Most people who train for boxing don’t break down their training programs. The workout looks the same all year round. They show up in the gym to train every day. And then just practice all day. And if they don’t go to the train it’s because they have a fight that day.
There is no plan. No structure. The same routine.
Boxing, just like any other combat sport, has to be trained with a specific goal in mind. If your flight is coming up in the next 6-8 weeks, you need to practice skills. This is not the time to get stronger or faster. You need to be ready for a fight.
However, if you are training off-season, and your fight is due in 6-8 months, now you have plenty of room to develop, and work on what is missing.
Kettlebell swings can be done in both peaks and off-season time. It’s a swiss army knife that can be used 52-week in a year. This is one of the best tools to become a better boxer.
How to use kettlebell swings for boxing during the off-season?
This is a long-term developmental plan. If you’re a boxer and you just train based on your intuition, you probably won’t last for too long.
Off-season work helps you stay on top of the game for years to come without burning out.
Every athlete’s job is to be next year than a year before. Doesn’t matter if you are a cyclist, basketball player, football player, MMA fighter, or boxer.
If you are serious about your results, then your focus should be on planning ahead your training, and being aware of your imperfections.
The off-season is all about transformation
If you want to be stronger, faster, or even better coordinated, then this is the time to practice that.
You build your weaknesses during the off-season.
Off-season you have plenty of time to transform your existing body and be prepared for the upcoming peak time.
There is no point in doing shadowboxing or working on technique here.
There is no point in going for a long endurance run to get tired.
There is this misconception that you need to feel exhausted to validate the effectiveness of the workout. And if you don’t feel crushed, then you feel like you’re wasting your time.
Nothing can be further from the truth. Performance training has nothing to do with exhaustion.
You have a golden opportunity to work on your strength and power. And this takes time.
This means you wanna do heavy load strength, and go fast with longer rest.
Kettlebell swings can help you with all of the above. They work on explosive strength and help you develop those fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Anything that gets you tired and gets your muscles to burn moves you toward the slow-twitch fibers.
Leave that for the peak season. For the off-season go heavy and take long rest. Go fast and take a long rest.
Related article: Are Kettlebell Swings Better Than Cleans?
Training for Strength
If you want to have better strength you must train in squats and kettlebell swings.
Squats help you develop vertical strength
This means you can jump higher. That’s because squats strengthen your glutes in deep ranges of hip flexion. This means when you do a heavy squat, you tap into those corners of the glutes where no other exercise can get.
Full range of motion.
That’s how you develop vertical jump and vertical strength. This of course transfers into speed and power.
Kettlebell swings help you develop horizontal strength
Kettlebell swings help you with developing horizontal pushing strength. It activates muscle in the very end range, compared to squatting.
This means you can’t jump higher, but you can move forward faster. You can also sprint and jump further.
That’s because kettlebell swings strengthen more end range of hip extension.
Boxers may feel like adding muscle will highjack their performance because of the additional weight they put on. But here’s the thing.
You can get stronger without adding the muscle size
You must work on explosive strength and heavy load.
For explosive strength, you want to lift light to medium weights, fast. That’s where kettlebell swings come in handy. You don’t need to use the heaviest weight, but you have too powerful thurst from your hips with each rep.
This will develop explosive strength.
For heavy loads, you want to stay in a low rep range. This will allow you to work on your strength without adding extra size. This way you can get stronger and keep your current weight on.
Kettlebell swings can hit the strength, but you need to go heavy. With the medium weight, you just won’t get that effect to be able to do 1-5 RM.
So go heavy, or choose squats.
With the squats, you can work on your 1-5 RM without a problem. That’s when you fire up those fast-twitch muscle fibers. Make sure you have long enough rest.
Remember that this is not about beating up your body. Is to make it better.
Related article: Can I Do Fasted Kettlebell Swings?
How to use kettlebell swings for boxing during peak season?
Imagine this. The client comes to me 8-week before his fight. He wants to get stronger and faster. He also wants to learn all the skills, combinations, and footwork. And if possible he could lose 35-pounds.
Do you see the problem?
Realistic expectations and time.
You cannot expect to work on all of those components in just 8 weeks. That’s why when you program your training, you must leave all the endurance and conditioning at the very end.
You basically have to prioritize and actively decide what not to do.
During your off-season, you can be in the worst shape.
But as you get closer to your peak time, you need to abandon everything else and focus on conditioning to be fit and ready to endure the fight.
That’s when you add endurance.
You don’t want to gas out during the fight. The last thing you want is to lose a match because you got tired.
Peak-season is all about endurance and skill work
Here you are using a combination of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. But the closer you move more towards the peak time, the more slow-twitch you utilize.
Now is the time to practice boxing. This is when you want to be in a caloric deficit. You want your drills, skills, footwork, and conditioning.
Training for conditioning
Conditioning is about becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is when we use what we’ve been building during the off-season.
How long and how fast can you go?
After each workout, to add more conditioning you can use kettlebells to destroy yourself. Simple swings routine coupled with other exercises can get you out of breath in no time.
Conditioning is about being able to move and lift heavy objects under metabolic demand. This means when you feel tired.
You may do well with 20 kettlebell swings cold turkey. But what if you would add some 400m run before that? Or combine with burpees or with a rowing machine?
That’s a different conversation. This is conditioning at its best. In this article, I’ve written down 5 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Conditioning so feel check it out.
Also here you can learn more about 7 Ways To Use Kettlebell Swings For Cardio if your goal is more long distance.
Training for Recovery
You can use kettlebell swings during your active recovery and mobility work.
Glutes fire up much better after they get “active”. That’s why you may see people do plenty of glute bridges prior to their workout. Some bodybuilders swear by it. It just helps to engage muscle better.
So instead of doing bridges use kettlebell swings. It will prepare your glutes better and faster.
Training for Skills
Skills training for boxing doesn’t get much attention. Simply because not many fighters can afford to work with expert coaches and they simply just follow the “bro science”.
Back in 2008, I signed up for my first boxing class. At this time many gyms offered boxing sessions. However, my buddy Mike, who was into martial arts referred me to his previous coach, Johnny.
“You will learn boxing the right way,” he said.
I didn’t know what he meant. All I cared for was being able to fight.
On my first day, I found out that everyone has to wear “the gear”. Which were basically straps to cover the knuckles. And mouth guard to protect the teeth.
Which I didn’t have. So I went to see my coach. And told him that this is my first time so I didn’t know about the gear.
“Don’t worry mate, you won’t need the gear. First 8 weeks you gonna spend in the corner”.
My face went numb.
I had to digest that for a moment.
“Right here! In this corner, Buddy! You will learn the stance and practice how to walk properly” he added.
(BTW: Stance means the position of the boxer, with one foot in front, both knees slightly bent, shoulders shrugged, and hands-on guard).
I nodded. But inside I was devastated. All my excitement just went out of the window.
I couldn’t understand why I need to spend 8 weeks in the corner. I was dying of embarrassment.
My head went straight down. I couldn’t look others in the eye.
All the guys partner up for sparring. And I was going to the corner. I felt like an idiot. All my enthusiasm just disappeared. Because I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal with this stance. And why it takes so long.
I felt this resistance from being there. To the point that I wasn’t feeling motivated anymore.
“Forget it”, I thought to myself. I just wanted to go home. And never come back. But a couple of weeks later something happened.
I’ve noticed that my footwork is getting better. And I was more aware of my shoulder power with jabbing. My core was getting more flexible. And I could rotate my hips more easily. Which enabled me to generate stronger hooks.
So once I noticed those changes, I started to pay more attention to my position. And to my breathing. And to my guard.
And even when I saw a boxing match on TV I was able to understand the patterns that these guys were doing.
I was hooked!
I finally could see the point in spending my first few weeks in the corner. And soon enough when the 8 weeks passed by.
Once I was able to bring my knuckle straps. And my mouth guard.
I knew exactly what I was doing.
To the point that I could really control my body. And be fully focused on the next steps. Because without practicing the stance first I simply wasn’t ready for more.
And that was a huge lesson for me. Because I realized how big of an ego I had. And how arrogant I was.
Thinking that I can skip the first steps. Just because they sound too easy. Or because they sound like a waste of time.
The reality is… If you don’t spend time in “the corner” first… And you don’t get to feel this first step practice… And the impact that it’s got on you.
Then it doesn’t matter what plan you follow.
Keep that in mind.