Can Boxing Fitness help Obstacle Racers improve their performance?

Training Tips   |   Jul 11, 2013


Boxing is one of the toughest sports around and boxers are renowned as being among the fittest athletes, requiring a combination of agility, speed, power, strength and, of course, mental toughness………very similar to us Obstacle Racers!

In obstacle racing, we need: agility to be able to manouvere under & around obstacles such as barbed wire, speed on the run, power & strength to pull & carry objects such as sandbags, logs and tyres and we need the mental toughness to go the distance with minimal rest, while accumulating all those scratches, bruises and grazes. (Hopefully not too many)

The amount of running that real boxers typically do, often reflects the length of the fight – for example, a 36-minute run for a 12 x 3 minute round contest. In particular, there is no real need to run more than 5kms, as boxing is an explosive sport rather than a slow steady one.

Runs should be performed in fartlek style, upping the intensity with sprints and faster paced running. The idea is that this more closely reflects that true nature of boxing, where there are flurries of activity, rather than a single steady effort. This type of training can only be beneficial for Obstacle Racers wanting to improve their “personal best” times and those trying to improve the speed of their run.

Circuit training provides a great foundation for a boxers conditioning, as well the more technical components of boxing such as pad work.

In terms of actual exercises a typical circuit includes chin-ups, diamond, normal and plyometric push ups, crunches, the plank (core exercise) and squat thrusts. Weight exercises are also included, eg dumbbell flyes and lateral raises, but loadings are kept relatively light. These workouts are designed to increase the boxers ability to handle his own weight, develop power and resilience under conditions of fatigue, yet not build muscle (which could slow him down). These particular circuit exercises cross over well with obstacle racing as the chin ups reflect The Berlin Walls, push ups help with any crawls and the remaining exercises build strong legs and core, which helps with most obstacle racing movements including balance beams, mud pits and jumping activities.

Learning to trade and take blows comes from sparring. The body becomes conditioned to be hit. You find that over the first couple of days of sparring that you tend to get a few lumps and bumps, especially if you get caught but after a while your body hardens up.

As Obstacle Racers, we know that those 3 metre walls, the barbed wire, the log carries and muddy creek runs can all put temporary marks on the body…..great obstacle racing wounds that you can proudly show to your mates in the pub afterwards.

The ‘greatest’, Muhammad Ali, claimed that he was so fast that he could be in bed before it went dark after he flicked the light switch! Speed of hand and speed of foot are vital attributes for a boxer, as they are for an Obstacle Racers, who is wanting to record a PB.

Speed of hand – the best way to develop hand speed is through pad work. This requires the trainer to be in the ring holding pads and moving the fighter around as he throws various punches to the pads.

Speed of foot – Skipping is still used by many boxers as a way to develop foot speed and agility, but more modern practices may be more beneficial. Specifically, boxers use a very short speed ladder of only four rungs aimed at developing ‘change of direction’ speed. Obstacle Racer definetely can relate to many changes of direction, taking the best path possible on the trail runs and those tricky sections of the course, to miminise injury and time.

Boxing training requires energy from both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

Energy systems that are well known to Obstacle Racers, through the constant actions of pulling, pushing, climbing and jumping.

Blood lactate levels are a powerful indicator of the anaerobic contribution to a sport or activity; all other things being equal (fitness of participants etc), the more intense the exercise, the higher the levels of lactate. Research suggests that boxing ranks right at the top, as a test of the short-term anaerobic energy system.

Many of you Obstacle Racers reading this may have done boxing-based workouts as part of your sports training/fitness routine, or might be thinking of doing so. If not, I would highly reccommend you include boxing in your training.

Boxing circuits generally take 45-60 minutes and involve skipping, circuit exercises for the whole body (such as press-ups and crunches) and occasionally bag or pad work and shadow boxing. Recoveries are kept to a minimum and the workouts can be very tough.

Box 2: Example of an effective boxing based fitness circuit

1. Bench press x 10

2. Fast chest press using resistance bands x 15

3. Squat, jump and medicine ball throw x 15

4. Cycling action sit-ups x 25

5. Chin-ups x 10

6. Upright row using resistance bands x 20

7. Side plank with rotation x 10 each side

8. Lateral raise and shoulder raise combination x 10

9. Squat thrusts x 15

10. Diamond press-up and biceps curl combination x 10 each

The circuit would be completed with no rest between exercises and a minutes recovery would then be taken before going again. The number of circuits completed would depend on the athlete’s fitness and the time in the training year.

Boxing is a very demanding sport and training for it needs to reflect this.

So, in conclusion, YES, boxing training for Obstacle Racers (or those involved in stop/start dynamic anaerobic sports), can act as a very useful conditioner. It contributes significantly to endurance and all over body strength. I would highly recommend it!


-Jase Lydom is an Obstacle Racer who owns & operates Geelong Boxing, in Geelong, Victoria.

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