Training Guides

Guides for our readers on specific elements of training for boxing or MMA.
  • The Science Behind your Coach's Training Regime

    NOTE: This article was edited on 2/18/19 to include more information about Velocity Based Training (VBT) and common devices used to measure movement speed for use with VBT.

    If you’ve been following this blog for a while then you know that boxing training constitutes more than just physical strength. We’ve discussed speed, movement, endurance, and mental preparation.

    Now, we’re going to take a look at the science that supports the training that goes into boxing. If you understand the physical principles involved, then you will be able to better identify ways to maximize strength, speed, and your overall boxing prowess every time you put on your headgear and step into the ring.

    Hitting the heavy bag to improve strength and mobility

    Figuring Out an Ideal Training Regimen

    Punching requires rapid force development and can be fostered through explosive strength training. Sounds simple, but boxing tradition holds that adding muscle to boxers will slow them down while many strength and conditioning coaches argue the opposite. Turns out, both can be correct, depending on the training method.

    Since forceful punches rely on momentum, getting bigger, stronger, and faster is the best way to punch harder. Yet boxers are limited in their ability to increase mass because of weight classes, so developing momentum without adding excessive muscle becomes priority number-one.

    That’s where strength-speed exercises that train to develop a neuromuscular system with the capability to generate force rapidly come into play.

    Understanding the Force-Velocity Curve

    A well-designed training program based on the force-velocity continuum will help whip your body into ideal boxing shape. There is an inverse relationship between force and velocity, meaning the heavier the weight you lift (force), the slower you lift it (velocity) and vice versa

    Using a range of exercises throughout this spectrum can help you develop strength and speed together. For example, the top of the spectrum might include squats and deadlifts which are high force and low velocity. The middle of the curve is more explosive strength and involves using a dynamic effort method (slightly lighter load with a higher speed), which could be box jumps or deadlifts with lighter weight.

    As you get to the bottom of the curve, exercises could include bench press throw, jump squats, plyometrics and finally general speedwork. To reap the maximum benefits of your training program, identify your weak spots on the force-velocity curve and focus on improving those areas.

    Strength-Speed

    Also known as explosive strength, strength-speed is a type of strength training where athletes need to produce large quantities of force in a short timeframe. By optimizing rate of force development, strength-speed exercises reduce the likelihood of muscular hypertrophy, increasing speed while making mass gains slower. Furthermore, muscle and connective tissue resilience is improved, and type II muscle fibers and high-threshold motor units are activated.

    Squatting with heavy bar across shoulders.

    Targeting Strength-Speed

    Olympic lifts are perfect for developing explosive strength whether you're wearing MMA gear or boxing gear. They activate several muscles and joints and promote rapid kinetic chain sequencing, meaning a forceful punch can be generated from the lower body and hips on through the core and into the upper body.

    Olympic lifts are another name for the snatch and the clean and jerk progression lifts. These lifts are difficult to do and should be performed under the tutelage of an experienced coach.

    The Snatch: The snatch is where the weightlifter lifts the barbell from the floor to overhead in one fluid motion.

    The Clean and Jerk: This lift involves moving the barbell from the floor to a “racked” position  resting on the shoulders (the clean) before extending to a fixed position above the head (the jerk).

    If you're not ready to do olympic lifts, there are a number of loaded jumps that  can be employed for similar effect. To perform a loaded jump, start with the barbell on your back and go into a deep squat. Explode upwards and jump as high as you can before landing softly into a deep squat.

    Using the resistance band to increase foot quickness

    Accommodating Resistance Training

    To produce a harder punch at a longer range, you can try to increase the amount of force-generating elements within a muscle tendon without adding too much weight. Using resistance bands can help accomplish this by encouraging you to apply more force at the top of the lift.

    Consider working elastic resistance bands into your squats, deadlifts, and upper-body pressing exercises. To do this, first be sure to get the right resistance bands. Our 41” resistance bands can be used by themselves or with Olympic bars and weights.

    To avoid injury, use a lighter barbell weight than you normally do. For a bench press resistance exercise, locate the small bar underneath your bench press and attach the resistance bands to each end of the barbell. As you extend upwards, you’ll notice added resistance to the barbells.

    Velocity-Based Training

    Velocity-based training (VBT) flips the script a bit on how athletes build their workout routine. Instead of focusing on the load (weight) associated with a particular exercise, the athlete instead focuses on the velocity of the movement. The Force-Velocity curve shown below provides specific velocity windows (as opposed to fractions of an individuals single rep max or 1RM) to achieve certain training goals. 

    In the case of a boxer trying to target a Stregnth-Speed range, the athlete would want to perform his or her movements with a velocity between 0.75 and 1.00 meters/sec. The athlete would choose a load that allows this velocity to be maintained thorughout the full exercise (3 or 4 sets). If the movement is too slow, reduce weight. If it is too fast, increase weight. Organizing training this way has the benefit of allowing the athlete to adjust on the fly to any fluctuations in capability.

    The down side to this type of training is that it requires some specialized equipment that usually costs at least $250 to $350. We don't have any specific recommendations on tools to help dial in your VBT training, but here are links to some of the more popular devices:

  • 8 Tips to Help you Succeed as an MMA Fighter

    The octagon - where MMA fighters dream of victory

    To say the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has skyrocketed since UFC’s first event in November of 1993 would be an understatement. The UFC was valued at about $4 billion in 2016. It now consistently draws more pay-per-view buys than boxing and a comparable number to the WWE.

    The popularity of the sport has inspired many people to start learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in hopes of one day stepping into the Octagon. But before you set your sights on becoming a great MMA fighter like Conor McGregor or Demetrious Johnson, let's consider what it takes to get there. Follow these eight tips to becoming a successful MMA fighter to give yourself a shot at the glory. Be warned though—you will need to put in a LOT of hard work.

    Background in Martial Arts

    Even though MMA requires a mixture of a lot of skill sets (hence the name), it’s pretty vital that you have considerable training in at least one area to act as a foundation. Preferably, you started training in martial arts as a teenager or have several years of experience in something like boxing or wrestling. Often, having one go-to strength is a more realistic goal than trying to be solid at everything.

    Do Your Homework

    Take a step back before you slide your hands into MMA-style gloves. Even if you’re well-versed in boxing, wrestling, or karate, becoming a capable MMA fighter will take time. You’ll have to train every day to bridge the gap in knowledge between where you are now and someone who has an official W-L record with the UFC. While developing or honing a central strength, you need to absorb as much information as you can to continue progressing.

    Versatility Is Essential

    Circling back to our first point, the more tools you have for success, the better. In MMA, there are so many strategies that can take away your game plan, so the ability to resort to plans B, C, D, and on down the line is key. For athletes who really love throwing on the shin guards and competing, the challenge of learning unique, new moves adds to the sport’s appeal.

    Two MMA fighters in a ground and pound situation

    Let Go of your Ego

    As in many areas of life, pride can be uplifting or debilitating. When you first start serious MMA training, chances are you’re gonna get your butt kicked more than a few times. Maybe even by someone a good bit smaller or younger than you. Don't get frustrated at the defeat.  Look at these experiences as an opportunity to learn. There may be no better teacher when you're getting started.

    Mindset Is Everything

    It takes a certain type of individual to enjoy a sport where the other person wants to physically dominate you. You must possess the determination to inflict your will on the opponent. But you must also have the adaptability to recover from defeat.

    Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Better

    While bulky muscle-bound fighters were once the norm in MMA, the paradigm has shifted toward gymnast-like bodies. A solid size-to-strength ratio allows fighters to have power, quickness, and stamina. In the world of MMA, if you don't have all three, you aren't going to last long. MMA fighters don't have the option to hang back on the ropes and conserve energy. MMA fighters need to be able to go at 100% for the whole fight. Increased muscle size might give you an advantage in striking, but at the cost of late round endurance. Since muscles take oxygen, the more you have, the more oxygen you’ll require and the quicker you’ll hit a wall. Keep this in mind as you are training.

    Physical Toughness Is Important

    That said, being physically strong and tough is a pretty big part of the sport. Whether you’re training multiple times a day or trying to stay locked in as a fight wages on, your ligaments, muscles, and skin need to be able to take a toll. While a certain amount of wear and tear is a fact for MMA fighters, recognize when you need a break. Over-training will accentuate existing injuries and create new ones.

    Get Ready to Overcome Adversity

    No matter what level you’re at, you’re going to lose—and you might lose big—and  painfully. Use losses as fuel to get better, and have the fortitude to put them behind you as the next fight approaches.

  • 9 Exercises that Will Improve Your Punching Power

    Hitting the heavy bag is a key element of boxing training.

    While so much of what makes a great boxer or MMA fighter is technique, speed, and mental toughness, it doesn’t hurt to have a powerful punch. No matter how the fight is going, it can turn decidedly in your favor if you can land one devastating punch.

    If you’re not blessed with innate punching power, though, don’t worry. Making these nine exercises part of your boxing training program can help you improve in a big way.

    Medicine Ball Throw

    The key to packing more of a punch is training the explosiveness of your arms and increasing the power generated from your punching muscle fibers. Both of these techniques can help achieve that:

    1. Lie flat on your back and throw a heavy medicine ball as high as you can, pushing forward from the chest. Catch the ball with both hands and repeat until fatigue sets in.
    2. While standing upright in your boxing stance, take a medium-weight medicine ball into the palm of one hand and push forward as hard as you can. You can either throw the ball against the wall or have a partner catch it and throw back to you. You should do this as if you’re throwing a punch.

    Plyometric Push-Ups

    Increasing power and speed will allow you to make contact that can stagger your opponent. Plyometric push-ups can aid power and speed by training arm, shoulder, and pectoral strength--all parts of the body that influence punching power. Read on for a brief description of how they are performed.

    1. In the standard push-up position, dip down as you normally would but, as you rise, explode up so that your hands lift off the ground.
    2. To get peak results, ensure your core and glutes remain tight throughout the act.
    3. A slight variation to the exercise involves clapping your hands in mid-air or against your chest after you push off the floor.

    Work the Heavy Bag

    The heavy bag is training staple for a reason, so throw on your bag gloves (boxing- or MMA-style, you will benefit in either sport) and get well-acquainted with the heavy bag.

    In ten-second intervals, try to hit as hard as you can using any combination of straights, hooks, and uppercuts. Then, for 10-15 seconds, conduct an active rest time of light jabs and footwork before ramping it up for another 10 seconds. Carry these out for three-minute rounds, resting for about a minute in between sets.

    Shadowboxing in the ring with yellow handwraps Shadowboxing will help you refine your technique, ensuring more of your power ends up at the tip of your glove.

    Shadowboxing

    Although it may not seem like it, shadowboxing is great for increasing punching power because it forces you to focus on technique and proper execution. The better your form is, the more efficiently you will deliver your punches. This means that more of the power you’ve developed in your muscles will wind up at the tip of your glove.

    With the supervision of a trainer or boxing buddy, shadowbox in front of a mirror while paying close attention to technique and the way you throw punches. The bonus here is the exercise should also train defense, head movement, and footwork to make you a better all-around fighter. This is one of the reasons that Shadowboxing is a fundamental part of any boxing training program.

    Squats with Medicine Ball

    Whether you’re your training for boxing or MMA, rest assured that a majority of your punching power comes from your legs. Performing squats with a medicine ball will help give you a stronger base to work from.

    Combine Squats and Lunges

    Since full squats can add weight and force you up a weight class and lunges recreate movement patterns often used in the ring, combining split squats and lunges is a good option for efficient athletes.

    Tub o’ Rice

    Hand injuries are very common in boxing and MMA, so you need to put an emphasis on strengthening your fists. Start by getting a large tub of rice and digging your hands through it, fingertips first. You can also try punching through water or into sandbags to help strengthen your fists.

    Rotate Your Torso

    An underrated component to delivering impactful punches, especially later in fights when you start to tire, is rotating shoulders and torso as you deliver a hit. Work on creating that kind of torque by holding a medicine ball at chest level with both hands, straightening your arms and rotating your torso continuously from left to right.

    Chin-Ups

    Chin-ups are perfect for training your opposing (antagonist) muscles, so you’re not solely focusing on strengthening pecs, anterior deltoids, triceps, and other primary muscle groups used in punching. Get the most out of it by performing them with additional resistance as you go along.

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