Boxers have to be incredibly fit. They need to be able to make fast and explosive movements when punching their opponent, or to avoid being punched. Accuracy is important too in order to score points. And they must have excellent stamina to go the distance. That’s why boxers have to do a combination of both resistance and endurance training when preparing for a fight, to ensure they have the strength and fitness needed to beat their opponent.
Boxing, in its various forms, is practiced by thousands of people across the British Isles. It’s a great way to stay fit and extremely addictive. Check out our article on Boxing for Beginners to see how to get started.
Training like a boxer is all about intensity. And whether you’re training to fight, or just want to get in better shape, the fundamentals of fitness are the same. It goes without saying that you need to work on your technique to improve your accuracy, but you also need to do a lot of fast and varied movement. And if you want to improve your fitness and stamina, you should focus on cardiovascular exercises. Or for improved strength, resistance training will be your best friend.
If you’re looking to improve your fitness and strength to enhance your performance as a boxer, there are some drills you can practise both at home and in the gym - some involve just your bodyweight, and others require some equipment. But the key is to vary your workouts to get in the best shape and to avoid overuse injuries. So, here are some of the best boxing drills for fitness, stamina, speed, strength, and accuracy.
Boxing drills for improving fitness
Boxing is an extremely physically demanding sport, and having a good level of cardiovascular fitness is crucial. In fact, it doesn’t matter how technically great a boxer is, if they are unfit then it’s wasted.
Whether boxing professionally or just boxing for fitness, one of the most important pieces of exercise equipment for boxers is a skipping rope. Almost all will use skipping when warming up for more boxing-specific exercises as it gets your heart rate going. It also teaches you good footwork, and helps you stay light on your feet, which is essential in boxing.
Drill - Basic jump (single 2-footed bounce)
Equipment: A skipping rope.
Instructions: This is the most basic jump and serves as the foundation for all the other jumps. It may take a little practise at first, but make sure you jump with both feet together, and land on the balls of your feet. Try to get to 10 jumps in a row. Then try to do 20. Eventually, you’ll reach 100 with ease as you master the technique and become fitter.
Skipping is a plyometric exercise, along with box jumps and squat jumps. This type of exercise teaches your body to exert power through movement: maximum force in minimal time. Plyometrics are also an effective addition to interval training circuits and routines.
Follow our simple guide to get started with interval training and learn how to integrate it into your programme.
Drill - Box jumps
Equipment: A plyometrics box (or a bench).
Instructions: There are two ways to approach box jumps — with a focus on power, or on conditioning. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and the box just in front of you. Bend your knees slightly and drop down, bringing your arms out behind you. Use the momentum from your quarter squat to propel you up as you jump onto the box, allowing your arms to swing out in front of you. Then land softly on both feet with a slight bend in the knees. Step back and down and repeat. If you’re looking to increase your explosiveness, aim for 3 sets of 5 reps, with a 1 minute rest in between sets. If endurance is your goal, choose a lower box. Complete 3 sets of 20 reps, again resting for up to 1 minute between sets.
Plyometrics are great for your legs (calves, ankles, knees, and quads), though upper body plyometric exercises are difficult because your arms aren’t as strong as your legs. You’ll need to use a medicine ball for resistance to build explosive speed, or do exercises that take away most of your body weight.
Drill - Medicine ball slam
Equipment: A medicine ball.
Instructions: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your knees slightly bent. Hold a medicine ball at chest level with both hands. Brace your core, extend your knees, and drive your hips forward while simultaneously lifting the ball overhead with your arms. Then slam the ball down towards the ground as hard as you can. Perform 10 repetitions, or as many as you can in one minute.
This is a fun exercise that works your core muscles and upper back. It will also make your chest and shoulders stronger as they have to stabilise your body as you slam the ball to the ground. Even if you’re not looking to add muscle mass, slams are a worthwhile exercise for increasing strength and endurance so you can perform other activities more efficiently. Medicine ball slams also really get your heart rate up, giving you a great total-body workout.
Once you're warmed up, you can move on to the more boxing-specific exercises. If you have access to a punching bag (heavy bag), work through your punches and put them together into combinations. Make sure your hands are properly wrapped before you put your boxing gloves on so your wrists are supported. The speed bag is another great piece of equipment that will get your blood pumping, and help you practise keeping your hands up by your head. Or if you don’t have a punching bag at home, shadow boxing will get you moving while helping you to refine your technique. Shadow boxing is an important part of a professional boxer's daily workout. Stand in front of a mirror in a strong boxing stance, and try some different combinations. Don’t be afraid to move around as if you were in the ring to give yourself a proper workout.
Boxing drills for improving stamina
The difference between winning and losing in any boxing match largely depends on the boxer's stamina, and whether they can go the distance. So, before you start learning how to cross and jab like a pro, you need to focus your training on improving your endurance.
One of the easiest ways to build fitness and stamina is to simply go for a run. Running for boxing is an aerobic training and conditioning exercise, meaning it improves strength, speed, and aerobic fitness. You may prefer to go to the gym and use a treadmill in the winter months, but you will get a better workout running outside. This is because you can run on different terrains, inclines, and declines, which challenge and condition your muscles much more effectively than running on the same surface and the same incline on a treadmill. It’s also essential to incorporate some HIIT training by adding periods of high exertion.
Drill - Running intervals (30-20-10)
Instructions: This workout is best done on a running track or large open area, away from traffic (the sudden speed changes make it impractical on a treadmill). After a thorough warm-up, complete four sets of the following:
- 30 seconds easy jogging
- 20 seconds normal training pace run
- 10 seconds sprint
- 2-minute easy recovery jog
- Repeat the entire cycle (4 sets of 30-20-10 + recovery jog)
- 5-minute cool down
Drill - Pyramid punches
Equipment: A punch bag and boxing gloves.
Instructions: Put your gloves on and face the bag in your boxing stance. Start with a one-two combination of straight punches, then a one-two-three-four combination, then six straight punches, then eight, and finally ten. Reverse that pattern, finishing with the one-two jab-cross. This is a burn-out drill, so it’ll raise your heart rate, and you should feel the burn in your arms too.
Boxing drills for improving speed
If your aim is to increase the power in your punches, then the goal for you will be to increase your speed instead of adding mass. By focusing on speed, you can maximise the energy transfer between your fist and the target (punching bag/opponent).
Drill - Circular cones
Equipment: Ten cones and a partner.
Instructions: Lay the cones out in a large circle, big enough that it’ll take you around ten seconds to side-step around. Then start circling them using side steps, facing in towards the centre. When your partner says “change”, change the direction you’re moving around the circle. Your partner should also call punch combinations. When that happens, step into the circle, adopt your stance and then throw the punches. Go for two minutes at a time, then swap with your partner. Aim for ten minutes in total each.
Drill - Corner cones
Equipment: Four different-coloured cones (or four different objects) and a partner.
Instructions: Lay the cones/objects in a small square. Standing in the centre, do a squat, and then run on the spot. Stay focused and as soon as your partner calls out a colour/object, jump over and touch it. Then come back to the centre. Work for one minute at a time, then change over with your partner. Complete five sets.
Being quick also means having good footwork, so including boxing footwork drills into your workouts can enhance your effectiveness and efficiency as a boxer. You can do many things to improve your footwork, such as cross-training, footwork drills, and agility ladder workouts.
Drill - Ladder sidestep
Equipment: An agility ladder (can be done without).
Instructions: The ladder sidestep is designed to teach your feet to move quickly to the side while maintaining balance and coordination. Standing at the end of the ladder, with the ladder extending away from you to your side, step into the first box with your closest foot. Then bring your other foot into the same square. Then step into the next box with your lead foot and continue on down the ladder. Do this as fast as you can while still maintaining your balance and good form. When you hit the end of the ladder, reverse direction and return to the start.
Boxing drills for improving strength
The power we generate for our punches comes from our upper body, but also our legs and our core too. So any strength training drills should be focused on the big muscle groups, like our thighs, glutes, abdominals, as well as your chest and shoulders. Boxing circuits are great for this, allowing you to work different muscles with each exercise.
Drill - Push eight
Instructions: This is an eight-exercise circuit which is guaranteed to leave you sweating by the end. It’s good for building fitness and strength, and you don’t need any equipment, so it’s perfect for doing a home. Do each exercise for one minute, rest for 30 seconds, then move on to the next exercise (you can reduce the rest period as you get fitter and stronger).
- Speed punching: Standing in your boxing stance, throw straight punches continuously for one minute.
- High knees: Run on the spot, bringing your knees up to hip level with each step.
- Jump squats and punch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down, then push up explosively through your heels into a jump. Throw some straight punches while in the air, then land softly.
- Power jacks: With your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides, jump your feet out to shoulder-width apart and raise your arms above your head. Then jump back to the starting position, squat and repeat.
- Burpees: From standing, drop your hands down to your feet and jump your feet back. Do a press-up, jump your feet back to your hands, then jump straight back up.
- Press-ups: Start on all fours, extend your arms and straighten out your legs to form a straight line from shoulders to heels. Bend your elbows to drop your chest to the floor, then push back up powerfully.
- Mountain climbers: In a press-up position, quickly pull your right knee towards your chest without letting it touch the floor, then return to the start position. Alternate legs.
- Crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your shoulders and the top half of your torso until you begin to feel a stretch in your abs, then lower back to the start.
Take a look at more bodyweight exercises in our 7-day Workout Plan that you can do at home.
If you have access to a gym, classic resistance exercises will serve you best: squats, the deadlift, and the bench press. You should perform exercises that work multiple muscle groups at one time, which will mimic the needs of your body when boxing. Though the idea isn’t to lift really heavy weights to look like a bodybuilder. Instead, choose a weight that makes the exercise a little more challenging, but still allows you to perform 6-10 reps of that exercise in a given set.
Boxing drills for improving accuracy
Power is crucial if you want to be a good boxer. But it isn’t all that you need. You also have to develop accuracy. Without it, powerful blows are useless, as they will have little to no effect on your opponent.
Some of the world’s greatest boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have one thing in common: they have the ability to strike with accuracy. Improving your timing and accuracy will increase your efficiency and effectiveness in the ring. This means you can hit harder while using less energy. So, try incorporating these boxing drills into your workouts to improve your accuracy.
Drill - Heavy bag swing
Equipment: A heavy bag and boxing gloves.
Instructions: Punching bags are designed to enhance not only your power and technique, but also timing and accuracy too. Start by pushing the bag away from you so it starts to swing. Stand at an arm’s length away from the bag, observing proper stance. As the bag moves towards you, throw a straight punch so it moves away. As it moves, punch it again.
Drill - Double-end bag work
Equipment: A heavy bag and boxing gloves.
Instructions: For accurate blows, you need good hand-eye coordination. This will allow you to react in split seconds, increasing your chances of landing a clean or even a knockout punch. Shadowbox in front of the mirror so you can see if your movements and form are correct. Aside from playing offense, play defense too by imagining your opponent throwing punches. This way, you can practise your countering and blocking techniques.
Training like a boxer is all about intensity—you need to go hard. As well as proper technique, you need to incorporate lots of fast and varied movement into your routine. You should also vary the exercises as much as possible to mimic a fight, where the pace is changing constantly.
Boxing is a sport for everyone - both men and women have a place in the ring. At DECATHLON, we have a good range of boxing gloves, punching bags, clothing, and equipment for all ages and skill levels, designed by our in-house brand Outshock. The most important thing to us is quality, to keep you safe, and that's what we strive to do every single day.