It is no secret that I am the world's biggest proponent of strength training for fight athletes, but the thing that sparked my interest in writing this piece was a conversation I overheard between two boxers recently.
I will spare you the specifics, but in essence one boxer was trying to argue that it is pointless for boxers to train the lower body… “Mate, ya box with yer arms. Ya need to train yer arms, not yer farkin legs!” Anyone who knows me would understand how difficult it was for me to keep my mouth shut, keep walking and not stick my nose into their scintillating conversation.
Ok, so if you completely disregard the 50+ years of relevant scientific data covering strength training for athletes of all sports, and entirely deny the laws of physics, biomechanics and force production - you may be able to see eye-to-eye with the interesting young gentleman I overheard.
Unfortunately for him, I tend to gravitate towards common sense and empirical evidence. Now not all boxers hold this gentleman’s opinion, by no means am I lumping all boxers in this ignorant category. This character is a one-off, and I would like to publicly address his argument.
Yes, boxers need to train their “arms” and their entire upper body. But there is more to the picture than this.
Let's start with force production. The force of a punch is not generated by the arms, the force of a punch is expressed through the arms. Take the right cross, for example, the bread-and-butter power punch for a lot of orthodox, or right-handed boxers. The force is actually generated at the beginning of the chain of movement which is through your legs and your feet. You use your right leg to drive the foot into the ground, pivoting and creating the torque for hip rotation leading into the expression of all that rotational force through the arm and fist into the target. Punching power is total body thing, you need to be efficient at force production through the entire body. Including the lower body.
Next, building strength and strength endurance in the lower body will pay off dividends in terms of energy systems development. One of the biggest correlations I have seen in my own experimentation is the link between relative strength levels in the squat, power output levels in the Wattbike, and duration of force output on the Wattbike. These correlations apply for both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, for both sprints and steady state conditioning. Greater levels of lower body strength will potentiate greater levels of total body conditioning and energy systems efficiency.
Additionally, with greater levels of total body conditioning and energy systems efficiency, your recovery rates will drastically improve as a bonus. Most promotions allow 60sec between rounds, if you are not doing everything you can to maximise your rate of recovery in that 60sec between rounds, you are going to get left behind in your sport.
Finally, with the incorporation of lower body strength training you will see dramatic improvements in metabolic efficiency and body composition. Muscle mass is the key determinant for energy metabolism, and there is a whole lot of muscle mass in the lower body. With adequate training stimulus, the lower body musculature will place an adequate demand on your metabolism to burn through the energy from the food you eat, as well as fat stores throughout your body. Any boxer who has the bad habit of “letting themselves go” and putting on a lot of fat during the offseason between fights should relate to this. If you have fat to cut, you need to be training the lower body.
One last point is that your hormonal environment can only improve with the addition of lower body strength training. It is most desirable to remain in as anabolic a hormonal state as possible with regard to recovery and general health - lower body strength training will create long-lasting spikes in your testosterone, leading to an optimal anabolic environment for growth and recovery.
So FFS I hope if nothing else I have saved the world from just one more person with the simple-minded and ignorant opinion that boxers should not bother training the lower body.
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