Throwing punches in the ring is only part of the reason why professional boxers have knockout bodies. They also sculpt their strong physiques with tons of cross training—with a focus on building a rock-solid core. “Core conditioning is crucial for boxing,” says Chris Algieri, a professional boxer and two-time world champion. “Most of the power in a punch comes from being able to forcibly rotate your core, giving the strike explosive power.”
A sturdy core also helps keep a boxer’s body safe during a match. “The boxer has to be able to take blows to the body without damaging their ribs and organs,” explains Algieri. “The muscles in the abdominals and obliques act as body armor against opponents’ attacks.”
You don’t have to be a pro fighter to reap the ab-chiseling benefits of a boxer’s training. In the video above and in the gifs below, Algieri demonstrates his go-to conditioning exercises for a strong, stable core that’s ready to roll with the punches.
This move is great for boxers because it focuses on core stability, while also rotating the shoulders and incorporating the lower body. Plus it’s an athletic movement that hones coordination.
What to do: Begin by laying on your back with hands behind head, then alternate bringing each elbow to the opposite knee, while maintaining a tight core. Do 10-20 continuous crunches with each elbow. Rest and then repeat 2-3 times.
This is a key exercise for a boxer, since the movement promotes both core stability and shoulder girdle strength—crucial for throwing those strong punches.
What to do: Turn to one side with your legs extended and your feet and hips planted on the ground. Now, put your elbow under your shoulder and push your abs and hips up until the top of your body forms a straight line. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Return to the starting position, then move to the other side and repeat.
This is an awesome move that challenges balance and coordination, as well as core strength.
What to do: Start off in a plank position. With your weight resting on your left forearm, slowly lift your right arm off the ground, reaching it out in front of you. Lower back down, and alternate to the left arm. Do this 10 times with each arm.
The T-push-up will help you build core stability, as well as posterior shoulder strength and flexibility. Boxers experience a lot of wear and tear on the shoulder, so it’s important to strengthen each part of the shoulder. Plus, the push-up works the anterior deltoid, which is important for movement and power when punching forward.
What to do: Begin in a standard push-up position. Lower your body slowly, as you would for a regular push-up. But as you push yourself up, turn to one side, raising that side’s arm towards the ceiling. Return your hand to the floor, then repeat on the other side. Do this 15 times on each side.
RELATED: 4 Ab-Sculpting Plank Variations
This exercise really works your lower abdominals and also promotes full-body coordination. Boxers will often explode out of a crouched position, so it’s important to have strong lower abs to support this movement. And the second part, seated underhand pass, uses isometric holds to promote core strength and stability. Plus it hones the hand-eye coordination necessary to be a great fighter.
What to do: From seated position with feet off the ground, squeeze your abs and pull knees in as you pass a weight (or medicine ball or an imaginary object) under your bent leg. Repeat 20 times.
This isometric hold promotes core strength, while the crunch tones your obliques and increases endurance. It’s also another move that promotes coordination between the upper and lower body.
What to do: From side position, simultaneously crunch and pull knees in, keeping feet off the floor and focusing on your obliques. Repeat this 15-20 times.
This classic ab move will improve your core rotational strength, which is important for maximizing power when throwing a punch.
What to do: Starting in a seated position, explosively twist from one side to the other. Aim to twist to each side 15-20 times.
This is a full-core movement, which works you upper and lower ab muscles in the initial sit-up, then fires up your obliques during the twist. Similar to Russian twist, this sit-up variation strengthens rotational core movement and improves your ability to generate power from the core (aka the essentials for throwing a punch.)
What to do: Starting on your back, roll up into a sit-up, with one leg extended and one foot pressed into the floor, knee bent. From here, explosively twist to the side, bringing your opposite elbow to the bent knee. Do this 15-20 times, then switch to the other side.
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