We have previously discussed and outlined the broad range of plyometric exercises we use at Boxing Science, read more here: https://boxingscience.co.uk/plyometrics-for-boxing-2/
These plyometric exercises are used to improve lower body impulse and rate of force development, which we know, is a key contributor to the punching action.
However, as you will see in the article many of these exercises are performed in the sagittal plane i.e up and down, forwards and backwards.
Whilst speed and power development in this plane of movement is important for boxers, its important to not overlook the importance of frontal plane movement i.e side to side.
To address this, we frequently use a plyometric variation known as the Ice Skaters in our extended warm ups to develop speed and explosiveness in the frontal plane that will transfer to the ring!
In this article we will discuss:
The importance of frontal plane development for boxing.
The benefits of ice-skaters.
Regressions and progressions of the ice-skater.
How we program this exercise for our athletes at Boxing Science.
Frontal Plane & Boxing
Its quite obvious that the sagittal plane is where the majority of boxing movements occur.
Whether its throwing a punch, evading a punch, moving in and out of range, or ducking, important actions in boxing tend to be performed by either moving backwards and forwards or up and down.
What might not be as obvious is the prominence of the frontal plane and lateral movement.
As such, this movement plane can often be neglected in a strength training program.
Common examples of where this type of movement comes into the equation in the ring include:
Cutting off the ring: taking assertive and controlled steps laterally or diagonally, minimising the space in which your opponent has to work, putting him or her under intense pressure and forcing them into a mistake.
Creating Angles: Being able to shift your weight and on landing deliver a powerful blow having created an angle and leaving your opponent bemused, uncertain of where the shot came from.
We frequently see examples of this from Vasyl Lomachenko, however perhaps the most exaggerated example of this type of movement was frequently displayed throughout the career of Mike Tyson:
Stepping Off The Centre Line: This is probably a skill that most top class ‘outside’ boxers have mastered and involves using lateral movement and quickness to quickly neutralise a rush from a pressuring opponent whilst still being in a position to counter-punch.
Again, Lomachenko is probably the most renowned for this type of evasion technique when he finds himself being forced on the back foot.
We also hear about coaches encouraging their fighters to move their head off the centre line when punching.
Whilst this might not always involve lateral movement, the lateral stabilisers of this hip and trunk are often heavily recruited, through deep flexion, to maintain balance and avoid counter punches from the opponent.
Injury Prevention: As mentioned previously the sagittal plane is prominent in boxing and therefore developing strength, speed and power in this direction will contribute to improved performance in the ring.
However, due to this sagittal plane dominance, muscle imbalances around the hip and trunk can often develop.
These imbalances can often emerge as tight hip flexors and hip adductors as well as overly active Quadratus Lumborum muscles (QL), sub optimal hip function and lower back pain.
Using frontal plane movements such as lateral lunges and ice-skaters ensure that we recruit and strengthen the lateral stabilisers of the hip joint and allow, facilitating optimal hip function and preventing acute or chronic injuries in this region.
Muscles such as the glute medius are often neglected in the sagittal plane but can be developed using frontal plane exercises.
The glute medius essentially enables the glute Maximus to perform its primary role as a hip extensor and therefore allows it to contribute, maximally, to the transmission of force from foot to fist during the punching action.
ICE SKATERS FOR BOXING
We know that we need to develop stability in the frontal plane.
But how does performing ice skaters help with this?
Ice skaters involve dynamic extension of the starting leg and eccentric control and lateral stability on the landing leg.
These are beneficial for force expression through the hips but also hip and trunk stability.
In order to stick the landing on the opposite side without losing balance or allowing the trunk rotate inwards, the lateral stabilisers of the hip and core must switch on, rapidly.
Despite being a predominantly lower body exercise we can achieve significant core engagement through anti-rotation.
This will transfer to improved rotational ability throughout the core region and which will contribute to more forceful hooks on the inside.
Ice skaters are also a great way to challenge and develop the stretch shortening cycle of the lower body.
Improved stretch shortening cycle of the glutes, hamstrings and quads, enhances the amount of force that can be generated from the lower body in a short space of time, which we know, is a significant contributor to the punch.
Ice Skaters: Progressions & Regressions
Ice skaters and their variations are relatively intense plyometric exercises.
As such, it is important to observe how your athlete is responding to the movement and whether or not he or she can hit the right positions.
Achieving the necessary starting and landing positions may be an issue for some boxers due to movement limitations around their hips and ankles.
Key flaws to look out for when performing ice-skaters is excessive inward rotation of the knee (knee valgus) on landing, inward rotation of the trunk towards the landing leg, inability to flex at the hips and knee on landing and failing to stick the landing position successfully.
On landing, we are looking for the hip and knee to be slightly flexed and the chest to be just over the knee but not excessively.
Arms should be coordinated so that the hand opposite to the landing leg is at the cheek and the other is behind the stance hip.
Here is an example of how we might progress and develop lateral movement competency with a boxer who struggles or is perhaps unfamiliar with this type of movement.
Once the athlete can perform Ice skaters proficiently we begin progressing the movement through maximising output, challenging co-ordination and overloading the stretch shortening cycle.
Heres an outline of the Ice skater variations we use at Boxing Science:
- Ice Skaters
With standard ice skaters we are more focused on absorbing lateral forces and avoiding excessive rotation of the trunk on landing.
The aim here is to develop eccentric control within the lateral stabilisers of the hip rather than focusing on driving across to the other side of the room.
2. Ice Skaters With Split Stance Holds
Adding the split stance on landing at first may seem like a regression at first.
However, this allows the athlete to focus on producing more force, laterally, rather than being mindful of his landing position.
With this exercise, the athlete should be encouraged to really extend off the stance leg but still maintain a solid landing position with the assistance of the rear leg.
3. Ice Skaters With Vertical Hop
This variation offers a new challenge to the stretch shortening cycle combining elements of both long and short SSC exercises.
This requires the athlete to be reactive in switching from a lateral to vertical movement whilst still being able to absorb the landing.
Note that we encourage the athlete to land in a split stance following the vertical hip to encourage maximal vertical force expression.
4. Ice Skaters With Countermovement
This is perhaps the most challenging variation we program for our athletes.
The emphasis here is on rapidly dipping on landing before driving across again to the opposite side and repeating
This really challenges the landing mechanics and lateral stability of the lower body.
Make sure to encourage the athlete to fully extend on that stance leg as they drive across as some will attempt to ‘cheat’ the movement by not producing as much force.
5. Ice skaters: Tap and Hold
With this variation we are integrating short stretch shortening cycle mechanisms and reactiveness at the ankle with the tap but also challenging the athlete on how quickly he can regain that solid landing position.
The brief tap maybe considered more specific to boxing as it replicates the quick contacts performed by the ankle and calf complex of the lower leg when in the ring.
6. Lateral Bounds
With this variation we are really emphasising quick contacts off the ground and lateral ankle stability.
Whilst previous variations were dominated by the powerful muscles of the glutes, quads and hamstrings, this exercise increases the involvement of musculotendinous units around ankle and knee.
As we can see in the demonstration there is significantly less knee and hip flexion during and more of a spring like action of the lower body.
Though athletes won’t be able to cover as much distance, laterally, it is important to still encourage them to fully extend on the stance leg each side.
This will promote maximal force generation in a short period of time on ground contact.
7. Ice Skaters With Forward Hop
Adding the forward hop can often be tricky for boxers from a coordination standpoint.
This is because, unlike team sport athletes, boxers are not accustomed to absorbing and producing high levels of horizontal force on one leg, exclusively.
In the ring, boxers use both legs, synchronously, to move in and out of range in the most efficient manner possible.
When first performing this movement boxers will tend to slow it down and perform a regular ice skater, pause, before going into the horizontal jump.
This is fine to begin with and allows the boxer to become accustomed to the movement.
However, it is important to encourage the athlete, over time, to be reactive and spring out of the ice skater landing into the horizontal jump.
In attempting to be more reactive, boxers can tend to cheat the movement by reducing how far they displace themselves, laterally.
To avoid this, a good idea is to have targets such as the squares on the floor that we have in the video.
This will provide the athlete with an idea of where he/she should be landing for each jump and enable them to get the most out the movement from an output and eccentric control perspective.
8. Med Ball Ice Skaters
Adding load means there is an increase in eccentric demand.
This will ultimately improve the stretch shortening cycle of the lower body allowing the athlete to rapidly absorb, store and reproduce force in all movement planes.
With the med ball, the trunk will also be engaged to a greater extent and its important to cue the athlete to resist lowering of the chest on landing so were maintaining tension on the core in the landing position.
Ice skater variations tend to be incorporated into extended warm ups at the beginning of our sessions.
These exercises usually feature in what we call power circuits which consist of both long and short stretch shortening cycle exercises.
An example of a power circuit may look like:
Altitude Landing to Jump: 5 Reps x 3 Sets.
Pogo Jumps: 10-12 Reps x 3 Sets
Ice Skater Variation: 6-10 Reps each leg x 3 Sets.
For more on power circuits read our article on how we program them: https://boxingscience.co.uk/power-for-boxing-power-circuits-plyometrics/
Before advancing with ice skaters it is important to begin with variations that focus on mastering the landing position such as standard ice skaters.
Once this landing position is mastered, then focus can be switched to how the athlete produces force out of this landing position.
Frontal plane movement is important for boxing in terms of cutting off the ring, making angles to land punches, moving off the center line and optimising hip function.
At Boxing Science we develop speed and power in the frontal plane through the use of ice skaters.
Initially, we coach our athletes the correct landing positions and how to engage the lateral stabilisers of the trunk and hip before programming progressions.
We tend to progress the ice skater through maximising output or force production, increasing the coordination challenge, overloading the stretch shortening cycle or by shortening the ground contact.