Generally speaking, professional boxers do not tend to lift weights. This is because it works to build muscles that are not necessarily useful for hand to hand combat.
It is not recommended to complete weight training sessions more than 2-3 times a week. This is because they are secondary in importance to actual boxing drills. These will be infinitely more helpful in the ring than any amount of weight training and should always be your first priority.
What are the best ways to improve your boxing?
Sparring is the best way to practice and improve your boxing technique. Boxing is a very reactive sport and you need to practice responding to another human, with unpredictable movements.
Shadow boxing is very useful for refining your sparring form and works your entire body. It can be used to practice your punching technique and even build muscle memory for punch combinations.
It also improves your movement and balance within the ring and offers a great opportunity to improve your footwork.
Heavy bag work can help you increase your punch power, strengthen your ligaments against the strain of punching, and can even teach your body to cope with sustaining an injury.
The weight of the bag offers a great level of resistance to your punches, which is a great way to build your strength.
Pad work is similar but is more evocative of a real sparring match than a heavy bag. They are smaller targets and training with pads improves your accuracy and distance management, incredibly important skills for a boxing match.
As pads must be held by an opponent, it will teach you how to deal with an unpredictable opponent and work on your timing for the most effective hits.
All of these methods of training focus on technique, which should be the primary focus of your training. Technique should comprise around 80% of your practice time, and only 20% should be used for conditioning.
Conditioning activities include swimming, running, and weightlifting.
Negatives of Lifting Weights as a Boxer
There are some weightlifting exercises that can benefit boxers, but they must be selected carefully. If you choose the wrong exercise to perform, this can lead to bulk being gained in the wrong areas.
It could also cause you to move more slowly and tire more quickly. This is because weight training requires short bursts of intense power. Boxing requires more stamina and endurance, therefore weightlifting is not the most appropriate form of training.
The more time you spend lifting weights, the less time you have in the ring to practice your sparring. This means that you are likely to be less prepared than your opponent when you come face to face in the ring.
There is also a high likelihood that you could injure yourself while lifting weights. This is because weightlifting exercises tend to isolate one muscle group to work on it specifically.
If you do not do this wrong, or if you overestimate your strength, there is a large chance that you could hurt yourself. This could impact your ability to fight.
Benefits of Weightlifting for Boxers
As mentioned above, lifting weights trains your body to endure short bursts of explosive power. This is not hugely useful but could assist you in the ring if you work on the correct muscle groups in the gym.
An explosive, hard-hitting punch could give you just the advantage you need over your opponent.
The speed of your punches is dictated to some extent by the speed at which you can draw your arm back. The muscle group most closely associated with this movement is your lats, on the outside of your back.
Weightlifting exercises that work the lats, such as lateral pulldowns, will enable you to have more control over this range of motion.
You can also use your muscle strength to increase your ability to withstand punches. Your abdominal muscles protect your internal organs from impact damage.
When you tense up your abs, this provides a more resilient surface that can resist more impact. The stronger your abs are, the longer they can work to protect you and your organs from damage.
What are good weightlifting exercises to perform?
Ax chops are a great exercise to do to engage and strengthen your core. It is an explosive exercise that will greatly improve your performance in the ring.
You should attempt to do around 3 sets of 8 reps. The weight should be heavy enough that you feel tired after each set, but you should still be able to complete the full sets.
Bent over rows work your lats, and it is advised that you use free weights instead of a machine. This allows you to have a larger range of motion, something that is hugely advantageous for boxers. Again, you should aim to complete 3 sets of 8 reps.
Snatches are another highly recommended exercise for boxers. This targets a lot of your body - your core, legs, and shoulders.
It too builds your explosive power and is loved by cross fit enthusiasts for the whole body benefits it provides. These exercises also work on your mobility and stability.
What should you avoid?
As mentioned previously, isolation lifts and exercises are of little use to boxers.
Exercises such as bicep curls and tricep pushdowns are often used primarily to bulk out your upper body.
This can make your arms harder to manipulate and can cause your upper body muscles to stiffen. This can limit your range of motion, making you more susceptible to sustaining hits in the ring.
It can be useful for boxers to perform weight training exercises, provided these do not form the bulk of your training.
Avoid isolating exercises and opt for exercises that condition more of your body. You should pay particular attention to lat and abdominal muscle development exercises.
Weightlifting activities that improve your explosive power are the most useful for boxing. This is because boxing is a reactive sport and needs fast reflexes.