Muhammad Ali trained with dumbbells

Boxing training: Tips from the professional boxing trainer

Boxing training: Boxing is known to be one of the toughest sports of all. In order to survive in combat, boxers need a range of different skills: agility, speed, strength and of course mental strength. Former amateur boxer and professional boxing trainer Ian Burbedge spoke to us about training methods in boxing and what they mean for other sports.

Is running training overrated by boxers?

Ian Burbedge trains professional boxer Lenny Daws twice a day, five days a week. Lenny is a professional boxer at light welter weight (60–63.5 kg). He has won 18 fights, fought once and lost once. Lenny is the former British number one. In general, the number of rounds is decisive in preparing for a fight. Ian explains that the preparation phase for a six round match is at least six weeks.

In the case of a longer fight (e.g. ten to twelve rounds), another three to four weeks are added. Ian thinks boxers' usual running training is excessive. The running quota often corresponds to the length of the fight - e.g. B. a 36-minute run in a competition with twelve rounds of three minutes. On top of that, in his opinion, there is really no reason to run more than five kilometers. Boxing in and of itself is not a slow sport, but rather an explosive sport.

Lenny often trains in the Fartlek style when running, in which the running intensity is increased by sprints and faster running pace, e.g. B. back and forth between two lamp posts, is increased. It is assumed that this is much closer to the nature of boxing with its rather hectic activity and the irregular use of force. When Lenny prepares for a fight, Ian lets him run every training day (five days a week). Running is always the first of two or three exercises on a training day.

Boxing training: circuit training in detail

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Circuit training is the basis of Lenny's conditioning training. When preparing for a fight, it is the main part of the 2nd workout program (after running). The more technical components of boxing, e.g. B. Pad work, are part of the 3rd training section. The order of priority is changed four to six weeks before a fight. Then the box-specific preparation comes first and then the circuit training.

In a circle, eight exercises are usually completed in five-minute sequences. The boxing-specific training includes three minutes of physical exertion and one minute of recovery. This corresponds to the competition conditions. Typical circuit exercises are pull-ups, normal and plyometric push-ups, crunches, body board (core exercise) and support stretches.

Weight exercises are also built in, e.g. B. Dumbbell flys and side raises. However, the weight load remains relatively low. These exercises are designed to help Lenny cope with her own weight and develop strength and resilience under fatigue conditions. However, they are not used to build muscle (because that could slow it down).

The closer the fight, the more boxing specific the boxing training

Another problem for Lenny as a semi welterweight is that if there is a significant increase in muscle mass as a result of strength training, he could quickly exceed the 63 kg limit. Four weeks before the fight, Lenny is still running, but the further the fight gets closer, the more boxing-specific the work in the weight room becomes. He usually does a few rounds of shadow boxing and maybe also trains on the sandbag before going straight to sparring. Lenny starts with three rounds of three minutes and then increases to six rounds of three minutes. This is to reflect the specific conditions of the struggle.

Ian recommends that amateurs do the same and slowly increase the sparring from two rounds of two minutes to four rounds of two minutes. After the boxing-specific training, Lenny still does circuit exercises, but as Ian explained, he is constantly monitoring Lenny's condition. He adjusts the training accordingly or increases it, e.g. B. by a lower intensity in the circuit exercises, so that Lenny is optimally prepared for the fight and not over-trained.

How does it feel to be in the ring?

You learn to deal and take punches by sparring, explains Ian: "It may sound strange, but the body gets used to the beating. It's easy to get a few bumps in the first few days of sparring, especially if you're caught properly, but after a while your body becomes hardened. ”Ian explains that shortly before the competition, the closer the nerve tension increases the closer you get Fight is fast approaching, but as soon as the bell rings, you concentrate fully on your work. Anyone who says they aren't nervous before the fight is lying, thinks Ian.

And, so Ian continues: "I was knocked out once beaten. I remember lacing my boots in the locker room and asking my coach when it would be my turn. While I was still busy with my boxing boots, my coach said: "You took a bad hit" and I said: "Stop that nonsense!" A punch can sometimes hurt, but most of the time you don't notice it because you only think of your plan. The only thing I can compare it to is the heads down while playing football. If you don't hit the ball properly with your head, you kind of go black and you feel unsteady on your feet. But it goes over quickly and you carry on. ”And as Ian continues, you only realize after the fight, when the adrenaline slowly subsides and the pain becomes clear, how badly you have been hit.

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Boxing speed

Muhammad Ali, the "greatest", claims that he is so fast that when he turned off the light switch, he was already in bed before the lights were off! Agile hands and feet are essential for a boxer.

Boxing training: speed of the hands

Ian believes that the best way to do this is through claw training. Here the trainer stands in the ring, holds up his claws and guides the boxer through the ring while he hits the claws. Ian says: "Doing this in sparring is very difficult because you are constantly looking for a gap and not necessarily thinking about improving your hand quickness. It's amazing how many times you hit a sandbag with the same punch combinations - it really becomes a habit. But when you do claw training with someone, the dynamic is completely different and you don't even fall into the 'habitual trap'. "

Boxing training: speed of the feet

Many boxers prefer jumping rope to develop speed and agility of the feet. However, according to Ian, more modern methods are far more beneficial. He takes agility and speed exercises from other sports and adapts them to Lenny's training needs. Such exercises are started about three weeks before the fight, when the boxer has developed strength in the legs. This intensive speed exercise is followed by a longer break.

He mainly works with a very short coordination ladder with only four rungs, with which a quick change of direction should be practiced. "It's amazing how much Lenny has improved here. When he was still exercising the traditional way (that is, 'orthodox' with the left leg in front), he was perfect for whatever was going on on the left side. But if he had to switch to the other side, he wasn't so sure. " Now, however, Lenny is able to attack the enemy on both sides with equal speed. He owes most of this to his trainer's modern agility and speed training.

Boxing: What the body has to do

Compared to other sports, there are so far only few scientific studies available for boxing (which is in part probably related to the fact that boxing is very controversial, as well as the alleged "dangers" of this sport). But there are some studies that have looked at boxing energy needs.

In boxing and boxing training, energy must be provided from the aerobic and anaerobic energy system. The demands on these energy systems vary depending on the length of the training session. This is just like running of different lengths in athletics. A heavyweight who competes head-to-head with his opponent over 15 laps must be able to utilize his energy systems differently than an amateur who fights four laps over two minutes. Amateur boxing has gone from three rounds of three minutes to four rounds of two minutes, and research shows that this has made the sport even more anaerobic. (1)

Boxes and the lactate level

Indian scientists found that the maximum lactate level is 14-15mmol / liter and the average value for four rounds of two minutes is 13.6mmol / liter. In contrast, the lactate level for three rounds of three minutes each is 8.3 mmol / liter. The average heart rate also increased, reaching 192 beats per minute (bpm) and 176 bpm, respectively.

The higher heart rate indicates that a greater percentage of VO2max was required, the anaerobic energy system was more involved, and the intensity of the fight was increased (although it is not sustained as long on the shorter rounds).

Table 1 contains the VO2max data of amateur boxers of different nationalities for the (former) three-by-three-minute format:

Nationality of the boxerVO2max in ml / kg / min.
India (Elite Juniors)54,6
India (elite seniors)61,7


taken from

Boxing training: boxing compared to other sports

Table 2 shows the lactate level (and thus the intensity) in boxing in comparison with other sports:

WrestlingExamples of studies on the lactate level after the competition (US college wrestlers): 19.0 mmol / l and (at the wrestling world championships) 14.8 mmol / l, the VO2max here was 52.63 ml / kg / min. ( 2.3)
Rowing (a sport where lactate levels are always high)Examples from scientific studies: 13.4 mmol / l - rowers of a college team doing a six-minute maximum strength test on the ergometer. (4) When rowing, there is a sudden increase in lactate on the home straight over the last 500 meters. In Olympic rowing, the athlete's energy requirement consists of around 60-70% aerobic and around 30-40% anaerobic energy. In boxing matches with two-minute rounds, the short-term anaerobic system is primarily addressed and the aerobic component is reduced. The anaerobic energy requirement in a boxing match over four rounds of two minutes is even greater (it is more like 60-70% anaerobic and 30-40% aerobic energy).
Tennis (with alternating exercise / rest phases as in boxing)In 20 Austrian ranking players, an average lactate accumulation of 2.1 mmol / l was recorded while playing tennis. (5) Rallies in tennis are very short, they usually last only seconds. Rest breaks are also relatively frequent (although a tennis game can last for many hours). Due to the lower overall intensity, there is also a lower lactate level.
SoccerDanish 4th division players: 1st half of the game 6.0 mmol / l, 2nd half of the game 5.0 mmol / l. (6)


The blood lactate level is a reliable indicator of the anaerobic energy supply during sport or activity. All other things being equal (fitness of the participants, etc.), the lactate level rises with increasing exercise intensity. As the research results show, boxing is the sport in which the short-term anaerobic energy system is most clearly used.

Gain a performance advantage through boxing

Many of you may have done boxing exercise as part of sports / fitness training or are thinking about doing it. But to what extent are such exercises physiologically effective at all? And also offer them to other athletes, e.g. B. Soccer player, sport-specific advantages? Boxing circles usually last 45–60 minutes and include jumping rope, full-body circle exercises (such as push-ups and crunches) and occasionally (for more advanced boxers) sandbag or claw exercises and shadow boxing. The recovery periods are very short and the training can be very tough.

Scientists compared boxing workouts with treadmill training in order to determine the respective energy expenditure. (7) Eight male adults who had boxing experience from boxing class took part in this study. The study conditions were as follows:

  • One hour boxing workout in the laboratory
  • An hour of boxing in a weight room
  • A step test on the treadmill

Boxing training: Boxing workouts have a high calorie consumption

In the lab and weight room, the men burned 671 and 599 calories, respectively. It is interesting that these calorie consumption values ​​were comparable to the energy consumption of the one-hour treadmill test (a lot of calories are burned when running and the runners cover a distance of nine kilometers in this time).

All test protocols showed high energy consumption. However, this result shows us even more clearly how great the calorie consumption can be during boxing workouts. In addition, the anaerobic activity of such boxing workouts is greater and the whole body is more demanding than with treadmill training.

Why boxing training also helps soccer and rugby players

This result confirms the effect of such workouts on the development of general fitness, strength and local strength endurance under conditions of fatigue in the anaerobic area. Ian is convinced that boxing training also brings significant benefits to other athletes. He works with rugby and soccer players and incorporates boxing exercises into their fitness training. He explains: "Boxing training is just the thing for those who want to build fast muscle fibers. So I believe it is suitable for many sports. Rugby players are likely to get used to it faster than soccer players because they are used to acting with their hands.“

Ian mentioned a parallel from rugby. The transfer (the hand-off) is similar to a punching movement, and it is precisely here that boxing training can become a real performance advantage for the players. Soccer players, on the other hand, only use their upper body - apart from headballs - to keep their balance. Therefore, they do not have strong upper body muscles.

In his opinion, players on a team of eleven athletes have more stamina when doing boxing workouts than players on a team of 15 athletes. He attributes this in part to the lower muscle mass and the greater amount of running involved in the sport in question. Table 3 shows an example of a fitness circuit training that Ian recommends for soccer and rugby players.

Boxing training: Example of an efficient, boxing workout-based fitness circuit

Table 3:

1.Bench press10 x
2.Fast chest press with the Theraband15 x
3.Squat, jump, and medicine ball throw15 x
4.Cycling exercise with sit-ups25 x
5.Pull-ups10 x
6.Row upright with the Theraband20 x
7.Side body board with rotation10 x / page
8.Combined lateral raises and shoulder raises10 x
9.Support stretches15 x
10.Combined diamond push-ups and biceps curls10 x each


The circle is completed without any breaks between the individual exercises. There is a one-minute break before the next round. How many circles an athlete does depends on the fitness of the individual and the point in time within the training year.

Boxing Training: Conclusion

Boxing is a very demanding sport and training needs to be tailored accordingly. When conditioning boxers, it must be taken into account that the length and number of laps in amateur boxing and the number of scheduled laps in professional sport have been changed. In boxing, the anaerobic area is used to a large extent. This must be the focus of fitness training.

Boxing training can be performance-enhancing for other athletes, especially those from anaerobic sports with stop-start dynamics.But it is also suitable for fitness enthusiasts, as it results in high energy consumption and improves the strength and muscle tone of the entire body. Ian Burbedge has developed the “Padbox”, a boxing workout that is carried out with “pads”, without contact and with a partner. He also gives courses for personal trainers and people who want to be trained as trainers.

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  2. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2006, Vol. 5, pp. 74-89
  3. Journal of Sport Science, 2002, Vol. 20, pp. 939-945
  4. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2001, Vol. 41 (1), pp. 73-77
  5. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2006, Vol. 38 (6), pp. 1165-1174
  6. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2003, Vol. 89 (5), pp. 489-495
  7. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 1997, Vol. 29 (12), pp. 1653-1656


Fartlek (driving game) - Training method in which running phases with high and low intensity alternate. However, the athlete himself decides on the running speed and the rest breaks during the run.

Lactate - a natural by-product of metabolism that accumulates during intense endurance exercise - especially when energy is obtained from carbohydrates due to a lack of oxygen.

VO2max - a measure of the body's maximum oxygen uptake.

Short-term anaerobic system - Of both anaerobic systems, this is the shorter-acting system that is most stressed in boxing. It can only provide energy for 90 seconds and then is depleted.

Fast muscle fibers - Muscle fibers that are primarily responsible for the development of muscular speed and strength.