Boxing Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Boxing stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with boxing injuries for good.
Boxing began the first time two combatants raised fists at each other, in either battle or play. Some reports place the beginning of boxing as a sport at 6000 years ago in Ethiopia. From there, most historians agree, the Greeks continued the tradition with some form of boxing at different eras. Boxing was believed to be a game of the gods and became a part of the Olympics in 688 B.C.
If you’re looking to improve your boxing or just seeking to prevent boxing injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
The early boxing glove during these times was simply leather thongs to protect the hands and wrists. The Romans added metal studs to these leather thongs. They then became weapons instead of protection. Later spikes were added, as well. These matches were gladiator-style fights with slaves pitted against each other in fights to the death for entertainment.
The rise of Christianity brought an end to this early version of boxing. It became organized again in England during the late 17th century. It resurfaced in 1681, when a London newspaper reported a bout. In 1698, the Royal Theatre in London hosted many scheduled fights. This early version of the sport was a mix of boxing and wrestling, although striking with the fist was encouraged.
James Figg, who was a fencer as well as a boxer, opened a boxing academy and began to add a degree of skill to the sport. A student of his, Jack Broughton, who became known as the “father of English boxing”, was instrumental in implementing some formal rules. Broughton’s rules included no hitting below the belt and the addition of a squared off area, instead of a ring of spectators. These rules governed the “bare knuckle” era of boxing. Even though it was a bare knuckle era, Broughton also introduced the first gloves, known as mufflers. These, unfortunately, were only used during practice, and not during bouts.
In 1838 additional rules were introduced by the Pugilistic Society. The rules, called the London Prize Ring Rules, standardized the ring to a 24 foot square with two ropes around the outside. They also introduced the first breakdown of rounds. If a fighter was knocked down the fight took a 30-second break, then the fighters were given 8 seconds to “come to scratch” in the center of the ring, unaided.
The next major rule changes were sponsored by the Marquess of Queensberry in 1866. These rules included a limitation of the number of 3-minute rounds, called for the mandatory use of gloves, and eliminated gouging and wrestling. These rules moved the sport toward a more standardized set of rules. Although, even today the rules are not standard everywhere. Due to the lack of an international governing body the rules vary by country, and even by states and regions within the same country.
The weight classes in professional boxing are fairly standard and consist of eight major divisions: flyweight (up to 112 lb/50.8 kg); bantamweight (118 lb/53.5 kg); featherweight (126 lb/57.2 kg); lightweight (135 lb/61.2 kg); welterweight (147 lb/66.7 kg); middleweight (160 lb/72.6 kg); light heavyweight (175 lb/79.4 kg); and heavyweight (unlimited). Junior divisions and a cruiser weight class have also been recognized in recent years.
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 beside 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.
Get more Stretching Exercises here...
To do away with stiff, tight muscles and joints, and improve your full body mobility and freedom of movement, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
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.