Life of a Boxer: How a Boxer Trains To Fight
Have you ever wondered how a competitive boxer trains to get and stay in fighting shape? As an Amateur boxer, I am writing this article for FightCamp to answer some questions I wish had been answered for me when I was first starting out:
- How do boxers train for a fight?
- Do boxers run everyday?
- What do boxers eat?
- And the biggest one: How do boxers stay motivated?
How Do Boxers Train For a Fight?
When I am in a fight camp (a bootcamp of intense focused training in the buildup to a match), my routine is divided into three sections: (1) Fundamental Training, (2) Match Training, and (3) Cool Down/Recovery.
Here's an example of great every day training exercises:
- Jump Rope - Great for footwork speed and rhythm
- Box Drill - 1 step forward, 1 step right, 1 step back, 1 step left
- While in stance, it trains the body to keep proper form while moving.
- Shadowboxing - Great for learning to put punches together, conditioning, focusing your mind, and building muscle memory. If you can only do one exercise, shadowbox.
- Heavy Bag - The important thing here is to treat the bag like an opponent. Move around, dodge punches, and never stay idle for long.
- Strength and Conditioning - This consists of push-ups, planks, crunches, squats, and other bodyweight exercises.
- Roadwork - Running and cardio are an important part of being a boxer, and while you don’t have to run every day it is good to keep a steady running schedule. I alternate between long distance (3-5 miles) and interval runs. However, nobody starts off running 3 miles. Work at your pace and you’ll work your way up naturally.
This is where my coach and I work together to form a plan of attack on fight night, where my coach addresses any issues I’m having, when I start to build the muscle memory I’ll need for the fight, and when I take time to understand my opponent. A breakdown of good Match Training should include:
- Coaching - A coach is essential for a competitive boxer. When a coach supervises drills, he can see and correct small mistakes that the fighter might not notice. Attention to detail and understanding how to improve fighters are hallmarks of great coaches.
- Mitt Work - Boxing is, at its heart, a sport of questions and answers. Your opponent throwing a long jab is a question, how you respond is an answer. Working on mitts with a coach helps you form answers to questions you expect to be asked, and is a vital step in any boxer’s training.
- Film Study - Generally, a boxer will watch any available footage of their opponent fighting in order to understand how they operate in the ring. However, if the opponent doesn’t have any footage, watching recordings of themselves fighting or training can be helpful to find holes in their game to work on.
Cool Down and Recovery
This section is all about resting and recovering from your intense boxing training. Overtraining is a very real and dangerous thing, so it's important to know how to cool down safely.
- Cool Down - Cooling down effectively is important in order to be ready to train at 100% tomorrow (especially on heavy conditioning days with long roadwork). This includes stretches, light jogs, and low-intensity shadowboxing.
- Recovery Days - It is important to take a day off the gym. Hard training seven days a week can lead to overtraining, burnout, and even injury. I usually train 6 days a week, and spend Sundays connecting with my friends and family and having fun, maybe mixing in some light yoga if I’m feeling especially stiff or sore from the training I’ve done that week. These recovery days are vital to keeping a fighter healthy and motivated during the build up to a fight and in their general training.
What Do Boxers Eat?
A Boxer's Diet includes a combination of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Carbs help fuel the high-energy needs of a boxer, while lean proteins repair and rebuild torn muscle. Healthy fats aid in recovery and help to keep your organs hearty and healthy.
As boxers, we also eat a lot of food--sometimes around 4,000 calories a day while in a training camp. I was raised in a foodie family, so I like to have variety in my diet even when I’m training. It’s also important to seek out the advice of a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure that you are adequately fueling your body, especially during your fight camp.
Here are a few quick, delicious meals I eat during training camps that are packed with nutrients and give me everything I need to fight at one hundred percent:
Dirty Rice with Beef
This meal is a great staple and is easy to make a lot of servings of so you have something healthy to eat when you don’t feel like cooking. I use extra lean ground beef, long grain brown rice, and some mixed vegetables (fresh are best but frozen are fine). I do a nice skillet fry in a healthy oil, usually olive oil, and add seasoning to taste. The end result is a hearty, healthy meal with plenty of carbs for energy, protein for muscle care, and veggies for a vitamin boost and some flavor variety.
Veggie Stir Fry
This meal is super simple and has very little clean up. Take some bell peppers, banana peppers, broccoli, carrots (stick cut works best), some fresh garlic, and herbs and spices to taste, and throw them in a deep skillet for a stir fry. Finish with some fresh lemon juice to give it a little bit of extra citrus, and you have a great light meal for when you don’t want to pack on the carbs, but still want a filling, flavorful meal. This meal is perfect for days off from the gym.
Good ol’ Sandwiches
Classic sandwiches are my go-to rush meal if I’m late to the gym. Take some nice thick slices of whole grain bread, put a little olive oil and Italian seasoning on them, slap on some lean sliced deli meat and a little mustard, and head out the door with a good pre-workout snack. You can add cheese if you feel like cheating just a little, I won’t tell.
How Do Boxers Stay Motivated?
Motivation is something that everyone struggles with--whether they’re a world champion boxer or just someone who wants to stay in good shape. The honest answer to how I stay motivated is simple: My friends, family, and coach who are willing to drag me to the gym kicking and screaming if they have to.
All drama aside, the best way to stay motivated is to have a good support system, like the one at FightCamp, to help you find a reason to train on the days when you’d rather stay on the couch. Whether it's awesome workout music that pumps you up, great training partners, that post-workout high, or a drive to compete, it's important to remember that your reasons to answer the bell outnumber and outmatch your reasons to throw in the towel.
How To Get Lean Like a Fighter: Shanie Smash’s Tips
Why You Should Start Shadowboxing
Boxing Footwork Drills For Beginners
How To Build a Workout In 6 Easy Steps (Boxer's Guide)
How To Train On a Heavy Bag: Boxing Tips
The Author: Iain Mackenzie grew up in the middle of downtown Houston and has always been a competitor. He first turned to karate as a young child, where he got his first taste of live sparring and the thrill and discipline of combat sports. From there he went on to saber fencing, where he competed in tournaments all throughout middle school. However, it was not until he had nearly graduated high school that he found the sport that truly spoke to him: Boxing. Training all throughout college and into his professional career, Iain has trained in multiple gyms across Texas and competed in amateur tournaments with storied histories like Golden Gloves and the Houston Open. His goal is to bring people the sense of belonging and self-actualization boxing has always given to him by explaining the tools he uses as a competing boxer to stay in shape, stay sharp, and stay motivated. As a licensed amateur boxer, Iain has the know how and drive necessary to do just that.