If you want to get in shape for biking, hop on your bicycle and start pedaling. If you want to get in shape for swimming, jump in the water and start swimming. If you want to get in shape for running, hit the road and start running. Yet, if you want to get in shape for boxing, why do so many people talk about everything but boxing? It’s as if common sense flies out the door when discussing the sweet science.
Overlooking The Obvious
Regardless of how many times I say that boxing itself is a tremendous exercise, there will always be the inherent assumption that all boxers are already boxing. Therefore, to further improve a fighter’s power or endurance, the initial thought of many is to explore methods outside of lacing up the gloves and punching.
As a result, many fighters and trainers rush to other options without first looking at ways to improve how they train with the gloves on. Thus, while certain supplemental exercises that can prove useful, many boxers spend too much time exploring these options and not enough time practicing the actual sport. That’s a mistake. Most developing fighters need more time boxing and fewer supplemental distractions.
Punching Power Example
It’s rare that a week passes without someone asking me how to improve their punching power or stamina. These questions are often asked with hopes that I’ll respond with a revolutionary exercise or drill that no one has thought of before. Unfortunately, there is no such thing.
I’m a firm believer that the best way to become a better puncher is by spending more time punching. I say this not to suggest that there aren’t other useful exercises, but rather to highlight the fact that everything else is secondary to actually punching.
The key though is that you must punch the bag with purpose. Hitting the bag to build power is different from hitting the bag to build stamina. Not every round or drill on the bag should be the same. Your approach to hitting the bag must reflect your goals. If you wish to build punching power, you need to punch the bag with bad intentions. In other words, you need to practice throwing powerful punches.
A brief example that I recently shared to Instagram can be seen below (some additional power exercises follow the bag example).
Power is best developed when you are fresh. Don’t wait until the end of a workout when you are already fatigued. Instead, it can be useful to perform brief power drills that are separate from your traditional bag work. These drills would be practiced towards the beginning of a workout.
Furthermore, don’t assume that you must always hit the bag for 3 minute rounds. There’s certainly a time and place for full rounds, but there are also benefits to shorter, more explosive sets. Training power via brief sets or blocks of time will allow you to focus solely on power without being compromised by fatigue.
Clearly, you will also need to practice boxing through fatigue, but that work is separate from the work that is dedicated solely to power development.
Think Like An Athlete
If you were trying to build your vertical jump, you wouldn’t hop around for 3 minutes at a time. Continuously jumping with less than maximal effort is not going to improve your vertical jumping ability. The same concept applies to sprinting. Running continuously for 3 minute intervals is not going to improve maximal sprinting speed. That’s not how you build speed or power.
Boxers can apply similar principles to their training. If you want to focus solely on power, practice building power with a maximal effort when you are fresh. The rules of training don’t need to be rewritten simply because you are a boxer.
The heavy bag is a tremendous tool to build power, stamina, and to practice combinations and new techniques. Different attributes are best developed with different styles however. Don’t limit your bag work to a single approach.
As mentioned before, hitting the bag to build power is different from hitting the bag to build stamina. There’s a time and place for each style. There are also times when you should practice throwing power punches while boxing the bag for full rounds. In each case, you are targeting different abilities. Training to improve power is different from training to display power in the face of fatigue.
In summary, don’t be so quick to take the gloves off when seeking to improve power or stamina. The heavy bag will always be the best tool to build these attributes.