When you think of a boxing workout, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it's a calorie-smashing, heart-racing, 3-minute, grueling, sweat-filled session. Oh, did we mention that that’s only the first round? The quintessential image of a boxer is Sylvester Stallone Rocky, and when we think of a boxing match, maybe we think of him fighting Apollo Creed, or perhaps the slugfest fight against Ivan Drago. All three of these fighters, and the actors that played them, prove the achievable results you can get from consistent boxing training.
But a boxing workout is more than just burning out your shoulders on a daily basis. In fact, boxing workouts offer some of the best total body workouts that you can get in a single session. The best part is, depending on your workout, they can help you build stronger muscles, too.
So, what muscles does boxing work? As many of our trainers like to point out during their workouts, let’s start from the ground up.
Everything starts with footwork, and boxing is no different. The ability to push off in all directions and to be able to remain light on the feet is crucial to a boxer’s success in and out of the ring. The feet also play a crucial role in balance and coordination, and the big toe is vitally important for boxers. This is also why proper footwear is important in boxing. Proper shoes allow the use of all of the small muscles in the feet to enable boxers to do what they do best: move freely about the ring, slipping in and out of an opponent’s range.
The calves are the next muscles used in boxing that help a boxer evade, move, and draw power for a punch. They are equally responsible for the explosiveness of a boxer, as they start the kinetic chain of events for almost all movement inside the ring and during training.
Quads and Hamstrings
Two of the largest and strongest muscles used in boxing in the lower body, the quadriceps and the hamstrings are the main drivers of power used for punching. The punching motion starts with a push-off from the ball of the foot and is maximized through the quadriceps and hamstrings. Having strong and properly conditioned legs is crucial for a boxer’s success, as the legs are also responsible for almost all of a boxer’s movement.
Hips and Glutes
As we continue up the kinetic chain, the hip flexors and glutes are responsible for the transition of the kinetic energy used in a punch, and turning it into rotational power. These muscles also help a boxer move freely in and around the ring, as well as during boxing training. Boxing workouts and drills keep the glutes strong and the hips mobile, which are both key factors in the athleticism of a boxer.
While there are several muscles that make up the core, the main core muscles used in boxing are the abs, lower back, and obliques. The core muscles used to punch, just like the hips and glutes, help a boxer rotate when executing punches. This rotational power is initiated in the lower body, and the core represents the transition from the lower body to the upper body. By maintaining a strong and stable core, a boxer is able to maximize the torque used during a punching sequence.
For our purposes, we will define the torso as the mid/upper back and the chest. Two of the biggest muscle groups in the upper body and torso are the lats (latissimus dorsi) and pecs (pectoralis major). The lats are used for rotational movement, as well as contribute to lateral flexion, which is crucial in slipping punches. The pecs start to act as the driving force of power for the punch. The pecs are some of the strongest muscles used to punch in the upper body and are involved in all pressing/punching motions.
Anyone who has worn 16 oz. boxing gloves for an entire boxing session knows all too well that the shoulders are heavily involved in boxing. Just holding them up in the guard for a full three (3) minute round will build your muscular endurance and have you feeling the burn. The shoulders are also involved in pushing/punching motions and help in the full execution of punching sequences.
Arms and Hands
Here, we will define the arms as the biceps and triceps. The arms act as levers in the punching sequence. As we said, the power of a punch starts in the legs, transitions into the rotation of the midsection, and the muscles used to punch in the arms and the hands end up delivering the hit. At this point, all of the energy is exerted on the target, and you get one powerful punch. And that's just for a punch like a jab or a cross. Throwing hooks and uppercuts have you blasting those biceps, too!
Total Body Package
So, what muscles does boxing work after all? A boxing workout is way more than just a great shoulder-burning exercise. A simple punch sequence requires almost all of the major muscles in the body. Once you add in more advanced boxing techniques, such as slipping, evading, and footwork, plus moving around the ring, you’ll see why boxing truly is a total body workout.
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