I understand this fear and it is somewhat correct. However skipping this need for the athlete is not the answer. Instead one must pick a weight that they can move quickly, go to full ranges of motion in their lifting and most importantly spend time on mobility.
lastly, you will want to train in a way that will not interfere with their fighting preparation. Low reps should be practiced when the fighter is in their strength phase to combat fatigue, along with waiving loads and getting adequate recovery time in between sets and workouts.
Training for sport requires knowledge, assessment and progression into and out of exercises. It is a repeatable process that should be individualized and programmed to fill in the gaps of the athlete and to help them become more powerful, explosive and to last longer as the fight. Training based on the proper principles will help them do just that, thus making them a better athlete. As the saying goes ” a stronger athlete is a better athlete!”