By Ben McDonald

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Jab, cross, hook and uppercut, the sweet science of boxing has risen in popularity from back alley gyms dedicated to the art of pugilism to the shiny big box gyms with some sessions even running in almost nightclub type environments!!

After being involved in the sport for well over 2 decades this acceleration in popularity makes me happy, but we must be aware this is a double-edged sword!!

Boxing training has many benefits if done in the right way from cardio vascular improvements through to being protective of joints, learning a self defence skill to integrating multi planar and athletic movement into sessions the list goes on, however if done incorrectly boxing training can be highly detrimental to our clients.

Historically boxing has been a sport that was started at an early age that followed the rules of any other sport, structured development over time!! First you’d learn stance, then punches and so on, building up all the time to sparring and potentially stepping into the ring to pit your skills against an opponent. All the time in this process you’re building resilience and capacity, with the rise of popularity we’re seeing this process being skipped!! Older participants are turning up to gyms and jumping straight into the ‘meat and potatoes’ of heavy bag work without learning the basics first. The 3 most injured sites of the body are the shoulders, low back and knees, at every opportunity we must make sure we are bullet proofing those areas for our clients/participants!!   So, how do we do that?  The very first step is to make sure our clients have the CAPACITY for the DEMAND of the sport or session, so let’s assess them because if we aren’t assessing we’re guessing!!

3 simple assessments I like to use are:

  • Push up and glide: this assesses the scapular under load, if our clients scaps aren’t stable under a static load they have no business asking the scaps to stabilise dynamically
  • Torsion control: helps to assess the client’s rotary stability, with rotation you must be able to RESIST before you ASSIST
  • Single leg step down: this assesses hip and trunk stability; the glutes are the engine and need to be in the game

These 3 assessments will give us an idea of areas of opportunity to work on which will help us offset potential injury. The next step is to teach the client to breathe, WHAT?! BREATHE?! Yes, that’s right!!  We must be diaphragmatically breathing to develop stability of the core, proximal stability for distal mobility, diaphragmatic breathing creates intra abdominal pressure which will help support the low back.  Breathing is a fundamental component of everything we do, it’s the absolute foundation and is powerful beyond belief!! We could easily do a series of articles on breathing, however lets move on!! An important consideration is what the client does during the day and what their mobility and stability are like, are they hyper mobile? Are they a little ‘tight’? we want to prep them for the session so make sure and give them a specific and personalised mobility and movement prep sequence, you’ve got to be WARM to PERFORM!!!

Once we’ve made sure the client has the CAPACITY to box, we must spend time teaching correct technique starting with stance and building up to punches confirming the movements along the way, does the jab come straight from the shoulder?  Does the client rotate on the back foot when throwing the cross?  Drill the skill!! WOOHOO!! The client looks good!! IT’S TIMEEEE!!!  We’ve done our due diligence and now the client can introduce some impact, try to build up steadily with this, impact on joints that aren’t used to it can cause some issues so don’t jump straight to 3 min rounds of going crazy on a heavy bag!!  Slowly, slowly catchee monkey!!  WOW!!  Seems like a lot!!  It’s a process as is any other skill learned, some people move a little faster some a little slower but following a process will help them be successful in the long run.  At DTS Fitness Education our vision statement is ‘Longevity and painfree living for everyone’ if we make sure our clients are good to go with boxing we can set them up for success long term. If you’d like to see videos of all of the above please visit our website.

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Ben McDonald is the Director Of Education at DTS Fitness Education. Ben has an extensive background in combat sports spanning well over 2 decades.  Ben has worked with beginners through to world champions.  Everything DTS Fitness Education do is viewed through a filter of ‘Longevity and pain free movement for everyone’