Calisthenics is a type of resistance training that teaches you to master your own bodyweight.
It includes compound movements like pull-ups, push-ups and squats.
But does calisthenics help with boxing?
Here’s why calisthenics is good for boxing:
Calisthenics is good for boxing as it helps improve your power, fitness and strength. All of which are crucial for boxing. Calisthenics is cheap and convenient too as it doesn’t require a gym so it can be done anywhere at anytime.
In this article, we cover the benefits of calisthenics for boxing, whether calisthenics is better than weights for boxing, whether you should do calisthenics before or after boxing and much more.
Why Boxers Do Calisthenics
Power is the ability to move weight in a super short time period.
It’s super important in boxing as the more power you pack, the harder and faster your punches are.
(Just think of explosive punchers like Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder – both pack a ton of power.)
Calisthenics is great for improving power as many calisthenics exercises are explosive (we’ll cover some of these later in the article), and they don’t use any weight.
(More weight generally slows down the speed of the movement. But when you want to improve power, your movements need to be fast and explosive.)
Strength is crucial in boxing for many reasons.
For example, research shows that a lot of the power generated from punches is driven through the legs.
So the stronger your legs are, the more power you can pack in your punches.
Also, leg strength is crucial for your ability to dance around the ring and stay on your feet.
Core strength is just as important too, as it links the lower and upper body in the Kinetic Chain.
(The Kinetic Chain describes how force is transferred through your body to produce movement. When you punch, force is generated through your legs and transferred through your core to your arms.)
Well, the good news is that calisthenics is awesome for improving strength.
In one study, 23 males performed either push-ups (i.e., calisthenics) or bench press training (i.e., weights) 3 days per week for 4 weeks.
The results showed that the males who performed push ups had significantly improved push up progression compared to the males who performed bench press.
Less likely to injure yourself
While resistance training is super important to get in shape for boxing, a drawback is that it can increase the likelihood of injuries.
(Which will stop you from entering the ring for obvious reasons!)
Looking at anecdotal evidence, there seems to be less risk getting injured when doing calisthenics compared to other forms of resistance training.
Here’s a case study from Braden Leonardo, who shared his story at themovementathlete.com:
When I was in high school, prior to my injury I was 169lbs benching 300lbs, squatting 2 x 325lb, and deadlifting 475lbs. I was one of the strongest kids pound for pound. I was very successful with weight lifting and was showing more progress as the weeks went on. I was weight strong but not body strong.
I injured my shoulder from heavy lifting. I was at my strongest, and from then on, I haven’t gotten back to that strength. I didn’t plan to rehab, because I loved the gym so much, and didn’t want to step away. My stubbornness kept me from getting it fixed. Not a smart move. It didn’t get better until I started calisthenics…I realized the benefit of having less stress put on my joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Since then, Braden’s shoulder has healed while he’s gained more strength and power from calisthenics.
Another important trait for boxing is fitness.
The less fit you are, the harder it is to throw and dodge punches as you start to fatigue.
Whereas the fitter you are, the more you can sustain your intensity and skills throughout the match.
Interestingly, high intensity calisthenics (HIC) can help sustain fitness.
In one study, 26 army cadets performed either standard physical training or HIC for 3 days per week over 4 weeks.
The results showed that the HIC sustained fitness levels despite the short duration and reduced volume.
Is Calisthenics Better Than Weights For Boxing?
As you’ve just seen, there are many benefits of calisthenics for boxing, but does that mean calisthenics is better than weights?
Well, it depends.
Many of the benefits we’ve covered can be achieved via weight training, although I’d argue calisthenics is better when it comes to improving power and reducing risk of injury.
But ultimately, it all boils down to what you enjoy and what you can do consistently.
If you really enjoy weights and hate calisthenics, then you’re probably more suited to weights as you won’t be able to motivate yourself to do calisthenics consistently.
(Remember, when it comes to progressing at anything in life, consistency is key!)
Whereas if you enjoy calisthenics, and can stick to a routine, then you should give it a try and see if it works for you.
Should You Do Calisthenics Before Or After Boxing?
You should always do calisthenics after boxing.
Well, when you’re boxing an opponent in the ring, you’re always going into the ring fresh and energized.
So if you were to do calisthenics before a boxing session, you would be training with less energy than you’d have in an actual fight.
(Which can reduce the quality of the training.)
Whereas if you were to do calisthenics after boxing, it just means you won’t be able to push yourself as hard when doing calisthenics.
This isn’t the end of world as the calisthenics is there to support your boxing – not the other way round.
But if you want to do both boxing and calisthenics at 100% intensity, you should do them on different days.
How Often Should You Do Calisthenics For Boxing?
This is a tough one to answer as it depends on a few things.
First, how intense are your calisthenics sessions?
If you do vigorous calisthenics, you’d probably want a maximum of 4 sessions a week to allow your body to recover.
Whereas if you do moderate calisthenics, you can likely squeeze in 6 sessions a week.
Another thing to consider is how much volume are you doing in each calisthenics workout?
If you’re doing multiple sets on a variety of exercises per muscle, you should aim to cover each muscle group just once per week.
This will allow your muscles time to recover between workouts.
Whereas if you’re just doing one set to failure for each body part, the total volume is much lower so you can squeeze in more workouts.
Should All Boxers Do Calisthenics?
In short, yes – all boxers should definitely try calisthenics.
There’s very little downside at all, as it’s safe, effective and you can do it anywhere at anytime.
But going back to what I said earlier, if you really hate doing calisthenics, then you should try another form of resistance training to ensure you stick to a schedule.
3 Awesome Calisthenics Exercises For Boxing
So you’ve decided to bite the bullet and try out calisthenics for boxing.
But where do you start?
Well, here are 3 awesome calisthenics exercises to help improve your power for boxing.
Start this movement in a push-up position with your arms straight.
Now, with your core engaged, slowly bend your arms and lower yourself into a push-up.
Next, explosively push off the floor with the intention of generating enough power to lift your upper body and hands off the floor, in one swift movement.
Once your hands land back on the floor, transition straight into the next repetition.
Start with your feet at shoulder width apart.
Then slowly lower into a squat position and explode up off the floor, ensuring your hips, knees and ankles are fully extended.
Like with the explosive push-up, you should transition into the next rep once your feet land back on the floor.
Start in a lunge position with your right foot forward.
With a swift explosive motion, jump up off the ground.
When you’re in mid-air, alternate your front and back legs so that you land with your left foot forward.
(Remember to land gently!)
When you land with your left foot forward, repeat the motion alternating your front and back legs and repeat.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.