Two boxers fighting during a boxing match.

Why Lifting Weights Doesn’t Make A Boxer Slow (But Only When Done Correctly) – Part 1

by

Introduction

“Lifting weights makes you slow” is a statement often heard throughout my 10 years + working in professional boxing. Alongside “lifting weights makes you bulky”, it was a statement I come across pretty much every single week. In the early stages of my career working with fighters, my knowledge was actually pretty limited. I thought that these statements must be true, as some of the people I had heard these statements come from were people of authority within the boxing community. Yet in the back of my mind, I always wondered why world class athletes (particularly Olympic athletes) such as Sir Chris Hoy had clearly used some form of weight training as their muscles were huge, and they certainly weren’t slow.

As my experience grew, and my knowledge progressed, it became apparent that the thought process that “lifting weight makes you slow and bulky” is pretty out of date.

Science has proven that weight training does not make you slower, it actually makes you faster…!

However, there is a fundamental problem.

Whilst it’s a good thing that the world of Boxing (ok maybe UK Boxing) has finally realised the benefits that weight training, or Strength & Conditioning (S & C) training can bring to the table. The critical flaw is this:-

S & C will only make you faster when it is performed correctly.

Even worse than that, when your choice of exercises and training programme are incorrect, S & C may in fact make you slower…!

And that’s a pretty big problem.

Although more and more fighters are now open minded and are participating in S & C style training, sadly many are simply doing it wrong. Even basics such as the timing of an exercise in the training program is crucial (32), otherwise the exercise could be completely pointless.

The main reason for a fighter performing S & C work, whilst potentially increasing their strength in ‘the clinch’, is to be able to increase their ability to punch (and kick), or ‘strike’ with more power. A boxer is more often aiming to win by means of a knockout, and as many fighters will confirm, just because an opponent is heavier, doesn’t always mean they will punch (or kick) harder (23). Striking impact is shown to increase if a fighter has developed their muscle strength and power (3, 26, 27), as well as increased strike cumulative force (strikes performed x impact per individual strike) has also been shown to improve with strength and power development, thus increasing the chances of victory (26).

What this all means, and for the purpose of these blog posts, is that in order for athletic performance progress to be made a boxer must have a proven, structured plan in place that provides the foundations of the S & C training camp, and considers the fundamental basics of:

• Absolute strength
• Speed strength
• Strength speed
• Strength endurance

I’m really not sure where training techniques such as split routine, shoulder shrugs, lat raises or other bodybuilding techniques fit into a boxers training regime, and don’t get me started on battleropes (they don’t do anything for your strength or power!!).

Lastly, and before we go any further let me be absolutely clear:-

Strength & Conditioning participation even done extremely well, will not solely win you a fight. However poor strength and conditioning will almost certainly contribute to you losing, as fatigue is shown to reduce a boxers ability to utilise their combat skills. Utilising the skills and techniques of boxing should always be a fighters primary aim (29).

The Scientific Evidence Of Boxing

Research into the physiological requirements of professional Boxing is available (10) and has perhaps predictably shown that fatigue can reduce punching capabilities (29). Research states that Boxing is a short duration, high activity intermittent sport (20) and the physiological requirements are estimated to be 70-80% anaerobic and 20-30% aerobic in nature (10), which is why a large portion of a boxers training should always be boxing skill and fitness based. The remaining 20 – 30% requires athletic development.

Boxing is similar to other sports that have similar athletic performance characteristics and utilise a ‘striking’ or throwing movement (17) and research clearly shows that a resistance training program will increase upper and lower body muscular strength and power (21) in these sports. The ability to develop characteristics such as isometric strength (35) is also shown to develop increased lower limb power, which can present higher maximal power in the upper limbs (11) therefore assisting in increased punching force, and higher chances of victory in a bout (3).

This ability to generate increased force has been shown to positively influence the results of elite level combat bouts, as winners were shown to produce up to 30% more power which may affect the ability to perform a more superior punch (or kick) (28). Therefore:-

It is crucial that when participating in strength & conditioning training, whilst a boxer must get stronger, it is crucial that the emphasis of the training is based on the force – velocity curve.

Studies Of Punch Power

A number of attempts have been made to study the kinetics and kinematics of the striking techniques, in particular the punch which is the universal technique amongst almost all combat sports.

Punches are short in duration, and dynamic in action and are required to produce high levels of power (3). The limited literature available, has shown links between punch torque generation and power , and isometric strength (3, 18), as well as links with increased isometric strength and successful boxing performance (12). Testing isometric grip strength of elite boxers (12) showed positive correlation between hand grip strength and positive performance, however this study was shown to have some limitations (12) with more recent research suggesting perhaps more suited methods of testing such as the Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull (IMTP), as showing high levels of validity and reliability, as well as increased transfer to athletic performance (6, 7, 34).

Various testing mechanisms (22) have been utilised to assess boxing punch force production. The use of a punching ‘pendulum’ (1), a boxing punch simulator (18), and an accelerometer mounted onto a punch bag (30) have all been used to assess the power of the punch, with all showing some success and some limitations in validity and reliability. The use of a wall mounted Kistler force plate acting as a target is another test that has been suggested and has shown strong reliability with a coefficient of variation of 1.8 – 3.6 (22). However, the practical application of this test raised questions of the reliability and transfer to real life boxing scenarios, as some boxers reported fear of striking the plate at full force (30), the static positioning of the target compared to the multi dimensions in a boxing match (18), as well as the experience of the subjects participating and standardisation of punching technique (12, 31).

Attempts to observe differences based on punch volume and selection have provided mixed explanations (24, 31) with researchers unable to agree on one particular punch that generated the most power. Some recommendations on the characteristics of punch power generation have been offered (1, 27, 37), however based on a low number of subjects (n=7), as well as study limitations similar to previously mentioned regarding participant experience and standardisation of technique, it is advised that these findings be treated with caution (22).

What does appear to be agreed upon amongst the research available is that whilst the upper body contributes to some force output, the majority of punch force is generated in the lower limbs (8, 29, 35). It has also been suggested with some data provided that professional or higher skilled boxers will utilise the legs to generate power more so than their amateur or lower skilled counterparts (8, 36).

To my knowledge at the time of writing this blog, there has only been one contrasting study with amateur boxers (24), and more recently a study with professional boxers (29), suggesting punch force is correlated to hand velocity rather than lower limb and upper limb force production. However subjects in this study were generalised across body mass categories, gender, ethnicity, and performance standards, all of which offer possible limitations to the findings.

 

References

  1. Atha J, Yeadon M, Sandover J, and Parsons K. The damaging punch. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 291: 1756-1757, 1985.
  2. Carr C, McMahon JJ, and Comfort P. Relationships between jump and sprint performance in first-class county cricketers. Journal of Trainology 4: 1-5, 2015.
  3. Chaabène H, Tabben M, Mkaouer B, Franchini E, Negra Y, Hammami M, Amara S, Chaabène RB, and Hachana Y. Amateur boxing: physical and physiological attributes. Sports medicine 45: 337-352, 2015.
  4. Cormie P, McBride JM, and McCaulley GO. Power-time, force-time, and velocity-time curve analysis during the jump squat: impact of load. Journal of applied biomechanics 24: 112-120, 2008.
  5. Cormie P, McGuigan MR, and Newton RU. Developing maximal neuromuscular power. Sports medicine 41: 17-38, 2011.
  6. Dos’ Santos T, Jones PA, Kelly J, McMahon JJ, Comfort P, and Thomas C. Effect of sampling frequency on isometric midthigh-pull kinetics. International journal of sports physiology and performance 11: 255-260, 2016.
  7. Dos’Santos T, Thomas C, Comfort P, McMahon JJ, Jones PA, Oakley NP, and Young AL. Between-Session Reliability Of Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull Kinetics And Maximal Power Clean Performance In Male Youth Soccer Players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2017.
  8. Filimonov V, Koptsev K, Husyanov Z, and Nazarov S. Boxing: Means of increasing strength of the punch. Strength & Conditioning Journal 7: 65-66, 1985.
  9. Garhammer J. A Review of Power Output Studies of Olympic and Powerlifting: Methodology, Performance Prediction, and Evaluation Tests. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 7: 76-89, 1993.
  10. Ghosh AK. Heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood lactate responses during specific training in amateur boxing. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences 22: 1-12, 2010.
  11. Giovani D and Nikolaidis PT. Differences in force-velocity characteristics of upper and lower limbs of non-competitive male boxers. International journal of exercise science 5: 106, 2012.
  12. Guidetti L, Musulin A, and Baldari C. Physiological factors in middleweight boxing performance. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 42: 309, 2002.
  13. Haff GG, Stone M, O’bryant HS, Harman E, Dinan C, Johnson R, and Han K-H. Force-Time Dependent Characteristics of Dynamic and Isometric Muscle Actions. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 11: 269-272, 1997.
  14. Haines TL, Erickson TM, and McBride JM. Kicking power. Strength & Conditioning Journal 34: 52-56, 2012.
  15. Halperin I, Hughes S, and Chapman DW. Physiological profile of a professional boxer preparing for Title Bout: a case study. Journal of sports sciences 34: 1949-1956, 2016.
  16. Hogarth L, Deakin G, and Sinclair W. Are plyometric push-ups a reliable power assessment tool? Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning 21: 67-69, 2013.
  17. James LP, Kelly VG, and Beckman EM. Periodization for mixed martial arts. Strength & Conditioning Journal 35: 34-45, 2013.
  18. Karpiłowski B, Nosarzewski Z, Staniak Z, and Trzaskoma Z. Dependence between the impact force and the static moment of force of some chosen muscle units in boxing. Acta of Bioengineering and Biomechanics 3: 241-244, 2001.
  19. Kawamori N, Rossi SJ, Justice BD, Haff EE, Pistilli EE, O’bryant HS, Stone MH, and Haff GG. Peak force and rate of force development during isometric and dynamic mid-thigh clean pulls performed at various intensities. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 20: 483-491, 2006.
  20. Khanna GL and Manna I. Study of physiological profile of Indian boxers. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5: 90-98, 2006.
  21. Kraemer WJ and Ratamess NA. Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 36: 674-688, 2004.
  22. Lenetsky S, Harris N, and Brughelli M. Assessment and contributors of punching forces in combat sports athletes: Implications for strength and conditioning. Strength & Conditioning Journal 35: 1-7, 2013.
  23. Loturco I, Nakamura FY, Artioli GG, Kobal R, Kitamura K, Abad CCC, Cruz IF, Romano F, Pereira LA, and Franchini E. Strength and power qualities are highly associated with punching impact in elite amateur boxers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30: 109-116, 2016.
  24. Mack J, Stojsih S, Sherman D, Dau N, and Bir C. Amateur boxer biomechanics and punch force. Presented at ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive, 2010.
  25. McMahon JJ, Murphy S, Rej SJ, and Comfort P. Countermovement jump phase characteristics of senior and academy rugby league players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance: 1-23, 2016.
  26. Pierce JD, Reinbold KA, Lyngard BC, Goldman RJ, and Pastore CM. Direct measurement of punch force during six professional boxing matches. Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 2: 3, 2006.
  27. Piorkowski BA, Lees A, and Barton GJ. Single maximal versus combination punch kinematics. Sports Biomechanics 10: 1-11, 2011.
  28. Roschel H, Batista MAB, Fonseca RM, Bertuzzi RCdM, Silva RBd, Loturco I, Ugrinowitsch C, Tricoli VAA, and Franchini E. Association between neuromuscular tests and kumite performance on the Brazilian Karate National Team. Journal of sports science and medicine 8: 20-24, 2009.
  29. Ruddock AD, Wilson DC, Thompson SW, Hembrough D, and Winter EM. Strength and Conditioning for Professional Boxing: Recommendations for Physical Preparation. Strength & Conditioning Journal 38: 81-90, 2016.
  30. Smith M, Dyson R, Hale T, and Janaway L. Development of a boxing dynamometer and its punch force discrimination efficacy. Journal of sports sciences 18: 445-450, 2000.
  31. Smith MS. Physiological profile of senior and junior England international amateur boxers. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5: 74-89, 2006.
  32. Suchomel TJ, Comfort P, and Lake JP. Enhancing the Force-Velocity Profile of Athletes Using Weightlifting Derivatives. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2017.
  33. Suchomel TJ, Comfort P, and Stone MH. Weightlifting pulling derivatives: Rationale for implementation and application. Sports Medicine 45: 823-839, 2015.
  34. Thomas C, Comfort P, Chiang C-Y, and Jones PA. Relationship between isometric mid-thigh pull variables and sprint and change of direction performance in collegiate athletes. Journal of Trainology 4: 6-10, 2015.
  35. Turner A, Baker E, and Miller S. Increasing the impact force of the rear hand punch. Strength & Conditioning Journal 33: 2-9, 2011.
  36. Turner AN. Strength and conditioning for Muay Thai athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal 31: 78-92, 2009.
  37. Walilko T, Viano DC, and Bir CA. Biomechanics of the head for Olympic boxer punches to the face. British journal of sports medicine 39: 710-719, 2005.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



JOIN THE PERFORMANCE TRIBE
Quickly enter your name and email in the boxes below and join thousands of others levelling up their performance and leadership skills with my exclusive email tips and famous rants! I give away cool shit too, don't miss out.
I respect your privacy. No Bullshit, No Spam.