When it comes to boxing and weight training, there is no clear consensus. Some boxers swear by lifting weights and others have never visited to weights room. The training schedule of a boxer is so demanding that they may favour working on their aerobic condition and boxing circuits exclusively for the strength and power in the ring.
As a personal trainer and someone with over a decade of experience in fighting, I can categorically say that weightlifting is something that should be done by all fighters. I think many fighters will shy away from the weights room because they don’t really know what they are doing but once you know the right way to train and the science behind it, it becomes clear that the benefits can be huge and when done properly, the down side is negligible.
Should I weight train for boxing?
Yes, you should be lifting weights for boxing but you will not have the goal of a body builder to pack on a load of muscles to look good on the beach. Extra muscle is the last thing that you want if you are stepping in the ring for obvious reasons, all the muscle you pack on is going to require oxygen to keep it fuelled and muscle heavy fighters are going to gas quickly.
Boxing is hard enough without carrying around useless muscle, think Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 1 where AJ came up against it and he completely gassed before some would say he quit. When you look at the rematch, he lost a lot of weight and that was with the deliberate intention to keep the gas tank fuelled and he’s fought on the backfoot.
So we want to lift weights but we don’t want to build muscle unless its functional. Is there a way to do this? Yes, there is, let’s check it out!
How Should Boxers Strength Train
Strength Training is the key word here and it comes down to your rep ranges. If you keep the load you are lifting heavy and the rep ranges low, you will be building your strength.
The rep ranges for building strength are 3-6 reps per set and you want to avoid the rep ranges of about 8-12 as this is where you will build muscle and not strength. 8-12 reps is what bodybuilders use for their beach muscles but those muscles are useless in sport.
I often even see soccer players who are carrying too much muscle and I can immediately see it’s a mistake as they will not be able to fuel that muscle throughout the game and their speed will diminish.
The last thing you want to do is gas in a fight, believe me.
When we get to 15 reps in a set, we are entering the conditioning stage where the muscles will be worked so that they are strong for a long period of time. Think push ups or using light weights to burn the muscles out at the end of a workout or a circuit where you perform reps for 30 seconds and then move onto the next exercise without a break.
Strength and power training for boxing
So we have discussed that strength training is basically lifting weights for between 3 to 6 reps per set and maybe 4 sets per exercise and that 8-12 is going to build muscle and is the area where you don’t want to be. But what about 1 – 3 reps? This is where your power training will come into play. When you perform explosive movements with your maximum power for 1 – 3 reps, you will be working directly on increasing your power. Exercises for power included wall slams where you throw a medicine ball against the wall as hard as you can. Plyometric exercises where expend the max force to jump onto a box or container and you can also incorporate into weights such as bench, squat and military press although it is probably best to use a spotter when you are targeting new records.
Sets and reps for boxing
We have discussed the sets and reps for boxing in detail. Stay between 3 and 6 reps when you want to build power. Avoid 8-12 rep sets completely as this will build a ton of useless muscle and when you go 15+, you will be working on conditioning the muscles and their anaerobic fitness capacity.
When we are performing max explosive exercises using our full force for 1-3 reps we are building our power
When it comes to sets, we can hit 4 – 5 sets per exercise when we are working on our strength and we can hit about 2-3 sets when we are working our conditioning.
When training power, I would go a maximum of 2 sets as you want to be able to expend all of your power in the lift or movement and this won’t be effective if you are going for too many sets.
Mixing boxing with weight training
Mixing boxing with weight is something that you are going to have to do if you want to be a complete fighter. The best way to do this would be to train your weights in the morning and then train boxing in the afternoon or evening. After your first session, it is important to refuel with and get your sugar levels back up as quickly as possible. Take an isotonic drink, a protein shake and a protein based breakfast with some carbs and veg included. While this would make a normal person fat, if you are training twice a day, you will need the fuel to perform at your best in the second session.
By lifting the weights first, you will be going into your boxing session slightly more tired and your body will get used to this and adapt. When your body adapts, it will be stronger, faster and more responsive which is another benefit of training twice a day.
If you train only once on the weekend, make it weights one day and a long run the next day to work all the aerobic systems and let your body know, you need to be able to perform all movements and work on all types of training.
Is it possible to have too much muscle for boxing?
Yes, you can definitely have too much muscle for boxing or any combat sport. Any muscle that isn’t leading to increases in strength and power is muscle that you do not want on your body. Your aerobic and anaerobic systems will not get the oxygen which has instead been used to fuel your muscles and you gas out, can’t throw a punch and you get Ko’d or quit.
When I started first boxing, I came from lifting weights and thought it would be easy, I was horribly mistaken and there is no worse feeling than being overweight with muscles and gassing in a boxing ring.
Stick to strength and conditioning work and working on your power when it comes to weights. Keep the reps low or high, we shouldn’t be in the mid rep range.
Olympic lifting for boxing
Olympic lifting is great for boxing. You are performing movements that require a large number of your muscle groups and you are performing them in the power rep ranges for a maximum increase in power. Olympic lifts included Clean And Press, Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press. These are all compound movements that are ideal for building strength and power without adding useless bulk
Boxing or weight lifting
This is a question we get all the time. If I want to get in great shape and I am just starting out, should I do weight lifting or boxing to improve my health and look good when I go on summer holidays?
This is up to you and the results that you get out of either will largely depend on what you put into them. If you are training your hardest in either discipline and keeping your diet clean, you will get great results from both.
I have been both a weightlifter and a fighter and boxing is something that I enjoy a lot more. My first boxing coach used to say “Any idiot can lift weights but fighting is a skill.”
You can make a lot of money from bodybuilding these days but the best fighters are certainly well looked after.
It terms of overall health, boxing is the clear winner. Boxing will work on your fitness, confidence and strength without making you bulky but you will be ripped.
Bodybuilding will make you big and more attractive to girls but it is bad for your heart and your conditioning will probably end up being terrible.
If I had to choose between boxing and weights, I would go with boxing everytime. And you can get a 6 pack much more easily with boxing but then again, I think you can do boxing and weight lifting without much issue.
Does lifting weights slow you down boxing?
This is a question many boxers want answered when it comes to weights and the answer is that it any weight that you add to your body is going to slow you down. Heavyweights are slower than featherweights for a reason and that reason is weight.
If we are going to add weight to the fighter, we need to make sure that the return we get is better than what we give by adding muscle. That is why it is important to stay in our rep ranges where we are making the maximum increase in power and strength with minimal weight and muscle gain.
What exercises should be doing to increase strength?
We are talking about compound lifts in the rep ranges of 1-6 here and the best exercises are the traditional ones you have probably heard of:
A squat is probably the best move to add overall strength and explosive power to your body. It works the glutes, quads, hamstrings and lower back as well as tons of smaller muscles around the body.
Remember to get a good deep squat and stay within our recommended rep ranges to add power and strength to your legs. Boxers rely on their legs not only when they take a punch but also when they are moving around the ring include slipping shots, rolling and moving to the side to get a better angle on their punches
The good old fashioned Bench press is perfect for adding strength to your triceps and pectoral muscles. Make sure your hands are at an equal distance apart and lower the bench under your control until it touches your chest. Don’t bounce it off the chest and make sure you power up from the bottom position.
This is where you press the Olympic bar with weights over your head to work the shoulders. This is a good one for punching power and again stay within the desired rep ranges and if you are struggling to raise the bar on the last few reps, you can dip the knees and power through with your legs to complete lift.
All of these exercises are perfect for building punching power, strength and resilience in your body for giving and taking shots.
Pull ups are a staple of every boxers diet and with good reason. The Lats are muscles in the back that contribute directly to punching power. Build some strong lats and you will be punching harder in no time.
Once you build up your pull up skills and tolerance, it is important to add more weight to the movement so you can stay mostly in the strength and power rep ranges and this can be easily achieved by using a weight belt and adding plate to it or using a weights vest.
Deadlifts are a great way to add power and strength to your whole body but mainly the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It is one of our recommended moves as it incorporates so much of your body.
I personally don’t like deadlifts too much as I am 2 metres tall and it is hard for to keep a straight back. The last thing you want to do is risk and injury to your back for the sake of lifting weights.
If you can incorporate those movements as you entire weight lifting routine, you will be doing very well in terms of adding strength.
If you want to add power training in. Go for your 1 Rep Max when you are fresh and explode through the movement
Other exercises to build explosive power for boxing
Slamming a medicine ball off a wall as hard as you can for 1-3 reps will have a positive effect on your punching power.
Lift the ball with both arms cock it back with arm and let it fly. Put everything into the movement while keeping your form correct. Copy on the other arm.
It may seem counter intuitive to only do 1-3 reps but when it comes to power training, less is more, so give it a go and rest after.
Jumping as high as you can onto the top of a container is a great weight to build explosive power in your legs. Exude the most force possible as you jump and you will be surprised at how quickly your jump height increases as you build momentum.
The name says it all here. Power cleans allow you to easily add explosive power. We are going to show you a video of this one as it is a difficult move to pull off at the best of times.
Load up the Olympic bar with weights. Deadlift it up and leave it hang by your sides and then with one explosive movement using your legs and arms bring the bar up to your chest into the position where you perform a military press from.
Why Do Boxers Look Skinny
Boxers often look skinny because they do a lot of cardio and if they don’t get enough protein in their diet, they can not put on much muscle and look skinny.
If a fighter is competing, he be trying to make weight 9 times out of 10 and the way things are going nowadays fighters are going to drastic lengths to compete at lower weights. So when you see them they may be dieting for their weight an training hard.
Muscles don’t win fights, the goal of boxing is to hit and not be hit. Skinny guys can hit hard and if being skinny is the best game plan then I wouldn’t advice a fighter to go in any other way, but I would still recommend a solid strength training program.
Does lifting weights slow you down boxing?
Lifting weights doesn’t make you slow down in boxing, it is the extra weight from the muscle that slows you down. Those same muscles also require oxygen to fuel them so think twice before putting on a lot of muscle for boxing.
Does muscle decrease speed?
I would muscle does not decrease speed. If your training is done right, it can actually increase speed. Do not look to put on bulk, don’t over eat, keep your diet based on proteins, fats and carbs.
What exercises increase punching power?
All the compound movements we have discussed have will increase punching power. The exercises that will have the best impact on punching power are:
weighted pull ups – They don’t call the pull up the squat of the upper body for no reason and when you where a weight vest you can move into the strength and power zone with pullups.
Close Grip Bench Press
While the bench press is great for building up punching power, the close grip bench press is also excellent. By holding the bar with your hands much closer together, you get to work the triceps and lats more which is perfect for punching.
You could alternate Regular bench press and close grip press on different days as well to make sure you are hitting both exercises.
While we have already gone over the military press, shoulders have an important role to play in punching power so make sure you are hitting them heavy.
We can leave out the squat, when you power through a left hook, a lot of that power is coming from your hips through your legs and squats have so many other benefits, you cant leave them out.
Why is strength important in boxing?
Strength is important for boxing because the harder you hit your opponent, the less they will be able to counter you and the less effect their punches will have on you.
If a boxer is stronger, he will be better in clinch situations, he will absorb punches better and he’s punches will have a much stronger effect on his opponent.
How do boxers get strong legs?
Boxers have strong legs from doing a lot of running which will naturally build the legs. When they are sparring, hitting pads or fighting, they are using their feet extensively and this will also build up the legs.
Boxers also have strong legs because a lot of their strength and conditioning work will be based around building up the legs for strength
How do you punch faster?
Hand speed is largely given determined by your genetics but there are exercises that you can do to try and develop hand speed such as bag drill and power training.
Boxers who lift weights
Almost all top level boxers lift weights. Some do it right and others have done it wrong.
Floyd Mayweather was a gym rat while he was active and he is still in great shape today. He worked out extensively in fitness clubs and in his boxing gym.
Floyd worked on strength in all areas of his body in late night fitness clubs while he would do all his conditioning and boxing work at his world famous boxing gym and he would also run 6 miles a day. This kind of dedication and work ethic is unmatched in the sport and he was doing this from a young age and the results are no plain for all to see.
Floyd did it right by never carrying too much bulk and he had the best gas tank in the game, never getting tired and nearly always waiting until his opponents did.
AJ Anthony Joshua looks like a body builder and while he amassed a ton of victories based on his power and strength alone, it is important to note that he had the tendency to gas in fights.
AJ gassed against 41 year old Klitschko where he recovered to claim a dramatic stoppage win and he gassed against Andy Ruiz in their first fight where he was not able to recover.
In the second his plan was to lose a ton of weight which many experts had already said was necessary and to box on the outside which was also a wise move.
Strength and power are extremely useful for boxing but bulky muscle demands oxygen to run and it slows you down. Your goal is to get as strong and powerful as possible without gaining any weight.
You can accomplish this by keeping your weights high and your reps low. In your conditioning work keep the reps at least 15 and avoid the middle ground of 8-12 reps.
Of course this is a scale and not absolute numbers. The lower the reps and the higher the weight, the more you will work on power. As the reps go up and the weight goes down you start moving into strength and then muscle building and then