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I'm 23, boxing for about 3 years, and I am always looking for ways to get on the next level.

I want to strengthen my fast twitch muscle fibers (become faster) I know that you can improve that with speed strength training, but it's said that therefore you need a good maximum strength base.

How important is maximum strength for boxing and how do I begin to train it?

Best regards

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  • Great info from Rob and Philip, but it's VERY important to note that weight training - especially when it involves explosive/plyometric movement and poor technique - can result in severe acute and/or chronic injury. I suspect if you asked successful athletes, most would agree that patience and education are key to sustainable strength and power improvement. Also, improvements in striking technique alone can deliver stunning results. Slowly incorporate resistance training into your routine and never at the expense of skills training. Prioritise safety. Think long-term gains. And stretch. Feb 5 at 1:51

2 Answers 2

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Short answer

If your only goal is speed, you should not consider classical strength training, as it will not improve your speed. That is, it will, but only initially and marginally. Although both kinds of training do train fast-twitch fibres, it is fast movement against resistance that trains speed performance, and slower movement with higher weight/intensity that trains strength performance. They are two different kinds of strength trained differently. Since your goal is to reach maximum velocity with low resistance, this is what you should train like (Specific Adaption of Imposed Demands, or SAID principle). What classical strength training may do for you, though, is improving the circumference of your muscle and allow for it to hold more energy reserves, hence if your problem is fatigue over longer periods of time, go for it. Also, it will eventually allow you to use exercises and weights for speed training you previously just couldn't do fast enough.

Long answer

Two kinds of strength

Fast-twitch muscle fibres are made for explosive tension. This can, depending on resistance, take two forms. As this article explains (including corresponding research), this translates to two different kinds of strength trained differently (here, using benchpress as example):

There have been a large number of people lately who have been using the terms "strength-speed" and "speed-strength" interchangeably. Unfortunately, this is incorrect. At its base, strength-speed means strength in conditions of speed. Speed-strength, on the other hand, means speed in conditions of strength (Ajan, 1988; Roman, 1986). What this essentially means is that strength-speed means that you move a heavy(er) weight as fast as you can. Typically, this is around 60% of a 1RM, and the bar moves at a specific velocity of .8-1.0m/s. In turn, speed-strength essentially means that you are trying to move as fast as you can, but your are moving a light(er) weight. Typically, this is around 25-40% of a 1RM, and the bar moves at 1.1-1.5m/s. (bolded mine)

The point is that the fast-twitch muscle fibres do, in a sense, try to do the same in both cases: move as fast as possible against a given resistance. Strength is strength is strength, isn't it? Yes, to an extent. But depending on resistance, the fibres have to coordinate and work differently. That is why (maximum) strength training should be different from speed training.

How to train maximum speed, specifically

As the article quotes from a paper (Jidovtseff, Quièvre, Hanon, & Crielaard, 2009), if your goal is to raise your maximum speed, you should train with "25-54% of [your] 1RM as fast as possible, which [should lead] to velocities of about 1.4 m/s to about 1.0 m/s". RM stands for Repetition Maximum, ie. the maximum weight (or resistance, or, more generally, intensity) with which you are barely able to perform one clean repetition. It does not matter which exercise we are talking about. As the article points out, the same figures have been found for squats. Your main takeaway should be that higher weights and/or slower execution do not result in improvements of maximum (!) speed performance using the very same exercise (if you already have some training).

Why use strength training at all, then?

Strength training will, over time, let you move higher weights faster, even if it does not directly improve your maximum speed. Thus, what it will eventually do is that it allows you to use weights and exercises that used to be too hard for you to do with velocities of 1 m/s and above in effective maximum speed training. Much less efficient than going for maximum speed training with appropriate resistance and velocity right from the start though.

For example, if you have limited means to generate resistance in terms of material, say given weights of medicine balls, given dumbbell weights, your own body weight, etc., it might be necessary to do maximum strength training first to enable you to use what you got in effective speed training later. Like if you want to use body weight (push-ups) but can't execute the exercise fast enough yet. Using appropriate resistance and velocities is to be preferred where possible.

A punch is not a benchpress

Additionally, punch speed (especially for cross punches) is not only a matter of arm and shoulder strength, but is based on a kinetic chain which involves feet, legs, hips, core stability, and torso rotation. As this article suggests, you will need to do exercises which train the specifics of all of the movement, which mainly involves: punching. A lot. Supplemented with high-speed exercises with the loads mentioned above. I would take this article with a pinch of salt as it lacks the insight mentioned above and thus bases its program on incomplete information. Using medicine balls with a specific weight as resistance in biomechanically very similar push-throws and distance thrown as speed parameter is a very sound suggestion though.

Some remarks on 'benchmarking' vs. individual training regimen

It does not make sense to base suggestions on body weight if not as rule of thumb for goals to reach for a basic fitness when it comes to maximum strength. If you do not use your body weight in speed exercises, it is irrelevant for your speed training. A training regimen should be all about your individual physiological conditions. That helps you most and fastest. A functional test should give you your personal repetition maximum per exercise, which you should evaluate on a regular basis (at least monthly). Knowing that, you can plan your exercise intensity (weights, resistance via rubber bands, angles if you use body weight, etc.). Knowing them, do as many reps per set as you can perform within the exercise parameters (clean, fast enough), 3-5 sets each. Once again:

Jidovtseff et al found that there were two separate and more explosive strengths on the bench press that they referred to as "power-velocity" [aka speed] and "strength-power" [aka (max) strength] (Jidovtseff, Quièvre, Hanon, & Crielaard, 2009). Interestingly enough, they found that power-velocity occurred when moving 25-54% of their 1RM as fast as possible, which led to velocities of about 1.4 m/s to about 1.0 m/s. Also, strength-power was found to be developed from 54-82% of their 1RM when moved as fast as possible, and it related to velocities of .8 m/s down to about .7 m/s. (from the first article)

This was known in Soviet sports science since the 80s, btw.

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Quick answer: roughly 1-1.25xBW is sufficient for most strikers, but you should also deadlift about 2xBW.

Longer answer: So, I've done a bit of research on performance indicators for martial arts previously as I do S&C work and teach martial artists.

There isn't a huge correlation between pressing strength (overhead or bench) and punching power. This applies across striking sports, not just to boxers. That said while there aren't many studies on it anecdotally most coaches recommend a 0.7xBW Press, or 1-1.25xBW Bench for athletes reliant on their upper body.

There is a greater correlation between expressions of lower body power such as the countermovement jump (CMJ) or mid-thigh pull (rack deadlift) than there is the upper body.

In top level boxers (Olympic competitors) a rack pull of about 200-300kg (at the highest levels of strength) is achievable, however for most amateurs a mid-thigh pull of around 2.5xBW or a deadlift from the floor of around 2xBW is both achievable (long-term) without requiring specialisation as a powerlifter/strongman. Raw numbers somewhere around the 180kg mark is good for most adult men who don't have a strength-sport focus (and 120kg-ish is solid for most women).

The countermovement jump is another test which can be used - and is a little more forgiving on the body than max effort deadlifts. A vertical jump is easy to set up with some stickers and a ruler (example: shorturl.at/pGMXZ). You can then use something like Lewis' formula* to estimate your power output using your weight and the distance. The results of the various calculations are different, but as long as you use the same one each time you should be set. The CMJ can be built with progressive jump training, moving from 1-legged hops, through exercises like broad jumps, then box jumps, finishing with depth jumps. Make sure you know how to jump and land safely before you take part in this, or you'll destroy your knees. It can also be built with compound lower body lifts - favour something like the front squat over a back squat for the body position. Approximately a 1.2xBW front squat is a good target, it should largely match your bench.

Finally, don't forget power development exercises for the upper body. Med ball throws are great and concentric only so easy to recover from. A two handed "chest pass" style throw from a kneeling position is the standard test, and 380cm+ is the goal here. This can be trained using med ball throws, but will also be built with explosive press-up variations, and by increasing your bench and press. The above bench values should have no trouble meeting this as a metric.

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