Liston versus Patterson, Ali versus Foreman, Tyson versus Holyfield, and now Mayweather versus Pacquiao; maybe boxing isn’t America’s pastime, but there’s no doubt it’s always had a huge impact on the country’s history, popular culture and, of course, fitness. According to Dr. Scott Weiss, a board certified athletic trainer, licensed physical therapist and co-founder of Bodhizone in New York City, boxing is without a doubt one of the best ways to work out and an excellent way to burn calories (up to 727 calories an hour), tone your muscles and improve your endurance. However, even as the sport (and its many variations) continues to increase in popularity, Weiss says there are still many myths that surround boxing practice and technique. Before you head to the gym for a boxing workout, Weiss suggests considering the following tips, which he says will help to debunk some of the biggest myths about the sport so you can safely get into fighting shape.
Weiss said: One of the biggest problems with boxers of all weight classes and levels is learning to properly wrap your hands. Whether you’re about to compete in the welterweight championship or just going a round with the punching bag, properly wrapping your hands will prevent injury to your hands and wrists.
Weiss said: Despite the inspiration you may have felt while watching Rocky run around at the crack of dawn and raising his arms in victory at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, running, or “roadwork,” is not the only form of aerobic training and exercise that a boxer can do. Shadow boxing, jumping rope and regular calisthenics like jumping jacks can do more to ensure a proper aerobic base then just running alone.
Weiss said: While most people think that boxers use more conservative forms of exercise, there are actually a lot of great machines that can offer a killer workout. The upper-body egrometer, or UBE, is a sport-specific machine for boxing that can be found in most gyms. Most people use these machines for rehab purposes, but put the seat back, get into a “horse” stance, and use the resistance both forward and back to increase your endurance and strengthen the upper body.
Weiss said: Like with most sports, core strength is essential for optimal performance. While sit-ups are a traditional way to improve core muscles, a more aggressive and boxer-friendly core workout involves “z-sit” punches. A z-sit punch workout involves sitting on the floor with your hips straight, one leg bent behind you and the other bent in front of you and the bottom of your foot on top of the other leg’s quad (known as the “z pose” in yoga). Hold this position and then begin punching in both the left and right directions. Once one side is finished, switch the position of your legs and repeat the action with the other side.
Weiss said: Boxing is not only about punching. A great mentor once said, “ You got to learn to get into the position where you can punch him and he can’t punch you.” While this was supposed to be a metaphor about life, this is a fundamental principle in boxing and addresses the importance of footwork. Ladder drills, side-to-side movement, pivots: all these exercises are vital to staying quick and light on your feet.
Weiss said: On a basic nutrition level, it is important to have carbs before, and protein after, a hard workout. This is not to say you don’t need to replenish both after exercising, but carbs are as vital for energy needed during a workout as protein is needed for recovery.
Weiss said: While most people looking to exercise their arms go straight for the dumbbells, kettlebells are an amazing alternative for boxers that can deliver much better results. Kettlebells can be used to not only help your core, but also strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms.
Weiss said: After a session of boxing training, whether it’s roadwork (running), floor work (bags and calisthenics) or ring work (sparring), the most important thing for training is proper recovery. I recommend a light ten minute peddle on the bike to flush the body, some foam rolling and stretching, then a cold shower or bath for five to ten minutes, and finish up with a hot shower. While this may sound a bit excessive, relaxing the muscles after a vigorous workout is imperative for the body’s health so you’ll be ready to train again the next day.
Weiss said: Much like recovery, stretching is extremely important for ensuring that you are getting the most out of your workout. Some of the best upper-body stretches for boxers are the cross arm stretch, overhead triceps stretch and the doorway stretch. For the lower body, use the spread eagle stretch, the stork or quad stretch and the standing hamstring stretch.