This is one of the questions we get asked all the time online and in the gym and it is definitely something worth considering.
If you are completely new to boxing, there is a good chance that the lactic acid is building up in your arms quickly as your body is not used to dealing with these kind of movements and this kind of pressure. The best thing to do is just to keep going to classes and doing the punching drills, hitting the bags and the pads for at least a month to see if it will become more comfortable as your body gets used to it.
If you are a more seasoned beginner or even a good amateur or pro, increasing arm endurance is a science and there are plenty of ways we can increase it. We have all had our arms feeling tired in the boxing ring whether its hitting pads or sparring where your arms are taking shots and absorbing damage as well. The pain we get in our arms when boxing is from lactic acid building up in the muscles and causing them to burn. We need to work our Anaerobic and Alactic energy systems to make sure that we are fully conditioned for whatever comes at us in the boxing ring.
Intro To The Bodies Endurance Systems
The body has three energy systems or endurance systems which are all invoked by different kinds of exercise. Boxing is one of the toughest sports on the planet because it is the ultimate form of competition, using one’s fists to impose your dominance over another man or woman. it is a dynamic sport that uses the full body and all of our energy systems.
Boxing can be fast, slow or intense and the fighters need to react with speed, precision and explosive power, while defending against oncoming attacks. The fighter may need to grapple in the clinch and throw punches on the inside for minutes of a round or the fighters can be just circling around taking a breather or looking for openings.
Boxing can go from a slow to a lightning pace in a matter of seconds and we need to make sure our energy systems are trained in the right way to allow us to compete at our highest levels.
The Aerobic System
The Aerobic System involves replenishing the body with oxygen as it works and it refers to long pace steady state cardio like jogging, skipping or hill walking. The activity is mildly intensive and can last from 1 minutes to 10 hours+ for ultra runners. This system allows the boxer to stay fresh for many rounds of boxing and it is of the upmost importance.
The Anaerobic System
The Anaerobic System is an exercise of high intensity that lasts for 8/10 seconds to about 40 seconds. It would be like Sprint Drills, Boxing Punch Intensity Drills, Strength Training and other exercises where your bodies muscles fill with acid causing them to burn and you to get tired.
The Alactic system is the force used for all bodily movements and it too must be replenished. This is the 1 rep max force or power of your body and this is when you are throwing the big shot to try and get the knockout.
Just to Recap:
The Aerobic System requires Oxygen and is like jogging for 30 minutes
The Anaerobic exercises cause the muscles to fill with lactic acid and get sore like punching the bag as fast as you can with straight punches for a minute.
The Alactic System is the bodies max power and is like throwing your hardest punch looking for the knockout.
How To Maximise Arm Endurance
If we want to take a look at increasing our arm endurance all systems will be important but we want to pay particular attention to the anaerobic system and build our lactic threshold. By increasing our arm endurance we should also increase strength which is very important in the ring.
Exercises To Increase Arm Endurance
Exercise 1: Bag Drills
If we are talking about our arms getting tired then we can also get unlimited practice with a heavy bag. If you have someone that can hold the bag for you then brilliant if not you can belt away anyway.
Place your round timer on 3 minutes with 30 second intervals.
We will perform 2 exercises for 30 seconds each until the 3 minute round is completed
Round 1: Straight Punches as fast as you can for 30 seconds
Round 2: Powerful And Fast Hooks continuously for 30 seconds
Repeats rounds 1 and 2 until the 3 minutes elapses and do this cycle 3 – 5 times. This is an excellent way to get the lactic acid building up and if you can do this at the end of your work out, even better for your arm endurance.
Exercise 2: Pad Drills
Do this pad drill with a partner to really burn the arms and build endurance.
Partner 1 holds their gloves up to receive punches from partner 2.
Partner 2 throws a jab to partner 1’s glove and does 1 Push Up
Partner 2 Throws a fast 1-2 to partner 1’s gloves and does 2 Push Ups
Partner 2 throws 3 straight punches and does 3 Push Ups
4 Straight Punches and 4 Push Ups
All the way to 10 Punches and 10 Push Ups
Partner 2 then holds the gloves up for partner 1 to do the same.
Do this for 3-5 rounds. Take 30 seconds or a minute break when each partner completes a set or just keep going without a break.
This is really good for building the endurance in your arms as the lactic acid will be present even when you are holding your gloves up for a partner.
Exercise 3: Shadow boxing with dumbbells
Shadowboxing is a great way to improve our technique, warm up and increase our arm endurance if we work out at a high tempo. By adding light dumbbells to the exercise we can start to make shadow boxing more intense and therefore more anaerobic than aerobic which will benefit our arm endurance more for boxing.
The dumbbells should weight about 1kg or 2 lbs and not much more. Use the weights to throw your jabs, crosses and hooks. Don’t forget to work on your footwork and head movement as you shadow box.
If you shoot your punches upwards or towards the ceiling, you will bring your shoulders more into play and this is an excellent exercise overall for building arm endurance.
You can shadowbox with weights for the first 2 minutes of the round and then drop them for the last minute and pick up the pace with fast straight punches for the final minute and aim to really burn out the arms with 3 rounds as a warm up.
Exercise 4: Sparring
Sparring is the ultimate way to increase your arm endurance as it perfectly simulates the movements and conditioning needed for a fight. Since you will be sparring for 3 minutes, the more intense the sparring is, the more it will work on our arm endurance and the more slow pace it is, the more it will work the aerobic system.
We want to be constantly working our footwork in and out and using the jab to set up our straight shots, hooks and combos. Get inside on your partner, land body shots, hooks and uppercuts.
Not only will your arms need to endure the throwing of punches, you will also need to absorb your opponents shots with your Arms, Gloves and Shoulders which will also make the exercise require more endurance, building it up over time.
Exercise 5: Conditioning Circuits
Conditioning Circuits are an excellent way of getting in great shape and they are anaerobic in nature where you move from once exercise to the next without rest and complete all the exercises in the circuit before a round is complete. This can be a great way to increase overall endurance and conditioning.
Sample Circuit – Work On Each Station 30 Seconds continuously and then move to the next exercise
Circuit exercise 1. Pushups
Push ups continuously for 30 seconds to see how many you can get.
Circuit exercise 2. Straight Punches With Dumbbells
Throw continuous straight punches for 30 seconds without taking a break
Circuit exercise 3: Crunches
Lie on a gym mat and bring your head up to your knees repeatedly for 30 seconds
Circuit exercise 4: Burpees
Sprawl to the floor do a push and then jump as high as you can into the air continuously for 30 seconds
Circuit exercise 5: Squats
Either use dumbbells or perform a bodyweight squat and keep doing these for 30 seconds.
Circuit exercise 6: Shadow Boxing
Free Shadow Boxing working on your straight punches, hooks, uppercuts, footwork and head movement with intensity for 30 seconds.
Repeat the circuit 3 to 5 times for maximum benefit
Exercise 6 – Skipping
Skipping is an excellent way to get the arms working for a long period of time in the anaerobic system where lactic acid will build up quickly, especially if you are a beginner.
If you can skip continuously for 3 * 3 minute rounds with a good intensity before you workout, you will develop good endurance in your arms.
The arms will get tired before the legs with skipping so really try to keep a good pace with your skipping and add ankle weights if you want to be like Floyd Mayweather.
Exercise 7 – Sprinting
Sprinting is a great way to increase our anaerobic threshold and this is something all professional fighters will incorporate.
Whether you want to do hill sprints (5 Sets of 3) or you want to do sprint conditioning drills, sprinting is a great way to improve your overall endurance and strength. Sprinting may give you a big boost in many areas of your boxing so we definitely recommend it for arm endurance.
In the Weights Room
We can make strength gains in the gym without putting on much bulk and we can work our arm endurance by lifting heavy weights and complementing them with endurance assistance exercises.
Exercise 8 – Bench Press
Lift heavy bench press for 5 Reps and 5 Sets with as heavy a weight as you can push for 5 reps. Build up your power over time.
Compliment this with Close Grip Press which is just like bench press except you bring your arms much closer together. Do 3 Sets of 15 reps with a weight that suits this number.
Exercise 9 – Military Press For Shoulders
This is perfect for building strength in the shoulder if we stick with 5 reps for 5 sets and using a relatively heavy weight.
Compliment this with lateral raises. Use a very light weight to get 15 reps on each side for 3 sets.
These two weight lifting exercises will do very well for your arm endurance because we are in the rep range that builds strength and we are in the rep range that builds endurance with the complimentary exercise.
Weighted Dips and Weighted Push ups are also very good for building the strength and endurance in your arms so make sure to work on these as well.
Exercise 10 – Swimming
Swimming is a great exercise for boxing as it uses all of the muscles in the body as well as the shoulders and arms extensively, while allowing us to tap into the anaerobic conditioning system.
Swimming laps at a fast pace can be very good for our condition, stamina and endurance so if you can get down to swimming pool once a week it can be another great way to improve your cardio and arm endurance.
Dealing With Shoulder Fatigue
Shoulder fatigue is something all fighters have to contend with and for some it can create serious uncomfort even when they have plenty of stamina and aren’t that tired.
This can be down to a few different elements.
You might be too tense which is causing you to drain more energy in your shoulders. If you are rigid, your shoulders are locked in place and your fists are clenched, you are using up a lot more energy than if you just relax, get your breathing right and let your arms flow. Release the tension from your arms, place your gloves on your cheeks with purpose but allow yourself to move without being on edge.
Shadow boxing should help you get your rhythm, learn to relax and let you get your breathing right, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Let your arms shake and flow by your sides and keep this looseness in the ring.
Add Endurance To Your Arms
As we have discussed in depth in the article, there are many ways to increase our endurance for fighting.
Maybe your arms aren’t strong enough.
Getting stronger in the weights room might be what you need to increase your shoulders strength and endurance so you don’t suffer fatigue too easily. We don’t want to build useless muscle with weights, we just want to build strength and power so it is important to lift heavy weights for only a few weights and see if this helps with your arm endurance.
Will Boxing Build Arm Muscles
Yes boxing can build arm muscles. If you are eating enough and getting good protein your arms and the muscles in your whole body will also get stronger.
Muscle is built when muscles fibres are ripped from intense exercise. The muscle fibres repair themselves by feeding on protein and they come back bigger and stronger.
Boxing and all the circuits and exercises that training entails and the sport itself is enough to build overall muscle, tone, keep your fat levels down and make you look amazing.
Why Does A Boxer Need Muscular Endurance
Fighters need muscular endurance because holding your arms up to your head and throwing punches require a lot of effort from your arms, shoulders and your body in general.
If a boxer tries to fight without endurance they will not be able to keep throwing punches and they will not be able to avoid their opponents blows.
Should A Boxer Lift Weights
We have touched on this a bit in this article and we have gone into it in great detail in this article. The bottom line is that yes, boxers should be lifting weights but with the goal of adding strength and power without adding useless bulk that we will need to carry around the ring.
By keeping the weights heavy and the reps low we can build strength without a huge amount of extra size and that is why 5*5 training is so good for boxing.
Are Lateral Raises Good For Arm Endurance In Boxing?
Absolutely, lateral are a very good complimentary exercise to a heavy compound lift like the military press.
You should arm for 15-20 reps on lateral raises if you want to work your shoulders endurance. Remember the anaerobic system is for relatively difficult exercise of about 20-40 seconds long. Do three sets for a killer shoulder endurance exercise.
Do Boxers Do Push Ups Everyday
Boxers will probably be doing push ups 5 or 6 days a week if not 7. It is a very good exercise for building the chest, arms and shoulders endurance so that it is an exercise you probably should be doing every day.
You can add different variations to your push ups like jumping at the end, using a weight vest or plate on your back or lifting one leg off the floor. Push ups are a dynamic exercise for a dynamic sport.
Is Boxing 3 Times A Week Enough?
That really depends on what your goals are. If you are doing different workouts on the other days including weight training it will probably be enough to be a good club fighter or an amateur.
If you want to be a professional or top amateur, you really have to have your eyes on training 5 or 6 days a week.
Everyday doesn’t have to be boxing if you incorporate weights, cardio and maybe another sport.
It really is down to yourself. 3 days a week will get you in great shape if your lifestyle is healthy so for the average fitness junkie, 3 days a week is probably perfect.
If you want to fight, you need to train 5 or 6 days.
How Often Should I Hit The Heavy Bag
You should hit the heavy bag 5 or 6 times a week if you want to. Work on different things like jabs, crosses, hooks, set up punches, head movement, foot work and use a timer to get 5 * 3 minutes rounds or whatever you want to do that day.
Hitting the heavy bag is good for endurance, stamina and conditioning so any day you are training you should be hitting it. Always remember to wrap your hands to avoid injury to the knuckles and wrist.