Conditioning in Boxing

image-300x300Training and Conditions for a boxing match is often times more complicated than meets the eye. It’s interesting to see Dr. Don Muzzi break things down in a scientific manner. – Chuck Horton

An Overview of Training and Conditioning for Boxers

Boxing is an unique sport since it requires an athlete to be highly trained in multiple areas. These areas include, but are not limited to, strength, speed, and both the aerobic and anaerobic physiological systems.

Before a training program can be determined for a boxer his trainer should consider a medical exam and testing in order to determine an appropriate training regimen.

The following could serve as a general guideline:

  • Medical Assessment
    • General check up including eye exam
    • Musculoskeletal and neurological evaluation
  • Skill assessment
    • Strength
    • Power
    • Cardiovascular endurance d. Flexibility
    •  Speed
    • f. Coordination
  • Nutritional Assessment
    • Per cent body fat
    • Evaluation of diet
  • Health Habits
    • Weight consistency
    • Sleep Patterns
    • Mental Motivation

Aerobic training allows the boxer to develop his cardiovascular system to a point where he has the capacity to supply adequate oxygen to working muscles. Anaerobic training allows the boxer to handle the stress of high intensity work and condition their body to tolerate and eliminate high levels of lactic acid. There are primarily two different physiological systems in the human body that control muscle function. Aerobic metabolism where the muscles burn fuel with oxygen present and anaerobic metabolism where the muscles burn fuel without oxygen present.

Dr. Muzzi

Dr. Muzzi breaks down the science behind training

When one trains aerobically, the heart,lungs, and blood supply sufficient oxygen to the working muscle while they are burning fuel to contract and relax. When an athlete trains anaerobically, the heart, lungs, and blood are unable to supply enough oxygen to working muscles. In the absence of oxygen lactic acid is produced in significant amounts inside the muscle. This produces muscle dysfunction and the “burning” sensation often experienced at the end of a hard session of workouts. The boxer’s breathing is labored, uncontrolled, and respiratory fatigue ensues. Without oxygen, the body’s muscular system is limited to about three and a half minutes of work assuming the intensity level remains sub maximal. If the intensity is increased, failure will occur due to muscle dysfunction and fatigue. Therefore before a boxer even begins training for a match, he must undergo an aerobic training period to develop an endurance base. This aerobic training base will enhance the boxer’s ability to make significant training gains since this type of training optimizes the efficiency of the athlete’s heart. In other words the heart can deliver more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscular system as well as eliminate lactic acid more efficiently.

Basic Endurance Training:

The goal of endurance training is to readily supply oxygen to the working muscle. Thus the intensity level of training is fairly low. This type of training is aerobic (meaning with oxygen). Ideally this type of training is done at a heart rate of 120-140 beats per minute.


Aerobic Threshold Endurance Training:

Aerobic threshold endurance training allows human physiology to bridge the gap between aerobic (sufficient oxygen supply to muscles) and anaerobic (muscles working without oxygen) metabolism. This type of training teaches a boxer how to tolerate the stress of adjusting to a change of intensity and allows him to work at the highest level of aerobic training without producing a significant amount of lactic acid. This type of training occurs at a heart rate of 140-160 beats per minute.


Anaerobic Threshold and Maximal Intensity Training:

The anaerobic threshold is the heart rate (usually 160-180 beats per minute) above which the boxer begins to accumulate lactic acid in his muscles. If a boxer works over that threshold the accumulated lactic acid will diminish muscle performance. The purpose of training in this zone is to gain efficiency at the anaerobic level and increase the amount of work that can be done. With training the anaerobic threshold will increase so that a boxer can work at a higher level. Proper training will adapt a boxer to operate at a higher anaerobic threshold.


Training considerations:

With a fundamental understanding of how the system works training programs can be developed that enhance a boxer’s conditioning level specifically for boxing. In that regard, consider the following.

  • Boxing is 60% anaerobic and 40% aerobic, logically the majority of training should be spent via the anaerobic training program.
  • The aerobic training program should be used as a training base. Running and gym workouts at a low intensity for a longer durations will help develop this base. Aerobic training can also help the boxer maintain proper weight.
  • In aerobic training consider the following:
    • Frequency – In order to improve the aerobic system the boxer must work out aerobically 3-4 times a week.
    • Intensity – The intensity of these workouts should be measured by heart rate. A constant heart rate of 140-160 beats per minute should be maintained.
    • Duration – the boxer should do a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous work out.
    • It is important to remember that aerobic training depletes fuel (glycogen) stores. If the boxer’s diet is proper, these fuel stores are replaced in less than a day. However, anaerobic workouts require longer rest periods because of muscle damage.

Strength Training:

When training a boxer it is important to develop strength and then convert that strength to power. Strength training is best developed through resistance training. This strength must then be converted to power. Power is the product of two abilities, strength and speed. It is considered to be the ability to perform maximum force in the shortest period of time.

In summary conditioning is a process where one tries to make the athletes body a more efficient machine. In essence cardiac output is improved in order to supply more blood (oxygen and nutrients) to muscle and allow for the removal of waste products (e.g. lactic acid) from muscle. Simultaneously in the training muscle is conditioned to increase both strength and power.

Conditioning is but one of many factors that contribute to the overall success of the training program. Proper rest periods, nutrition, sleep, and weight control are other important factors during training camp. Beware of “boxer burnout”. Vary physical activities and do not forget the mental health of the boxer. Remember it is the mind that controls the body. It would stand to reason that the athlete’s mental health is a priority in training.


Author: Don Muzzi