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What Are The Best Exercises For Boxers?

A boxer training on the heavy bag.

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This blog brings you eight of the best exercises for boxing. The exercises have been selected for their fitness-building prowess. But as well as enhancing combat conditioning, many of the exercises can improve boxing performance.


For example, performance squat jumps help to increase the explosivity of the leg muscles. Explosive legs can enable you to move in and out of range quickly.


Barbell power cleans, similar to squat jumps, can develop strength in the muscles of the back, shoulder and arms. In addition to improving muscle endurance, and enabling you to sustain a higher work rate, power cleans also promote punching power.


Best exercises for boxing

Before we take a look at the best exercises for boxing, I’ve briefly outlined the structure of the article. Each exercise is accompanied by a list of the muscles it engages as well as an overview of the fitness components it improves.


Also, I’ve explained how the exercises can enhance aspects of your boxing ability. This will enable you to match more accurately exercises with the desired training effect.


If you want to improve punching power, you’ll know to select barbell pushouts. And if you feel that you need to improve your cardio conditioning, you’ll know to shoehorn extra skipping sessions into your workouts.


Related: Try this Skipping HIIT Scorcher >

Creating workouts from these boxing exercises

There are loads of ways to include these best exercises for boxing into your routine. I’ll outline a couple of ideas to get you going. After that, you’re on your own.


The least labour-intensive way to use the exercises is by organising them into a circuit. When it comes to creating a circuit, I find it best to keep things simple. Pick between six to ten exercises, order them into a loop, apply a time (60 seconds per station), and off you go. Below I’ve produced a blank session plan template that you can use to create your own boxing circuits.


The second idea is to integrate the exercises into your boxing workouts. How might you do this? Honestly, the number of possible configurations is literally limitless. But you’ll be pleased to know, I’m just going to discuss one method.


Let’s say that you’re training session consists if 12 three-minute rounds of bag work. Every third round (3, 6, 9, 12) could be converted into an AMRAP. For three minutes, you would aim to perform as many reps as possible of a chosen exercise.


Best exercises for boxing

So far we’ve considered a range of ways that the following eight best exercises for boxing can help improve combat conditioning. In addition, we’ve reviewed a couple of ideas of how the exercise can be integrated into your workouts.


Now it’s time to turn our focus to the exercises. You can use the quick finder below to jump straight to the exercise that you want to start with.


Boxing exercises quick finder

 

Best exercises for boxing #1: Skipping

Boxers skipping.

Purpose of exercise: Develop aerobic capacity and stamina in the legs and shoulders.


Application to boxing: Skipping is an effective exercise for boosting cardio fitness and muscle endurance. These are beneficial attributes that boxers train hard to develop. A high level of combat conditioning will enable you to sustain consistent output throughout a contest. So, if you can’t land that show-stopping punch, you can fall back on your fitness and clinch a points victory.



Skipping tips

Tip 1: Always warm up before you start skipping. Spend a couple of minutes working through a series of joint mobility exercises (ankle rotations and knee bends).

Tip 2: Gradually increase the intensity to include jogging on the spot (as it closely mimics skipping) and shallow plyometric jumps.

Tip 3: Use skipping as your primary warm-up and cool-down exercise. Aim for 5- to 10-minute skip sessions.

Tip 4: Mix up your style of skipping and the training intensity – measured in the number of skips per minute. This not only makes skipping more interesting, but it also improves coordination and footwork. Furthermore, alternating training intensity – low to medium to high (to double unders) – more closely reflects the ebb and flow of a boxing match.


 

Best exercises for boxing #2: Press ups

Best exercises for boxers are press-ups.

Purpose of exercise: Increase endurance in the upper body muscles – especially those involved in the action of punching.


Application to boxing: When I think of the Rocky training montages, I picture Sylvester Stallone sprinting up a few flights of stairs (before doing his victory dance), going ape on the speedball, and performing press-ups while being berated by Micky. The sprinting and speedball training makes sense. But why did Rocky do press-ups?


For the simple reason that press-ups are an effective exercise for improving upper-body muscle endurance. In addition, press-ups closely mimic the action of punching (even more so if you perform them on your knuckles and keep your hands under your shoulders). And, if you include an explosive plyometric clap at the end of each press-up, they may also increase your punching power. No promises though.


Press up tips

Tip 1: Ensure your technique is polished to perfection before you start packing your workouts with double doses of press-ups. (For a comprehensive overview of the key techniques, including a video demonstration, follow the link: Best Bodyweight Exercises.)

Tip 2: When your press-up technique puts Rocky’s to shame, you’re ready to start integrating them into your training routine. There are literally loads of ways to do this. For example, press-ups can feature in both your gym and boxing workouts. Also, you could make it a habit of performing 100 press-ups every day.

Tip 3: Remember, there are many different types of press-ups. How many? Not sure about the number myself, I popped in a Google search. The results ranged from as few as six to as many as 82. However, for now, we can content ourselves with the three most popular press-up variations: close hand, conventional, and wide arm. Interchanging between them will activate a broader range of muscle groups and make doing all those press-ups a little less tedious.


 

Best exercises for boxing #3: Kettlebell swing

A person performing a kettlebell swing.

Purpose of exercise: Activate all the muscles of the posterior chain and promote explosive power.


Application to boxing: The legendary Russian light-welterweight Kostya Tszyu used kettlebells in his training regime. This is probably because he recognised that kettlebells are an effective tool for developing strength, power, and superior muscle endurance. Hence the reason why ever more combat sports practitioners are using them.


This in part has to do with what kettlebell lifting expert Pavel Tsatsouline calls ‘the dinosaur factor.’ Training with kettlebells, Tsatsouline notes, improves our ability to ‘absorb shocks’ and ‘strengthen the connective tissues,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge). In short, the kettlebell swing can help forge a physically robust body while adding ‘snap’ to your movements. 



Kettlebell swing tips

Tip 1: The most important first step is to nail down the kettlebell swing technique. Thankfully, of all the classic kettlebell exercises, it’s arguably the easiest to learn. Instead of outlining the key teaching points here, follow the link to this kettlebell swing video demonstration.

Tip 2: Get your own kettlebell. One of the great things about kettlebells is that, as training kit goes, they are comparatively inexpensive. For less than a hundred quid you could have your own competition kettlebell. This is handy because a lot of boxing gyms don’t have kettlebells. (I used to cart my own to the boxing gym where I’d incorporate it into circuits.)

Tip 3: When you get your hands on a kettlebell, start integrating the swing into your training. A simple way to do this is to start with the 300 Kettlebell Swing Workout. Once you get the hang of the key techniques, you can start mastering the American swing and the two-bell swing.


 

Best exercises for boxing #4: Medicine ball slam

Best exercises for boxing #4: medicine ball slamming.

Purpose of exercise: Increase ballistic power in the muscles of the upper back – primarily the lats.


Application to boxing: As well as enhancing explosive power in the lats – one of the major muscles used when punching – medicine ball slams improve general fitness conditioning. This is because the action of slamming involves all the major muscle groups.


In addition, because the exercise requires the coordination of multiple body parts – much like when throwing a punch combination – it activates the aerobic energy system. This explains why five continuous minutes of slamming send your heart rate through the roof while also inducing a horrible burn in the lungs, legs and lats.



Medicine ball slamming tips

Tip 1: Assuming you’ve got access to a medicine ball, you’ll be able to integrate slams into your workouts. If not, splash the cash and get one for your home gym. That way you’ll be able to slam day and night.

Tip 2: Medicine ball slams are best performed in bunches. Aim for sets in multiples of 25 (25, 50, 75, 100) or timed AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). When AMRAPing, set a 2-, 3-, or 5-minute countdown timer and slam until the seconds run out.

Tip 3: The intensity of slams can be increased by dropping into a squat each time you hoist the medicine ball off the floor. Also, you can perform a plyometric jump before executing a slam.

Tip 4: Slams are a great exercise for competitions. In your boxing gym, you could have a leaderboard where pugilists vie for the most slams performed in 10 minutes. Weekly wagers help to kindle the competitive spirit.


 

Best exercises for boxing #5: Power clean

Best exercises for boxing barbell power cleans.

Purpose of exercise: Develop explosive power in the muscles of the posterior chain.


Application to boxing: Show me a boxer who doesn’t want more power. Exactly! Power is a highly desirable physical attribute for boxers and combat sports practitioners of all stripes. Often confused with strength, power is the ability to move a resistance quickly. Strength is the slow application of force whereas power is delivered in lightning-fast bursts.


The best illustration of this difference was demonstrated in the fight between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno. Bruno was far more muscled and thus far stronger than Tyson (legend has it that, to prepare for this strength deficit, Tyson hired a world strongman to wrestle with in the ring). However, though Bruno sported the physique of a pro bodybuilder, Tyson possessed the power.


In their first fight, Tyson stopped Bruno in five rounds. In the second, it took Tyson only three. The moral? Develop power, not strength. Here’s one exercise that can help you do just that.


Power clean tips

Tip 1: When it comes to power cleaning, the most important thing is to master the technique. Incorrect technique impairs the effectiveness of the exercise and increases your chances of developing an injury.

Tip 2: Once you’ve nailed down the key techniques, start incorporating power cleans into your routine. You could do this by implementing a ‘boxing power’ workout, where the focus is on power-promoting exercises and boxing-related drills. Alternatively, you could include the exercise in a couple of weekly workouts.

Tip 3: Vary the volume of your training output. For example, in some sessions, you could focus on heavy lifts. When doing this you should decrease the reps and sets while taking longer rest periods. Other sessions could involve power-clean AMRAPs. Set a 5- or 10-minute countdown timer and attempt to amass as many reps as possible. This second method works best when competing against an opponent.


 

Best exercises for boxing #6: Box jump

A person performing plyometric box jumps.

Purpose of exercise: Develop explosive power in the leg muscles.


Application to boxing: In addition to promoting explosive power, box jumps can also enhance muscle endurance, agility, balance, and coordination. All essential attributes for the combat sports practitioner.


Furthermore, it could be argued that augmented explosivity in the legs could improve a boxer’s ability to get in and out of range. Boosting your agility and, with it, your responsivity, may sharpen your competitive advantage.


Related: Try this Plyometric Progression >

Box jump tips

Tip 1: Box jumps compliment many workout organisations. That is, you can include them in a standard gym session, circuit, or during your boxing training. (After each round on the heavy bag, throw in a set of 10 box jumps.)

Tip 2: As with all bodyweight exercises, box jumps are best performed in high-repetition sets. To begin with, aim for sets of 12 to 20 reps. When your fitness increases, have a go at an AMRAP (as many reps as possible).

Tip 3: To reduce impact and decrease injury risk, it’s wise to place a soft mat next to the box.

Tip 4: When practising the exercise for the first time, start with a low box. As your confidence and jumping proficiency develop, gradually increase the height.


 

Best exercises for boxing #7: Splitting wood

Best exercises for boxing splitting wood.

Purpose of exercise: Forge explosive power in the upper body and a cast iron core.


Application to boxing: Boxers of old used to split wood as a method of improving fitness conditioning and enhancing muscle endurance in the muscles of the upper body. There’s archive footage of legendary heavyweight champion, Max Baer, chopping wood in preparation for fights.


Today, the technique has moved on. Instead of actually cutting up chunks of wood (which comes with the added risk of copping a shard in the kisser), the exercise involves beating a tractor tyre with a steel macebell.


In addition to increasing dynamic fitness, splitting wood develops physical and mental toughness. A five-minute wood-splitting AMRAP (as many reps as possible) will test your aerobic stamina, muscular endurance, and self-discipline. 


Related: Master these Macebell Exercises >

Splitting wood tips

Tip 1: First things first, before you can practice splitting wood, you need a steel macebell and (preferably) a tractor tyre. Granted, this is a major limitation of the exercise; not many people have tractor tyres kicking around. But the fitness payoffs are well worth the trouble and expense.

Tip 2: Once your shiny new steel macebell has arrived through the post (and that generous farmer let you have an old tractor tyre), you now need to master the exercise. In this blog of the Best Macebell Exercises, you’ll find a tutorial that covers the key techniques. (When you do master th exercises, you can put them into practice with this macebell workout.)

Tip 3: Now that you’ve got a macebell, a tractor tyre, and you can competently swing it, you’re set to start integrating the exercise into your routine. Assuming that the kit is kept at your home (or boxing gym), you can bolt a five or ten-minute splitting wood AMRAP to the end of your runs, skipping or boxing sessions.


 

Best exercises for boxing #8: Weighted punching

Best exercises for boxing shadowboxing with weights.

Purpose of exercise: Improving fitness, muscle endurance, punch speed, and boxing conditioning.


Application to boxing: Shadowboxing is a bread-and-butter exercise that can confer a wealth of boxing-related attributes. First and foremost, shadowboxing helps to develop punch speed and reaction time. Also, it can be used to drill a specific punch combination or iron out technical errors.


But if we hold a light pair of dumbbells (or entangle ourselves in a resistance band), shadowboxing becomes an effective method for increasing stamina in the shoulders, back and arms.


Another benefit of shadowboxing with weights (which can’t be said of splitting wood), is that you can perform the exercise anywhere. When you’re out on your 4:30 a.m. run, take a pair of light dumbbells with you and pop out a punch combination every 50 metres.


Shadowboxing with weights tips

Tip 1: Get yourself a set of light dumbbells or a selection of resistance bands.

Tip 2: Integrate the exercise into your cardio workouts and boxing sessions.

Tip 3: Use a lightweight and focus on keeping your punches snappy. Also, aim to maintain a high punch rate.


 

Conclusion

After you’ve mastered all the above best exercises for boxing, you should start using them as soon as possible. Doing so will not only enable you to consolidate the techniques, but it will also help you to start bagging those fitness benefits.


The best way to get the exercises into your routine is to organise them into a circuit. Assign a time or rep range to each of the eight stations and see how many laps you can complete in 30 minutes. To get you going, use the preprepared plan below.


Boxing conditioning circuit
A boxing workout that incorporates all the best exercises for boxers.

 

Need more workouts?

Best exercises for boxing blog concludes with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Workouts.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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