Want to train like a boxer?
In this article you will learn how to train like a boxer. We will show you the many different training methods boxers use to achieve their high level of fitness. This includes cardio training, strength and conditioning workouts, agility and coordination drills, and, of course, boxing.
It’s the multi-faceted nature of a boxer’s training diet that makes them such well-rounded athletes. Few people realise that being a good boxer requires far more than just throwing heavy punches. Boxers, even at an amateur level, must maintain superior whole-body fitness in order to meet the demands of competition.
They achieve their high level of fitness by mixing different training approaches, usually in the form of circuits, while also maintaining exercise consistency. Most boxers train religiously and aim to get in at least one 45- to 60-minute session 6 days a week – sometimes even twice a day (early morning run and an evening boxing class).
In addition to their Jack of all trades training approach and cast-iron commitment, boxers are also grafters. They live by the mantra ‘train hard fight easy’ and this is reflected in the intensity of their workouts.
So, if you want to start to train like a boxer, you’ll need to incorporate the following characteristics into your exercise regime:
Characteristics of boxing training
Maintain a high level of training consistency; aim for a minimum of 5 weekly workouts.
Mix up the training modalities; that is, include elements of cardio, strength, muscle endurance, agility and coordination into your workouts – preferably in the form of boxing circuits.
Vary the intensity of training sessions.
But can I train like a boxer without fighting?
Don’t think that to train like a boxer you need to compete. Contrary to common misconception, you can enjoy boxing training without ever having to throw a single punch at another person.
As we argue in our other article – Boxing Basics | A Complete Guide – it is more than possible to achieve a respectable standard of boxing by working the heavy bag, pads (if you’ve got a coach), and shadowboxing. These training methods, if used regularly, can enable you to develop punching strength, speed and power while also improving your technical application.
Moreover, you can make use of the boxing training method to improve your general level of fitness. Without ever stepping foot in the ring or parrying a punch you can train like a boxer and by doing so grab yourself the many benefits outlined below.
Why train like a boxer?
Boxing training is arguably the most diverse form of training you can engage in. Unlike a specific training discipline, such as weightlifting, or sport, such as cycling, which are restricted to a comparatively narrow range of movements, boxers make use of a staggeringly wide range of exercises.
For example, the former undisputed Cruiserweight champion and recently crowned Heavyweight World champion, Oleksandr Usyk, incorporates a myriad of different training methods to prepare for fights.
In a YouTube video encapsulating Usyk’s training process, the Heavyweight Champ can be seen pushing himself through gruelling pre-fight workouts. These workouts consist of a mix of the following exercises:
Cardiovascular fitness: Running, Airdyne bike, Rowing
Strength building: Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Strongman exercises
Muscular endurance: Hammer work, Bodyweight exercises
Explosive power: Plyometrics, Gymnastics
Dynamic strength: Kettlebells, CrossFit, Battle ropes
Agility and coordination: Agility drills, Skipping, Juggling
General conditioning workouts: a mix of cardio and all the above
That is a diverse assortment of exercises by anyone’s standards. And though some of them are specific to Oleksandr Usyk’s peculiar training approach, such as juggling, boxers are becoming ever more adventurous in their training.
What benefits can I expect if I start boxing training?
For the eager reader who just wants to get on with learning how to train like a boxer, I’ll start off with the short answer to the opening question. Answer: loads!
For those who want to know a bit more about the benefits of boxing training, read on.
Up to now we’ve established that boxing training incorporates pretty much all the components of fitness. If we reflect on Oleksandr Usyk’s list of exercises (above), we can see that at least five of the nine recognised components of fitness are engaged. And often in the same workout.
Besides other combat sports, such as Muay Thai Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, few sports or exercise disciplines activate as many components of fitness. The only non-combat sport that comes close to boxing in this respect is CrossFit.
Boxing training can help you become a well-rounded athlete
It is this characteristic of boxing training that promotes complete fitness. If you train like a boxer, ensuring to keep consistent, it’s likely that you will develop the following physical competencies.
A high level of cardiovascular fitness
Excellent muscular endurance
Improved coordination and agility
But there are more benefits of boxing training besides those outlined above! I said earlier that CrossFit is one of the very few sport that develops a similar range of components of fitness to that boxing. A CrossFit athlete boasts superior fitness across all the major components, specifically strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular performance. It’s unlikely that anyone would bother contesting that.
However, boxing training goes that bit further because, as well as improving whole-body fitness, it also confers combat skills. Boxers are both super fit and proficient in the fine art of pugilism. And while it’s true that boxers never resort to violence outside the ring (real boxers don’t anyway), they still possess the ability to defend themselves should they ever need to.
Train like a boxer and trim up
The final benefit of boxing training that we will consider is that of fat loss and improved body composition. Body composition, which is a health-related component of fitness, refers to the ‘amount and distribution of body fat and the amount and composition of lean mass’. According to Wells and Fewtrell (2006) body compositional outcomes are understood to be an important health marker.
They go on to say that body composition is a key component of ‘health in both individuals and populations’ and that the ‘ongoing epidemic of obesity in children and adults has highlighted the importance of body fat for short term and long term health.'
In short, people with poor body composition have an increased risk of illness and disease.
But the scales aren’t fixed, they can be tipped. The two most effective ways to change body composition, that is to reduce the ratio of fat to lean mass, is diet and exercise.
Related: treat your body to these 10 Super Healthy Plant-Based Recipes
It’s largely recognised that a training regime consisting of cardio, circuits and resistance exercise facilitates fat loss while promoting muscle growth. Because boxing training incorporates all these exercise methodologies, and more, it is ideal for improving body composition.
This probably accounts for why the vast majority of boxers are lean, mean fighting machines.
What kit do I need for boxing training?
That answer to that question really depends on how far you plan to take boxing training.
If your boxing aspirations are modest and you only want to participate in one or two weekly sessions to support your general training regime, you’ll need little more than a skipping rope, resistance band, and some free weights – kettlebells and dumbbells. All public gyms should have these items of training equipment. If your gym doesn’t, cancel your membership and go elsewhere.
But if you want to develop combat skills, punching proficiency and technical competency, you will require, in addition to those items list above, hand wraps, gloves and a punching bag.
However, if you haven’t got access to a local amateur boxing gym, all is not lost. In our other article – 5 Pieces of Essential Boxing Equipment – we review some of the best budget boxing kit for the home gym. For less than a couple hundred quid you could have a top-notch boxing set-up in your garage.
Irrespective of the extent of your set-up, even if you have just a few free weights and resistance band, you will be able to take part in some of the workout examples below.
How to train like a boxer
Finally! We’ve reached that stage in the article where we get to train like a boxer. Below you’ll find a generic boxing-inspired training plan. You can use the plan as it is or tailor it to suit your exercise preferences.
The training plan is supposed to provide you with a framework around which you can create your own boxing workouts. As you develop your training confidence and general fitness, you can design more adventurous workouts and circuits.
If you possess no or rudimentary boxing skills, consider consulting the Hungry4Fitness Complete Guide to Boxing Basics. This comprehensive article aims to impart the basic techniques from footwork to the guard, to single punches and combinations. Once you have acquainted yourself with the basics of boxing, you can begin including more boxing-specific exercises into your workouts.
To train like a boxer, then, you should aim to organise most of your workouts into circuits. The circuits should include a diverse range of functional, full-body exercises – (see Usyk’s list above) – and, where possible, boxing-specific exercises – skipping, shadowboxing, heavy bag work.
The general layout of your circuits could follow the generic plan below:
For more information on how to get as fit as a boxer, follow the link: Boxing Fitness
If you want more training and workout ideas, see our Fitness Page
And, finally, if you would like to advance your circuit design knowledge, see our Complete Guide To Circuit Training
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
References Wells, J. C., & Fewtrell, M. S. (2006). Measuring body composition. Archives of disease in childhood, 91(7), 612–617. https://doi.org/10.1136/adc.2005.085522