It is very common to look at the sport of boxing and assume it’s all about strengthening your arms. However, we are here to shake things up a bit and tell you otherwise. Believe it or not, boxing is actually more of an ab workout than an upper body one. If you are one of the many who is confused about this misconception, or simply want to learn more about one of the oldest combat sports in the world, then keep reading - we’ve got you covered!
Boxing is one of the oldest combat sports in the world, dating all the way back to Greece during the Ancient Olympic Games. However, the sport we all know and love today has changed quite a bit since then, and for good reason! Back then, fighters were called gladiators, and they wrapped their hands with tough leather enhanced with iron brackets and special copper, turning their fists into deadly weapons. The fights were brutal and typically didn't end until one of the opponents were killed!
As religion began to spread, the sport disappeared, only to make a comeback several centuries later. In England 1681, scheduled boxing matches took off, with champions coming in from all over the world to battle it out for a chance at fame and glory. Since then, rules and regulations have been put in place to make boxing the highly anticipated and popular sport it is today. In fact, boxing became so popular that people began to take notice of the incredible shape each boxer was in, which eventually led to the start of boxing for exercise.
When you look at a boxer in the ring, it's tough not to notice their perfectly sculpted abs and chiseled arms. Boxing is a sport that comes as the ultimate challenge because it requires fighters to use not only their mind, but their entire body in order to be successful. For many, boxing is thought of as a sport all about upper body strength, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, the core muscles are the true unsung hero of a boxer’s physical development. Abdominal muscles and the corresponding core muscle groups that reach into the chest and back serve as the link in the chain that transfers power and strength from the legs to the arms and then into the fists. A stronger core is the central platform that provides stability to defensive movements, and is the engine that powers a boxer through round after round of constant motion. With that in mind, it’s a no-brainer why every aspect of the match and the success of the fighter relies on core strength.
Here are three benefits of having a strong core for boxing:
The power to punch begins in the legs and feet, but in order to transfer this power, a fighter must have a strong core. In fact, a boxer’s core is a key link in what’s known as the kinetic chain. Every part of your body links with one another to pass energy, but the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A strong, solid set of core muscles is needed in order to pass as much energy as possible from the lower body through the lower abdominals up through the chest, shoulders, arms, and out through the jab.
Stability and Control
When watching a boxing match, you'll notice the fighters dodging punches, but have you ever noticed that they can do this by simply shifting their torso? An experienced boxer can lean back, duck down, or even roll to the side to avoid an incoming attack. Defensive moves like this come from having a strong, flexible core. Your core muscles - the abs, the hips, and the lower back - support and stabilize your entire upper body. When these muscles are strong, you effectively move your center of gravity lower, allowing you to shift your body in any direction to adequately adjust to the actions of the opposing fighter.
If your core muscles are not strong, you will find yourself off-balance in situations where you need to change position in a speedy manner. It won’t matter how quick your feet are if your upper body can’t stay balanced in response to your footwork. While boxing workouts themselves provide a great means of core strengthening, adding in sit-ups while holding a medicine ball are a great addition to maximizing the full body workout that boxing provides.
Just about every move you make activates your core. If you reach up to grab an item from the shelf? You use your core. Sit down on the couch and stand back up again? You use your core. Jump around the boxing ring dodging attacks and throwing punches? You guessed it, you’re using your core! With that in mind, it goes without saying that if your core and midsection aren't strong, then all that movement in the ring is without a doubt going to wear you out quickly. You will be expending energy to keep your core engaged because it’s not used to that kind of activity. You will find yourself out of energy no matter how many miles you’ve run and how much cardio you've put effort into. However, if you focus on stamina and building strength in your core muscles, you will be sure to find that these movements can feel quite effortless. You will be able to go harder for much longer, and flow without having to expend much energy at all. To get an idea of your current core stamina, put yourself into the plank position and see how long you can last--if that's too easy, don't forget that the side plank exists, too!
<h3> How to Build a Strong Core for Boxing </h3>
Building a strong core is about both stamina and explosive power. Lower-intensity core exercises like planks and V-sits will build that base strength. Core muscle endurance makes your movements effortless, and can allow you to keep dodging and dipping for the entire match. High-intensity exercises like bicycle crunches can also help to build the ability to execute explosive rotation of your upper body, which is crucial when punching. Think about it--a punch out of your right arm initially gains its power from the lunge of your left leg. This is how you maximize the transfer of energy in the kinetic chain.
Here are some of the best exercises to build a strong boxer’s core, starting with low-intensity training to help build your base:
Arguably one of the best core exercises you can do, the plank pose is an exceptional way for building stamina in the slow-twitch fibers of your abs.
To do this exercise, you put yourself into the top of a push-up position and hold for 15 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level. Keep your legs and back in a straight line, and avoid sagging your hips or doing an actual push up into a bend. Engage your core and breathe evenly.
This exercise is a little bit more dynamic than the plank pose but still involves holding a single position for a short period of time.
To do this exercise, you begin by sitting on the floor. Lift both of your legs up to 45 degrees, reaching forward with your hands to stabilize your position. While balancing on your pelvis, hold the position for 15 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level.
Everybody knows about good old fashion crunches to strengthen the core. In fact, they are probably something that you’ve done a million times so far if you have already started on your boxing journey, because crunches are both super simple and extremely effective.
To do this exercise, lay on the ground with your knees bent. With your arms folded across your chest, squeeze your abs together to pull your shoulders and upper back off the ground, and drive your chest toward your knees. Then lay your upper body back down in the starting position.
Now that you've built a good base, you can move into high-intensity core workouts to build explosive rotation:
Russian twists are great for building core strength, but can sometimes be a bit challenging. It might be helpful if you brace your feet under something stable or have a buddy hold them down.
To do this exercise, raise your upper body off the floor, forming a V-shape. Extend your arms out in front of you, followed by a twist to your right side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Hold for a second and then twist to the left side. Hold for a second and return to center.
Similar to the Russian twists, bicycle crunches work a similar set of core muscles, but involves a much more dynamic movement. This exercise is going to engage the muscles in a different way than the controlled movements of the previous exercise.
To do this exercise, start by laying on your back with both legs extended and raised just slightly off the ground. Put both of your hands to the side of your head, almost like you're about to cover your ears (without actually covering them), keeping your elbows straight out. Bring your left knee in and rotate your upper body to bring your right elbow up to touch it. Then alternate, bringing your right knee in and bringing up your left elbow to touch it. Repeat for as long as you can!
So, can boxing strengthen the core? Is boxing a good core workout? Yes, absolutely! Boxing is an incredible way to exercise that strengthens the entire body, but most importantly, the core muscles. Boxers use exercises like the plank pose and bicycle crunches to build up their core, which is needed when fighting in the ring. If you have been looking for ways to strengthen your core and get the strong defined abs that you have always dreamed of, then look no further because boxing is your answer!