Boxing Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Boxing stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with boxing injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published September 13, 2008 | Updated July 7, 2017
Boxing began 6000 years ago in Ethiopia and the Greek continued the tradition with some forms of boxing at different eras before it became part of Olympics in 688 B.C.
The early boxing glove was simply leather thongs to protect the hands and wrists. Later, the Romans added metal studs and spikes, and slaves were pitted against each other to fight for entertainment.
This version was brought to an end by Christianity but during the late 17th Century it was reorganized in England.
James fig who was a fencer opened a boxing academy and began to add a degree of skill to the sport before his student Jack Broughton implemented some of the formal rules.
In 1838 London prize ring rule was introduced by Pugilistic Society. The next major rules were sponsored by Marquess of Queensberry in 1866.
The weight classes are fairly standard and consist of eight major divisions.
Due to the 3-minute rounds of intense activity, with only a short 30-second rest between rounds, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning are essential to the boxer. Both upper and lower body strength are required by the boxer, also. Good coordination, body and spatial awareness are also important to the fighter.
Boxers require a great deal of core strength and a solid base of strength from their legs and hips. Upper body muscular endurance and strength are essential. A strong neck helps a boxer absorb the blows to the head. Strong wrists are important to hold the fist in the proper punching position.
The major muscles used by the boxer are:
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle; the deltoids, latissimus dorsi, and the pectorals.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the gluteals.
- The muscles of the neck and the trapezius.
A good conditioning program to keep these muscles strong and flexible will help ensure boxing success and keep the boxer healthy for future bouts.
Most Common Boxing Injuries
Boxers are subjected to very violent blows to the face and body repeatedly during a fight. The continuous punching can also lead to shoulder, elbow and wrist problems.
Among other injuries, a boxer may be subject to a broken nose, fractured ribs, sprained wrist, concussion, and orbital fracture.
- Broken Nose: Boxers are constantly hit in the face and a hard blow may cause a fracture in the nose. The nose is made up of mostly cartilage but when a blow is delivered to the nose that cartilage may break away from the attached bone of the skull or may fracture lower. This usually causes ruptures in the blood vessels of the nose, leading to bleeding from the nose, sometimes severe. Ice at the bridge of the nose, and pressure to stop the bleeding are the first steps in care. The nose may have to be straightened if the break is offset. Swelling and pain, along with discoloration of the eyes, also accompany this injury.
- Fractured Ribs: Repetitive blows to the body, or one hard blow, can cause fractures to the ribs. Bruising of the ribs will weaken the bones and may lead to fracture after more blows. When the ribs fracture, the chest wall becomes unstable and may cause difficulty breathing. In severe cases, the fractured rib may actually pierce the lining of the chest cavity and lung. Broken ribs are splinted and treated with rest. In severe cases that impair breathing immediate medical help should be sought. Recovery time depends on the number of ribs involved and if any underlying structures were damaged.
- Sprained Wrist: The wrist is a very small joint and when punching it is subjected to large amounts of compressive force. If the wrist is off center at all during a punch, or the gloves are not secured tightly, then the wrist might be sprained. A sprain is when the ligaments are torn due to awkward or irregular movement of the joint outside of the normal range of motion. The heavy force applied during a punch may push the wrist out of its normal track, and stretch or tear the ligaments. Recovery time for a sprain may be 4 to 6 weeks depending on the severity, and amount of the tear, experienced. Rest, immobilization, ice, and NSAIDs will help in the recovery process.
- Concussion: A concussion occurs when the head is hit and causes the brain to move inside the skull. This movement causes the brain to bruise and swell. This leads to a brief unconscious period followed by possible loss of memory and headache. A boxer who is hit in the head with a severe blow or series of blows may damage the brain in this way. A concussion is temporary by nature and usually responds to rest. A 24 to 48 hour recovery period will usually see the end of the severe symptoms. Return to any activity that might injure the brain again is not recommended for 1 to 2 weeks or more, depending on the number of concussions a person has had.
- Orbital Fracture: Fracture of the orbital bones around the eye due to heavy blows to this area can cause a great deal of pain and will usually result in severe swelling around the eyes. The fracture may heal without surgical intervention, but if the bone is floating or if it has broken through into the orbit, surgery may be required. The immediate danger is the protection of the eye. With the orbital bones damaged the eyes lack some of their natural protection. The swelling may also impair vision. This requires immediate medical attention to prevent further injury.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Good strength and conditioning are a pivotal part of the preparation of a boxer.
- Practice in defensive strategies to avoid taking as many, or severe, blows to the face and body will help prevent some of the trauma of a fight.
- Fighting in bouts that are sanctioned or run under specific rules, and that require the use of specific gloves, will also reduce the overall danger of the fight.
- Proper strength training to build muscle for protection over the rib cage and in the neck is essential to protect the body and head.
- Speed and endurance training, to prevent fatigue in later rounds, will help the fighter to stay alert and be able to go a complete fight.
- Good flexibility training will help keep the muscles healthy and ready to move as needed to deliver and avoid blows.
The Top 3 Boxing Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for boxing; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.
Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
Standing Toe-up Achilles Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.
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Get back to the activities you love. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite sport, or walking the dog, or playing with the grand kids. Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step. Or being able to work in the garden or play your favorite sport without “paying-for-it” the next day.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.