When you think of boxing, what do you think of first? Cardio endurance probably isn’t one of the first things that come to mind and that’s OK, as there is so many different factors that make up a large part of boxing, whether you are a practitioner of the sport or a spectator.
As we have discussed many times, boxing is a very complex sport and that is what makes it such a sweet science. Boxers have to be a well-rounded athlete.
What is cardio?
To put it in the simplest terms, cardio is a type of rhythmic exercise that ups your heart rate into a targeted zone. However long you keep the heart rate in a specific zone for a certain amount of time will dictate the fat burned, calories consumed, oxygen pumped around the body and various other things.
Why do boxers need it?
Cardiovascular endurance is actually one of the key components in the longevity of a boxing match but even more so, a boxer’s career. It is just as important in a training camp as it is in the ring.
Boxing rounds are very intense and it takes a lot of physical fitness to endure 12 rounds with an opponent who is trying to knock you out or wear you down. People get gassed out in the later rounds, it often happens in the early rounds too and this is because they haven’t worked enough on their cardio or relied too much on expecting an early knockout.
If you are a boxer at any level or into fitness at all, you can probably improve on your cardio endurance.
The main health benefits of cardio training
The right amount of cardio can dictate changes in so many things but there are ways to do it that focus on achieving different outcomes. A good plan is to incorporate different types of cardiovascular training into your regimen so you can allow yourself to improve in each area instead of just focusing on one outcome.
Cardio and heart strength.
When it comes to cardio and heart strength, the two are pretty much synonymous because you can’t do anything without a beating heart and you can’t do cardio without giving your heart a workout.
It would take several articles to explain everything in the finest detail so we have decided to give you the main points as the takeaway lesson here.
Think of it like this; Your heart is the engine for all of your physical activity and the brain is the driver.
Just like with any other muscle in the body, when you work it correctly and allow it time for proper recuperation, it becomes stronger and performs better. So doing the right amount of cardiovascular exercise will make you a better athlete because of this.
If the heart is more efficient at pumping blood around the body, you will have a better supply of nutrients and oxygen to push yourself harder and for longer with any type of exertion.
Cardio and heart health
Physical activity also improves heart health by keeping arteries from narrowing or clogging up with bad cholesterol. It also improves the amount of good cholesterol in your bloodstream and makes it easier to transport the metabolized nutrients in and around your body.
Increases lung capacity
Your lungs work in conjunction with your heart.
Pushing yourself with physical activity means that your breathing rate has to increase as your heart pumps faster.
Your heart has to keep up with the demand for oxygen supplies to be pumped around the body and your lungs are responsible for providing that supply of oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide and other waste products.
When your lungs are allowed to rest properly after intense bouts of exercise they will become stronger and more efficient at doing their job, just like the heart.
Strong lungs increase the maximum amount of oxygen they can uptake, so doing regular cardio with progressive overload is essential if you want to keep improving as a boxer.
Cardio helps burn fat
You can do two main types of cardio, one focuses on fat burning and the other type will improve cardiovascular fitness more so. (It has to be appreciated that either type of cardio will still have an effect on both outcomes but each type prioritizes one factor over the other.)
It all comes down to the heart rate zone you keep your body at and how long you do it for. It also depends on your overall goals as a boxer and where you are currently at, you may need to lose weight to make weight for a fight or you may be at the correct weight and be more focused on improving fitness.
We all have a maximal heart rate that we should work at, the easiest way to do this is by subtracting your age from 220, whatever number that comes to is your maximal heart rate and you should avoid working beyond that.
Cardio and fat burning zones are different percentages within your personal maximal heart rate.
To focus on fat burning cardio you should aim for a working heart rate between 55-70%, in this zone as more calories are burned from fat stores. If improving cardiovascular endurance is the main focus then you should aim to keep your target zone between 55-80% of your maximal heart rate.
By burning fat on a regular basis with cardio you will keep your body lean and more efficient all round with an improved metabolism. It will also boost your overall metabolic rate, meaning even when you sleep and rest you will be more efficient as using fat up as fuel stores! DOUBLE WIN!
Here is a little cheat sheet to help you understand the benefits of cardio endurance training:
- Improved heart strength to pump blood around the body.
- Assists in burning fat and calories.
- Increases your lung capacity
- Improves mood and decreases stress.
How boxers use cardio to train and win
Boxers can use cardio in all kinds of ways to train and win. Any type of exercise that keeps your heart rate in the right zone is cardio, so you can get really inventive with it.
Nobody that we know wants to sit on an exercise bike all day long or use a treadmill for every single cardio session.
Popular training drills include cardio, power, strength and skill aqquisition all rolled into one. Training can feel like a chore a lot of the time, so if you and your coach can come up with ways to do your cardio that keep things interesting, you will keep a better mentality and stay enthusiastic.
The Feel good factor
Cardio can assist in boosting morale, help you focus and allow your brain chemistry to produce feel-good chemicals and neurotransmitters. The improved blood flow and oxygen don’t just have a positive effect on skeletal muscle but on your central nervous system and brain activity too, so don’t miss out and keep a sharp mental edge.
This is just another example in an endless list of why one should appreciate the importance of cardio endurance in boxing.
Cardio in different weight classes
The importance of cardiovascular endurance in different weight classes does not differ. It is just as essential no matter how heavy somebody is in terms of overall health and performance.
Some might argue that a Butterbean relied on raw power and being an immovable object, but no matter what weight class or body type a boxer is, they will all benefit from taking their cardio training seriously and so will you.
Before we get to a couple of frequently asked questions, here’s an intense workout for you!
Can you do too much cardio?
Yes, you can do too much cardio in training. Too much cardio can have an adverse effect on your immune system and even eat up precious muscle tissue.
Bouts of cardio exercise should be planned within a balanced exercise and nutritional plan to maximise the benefits of it.
Cardiovascular exercise sessions should be based on your individual goals and would be more frequent and intense if you were in a training camp coming up to fight night.
Will last-minute cardio help me cut weight?
It will make you lose weight but not in a healthy way, in fact it will have an adverse effect on your health and make you feel fatigued.
If you try and ‘sweat it out’ then all you are going to do is dehydrate yourself, lose water weight, impair your metabolism and decrease your focus, increasing your chances of losing a fight.
All cardiovascular exercise should be built up steadily towards making weight, never use it as a last-ditch effort to shed a few more pounds and think this is healthy to do.