Power is mathematically defined as force X velocity and may be thought of as the rate of doing work.
Improvements in power, along with rate of force development are desirable objectives for most athletes and have been shown to differentiate between elite and sub-elite performers in multiple sports, including boxing.
As we know, boxing requires athletes to display high levels of power for an extended duration of time and considering the explosive nature of punching actions power can be deemed an essential attribute for most fighters.
Indeed, research has shown us that the time to land the back hand punch is often less than 200ms, highlighting the importance of developing the capacity to produce large amounts of force in short periods of time.
At Boxing Science our method of improving a boxer’s power is centred around the force-velocity curve, where we look to shift the athlete’s curve to the right by targeting multiple aspects of the strength-speed continuum, creating a stronger, more explosive athlete.
Using block periodization the training emphasis is changed quite frequently to allow for concentrated loading towards a given physical quality, realisation of the qualities developed in previous training blocks and potentiation of future blocks.
Though training emphasis may be adjusted, one component of our programs that remains an ever-present is the incorporation of power or activation circuits prior to sets of the main lift.
These circuits enable us to keep to high velocity movements in the program and allow the athlete to remain explosive and sharp, regardless of the training phase.
Maintenance of speed and power qualities is especially important during hypertrophy (muscle building) phases and maximal strength phases which do not emphasise high movement speeds, yet are important, nonetheless, for optimising future training phases.
WHAT ARE POWER CIRCUITS?
We use the term power circuits to describe specific movements that we program for our athletes before they begin their main lifts for the given session.
These are not your typical strength training circuits that involve several exercises, high repetitions, fatigue accumulation and elevated heart rates.
Instead, these circuits consist of three or four exercises, performed with maximal intent and speed and sufficient rest in between exercises and sets.
Plyometrics and punch specific exercises are the main components of our power circuits and serve to ignite the nervous system along with improving power throughout the kinetic chain which transfers to greater punch ferocity.
Plyometrics are extensively employed in strength and conditioning programs throughout many sporting disciplines to improve power and more specifically, speed-strength, due to the high movement velocities associated with these exercises.
The term stretch shortening cycle (SSC) is synonymous with plyometric tasks and is used to describe the pre-stretch that many muscles undergo prior to contraction.
A stretch-shortening cycle activity includes an eccentric (muscle stretch), amortization (time between end of eccentric and beginning of concentric), and concentric phase(muscle shortening).
A classic example is the quadricep muscle when walking, which is stretched when the foot strikes the ground before going into the next step.
Counter-punching and combination punching are the most prominent examples of the stretch-shortening cycle during boxing training and competition.
During these actions the recruited muscles are stretched rapidly, absorbing this eccentric force, before explosively redirecting the force towards the intended target. Considering this, the stretch-shortening cycle is an important mechanical characteristic of force production to be developed among boxers.
LONG AND SHORT STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE EXERCISES
Plyometric and SSC tasks are categorised based on the ground contact times displayed during each movement.
Long SSC activities have ground contact times greater than 250ms. Examples include, countermovement jumps, squat jumps, broad jumps, medicine ball throws/tosses and ice-skaters.
In contrast, short stretch shortening cycle tasks involve ground contacts less than 250ms. Examples of these are pogo jumps, drop jumps, tuck jumps and hurdle hops. Due to prolonged periods on the balls of the feet, boxers tend to be well adapted to fast SSC activities, and therefore overload with correct technique is required.
Both long and short SSC activities should be incorporated into a boxer’s program to develop solid landing mechanics, force absorption, and force production capabilities.
WHY ARE PLYOMETRICS BENEFICIAL FOR BOXERS?
Through programming plyometrics we enhance the athlete’s ability to control eccentric forces and storage of elastic energy.
This allows the athletes to become more efficient during actions that exploit the stretch-shortening cycle i.e counter punching and combination punching. Therefore, the athlete exerts less energy and can produce more force during these powerful actions.
Typically, our plyometric training methods target the lower-body and trunk which we know are vital areas of the body in terms of force transmission and production throughout the kinetic-chain.
Additionally, plyometrics improve motor unit recruitment, making them ideal for warm-ups, reduce the likelihood of injury, especially around the achilles and can benefit speed, footwork and balance.
The temptation to engage in high impact, high velocity and intense plyometric exercises is definitely present among boxers, who are desperate to gain an edge as quickly as possible.
However, research and practical experience has highlighted the importance of establishing solid landing mechanics and the ability to absorb force before progressing to more intense plyometric variations.
Initially, we will program altitude landings, land to jump and box jump variations to teach the athlete correct landing and jumping techniques. This is important for minimising injury and maximising the adaptations from more intense plyometric training in the future.
PUNCH SPECIFIC EXERCISES
Punch specific exercises also feature in our power circuits at Boxing Science and allow for the development of power and speed that is specific to the punching action.
With these exercises we can encourage the athlete to generate high movement speeds and high rates of force development using the muscles joints that are directly involved in punching actions.
Medicine ball punch throws and landmine punch variations are obvious examples of exercises that are perfect for what we’re trying to achieve. during these circuits.
During taper phases we also use banded shadow-boxing and manual resistance punch iso holds to really focus on specific areas of the punch prior to fight night.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Here are examples of power circuits that can be implemented easily at the beginning of your strength or boxing sessions for beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes.
Each circuit may be performed for 3-4 Sets.
Pogo Jumps (low & fast) – 12-15 Reps.
Altitude Landings – 3-6 Reps.
Ice-Skaters – 6-8 Reps each leg.
Medicine Ball Punch Throw – 3-5 Reps each side.
Pogo Jumps W/arm Swing (aiming for height) – 10-12 Reps.
Altitude Landings to Jump/Falling Countermovement Jump – 3-6 Reps.
Ice-Skaters W/Forward Hop – 6-8 Reps each leg.
Landmine Punch – 3-5 Reps each side.
Assisted Pogos/Drop jumps over bench – 10-12 Reps/3-5 Reps.
Falling Countermovement Jump W/Arm Swing – 3-6 Reps
Repeated Ice-Skaters – 6-8 Reps each leg.
Landmine Punch Throw – 3-5 Reps each side.