Why Lifting Weights Doesn’t Make A Boxer Slow (But Only When Done Correctly) – Part 2

by

Scientifically proven strength and power testing

The sport of boxing has athletic characteristics that are similar to other combat sports such as karate and wrestling (12, 30), as well as a wide range of other athletic and sporting activities, which all require and utilise the triple extension movement pattern (12, 30, 34).

As suggested in the literature, lower limb force (power) generation is linked to isometric strength, and this can be assessed by use of the Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull (IMTP) (8).  This data has been shown to be highly reliable (8) as the IMTP movement is modelled on the ‘second pull’ phase of the clean where the largest force generation is created (10, 14).  If this test is used more frequently with boxers, the data collected could then be used to provide normative comparisons of peak force generation between boxers and other professional athletes.  However it is worth noting during these data comparisons, some athletes from other sports backgrounds are well rehearsed and familiar with the ‘mid-thigh’ position, and in my opinion this may not be the case for professional boxers.

Some data does exist for a boxer using the IMTP and showed decreasing strength scores throughout the monitoring period (16), which as mentioned may be due to lack of previous experience.  However a key limitation I have noted in this study, is no mention of a change in the boxers body mass, which is common place in the training camp of both an amateur and professional boxer, which could affect the data collected.

Jump height has also been shown to have a high correlation with power output and is a worthwhile test for inclusion in the training protocol of a combat athlete (2, 20).   Some jump data is present in the literature observing similar combat sports to boxing (29, 37), however participant numbers were below previously recommended figures (21).  Data is available in Rugby (26) which has shown high reliability and large subject numbers across the various weight differences within the squad, which could prove useful for normative comparison to boxers across varying weights classes.  Finally, unlike the Squat Jump (SJ) , the Countermovement Jump (CMJ) has been shown to utilise the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) (26), which has proven transferable properties to athletic performance.  In my opinion it is worthwhile to test both types of jump, as any noticeable similarities or differences between SJ and CMJ could suggest whether a professional boxer is utilising the stretch shortening cycle or not, which is crucial in the programme design of that individual.

As a means of upper body testing, the Plyometric Push Up (PPU) can be included despite mixed reviews, with some studies showing high reliability compared to moderate reliability in others (17). It has been suggested (17) and I fully agree after using this test myself with numerous athletes across a variety of sports, that intraclass correlation coefficients may be improved (and therefore improved data reliability) in the PPU with strict standardisation of the testing technique, which is often lacking.

So how do we improve the power of a fighter?

Stronger boxers have been shown to have the ability to produce punches of greater quality (3) with increased isometric strength in particular, being linked to increased performance in professional and amateur boxing (3) as well as a number of other sports (35).

The use of exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench press, as well as exercises that develop the glute musculature all play their role in the training camp of a boxer.  They improve the robustness of your body and assist in the prevention of injury, as well as provide a foundation for increased athletic performance.  The same can be said of multi-planar exercises that are designed to mirror the movement of a punch, and therefore create increased power during that specific movement.  They work to a point, and therefore play their part.  But neither will increase punch power, unless the correct exercises are used and implemented in the correct program design.

It has been shown that elite level boxers predominately generate force from the lower limbs (36).  Therefore the key to the power development of a professional boxer is the development of their force-velocity profile, and utilisation of the Stretch Shortening Cycle, which has been shown during a punching action (9, 36). This has also been shown to high effect in a variety of other combat sports (9, 15).  With that in mind, it is crucial that the athletic development programme of a boxer includes force velocity training, and utilisation of the SSC.  If this does not occur, then a boxers ability to produce power is reduced (32).

Exercises such as the Olympic lifts, which are shown to develop the triple extension movement pattern (5, 10, 34), provide a superior training stimulus compared to other forms of training (32, 33), and utilise the SSC.  The ‘2nd pull’ phase (10, 34) of the movement in particular, will create the largest increases in force production, and have the highest positive transfer into professional boxers (33) and the athletic movements required to generate power (30).    However based on my applied experience, a possible limitation of these recommendations is the lack of experience of advanced lifting techniques that many professional boxers currently have.  Add this to their biomechanical limitations (many struggle with a basic overhead squat due to severe kyphosis) and this could influence the outcome of the results, if these lifts were added into a professional boxers training regime.

A potential option to the traditional lifts has been shown in more recent studies using weightlifting pulling derivatives that exclude the catch, as these lifts may produce a similar or greater load absorption stimulus due to the 2nd pull phase, compared with weightlifting derivatives that include the catch phase movement (4).  This would provide the solution to effective power training to boxers (and other fighters or athletes) with either low experience, or mechanical restrictions of the lifts.

The use of plyometric based exercises that utilise lighter loads, are ballistic in their nature and adopt the triple extension movements (9) are often seen in combat sports as solely a conditioning tool (9).  Yet these movements are also shown to have high levels of mechanical transfer to combat sports (36) as they utilise the SSC and increase force production (5, 6), as exercises such as the jump shrug (figure 1) are situated at the high velocity end of the force–velocity curve and therefore generate high levels of power.  What is crucial in plyometric training is the pattern of hip, knee, and ankle triple extension, a movement that is shown to occur during athletic performance activities and sports where skills such as vertical jumping, sprinting, and change of direction is required tasks (33).  Without this movement, as previously discussed, other than a moderately transferable form of conditioning the exercise is pointless to a boxers power training and development.

 

 

Figure 1.

Conclusion

Done correctly, resistance training will not make you slow, and will in fact make you faster as long as it is performed correctly. Science has proven that you cannot increase power, and therefore speed without the body experiencing some form of external load placed upon it.

Therefore as a fighter, if you are being told that weight training will make you slow you are being given out of date advice that is not only wrong, but is also reducing your athletic development.  You must however make sure you are working with a coach who is prescribing the correct program design.

Exercises such as the mid-thigh pull may lean towards the development of strength within the force velocity curve, whereas body weight type exercises such as plyometrics may lean further towards the velocity end of the curve.  Ultimately both will train the force velocity profile of your body and utilise the stretch shortening cycle, which have been shown to assist and increase power output.

Perhaps most importantly, a fighter must make sure that what they are being taught is correct.  Many boxers will often have poor flexibility and mobility and must work at this additionally to their power training through participation in specific mobility exercises and activities such as yoga.

You will not make a boxer punch harder by only making them stronger.

It’s not that simple.

I don’t care who says that you can, it will not happen.

Isolation based exercises or “body part” exercises have very little use in helping a boxer (or combat athlete, or any athlete who plays sport) increase their power output.  Whilst they may have some placebo effect, in making you “think” you are punching harder (this does actually help a little as it increases self-confidence), there is little evidence of their assistance in the development of athletic performance.  As a strength and conditioning coach, you must remember that your role often involves the non-glamorous stuff!!

The work you do with a boxer or any fighter is one piece of the overall jigsaw, and is to assist what the fighter is doing in the boxing gym with their technical coach perfecting technique, sparring, doing pads and bag work. These are the real reasons (alongside great timing and footwork) for a fighter winning by K.O.

 

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. Comfort P, Williams R, Suchomel TJ, and Lake JP. A comparison of catch phase force-time characteristics during clean derivatives from the knee. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 2016.
  5. 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.
  6. Cormie P, McGuigan MR, and Newton RU. Developing maximal neuromuscular power. Sports medicine 41: 17-38, 2011.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Filimonov V, Koptsev K, Husyanov Z, and Nazarov S. Boxing: Means of increasing strength of the punch. Strength & Conditioning Journal 7: 65-66, 1985.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Guidetti L, Musulin A, and Baldari C. Physiological factors in middleweight boxing performance. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 42: 309, 2002.
  14. 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.
  15. Haines TL, Erickson TM, and McBride JM. Kicking power. Strength & Conditioning Journal 34: 52-56, 2012.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. James LP, Kelly VG, and Beckman EM. Periodization for mixed martial arts. Strength & Conditioning Journal 35: 34-45, 2013.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Khanna GL and Manna I. Study of physiological profile of Indian boxers. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5: 90-98, 2006.
  22. Kraemer WJ and Ratamess NA. Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 36: 674-688, 2004.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. Mack J, Stojsih S, Sherman D, Dau N, and Bir C. Amateur boxer biomechanics and punch force. Presented at ISBS-Conference Proceedings Archive, 2010.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. Piorkowski BA, Lees A, and Barton GJ. Single maximal versus combination punch kinematics. Sports Biomechanics 10: 1-11, 2011.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. Smith MS. Physiological profile of senior and junior England international amateur boxers. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5: 74-89, 2006.
  33. Suchomel TJ, Comfort P, and Lake JP. Enhancing the Force-Velocity Profile of Athletes Using Weightlifting Derivatives. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2017.
  34. Suchomel TJ, Comfort P, and Stone MH. Weightlifting pulling derivatives: Rationale for implementation and application. Sports Medicine 45: 823-839, 2015.
  35. 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.
  36. Turner A, Baker E, and Miller S. Increasing the impact force of the rear hand punch. Strength & Conditioning Journal 33: 2-9, 2011.
  37. Turner AN. Strength and conditioning for Muay Thai athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal 31: 78-92, 2009.
  38. 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.