The success of the purely physical characteristics of boxing, including general movement, balance and power, depends upon a strong lower body. Conversely, becoming technically adept at aspects such as defending yourself and landing accurate punches relies upon upper body strength.
Whole body proficiency
In order to become a proficient boxer, it’s important to understand exactly what muscles you are using and how to build them up and maintain them at an optimum level.
Starting at the bottom of the body, it is accepted that strong legs are essential for a boxer, as they need to constantly push up from the ground to generate power to the rest of the body. Any professional boxer knows that the ideal punch is thrown as the legs pivot and rotate in a coordinated sequence. Many of the most successful boxers through the ages have been characterised by their immensely strong legs, with well-developed muscles.
The hips are an important area, as they provide the ‘pivoting’ movement so essential to a good punch. Strong hips also improve balance, another key factor in boxing. In essence, good balance will determine how efficient and effective the movement of the boxer is overall. The hips also allow the boxer’s entire body weight to be put behind each and every punch, thus making it as powerful as possible.
The abs are a key area, as they essentially hold the body together, combing the total force generated by the limbs into one single, knockout force. In the simplest terms, strong abs are crucial to powerful, efficient frontal body work.
The back also plays an important role both in steadying the body, and channelling the energy moving through it. Many boxers neglect the back during training, concentrating instead on building up their upper body strength through punch-bag training and push-ups. However, ignoring the back will result in a weaker tone in the muscles that are essential to a successful punch recovery.
As far as endurance is concerned, the shoulders are the most significant area of the body. When a boxer tires during a bout, their head starts to slump and this is directly related to fatigued shoulders. This makes complete sense from a physical perspective, as it is the comparatively modest shoulder muscle that has the job of supporting the entire arm. It is endurance rather than strength that is the key here, as the strength behind the punch is generated largely by the legs.
The arms can be regarded as a power delivery system, transferring all the power that has been produced throughout the rest of the body to the opponent. To this end, it is more important to have speed in this area as opposed to simply brute strength. Speed is essential to create the classic boxer ‘snap’, which allows a fighter to breach any defensive strategies employed by their opponent. The triceps are employed for straight punches; the biceps come into their own for twisting uppercuts and sly hooks. Lean arms are generally more efficient than bulked up ones, so it is important to bear this in mind when putting together a targeted training regime.
Any successful boxer will have a core of steel, so the chest is an essential area upon which to concentrate during training. Similarly, a strong neck is crucial to avoid whip lash.
Common boxing injuries
Injuries are common among boxers, although recent research does suggest that the best way to avoid many common boxing injuries is to build up the body correctly at the training stage. However, that said, even professional boxers will suffer injures from time to time, the most common of which are listed below:
The most worrying form of boxing injury is a direct impact to the head, which can result in damage to the brain. The impact of a well-aimed punch can shake the brain inside the skull and lead to a concussion, which is essentially a situation wherein, for a short period of time, the brain acts abnormally. The symptoms of a concussion can include confusion, nausea, short term memory loss, severe headache and in the worst case scenario, unconsciousness. The likelihood of becoming concussed during a boxing match can be greatly reduced by wearing appropriate head gear, as this is designed to absorb the impact of a blow before it reaches the brain.
The face and the jaw are common injury sites. A punch to the face can result in a fracture to the nose, cheek or jaw. The risk of a dislocated jaw is also fairly high.
The shoulders can become damaged via repetitive punch impact; injuries in this area can include a dislocated shoulder (a particularly painful condition) or a rotator cuff problem. Similarly, the wrist and hand are also vulnerable to harm caused by impact, including a variety of different sprains and soft tissue damage. Fractures of the hand, finger or thumb are also seen fairly frequently and will often result in a boxer being forced to take an extended break from the sport during the healing process.
In the lower body, some of the most commonplace problems reported by boxers include painful tendonitis, sprains and stress fractures. Injuries of this type can result either from overuse in training or from trauma caused by punches during a bout.
In the core, the ribs and spine are vulnerable areas, both of which can be damaged through overstraining or impact. It cannot really be emphasised enough how crucial a strong core is in preventing many of the most common forms of boxing injury.
In addition to damage to the bones and muscles, bruises and cuts are also very common among boxers. Such damage to the skin most often results from hard and protracted contact with an opponent’s head or gloves.
Many areas of soft tissue within the body are also vulnerable to boxing injuries. This is why punches aimed at the kidney area are totally illegal right across all levels of the sport. A blow to the kidney can lead to kidney failure, which can be life-threatening.