Friday, 30 March 2012

So what is Strength Training? And how does it relate to Boxing?

In this post I want to discuss strength training specifically for boxers. I want to get as far away from general strength training as possible, distancing myself from powerlitfing and bodybuilding. I may reference other sports where atheism and flexibility play a role with speed and strength similarly to boxers (sprinting, basketball etc) but I am coming from a functional-athletic-performance perspective and NOT a brute strength view point (boxers are not 'Strongmen').

I am a sports’ enthusiastic and have to say over the years, as humans and our understanding of our bodies and genetics have developed in the training of many sports, Boxing’s dinosaurs have held it back. I like to look at advances in other sports and integrate them, where beneficial, in to boxer training, strength and conditioning.

I would not like to call the strength training in my blog pure strength training but more strength conditioning. I always look to give my fighters a power edge over opponents but also interlink this aspect very closely with speed, stamina and endurance. If I was prioritising, which I never really do when I am planning a fighters training schedule (depending on strengths and weaknesses of course), strength training falls behind conditioning, as you can get ready to fight without strength training but not without conditioning (as you will 'gas-out' extremely early with conditioning). What it will do, however, is make your punches stronger, make you able to load heavier punches through your legs, make you stronger in clinches and aid with speed improvements (strength and speed can interlink if trained correctly). That is why I have kept all strength sessions brief but very intense.

Below are eight very important points to consider when planning your strength training. Most are common sense but can be ignored in our industry.

  1. Strength training is not weight lifting
One does not need to perform any specific exercise or even lift weights to be strong (I often hear phrases like "you need to Squat to be strong" don't). One form of training is no more effective than the other, only an addition. Try to wean yourself away from the internet and people saying “you must Squat to have strong legs” and statements like that. Bodyweight exercises are convenient and just as effective (in some cases they are 'more effective' and individuals improve differently). Performing a Handstand Press-up for five reps and pressing a 50kg Dumbbell overhead are both great feats of strength. Not one is better or more effective than the other. Strength Training in combat sports is about improving aspects as a fighter, not a weight lifter.

  1. This is NOT bodybuilding!
We are not aiming to improve muscle mass or make your muscles look better in a T-shirt or on the beach. We are looking to make you a stronger and a more functional boxer. We will stay away from any type of bodybuilding scheme or workout as it will be completely ineffective to your boxing. If you want to look like Arnie, then boxing is not the sport for you. What boxing training will bring you however, is a fit and healthy look and an engine to compete for a very long time.

  1. Be flexible
Flexibility is vital, especially when executing heavy loads. It is important to stretch and warm-up properly (I will target this more specifically in a later post). There are also exercises that you can include in your programme that increase flexibility, such as Back Extensions, Windmills and Overhead Squats. If you plan your sessions correctly and use good form with your exercises, you can improve strength greatly without decreasing flexibility at all. 

  1. Not just a strong punch
Strength is not just punching power. A strong pair of legs are not only the foundation to powerful shots, but stops you being pushed back and bullied by an opponent. You can stand strong, battle on the inside when required and immediate an opponent with your strength. It also makes you more stable, balanced and co-ordinated. A well thought out programme with leave no imbalances found commonly in uneducated athletes which will lead to better co-ordination and general fitness levels, as well as posture.   

  1. Technique, technique, technique
Strength is nothing without technique. You may be able to push or pull a truck around but without the correct punching technique, your strength is useless. This is why I can’t tell you enough how important your skill sessions are. You generate your force when you step in to punches, rotate your hips, hands and shoulders with precise timing and snap your punch. A weaker opponent can land much more devastating punching if their technique is better than yours.

  1. Mind over matter    
It is also in the mind! This cannot be emphasised enough. If you want to hurt an opponent and punch from within, you will generate much more force. If you go in to punches scared or half-hearted, then your punches will cause little effect and could result in injuries. Aim beyond your opponent’s head, like you are trying to punch through it. Stay relaxed but hit with intent. Work on your core. Your core is the centre of your world. All power and force comes from within. Core strength is the most important aspect of your strength training.  

  1. Speed is power!
The speed that a punch is executed will influence the power that is generated. Take a look at sprinters. The force that they exhort is down to the speed of their movements and this speed is influenced by the force they hit the ground with. Speed is strength and strength is speed. Also, what is strength without speed? A powerful but slow punch will be read, blocked, parried or slipped.

  1. REST!!!
Rest and recovery is essential due to the intensity of this type of training. Ideally, try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Eat cleanly and do not over-train. Stretch and listen to your body. Plan your training around your resting and not your resting around your training as without rest, your results can decrease dramatically because your body is not recovering sufficiently from sessions which will have a domino effect of all of your training.

I can state enough how much of a scientist I am not but I have an understanding on the science of the sport and how to use it in your training. Below are some definitions of different aspects of strength and how they relate to your training:

(Source: Brianmac - with thanks)

  • Maximum strength - the greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction (i.e. your one-rep max)
  • Elastic strength - the ability to overcome a resistance with a fast contraction (also known as speed strength)
  • Strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over (e.g. completing a maximum set of Sit-ups)
  • Absolute strength - The maximum force an athlete can exert with his or her whole body, or part of the body, irrespective of body size or muscle size
  • Relative strength - The maximum force exerted in relation to body weight or muscle size.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice and informative article, thanks :)