By Neil Perkins
I still hear the words of Adam Booth ringing in my ears ‘You can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe, your back gives you stability to fire your shots. With a weak back your shots will lack impact. This was a similar message that a top physio had given me nearly 10 years earlier as a shoulder injury that threatened my fledgling amateur career before it began. My shoulder was caused not by a week shoulder but a ‘winged scapula’ that had been caused by poor posture and ultimately a week upper back. Not months but years of physio had rectified the problem and I was back boxing but like many people I got side tracked into doing stronger exercises – concentrating on ‘sports specific exercise’s’ like the bench press as it seemed logical to me that I needed to develop more ‘push power’ to drive my shots with? I wish I would have trained smarter rather than harder and thought about my programme a little more or sought the advice of a reputable Strength & Conditioning coach.
Rewind not so far back to London 2009 in a railway arch gym, I got the chance to pick Adam Booths brain. ‘The serratus anterior, rhomboids, lats and trapezius are essential stabilizers for your power shots’……..then the dreaded question, as he stands underneath the chin up bar ‘How many chin ups can you do?’ a somewhat honest answer of 8-10 was given, as it turns out 5 ‘proper ones’ could be achieved, ensuring a drop the shoulder and squeeze at the top. Like a dog obeying his master, David Haye is summoned to the chin up bar after me. Adam explains ‘rep range is critical for fighters they should always work below 5 reps for power or 30+ for power endurance, we tend not to work anything in between’ he straps a 5kg weight to a harness and I expect David to bang out 5 strict reps – he’s just made myself and two other good pro’s look like mugs for 9 rounds with a fresh man in the ring with him every round, 30 reps later and he comes down form the chin up bar. Without doubt David Haye has hit me harder than anyone or anything (bar stools, baseball bats and Budweiser beer bottles included)I rest my case – strong backs really are key to power punches, you need a ‘battleship back’ because you can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe.
So why is a strong back key to more punching power? Balance is key to everything and a lot of American Strength & Conditioning coaches who work in sports like baseball are looking at this when designing ‘in-season’ programmes. Baseball like Boxing requires massive of use of the front deltoid and to a lesser degree the pectorals. During ‘in-season’ training a boxer like a baseball player will do sports specific training including punching for 3-6 sessions per week. Every one of these sessions will inevitably use the front deltoid and to a lesser degree the pectoral as the arm is repeatedly thrust forward. Look at the three main punches in boxing – Straight Punches, Uppercuts, and Hooks, they repeatedly use shoulder flexion and extension. If I was designing a body-building programme, I wouldn’t hit front delts and pecs 3-6 times per week and not hit the back? – The programme would all be out of balance. This creates a postural imbalance and creates further problems.
Boxing, like baseball involves massive impact, when you hit something (or someone) the impact travels down your arm through you shoulder and then disperses through the muscles of the upper back. If your back lacks the stability to absorb this impact your shoulder takes the brunt of the impact – that leads to tears, dislocations and not as much power in the punch (I have a scar to prove it!) It looks like Adam Booth’s analogy was right – like trying to fire a cannon out of a canoe.
I am not saying as a boxer you can’t use exercise like military press and bench press, just think of your overall programme and ‘in-season’ when your delts are getting a hammering and used almost daily are you ensuring your back is getting developed also? Your back gives you the stability base where power comes from.
So how do I build a Battleship Back?
Any movement that is opposite to punching will work your back. Retracting the shoulder blades (squeezing back) and depressing the shoulder girdle (dropping the shoulders) will work the back Exercises that would complement boxing training ‘in-season’ are….
Barbell Bent Over Rows
‘In-Season’ Programme for Boxers
Monday, Wednesday, Friday – Boxing Specific Training, Bag Work Pad Work and bodyweight circuits involving push exercises – press ups, kettlebells, burpees ect.
Tuesday & Saturday – In Season Strength Programme
Chin Ups (weighted if required) 4×6
Barbell Bent Rows 4×6
Followed by core work including Planks and Rotation Work
Daily AS Required
May do optional low intensity, empty stomach ‘fat burns’ for weight management.