When we think about boxers, we think about well built tough men with clearly defined muscles, abs on show and big round shoulders which are responsible for throwing punches. To understand why boxers have big shoulders we have to look at the science as to how muscle is built and how boxers can have large shoulders.
The science of muscle building tells us that when a muscle is ripped from being worked with exercise or weights it then feeds on protein and other nutrients to repair itself, except it comes back stronger and it grows bigger . Boxers throw punches, that is the name of the game and repeatedly throwing punches against the bags, with a trainer on the pads, shadow boxing or sparring, you are constantly using your shoulders along with your traps, triceps and chest, legs, and hips secondarily supporting the movement of throwing punches.
Boxers should have a high protein diet to feed these muscles, making them grow post-workout and they should eat starchy carbs to fuel their next workouts. They should have an energy drink after training to refuel their bodies with simple carbs, especially when they are training twice in 1 day.
Calorie Intake Will Have A Lot To Do With Muscle
Its’ All In The Diet – Are They Maintaining Weight Or Losing It For A Fight?
If a fighter is watching their weight, they will be carrying less fat and this will make the shoulders appear bigger as they are more defined with less fat coverage.
When a fighter is watching their weight, they will also be eating more protein and veg based diets and this will allow the shoulders to rebuild, even in the absence of starchy carbs, as they are the most heavily worked muscles in the sport of boxing.
If a fighter is not in camp or watching their weight or just eating freely
If a fighter is not in camp, but still training and eating well, the shoulders will still be in regular use and the extra food they are consuming than if they were being strict will go into growing and strengthening the fighters muscles, especially in the shoulder although they will also be carrying a bit more fat to conceal the muscle and won’t look as ripped but that’s life.
The Reasons Why Boxers Get Big Shoulders
Working The Bags
Working the bags or even shadow boxing for prolonged periods of time will require extensive use of the shoulders which will have broken down to rebuild itself stronger the next time around and thus become bigger as well.
When you bring drills into bag work, you can really burn out the arms and increase punching endurance and power.
By sprinting with your punches for 30 secs and then throwing heavy punches for 30 seconds and doing 5 or 6 of these rounds with 30 seconds rest in between, we can really burn out the arms at the end of a workout, increase endurance and add mass if we are in a caloric surplus.
Shadowboxing with weights
As soon as we are adding weight to exercise, we are attempting to get stronger, punch harder and add endurance to the arms for the fighting. Shadowboxing with weights may lead to an increase in punching speed as your hands strength will build over time to incorporate the light dumbells and your hands will quicken when the weights are removed.
Holding weights while we shadow box increases our arm endurance as we working in the high rep ranges and this will also cause the shoulder to be worked harder and become stronger and larger over time or more exposed due to the fighter losing fat %.
Working The Pads
We’ve all seen the Mayweathers on the pads, racking up speeds that would be illegal on the busiest freeways and throwing punches that barely touch the gloves as they work on speed and reflexes. While this has been copied all over the world, it is not the normal way that fighters train on the pads.
Most trainers will try to get a round on the pads to simulate a real fight scenario as much as possible and that will include fast punches, power shots and combos that will require a massive amount of work from the entire body but a ton of these movements will be primarily using the shoulders.
Sparring is the toughest and more gruelling workout that fighters perform. Not only are you throwing punches, hoping to land and trying to avoid punches from your opponent from landing. You are also going to be eating a lot of shots to the body and arms which makes this the most important type of training for an upcoming fight.
The fact that you don’t know if a punch will land in sparring is that you will throw your punches differently and this will also work the shoulder differently and sparring requires a lot of use of the shoulder which leads to tear in the muscle fibre which will grow back bigger and stronger for the next sparring session.
Boxers love working with circuits for their conditioning where they will perform a variety of different exercises for 30 seconds to a minute before moving on to another exercise without any break.
Fighters may 15 different exercises in a circuit and take a rest when they have completed a full round with 30 seconds on each station.
Circuits that involve the shoulders will include Press Ups, Shadow boxing with Weights, Shoulder Strength exercise with landmine and Olympic and a ton more. Circuits are great for endurance work and it is one of the reasons why fighters are so ripped and have good big shoulder muscles.
Strength Training For Boxers
A great training exercise for building strong shoulders is the military press. We go through strength training for boxing in detail in this article.
To summarise it, we basically when we are training with weights we want to be in strength and power rep ranges which a sliding scale from 1 super heavy rep to 8 heavy reps with high weight.
We want to avoid rep ranges between 8-12 as this is where the most redundant muscle will be built. All muscle needs to be fuelled with oxygen that will take away from our aerobic system and cause us to tire more easily.
The goal of training with weights has to be increasing our strength in the ring and punching power so we want to stay in the low and heavy rep ranges to achieve this.
For our accessory lifts like lateral and front raises for the shoulders we want to work each arm individually and only rest while the other arm is working and going for 30 reps each on both arms.
We can also use both arms simultaneously, drop the weight after our first set and keep going with the lighter weight and repeating this for the final set with no rest. Basically for the accessory lifts we want to be in the endurance rep ranges which are 15+ and why conditioning circuits are so effective for fighters.
Strength training is definitely something that should be embraced by fighters and something that is often left on the back burner.
Military press and The Clean and Press are effective compound movements, perfect for building strength in the shoulders.
Try a protein shake to build shoulders
If you want to build muscle in the shoulders and you are lifting weights and working on your boxing, make sure to load up on protein to build the muscle and good carbs, fruits and veg to replenish your body and fuel it for the next workout.
Your diet is going to have the most impact on whether you build massive shoulders or not. If you are consuming more calories than your body expends, then it will get bigger and if there is muscles to be repaired, this is where the maximum amount of fuel will go and add mass there.
Since boxing is such tough exercise, it can be difficult for people to get enough calories, especially if you are boxing and trying to add muscle, think about adding an oats based protein shake to increase you calorie intake.
If you are not getting enough calories, you will still build a limited amount of muscle and you shred fat and probably have a 6 pack.
The goal of boxing is to win fights so it is probably best to be as light as possible when you are stepping into the ring and use strength training to give you an extra advantage without adding useless bulk.