By: Jason Lewis
For most fight fans, boxing is about delivering knockout blows, but it is as much about staying out of the way of punches as it is about throwing them. Being out of shape is a great way to get knocked out. Because of the nature of the sport, boxers are among the fittest people in the world.
Boxers have it all. They are incredibly strong, quick, and they have great endurance enabling them to dance around the ring while throwing and avoiding punches for 12, 3-minute rounds. Complements of their intense training, boxers tend to have incredible, well-toned bodies.
The workout enthusiast who is looking to get into great shape can also benefit from the training that boxers subject themselves to, and they can do it without getting hit in the head…well, unless they’re into that sort of thing.
“Just like any other workout regimen, and with a sensible diet, as much work as these fighters are putting in, you’re going to get to a certain point and look at your body and say, ‘Wow, I look pretty good,'” said boxing trainer Roberto Luna, who has trained professionals, amateurs, and Olympians over the past 15 years.
Luna trains fighters out of The Rock Boxing Gym in Carson, California. He has been surrounded by some of the greatest fighters in the world, as former heavy weight champion Evander Holyfield and former welterweight champion “Sugar” Shane Mosely have trained at the gym. ESPN’s, The Contender was filmed at the gym, and the U.S. Olympic boxing team as their main training site to prepare for the 2012 London Games also used it.
“Back in the day that was the conventional way of thinking,” Luna said. “But today it has changed dramatically. There is more science involved. There are a lot more sprints and strength training. Back in the day boxers would shy away from weights, but now with the new methods that have come out as far as explosive weight training, which recruits high-twitch muscle fibers, those are the type of training that the elite boxers are incorporating into their workout regimen.”
Conventional weight training has always been to build bigger and stronger muscles, but many boxers focus on weight loss to be able to fight in certain weight classes. They need the strength that weight training provides, but without the bulk. In the weight room, Luna has his athletes focus more on the entire body, instead of isolated movements, which body-builders tend to do.
“We try to key in on core work,” Luna said. “That’s where your base is at. We don’t really key in on specifically doing upper body one day or lower body the next day. We try to work the overall body.”
To workout the core and incorporate movements that involve as many muscle groups as possible, Luna sticks to the basics and has his athletes perform squats and deadlifts. Surprisingly, he does not focus on exercises that directly target the abs.
“We don’t really do sit-ups anymore,” Luna said. “I think you need to strengthen that core in a way that is going to help the overall body, and in a way that the body is supposed to move in the ring…Sometimes it is hard to do that if you’re only focusing on one muscle at a time.”
Boxers utilize medicine ball training, which works out the core and different muscle groups at the same time, to create explosive power in a fast and repetitive fashion, and it helps them strengthen the muscles that are responsible for rotating the body, which is used to throw punches.
For running, instead of long distance workouts over several miles, boxers have migrated to high-intensity interval training, which Luna said allows the heart to work in a certain range, making it stronger. That means sprinting a lot, and doing footwork drills that are similar to what football and basketball players perform. Boxers have also adopted plyometrics into their workout regimen, because those movements work the entire body in an explosive type manner.
Anybody that is looking to get in great shape can workout similar to what Luna has his athletes do, but that is just a part of the training that a boxer endures, and it is not even the toughest part.
“Sparring sessions are the toughest challenges for a boxers because they are extremely taxing on the body. Intense and exhausting,” Luna said. “When you have somebody in front of you that wants to hit you in the face, and they are coming at you hard for five to six rounds, it is very taxing.”
Luna points out that the average person, and even highly trained athletes from other sports, would struggle to last for more than 30 seconds in the ring because the movements performed are so exhausting, which is why he recommends anybody that wants to really experience the workout that a boxer does to strap up the gloves and get into the ring.
Luna understands that not everybody is built to take a punch, or wants to. He suggests that training partners can have an agreement to only hit in the shoulders and body. Also, he suggests wearing bigger gloves than a boxer, which will have more padding to soften the blow as well as wearing headgear for added protection. That will allow a person to escape without a serious head injury, or having to wear sunglass to work the following day.
“If somebody does get a black eye, I always look at it like war wound. You can go talk to your friends about it,” Luna laughed.
One other great thing about boxing is that it is a great way to get the mind right after a tough day.
“I think that any form of exercise is a great stress reliever,” Luna said. “But boxing in particular, because you’re letting out your frustrations. If you had a bad day, you can come and hit the bag and you’ll feel a lot better.”
Many people who have entered the ring with the only goal of getting in shape have seen great progress.
“We’ve seen incredible results,” said Pastor Josh Canales, Executive Pastor at Mission Eben-Ezer Family Church, where The Rock is housed. “We believe that our gym is a place where people can develop holistically. That would be spiritually first, mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. We see young people, including family members, parents even, begin to use the gym and commit to a healthy lifestyle.”
Canales continued, “I’ve seen tremendous gains in terms of loss in body fat, increase in muscle, stamina for exercise. You may see them when they first come in, and then six months down the road they have completely transformed.”
For a change of pace in any workout program, or if a person is looking to overhaul their training regimen, boxing training can lead to a fit and healthy lifestyle, just don’t forget to duck under the overhand right that is coming toward your head.