Punching your way to a stronger body


Mention boxing and the image of a fighter undergoing endless hours of cardio workouts comes into mind.  Whether it be running hills, drilling pad work or skipping on a rope, boxing undoubtedly challenges and improves your endurance.  But, the ability to knock out an opponent doesn’t come from running or shuffling your feet the fastest, it is combining hand speed with muscle power.


Sure, the focus is on the strength of the punch and more often than not, people correlate this with the amount of muscle in a boxers arm.  However, “punching power” is not only dictated by the muscle in ones arm, but in the total development of a system of muscles.  Interestingly enough, the punch doesn’t start at the shoulder, but the furthest distance from it, the feet.


Besides the jab, most punches require the boxer to take a step to be effective, a small step, but a step nonetheless.  This is done to engage the calf muscles, which then transfer the force and torque of the step onto the quadriceps.  The generated force links with the force generated by the back foot and is transferred to the rotating muscles in the hips, abdomen and obliques.  The muscle activation continues up the posterior chain and reaches the shoulders, and combined with the stimulation of the pectoral muscles generations a whipping motion that propels the punching hand out to the target.


This complex series of movements and muscle activations doesn’t just happen, but rather it must be trained.  The sequence of the movement is important but without developing the various muscles required to link power from foot to fist, the power punch will fall flat.  Watch a boxer in the gym and you will undoubtedly see them endure countless rounds and hours of mitt work, pad work, bag work and shadow boxing.  However, stay a while longer and you will see them engage in other exercises which focus on building their core strength with all manners of crunches, then you may see them develop their posterior chain with deadlifts and squats and finally you will see them develop those all-important leg muscles, especially the calves.


In boxing, it is often said that you should fear the fighter with the big calves, because they can generate so much more power with them.  Yes, speed is important as it allows fighters to hit more and get hit less.  Endurance, equally important as a boxer is only as good as long as he can get up for another round.  However, muscles mass is the factor that shuts out the lights of the other boxer.


Training for boxing means that you will develop muscle mass.  It is a fact of life in this sport.  You will develop it as a result of training and you will need to develop it if you ever want to compete on any level.  Look forward to developing muscle when training, it is a sign that you are doing things correctly and that you are on your way.

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Helen runs a brilliant martial arts gym in London (in Old Street AND Golders Green!) teaching Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, MMA, Wrestling, Sambo for MMA, and Strength & Conditioning.

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