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The video above shows the highlights from our recent Physiological Testing Battery for Boxing with our large group training cluster, and S&C Coach Danny Wilson explains the reasons why we perform each test. 

We’re passionate about our testing protocols as it helps us build as database of over 500 boxers of different ages, abilities and weight categories – that has helped influence our training philosophies and individual programming. 

In this article you will learn

  • How the Boxing Science testing battery was developed 
  • Learn why testing is so important
  • The range of tests included in the Boxing Science testing battery
  • How the results have influenced our training philosophies

Also we will tell you how YOU can perform OUR testing battery in YOUR training environment. 

ordan Gill's preparations are closely monitored ahead of next month's figh

The Boxing Science Testing Battery

Before Boxing Science had even begun, Dave Hembrough and Alan Ruddock were assigned to lead Kell Brook’s physical training programme. Today, most boxers take part in some form of strength and conditioning, whether it’s strength training, circuits or high-intensity training.

Despite it being as recent as 2012, sport science training was still very uncommon practice in Boxing. This set Kell’s training apart from his opponents, and played a big role in his IBF welterweight world title win against Shawn Porter in August 2014. 

During this time, S&C coach Danny Wilson was building his experience and knowledge of working in boxing, by volunteering at Sheffield City ABC and putting together research projects for his MSc in Sport and Exercise Science. 

What became apparent in both Kell’s training and Danny’s studies, is that there was very little sport science research in Boxing. This made appropriate testing methods, detailed analysis and programming difficult. 

In February 2014, Danny and Alan put together a physiological testing battery that can help analyse the physical characteristics of boxers, create standardised scores and help define our Boxing Science training philosophies. 

We advertised our free testing dates on social media and contacted local boxing coaches, offering them free S&C sessions and feedback on results in return. It was a great success, with over 30 amateur boxers taking part in our testing battery – ranging from 12 – 21 years old, various weight categories and experience levels. 

Fast forward to 2019, we have had over 500 data entries into our Boxing Science database. We have managed to create standardised scores for different age, weight and gender categories, helping us provide detailed feedback and structure effective programmes.

Why is testing so important?

Sport science helps an athlete, or a team of athletes, reach optimal physical performance and reduce injury to help them perform better in training and competition. This makes it important in any sport.

However, Boxing is a unique sport that requires high levels of skill, speed and unbelievable endurance. To make things harder, your opponent is not there to play, they are there to knock you out!

For boxers who say they are in the best shape of their life…without the data to prove that…how do you know this isn’t just a cliché?

The loneliest place is in the ring, and it’s even lonelier when you’re out of shape and the other guy is much fitter, faster and stronger than you.

Sport science assesses and monitors physical performance, with data made available to feedback to the boxer and their coach on strengths and areas for improvement. Our testing allows us to understand exactly what is needed in their training, and the best way to develop that. 

We look to make adjustments to their programmes to improve on weaknesses, work on the athletes limitations and work to their strengths… so we can make their strengths, their SUPER STRENGTHS.

The Boxing Science Fitness Testing Battery

Overhead Squat

What is it? 

A squat performed with a wooden broomstick / PVC pipe held above the crown of head. 

Why is it good for boxing? 

Great test for full body mobility, stability and neuromuscular control

Highlights Hip and Shoulder Mobility

Single Leg Squat

What is it? 

Athlete performs a bodyweight single leg squat onto a bench / box to a 90 degree angle of the standing leg. From this, a qualitative assessment will be made by the coach. Why is it good for boxing?

Movement Screen for Mobility, Stability and Neuromuscular Control of the Core and Lower-Body.

Highlights Uni-Lateral Imbalances

Jump Assessments 

What is it? 

Countermovement jump and squat jump height measured via jump assessment device (Optojump, force plates), vertex or by a tape stuck to the wall. 

Why is it good for boxing? Lower-limb force production contributes to proximal to distal sequencing, this is vital when attempting to produce forceful punches.
Strong relationships have been demonstrated between peak vertical impulse, and vertical jump height.

Load-Velocity Profile

What is it? 

Using a linear transducer (Gym Aware / PUSH Band) to assess the velocity of a movement whilst performing a compound exercise such as a Squat or Deadlift

Why is it good for boxing? 

We can use this to analyse the strength and speed qualities of an athlete. An athlete can be defined as ‘strong but slow’ or ‘fast but weak’ dependant on how they perform at different weight loads – and this can help inform training programmes. 

We cover this in more detail in our Velocity Based Training article.

MB Punch Throw

What is it? 

Athlete throws a 3kg medicine ball as far as they can using the rear-hand whilst standing in a boxing stance. 

Why is it good for boxing? 

MB throw test is a valid and reliable test to assess explosive force production for an analogous total-body movement pattern and general athletic ability.

MB throw tests may only account for punching impulse and not properties of momentum.

Landmine Punch Throw Test

What is it? 
Attach the gym aware to a 20kg Olympic bar that is inserted to a landmine attachment. The athlete is required to throw the bar as fast as possible with the rear-hand whilst in a boxing stance. 

Following 5 attempts on both right and left hands, an extra 5kg load is attached to the bar. Incremental loads go up to 40kg (20kg added onto the bar). 

Why is it good for boxing?

This has similar findings to the MB punch throw however the more controlled movement and gym aware provides more accuracy for the testing. Furthermore, peak velocity can represent impulse – which we know is an important influence for forceful punches. 

Another reason why we prefer this testing method is that incremental loads can act as a force-velocity profile for the punch.  This can help improve our understanding of where a boxer needs to improve in order to punch harder. 

Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Level 1

What is it? 

A 20-m shuttle run test, similar to a bleep test however interspersed with a 10 s recovery period. 

Why is it good for boxing?

Many studies highlight the importance of aerobic capacity in boxing and highlight boxing and other combat sports as ‘repeated high-intensity impact sports’.

Aerobic capacity as well anaerobic and neuromuscular capabilities are major contributors to successful Yo-Yo performance much like boxing. 

30-15 Test

What is it? 

An intermittent, fitness test consisting of 30 s of work, 15 s of rest. The speed starts at 8 km/h, and increases by 0.5 km/h per level. 

Why is it good for boxing? 

Similar to the Yo-Yo test however we find it more useful as there are no turning actions required. This helps us get a better understanding of an athletes fitness, especially at high intensities. 

Lactate Profile 

What is it? 

An incremental fitness test consisting 3 minutes on -and1 minute off. Following each interval, a lactate sample will be taken from the athlete. Heart rate, blood lactate and speed data is used to create a lactate profile from which we can understand how our boxers produce energy. Essentially we can determine if they’re an endurance or high-intensity dominant athlete. 

Why is it good for boxing? 

We want our boxers to be able to produce high-intensity actions repeatedly throughout their bout. This type of testing provides us with a precise benchmark of physiological capability, enables us to create training zones, identify carbohydrate and fat utilisation and investigate how well our athletes can deal with significant levels of muscular acidosis.  

What have these tests told us?

As we mentioned in the introduction, these tests don’t just tell us the strengths and weaknesses of an athlete, but has helped us create our training approach to developing Boxers. 

In this next section, we will share the results we found during our testing batteries, and how we have used these results to structure our Boxing Science programmes

In this section we will discuss. 

– The biggest physical contributor to a punch

– The role of jumping for punch performance

– The physical fitness of boxers

The Biggest Physical Contributor to a Punch!

A big part of our testing is a body composition assessment – we use the InBody bioelectrical impedence analyser to assess body fat and muscle mass.

This is important so we can accurately assess a boxers condition when making weight, and also what weight category a boxer should perform at. 

Furthermore, the Inbody machine provides a segmental analysis of how muscle mass is distributed around the body – the arms, lower-body and trunk. 

When analysing the data, we found that absolute and relative trunk muscle mass had the biggest contribution to medicine ball punch distance. Suggesting that core mass and strength has a positive contribution to punch force. 

This means that developing core mass and strength is a key aim of our programme. Also when making weight, we aim to maintain muscle mass of the core to ensure our athletes are in the optimal condition when they step on to the scales. 

We can develop this through compound lifts, partial range exercises and core specific exercises. We share this in our core training workshops as part of the Boxing Science membership.

Higher you can jump… harder you can punch!

Using our battery of fitness tests, we were able to compare physical characteristics of boxers to see the key contributors to boxing performance.

Lower limb force production was assessed by countermovement and squat jumps.

Results showed that jump height was related to age and body mass, but did not correlate to competitive experience.

However, the importance of lower limb force production was highlighted following moderate correlations with estimated punch force (medicine ball backhand punch throw distance).

This suggests that although not developed by competitive boxing experience, the importance of lower-limb force production was demonstrated by positive correlations between a jump height and MB backhand punch throw distance.

So our programmes are centred around improving the rate of force development (RFD) of the lower-body through various strength and plyometric training modalities.  

Poor Eccentric Utilisation

We found that the difference between countermovement jump and squat jump height was smaller compared to other sports. The average difference for boxing is 0.91 cm, with some boxers even jumping higher on squat jump. 

This suggests that boxers struggle with eccentric utilisation of the lower-body muscles, which is important when utilising the stretch-shortening cycle whilst performing fast, explosive actions. 

There are a number of ways we target this during the programme. 

  • Focus on developing the Squat
  • Force Absorption / Landing Mechanics
  • Accentuated Loaded Jumps
  • Depth Jumps
  • Eccentric Squats / Leg Press (injured / out of season)

Transform into High-Intensity Athletes

We have various fitness tests on the Boxing Science programme – the 1200m test, Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 and the favoured 30-15 treadmill test. These are all great ways to test your high-intensity fitness, however can be very dependant on an athletes freshness on the day, and their ability to dig deep when the going gets tough. 

We have another test where athletes cannot hide their fitness levels, as we take analyse physiological responses to exercise. These responses tell us 

This test is called a lactate profile, which consists of 3-minute running intervals interspersed with a 1 minute passive recovery. The test starts at 8-10 km/h, and increases by 1 km/h per interval. The length of the test can vary dependant on how the athlete responds to different intensities, most finish around 15-16 km/h with some of our fittest athletes reaching 18-19 km/h. 

The athlete wears a mask from which we collected the gas they’re breathing out, a heart rate monitor, and following each interval, we take blood from the fingertip.

With this, we analyse how an athlete expends energy and how their heart rate responds at increased speeds. However, the main variable we analyse is the ‘blood lactate’ readings after each running interval. 

Blood lactate levels (mmol/L) represent the amount of acidosis (often referred to as lactic acid) that an athlete is dealing with. Excessive accumulation of acidosis can create acute fatigue. This is why many endurance athletes perform lactate profile tests to find out what speed they can perform at without going beyond their lactate threshold (> 4 mmol/L).

Most boxers are unable to control acidosis – creating fatigue at higher intensities. This is what we see with many boxers on their first testing sessions.

We know that boxers perform at high intensities, so we look to analyse and improve the trend of acidosis following the lactate threshold. 

The graph below shows two lactate profiles of Jordan Gill around 18 months apart. If we were just looking at his ‘lactate threshold’ performance, he would only have increased his speed by 1 km/h. However, we can see the trend of lactate accumulation has massively improved beyond the 4 mmol/L threshold point. 

This means that following various cycles of SIT and HIIT protocols, Jordan has better control of acidosis. This will allow Jordan to work more effectively at high-intensities whilst limiting fatigue. 

Protect the Shoulders

The graphic below represents the results of over 250 overhead squat assessments for boxers. This shows that the majority of boxers have shoulder, hip and/or ankle mobility issues and clearly demonstrates the need for movement training. 

These restrictions are caused by the demands of the sport, and the lack of S&C culture in Boxing to help prevent these mobility issues. This can restrict strength, speed and movement, as well as increasing the likelihood of injury.

The standout finding from this is that over 60% of boxers struggle with overactive / tight shoulder muscles. “Hands up, chin down”  is often the coaching point to a defensive guard, requiring rounding the upper back and shrugging the shoulders. If you’re throwing 100’s of punches thrown in a week’s training, the anterior shoulder and trapezius muscles can become over-active.

This alone can cause shoulder mobility issues for boxers. Large volumes of strength exercises like press ups and shoulder press further confound the issue meaning shoulder mobility should be a focus for boxers.

Poor shoulder mobility often creates over-active anterior deltoids and upper traps.

Summary

In this article, we learned the key fitness tests we use at Boxing Science to assess our athletes physical performance. These have led to us defining a structured, evidence-based strength and conditioning programme which has been successfully implemented with our boxers.

Want to learn more about fitness testing for Boxing performance?

Boxing Science online members can now access over 25 video workshops discussing sport science for Boxing performance, from the world’s leading experts in sport science for Boxing performance.