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I just took up boxing and I find that my arms are weak compared to my legs. I run a lot. A coach suggested shadow boxing with weights instead of weight lifting.

We do in fact use dumbbells (2.5 lbs each) in class. I was considering though, wrist/ankle weights (the ones that are material and you strap around your wrist) as I could also go running with them too, which might be beneficial. Is there any downside/upside to wrist weights vs. dumbbells?

My goal is to be able to punch harder.

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First, I think your coach is wrong: weightlifting, properly done, is excellent for boxing.

Second, I think your assumption that your legs are strong is wrong: running is not a particularly good way to develop leg strength compared to methods like barbell squats and deadlifts.

Third, I think punching with weights in the hands or on the wrists is a bad idea for several reasons. First, the resistance is in the wrong direction (mostly downward, in addition to against the direction of the punch). Second, it raises the risk of elbow injury if you extend the punch fully. Third, because the activity of punching with resistance is very similar to punching normally, it can interfere with developing speed, speed-strength, and technique efficiency in general. Fourth, why are you punching with dumbbells when there are other ways to get stronger and more powerful in that movement?

If you want to punch harder then you need to develop basic general strength first. This means you should start a basic strength program, probably with a barbell and weights, using fundamental exercises like deep squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and dips or presses (bench and overhead). Once you reach some basic strength benchmarks (deadlifting 1.5x bodyweight, easily squatting many times with a barbell weighing as much as you do), incorporate power versions of the Olympic lifts like the push press and power clean.

A general strength program will be enormously more productive for you than punching with dumbbells or wrist weights. Try it.

  • Yes, people please do not use wrist weights or attempt to punch with dumbbells. That's just going to totally wreck your elbows, to the point where you need major surgery and might not ever be able to do a lot of things you take for granted. Bad bad idea... And Dave is 100% right about weights. Couldn't find anything about this answer that I disagree with. – Steve Weigand Oct 15 '14 at 3:49
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    Thanks Dave. I take your point about the wrist weights/dumbbells. For what it's worth, in the class we shadow box with 2.5lb dumbbells, not 30 or 40 lbs.! Due to time constraints (work/family) I'm not sure how much time I'd have for weights. It might be easier to put a heavy bag in the garage. And a bag might be more fun What did you think of the heavy bag suggestion in the other answer? And I read and understood your comments about legs. I meant that my legs are comparatively stronger than my arms. That's not saying that I have super strong legs, rather that my arms need the most help! – Dave Oct 15 '14 at 17:37
  • The good thing about Olympic lifts is that they're very time efficient. One lift can work the entire body. Do 3-5 sets of 4 reps each, 2-3 times a week. Or look into Jim Wendler's "5/3/1 Program". It's designed to be time efficient and no-nonsense / very simple to understand and do. Buy your own equipment instead of going to a gym to save even more time (don't have to drive anywhere). Basic equipment: Olympic barbell, olympic weight plates, barbell collars (Lock-Jaws). Optional but very good to have: bench, squat rack, dumbbell set, dip handles, dip strap, lifting gloves, weight belt. – Steve Weigand Oct 15 '14 at 18:04
  • @Dave The light dumbbells still have all the problems I listed. A punching bag is a fine idea. – Dave Liepmann Oct 15 '14 at 19:12
  • Thanks Dave. I've already started looking for a heavy bag. They are not cheap! Any recommendations as to brand and/or weight or must I post another question :) My specs: Beginning boxing and perhaps Muay Thai. So possibly nice if I could kick it too but main thing is punching to get arm strength. My Specs: Weight 154 lbs. Height 5'9" – Dave Oct 15 '14 at 20:15
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I think wrist weights if light enough doing shadowboxing is a fine idea.. These guys sound like bodybuilders and not boxers. The benefit of shadowboxing with wrist weights is that you'll be able to punch harder and it will develop strength against gravity trying to pull your hands away from guard position. You need to keep your hands up to protect your face. And whip out punches faster. Wrist weights will help with that. Just start out light.

The guys saying that these wrist weights will damage your elbows are thinking in terms of extremes. Dont listen to them. Start out as light as possible so your body adjusts.

So OP you are right. Don't let these guys say you are wrong.

If you are a boxer you train for boxing skills. Yes you can do free weights but they won't develop skills for the ring.

Also if you want to punch harder. Hit a punching bag BAREFiSTED. Gloves protect your hands too much. You want to get your bare fists used to the impact and especially your wrists.

Do it as light as you can. Tap tap tap. Aim for volume. You will create micro damage to your fist's skin and bones which will heal and become stronger. The more you punch a bag, the harder you'll be able to hit as your knuckles become used to the impact. This will also strengthen your wrists which will get used to the impact. A weak wrist will not let the energy transfer properly into your opponent.

The strongest punches form a solid link from your fist, and travel through your body to the floor from your feet. You should hit people with the force of your entire body. Any weak link in that chain will diminish your punching power. So practice hitting a bag SLOWLY and SOFTLY to develop this proper form and keep in mind your are punching with your entire body.

Don't punch the bag too hard. Everyday just punch the bag over and over again and eventually you'll punch like a beast.

With respect to these guys answering you... while they have good intentions and may be martial artists, they are not boxers. They are proficient in other fighting styles. Boxing is all about punching and boxers are expert punchers. I am a boxer, your coach is a boxer. If you want to get better at boxing, listen to BOXERS.

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    Sorry, but it is not about boxing or MA, it is about sports science proving the long-term damages done to joints in training with wrist weights etc. in general, no matter the weight. This is exactly why boxers these days do train with resistance, but in the form of rubber bands and the like, as seen e.g. at 1:43 here with weights pulling back (and 8:14 with tyre). I can totally subscribe the part regarding wrist training, though...if you can punch only with bandages, you can't punch properly at all. – Philip Klöcking Jan 2 '17 at 15:13
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If you're not worried about throwing out your elbows (which is an undeniable risk here), you need to identify what weight range you think your classified under. Wrist weights generally don't come above fifteen pounds, though I'm sure there are exceptions. Dumbbells as I'm sure you know, come in a very wide range of weights, and therefor, if you need thirty to forty on your arm (Lord forbid) would be a better choice.

Also with the increase in weight is the increasing danger to the tissues that support your limbs: keep that in mind.

Another option is a weighted punching bag, whose force goes against the direction of your arm, making it safer, and if done right, more effective.

Option number four, especially if you really can't lift much, is to strap wrist weights to your upper arm, reducing the risk of injury, though working on a completely different muscle set.: Don't rule this one out, even if you can take a lot of weight, as any motion done in repetition can build strength.

For boxing, if your legs are really your best pieces, try kind of 'springing' up from the ground, and making sure you let your motion flow out of your legs, having your arm only channel it.

Building strength is usually about just pushing yourself until you can't anymore, no matter what method you use.

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    I am strongly against attaching wrist or even upper-arm weights. Don't do it. There are better ways to train that don't involve potentially screwing up your joints. The better way to increase muscle strength is through weightlifting with free weights. If you need to weight your body down, do so around the torso only. Wear a weighted backpack or attach a bungee cord to your waist using a dip belt or something (the other end of the cord attached to the wall or something). Especially do not attach weights to your wrists or ankles. That will blow your elbows, knees, shoulders, and hips. – Steve Weigand Oct 15 '14 at 3:54
  • Can you identify even one benefit of shadowboxing with 40 pounds in yours arms over improving your bench press and overhead press using a progressive overload strength program? I see no benefit. – Dave Liepmann Oct 15 '14 at 6:10
  • @Dave, No I cannot identify what benefits there may be. Its not what I would do; but his instructor knows him best, and the question was really between the two. I agree with your answer. – Vince Scalia Oct 15 '14 at 16:55
  • Thanks for the comments. I might try the heavy bad idea and try to make time for weights. – Dave Oct 15 '14 at 20:25
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If you don't have much equipment and are starting out a full body-weight workout is beneficial also. Do push-ups, handstands, body-weight squats, jumping, sit-ups, etc. A basic approach which you should do (or else you're not strong at all):

  • 3*20 push-ups
  • 3*20 sit-ups
  • 3*20 squats

If you can't do that, train to at least able to do that. And traditional boxing training is very good also: heavy bag, shadow boxing and skipping rope.

Something like this circuit can be really good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CufFNQl9jb4

Actually you can vary you're routines as much as you like.

Good exercises also:

  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Pull-ups
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Instead of weights, use resistance bands; around your back, anywhere from armpit level to lower rib level, and grip them between your thumb and index finger so that the bands are on the inside of your arm (not the outside). Then do your shadow boxing as normal.

I recommend this type (whatever resistance level you want), so they are the correct length.

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    In addition to what, it would be helpful to explain why. – mattm Jan 3 '17 at 13:03
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A lot of usefull information here, although not really focusing on the topic SO is referring to. SO is boxing, therefore it is essential that he is doing some sort of conditioning for increasing the stamina of his shoulders and arms - and his coach responded with a proper answer, to use light dumbbells 2lbs or even lesser while shadow-boxing.

The purpose of the weight is pure stamina and not strength increase of the punch itself. Still you need to do it properly, and this is the point where I agree with some of the other answers, otherwise you will cause more damage then good, especially the heavier you go with the weight. Note that you should never extend your arms fully while shadowboxing with a weight in the hand and try to have a constant fluid motion while exercising different combinations.

Increasing punching power is best achieved by punching a heavy bag. You can even support that process by strengthening your core further and your overall strenght and power output - doing Powerlifting/Olympic lifting exercises combined with Plyometrics.

Using isometric exercises at sticky points like the start of a hook, mid range and near end against a door will even benefit more on top of all.

In the end adding some sort of resistance bands into the whole strength protocoll would make a perfect program... the bands are usefull to have a resistence in the direction of the punch, best if the band is attached somewhere and you are punching against the resistence.

I would recommend rossenamait.com for some videos about the things I was talking and you can find some scientific information about the topics mentioned there too. Btw he was a former boxer too.

Or search for Vasil Lomachenko training youtube clips for some inspiration.

And dont forget to have fun!

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