Due to the conditioning and skill required for boxing, a boxer’s training and conditioning regimen is extensive. To build strength and power in their punching muscles, they’ll often incorporate pushups into workouts. While pushups do offer some benefits to boxers, there are some limitations to the training benefits of the exercise. Tweaking the pushup and incorporating other similar exercises into a boxer’s workout regimen will offer better results.
Make the Pushup Explosive
Throwing a punch is a powerful movement that requires explosive contractions from your chest, shoulders and triceps. These are the muscles targeted by a pushup, but most often the exercise is performed at a slow, steady cadence. To more closely mimic a punch, make your pushups more explosive. Lower down toward the floor at a traditional speed, but explode up so that your hands leave the floor. If you can, perform a quick hand clap before you place your hands back on the floor to catch yourself. Lower immediately into the next rep.
Challenge Yourself Mentally
Boxing trainer Ken Porter has his clients use pushups to develop mental toughness. He assigns circle pushups, which require boxers to perform a pushup rep and then walk their feet in a circle so that they rotate their body 360 degrees before going into the next pushup rep. The boxer will continue this for a total of two minutes, completing a total of two sets with just 60 seconds of rest in between each one. While you’ll be developing upper body strength, the true benefit of this pushup drill is to learn how to push yourself after you’re tired and uncomfortable.
Get on Your Feet
While pushups are performed from a supine position, boxing is done from the feet. Therefore, also incorporate pushup-like standing exercises into your regimen. An example of such an exercise is the single-arm standing chest press with a twist while using a cable pulley. Set the pulley so that it’s level with the height of your chest. Grip the single handle with one hand. Set your feet in a staggered stance and position your body so that you’re facing away from the pulley. Lift your arm so that it’s just outside your chest with knuckles pointed forward. Twist as you simultaneously push the pulley handle forward, as if throwing a punch. Twist your body back and bend your arm to return to the starting position and then repeat. Be sure to complete the exercise on both sides. While not technically considered a pushup, the single-arm standing chest press with a twist better mimics the punching movement.
Finish with Pullups
While pushups develop your chest, shoulders and triceps, which are responsible for sending your arm forward during a punch, there are other muscles just as important for developing punching speed. The latissimus dorsi in your back and the back of your major shoulder muscles have to contract to decelerate your arm after landing the strike. The greater they’re able to do this, the more powerful your punch will be. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Joe Hashey recommends incorporating pullups into your regimen for developing these muscles. In addition, doing pullups after you’ve done pushups will ensure proper upper body muscle balance.