How Do Boxers Build Muscle Without Lifting Weights? - Combat Sport Events

How Do Boxers Build Muscle Without Lifting Weights?

Amazingly there is a lot of science behind building muscle when it comes to the boxing industry. Too much muscle can create a negative impact, and not enough muscle can determine a lower weight class. One must be strategic when it comes to building muscle without weights in boxing.

How do boxers build muscle without lifting weights? Boxers can gain muscle without lifting weights by using their body weight for resistance. Lifting weights can create too much extra muscle mass, so they need to find another way to maintain weight and build muscle by strength and resistance training.

Boxers can gain muscle depending on how they train and how much they train. Building and maintaining muscle mass can be as simple as performing different exercise techniques without weights such as calisthenics, cardio, hitting a heavy bag or speed bag, jump roping, sparring, speed, and strength training. Diet will also influence healthy muscle building.

Build Muscle Without Weights

Boxers build muscle through high repetitions and low loads. More muscle mass for boxers actually has adverse effects in their performance because it slows them down by decreasing their speed, agility, and also flexibility.

So it is important that they find a different method of building muscle opposed to weight lifting. Multiple muscle groups supply power for the punches the boxers are dishing out.

Full-body exercises like calisthenics are perfect with the addition of circuit training and cardio for boxers.

Other techniques that are available to build muscle without weight, especially for boxers, is hitting a heavy bag or speed bag. Not only does it build muscle, but these bags help the boxers in the ring when fighting a moving target.


Calisthenics are gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness. This style of exercise focuses on strength and body training. It is also known to improve strength, posture, and body compositions.

This benefits boxers because here is no need for major gym equipment to do these exercises. Studies have shown that men who perform calisthenics lower body fat percentages and increase muscle without weight lifting.

Another great thing about calisthenic training is there are exercises for the entire body. There are upper body exercises that include chest and shoulders. Also, back, abs exercises, and leg exercises within calisthenics.

Mike Tyson Weigh in

Upper Body Calisthenics

Some exercises for the upper body include many variations of pushups like inclines, declines, wide, close-hand push-ups, pike, and handstand push-ups. Pushups are a great exercise to burn body fat and build muscle using your own body weight.

Other upper body exercises that push-ups increase muscle mass is in the shoulder. Exercises like the pike and handstand pushups specifically focus on the shoulder muscles.

More arm calisthenic variations great for boxers:

  • Tricep Dips
  • Dip Holds
  • Inverted Rows
  • Diamond Pushups

Back Calisthenics

A few back calisthenics exercises include variations of pull-ups like regular pulls-ups, closed or wide hand pull-ups, and chin-ups. This will work out different groups of muscles in your back and increase fat burning.

Abdominal Calisthenics

My absolute favorite area to work out, the abdominals, have so many different exercises to choose from, and they are all great for burning fat and gaining muscles without weights. There are standing variations and on the floor.

For boxers, planks and leg raises are great because the muscle groups are not only working the ab muscles but the legs and arms. So they get a great burn while strength training and working on posture holding these poses all in one.

Some additional ab calisthenics include:

  • Flutter Kicks
  • Bicycles
  • Starfish
  • Side Planks

Leg Calisthenics

As mentioned, calisthenics fulfils every muscle group of the body. One of the more challenging muscles groups to build, the legs, also has a slew of exercises to choose from.

Squats are great because they work your legs and glutes. They are great for building muscle, just like lunges, calf raises, and wall sits.

One wonderful thing about exercising full-body is in most cases, your legs are constantly working throughout the workout, especially in standing workouts.

Benefits of Calisthenics

Calisthenics is a great form of exercising for boxing because of the overall full-body workout you can get from it, but it is great because it requires no weights. And in boxing, this is ideal to gain muscle without the excess.


Cardio may not seem like it would build muscle and honestly you will not bulk up from performing cardio exercises like running or sprinting. However, the benefits of adding cardio into your fitness routine will actually balance out and maintain the muscle mass you’ve built.

Cardio is ideal for boxers. They will perform a lot of cardiovascular training and conditioning. Cardio exercises like sparring and jumping rope play a major role in circuit training for boxers. Pad work and use of punching heavy bags are also key components in a boxers workout.

Muscular man jumping rope

Jump Roping and Sparring

There are several benefits to jump roping, and many professional boxers perform this exercise to better themselves.

The benefits of jumping rope for boxers:

  • Weightless exercise
  • Improves footwork
  • Increases stamina
  • Improves endurance

Jumping rope as a training technique benefits boxers conditioning coordination and power. It’s such a great exercise because it actually trains and prepares them for action during the matches.

These types of exercises reduce fat and increase muscle visibility. Which is why boxers look so muscular. It is not bulk muscle but instead lean muscle. Cardio has a major influence as to why boxers appear the way they do.



Sparring is another great technique that builds muscle but not too much muscle. It also is great to get in shape overall and practice your form in the ring.

Sparring is the next step beyond hitting the heavy bag. This is helpful for mastering offense and defense through that series of drills with a partner. It’s not an actual match, but training in the ring that allows you to practice your form, including punches and footwork.

There are a series of techniques for sparring that uses gloves and some without such as working on footwork and tap sparring.


There is no actual touching in these drills for footwork. However, you and your pattern will practice a series of shuffles forward and backwards and also side-to-side. The goal is who ever is following to stay in front of the leader within punching distance.

Tap Sparring

Again, another drill without the need for gloves. The main idea for this drill is to touch your partner’s shoulders within punching range, but without punching, just try to reach for their shoulder.

This drill is great for beginners getting comfortable with their form and reacting to someone coming towards them with a throw and to react appropriately to avoid getting touched.

Additional Benefits of Cardio

The additional benefits of cardio, especially for boxers, is the endurance and strength in the ring cardio will build. Since muscles have a lot of blood flow and constantly need oxygen flowing through them, cardio is a great way to build endurance for your muscles.

Importantly, cardio strengthens the cardiovascular system and, as mentioned, improves the blood flow through the body. Building endurance and strength will help the boxer last longer during the fight.

With that said, this is even known to decrease onset muscle soreness, and taking all those blows, a boxer would favor from that alone. Recovery time also increases with improved blood flow.

For those wondering, the best cardio to achieve those hot benefits is sprinting. As a sprinter in school, I know the short burst expended my oxygen quicker than a long-distance race. Boxers can benefit from this because sprinting is known to burn fat quicker and build muscle in the core.

Cardio overall is just great. Especially because for boxers, too much muscle mass has a negative impact during their fight. So running can balance them back down the weight they need without losing drastic muscle.

Speed and Strength Training

Ballistic, plyometric, and occlusion training are all methods of exercise to improve speed and strength in their boxing. Where it may not build large gains in muscle, it is ideal because boxers do not want to add too much extra muscle mass to their weight.


Man using ballistic ball for mma

Ballistic exercises include movements that will improve coordination as well as maintain speed. Exercises include:

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Load Jumps
  • Landmine Punch Throw

In ballistic exercises, more volume of repetitions with shorter sets make up this training. This style of exercise helps boxers advance their speed but also benefit in strength and agility during explosive bursts of exercise that will help them in the ring.

This can be used for circuit training sessions as well as including plyometrics. This allows boxers to constantly move as they would in a boxing match and help build their strength and muscular endurance.


Plyometrics are techniques that improve strength and amortization through concentrated force output in every move you make. Simply explosive exercises that work on powerful movements to strengthen the boxer during their fights.

These exercises mimic the physical demand boxing requires during its matches. Incorporating this style of exercise will help train your body to react quickly and explosively, like fighting.

Some of the best plyometric exercises for building muscle includes:

  • Box Jumps
  • Depth Jumps
  • Plyo Push-ups
  • Bounding

Box jumps you have a wooden box at a certain height that you stand in front of, feet on the ground and jump to the top of the box. Depth jumps are reversed. Start with your feet on a knee-high box and jump to a square position with your feet on the floor. The goal is to spend the least amount of time on the ground.

Plyo push-ups require you to complete the push-up and when the return to start position explodes into the air pushing off the ground.

Bounding is when you start by jogging and push off with one foot and use the opposing leg to a 90-degree angle, so it is parallel to the ground. While in the air, reach forward with both arms and repeat using the other side.


Occlusion training is when a device is wrapped around the top of the focused muscle and applies pressure to restrict blood flow to that muscle. This training works the muscle with restricted blood flow when the muscle is most fatigued because the oxygen is now reduced to the working muscle.

The science behind this is the fast-twitch muscle fibers activate to functional mass for faster contractions, which is needed for explosive movements. And in boxing, the majority of the action is explosive punches.

This is known to be a valuable resource for gaining muscle mass without lifting weights. Which is ideal because of no weights, but there are plenty of additional resources to use if you are not interested in restricting blood flow to muscle groups.

Another Important Factor: Diet

Healthy Meal

Most boxers have a low percentage of body fat. Any person trying to get fit has surely heard the only way to get abs is in the kitchen. It is plausibly true. Diet is essential to maintain a healthy weight for anyone, not just boxers, but it requires a healthy diet too.

Boxers will reduce their diet intake to reduce weight or cut a few pounds to make a certain weight class for a fight. They also maintain a healthy diet to sustain a certain weight.

For boxers, they must eat before a fight because if they do not, they could risk losing energy and extend their recovery time. Eating before a match also reduces risk of injury and enhances performance.

A healthy meal is important, so they get the nutrients they need to endure the competition and build muscle.

Typically, boxers maintain a calorie intake of 5500 per day. That is a large amount of calories, but they require more for the energy they expend. The main thing boxers have to take seriously with their diet is to keep it balanced without starving and not feeling too heavy after a meal.

A Balanced Diet

A boxer’s diet consists of all kinds of foods, including carbohydrates and proteins. Foods high in energy are essential for boxers. However, they have to be smart in their food choices. They avoid junk foods and stick with vegetables and fruits to keep them in the best shape for their sport.

They must try to eat enough that supplies the energy for a fight or between training sessions. Also, they must eat wise and healthy meals to benefit muscle building and maintain their weight.

Negative Impact Weight Lifting Has On Boxers

In boxing, having extra muscle does not benefit the boxer. Instead, it bogs them down during the fight. What happens is the extra muscle counteracts and causes a reduction in speed and lung capacity.

The science behind muscle mass is that muscles carry a lot of blood, in which blood requires oxygen constantly. The oxygen going to your muscles during a boxing match should be utilized elsewhere in performance and endurance throughout the event instead of keeping your extra muscles fueled.

Additionally, extra muscle adds extra weight to your body. Muscle weighs more than fat. So the more bulky muscle a boxer has, the more weight they have to carry out and provide oxygen for which can slow them down in the run.

If a boxer were to lift right before a match, they could even exceed their weight class.

The extra muscle does not help them win the fight but actually increase the potential of losing. You will not see many boxers with big bulky muscles but instead, lean and clean-cut muscles.

Re-cap Reasons Weight Training Should Be Avoided.

Weight training in boxing is not beneficial. The mass of the muscle will make the boxer tire out more quickly because there is more mass to lug around the ring. This will also slow the boxer down.

The added muscle mass requires more blood flow making the lung produce more oxygen that could be used elsewhere as for endurance to get through the fight.

They say that boxing is a punching contest, not a power contest. Actually, having bulky muscles will not result in a larger, more powerful punch. There is a science behind the punch that makes it successful.

The power behind the punch takes still not more muscle.

In order to make a great connection, punching requires a few key features. It requires accuracy, angle, technique, and timing. Just because a punch is powerful does not make it great. Ultimately, it takes skill.

Get Fit Like A Boxer


Get fit like an actual boxer without heavy weight training!

People Magazine put together a work out routine for those that want to get fit inspired by the Rocky movies. A series of circuits with 10 rounds of various weight less exercises that include jumping jacks, thrusters, and abs will get you in the mindset of Rocky.

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