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The Benefits of BoxingBoxing interval training can benefit tactical athletes by improving cardiovascular fitness levels. Several studies have shown improvements in aerobic capacity from short duration, high-intensity interval training (1,3). The ability to maintain a steady, low heart rate while shooting under stress is crucial for precision and accuracy (7). Previous research has shown that 115–145 beats per minute (bpm) is the optimal heart rate range for complex motor skills, visual reaction time, and cognitive reaction time for law enforcement officers (6).
Whether or not this research carries over to a military environment is yet to be determined. Research on elite American bi-athletes showed that heart rate was at 90% of maximum during skiing, and decreased 10–12 bpm over the minute it took to approach the firing line.
When the bi-athletes arrived at the firing line, heart rates averaged 85–87% of maximum for both standing and prone shooting (6).
While the research does not state which heart rate range is optimal for shooting accuracy, knowing these heart rate ranges can help military personnel with the specific conditioning drills. Tactical facilitators should consider all possible scenarios and plan the boxing intervals accordingly. The length of the confrontation and/or pursuit will determine which energy systems are stressed. Intervals should be planned to emphasize a different energy system (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative) throughout the training cycle (2). Developing a Boxing PlanThe phosphagen system is responsible for generating short, intense, and quick bursts of activity at the beginning of a pursuit or fight. To train the phosphagen system, boxing intervals should be 5–10 s in length at 90–100% of maximal power. Since these intervals are “all-out” maximal efforts, it is important that the work-to-rest ratios be set at 1:12 – 1:20 for complete recovery between sets. For example, if the desired work to rest ratio is 1:12, the athlete would hit for 10 s and rest for 2 min. Punch combinations should be kept simple during these intervals due to the high exertion level, such as a repeated left jab/right cross. If the confrontation is intense and lasts longer than 15 s, the glycolytic system will be the predominant energy system used. Tactical athletes with a highly trained glycolytic energy system will have a better tolerance of the “burning” feeling in their muscles, which will increase the probability of fighting longer. Boxing intervals should be 15–30 s in length with 1:3–1:5 work-to-rest ratios. For example, the tactical athlete would punch for 15 s and rest for 45 s if the desired work-to-rest ratio is 1:3. Tactical athletes should be instructed to punch at 75–90% of their maximum power for these intervals.
Boxing intervals should be 1–3 min in length with 1:3–1:4 work-to-rest ratios. Tactical athletes should be instructed to punch at 30–75% of their maximum power. As the intervals get longer, the emphasis should be on light speed and technique work instead of power. Given that overuse musculoskeletal injuries are a significant problem in the military, longer boxing intervals should be used sparingly (5).In conclusion, boxing intervals can improve conditioning levels and shooting accuracy while also reinforcing combative skills necessary for hand-to-hand combat. Using boxing interval conditioning in your program may effectively reduce injuries without negatively affecting overall fitness.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association is the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning. We support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness.
Almeida, SA, Maxwell-Williams, K, Shaffer, RA, and Brodine, SK. Epidemiologic patterns of musculoskeletal injuries and physical training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 31: 1176–1182, 1999.Baechle, TR, and Earle, RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: (2nd ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2000.Burgomaster, KA, Howarth, KR, Philips, SM, Rakobowchuk, M, Macdonald, MJ, McGee, SL, and Gibala, MJ. Similar metabolic adaptations during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. J Physiol 586(1): 1–2, 2008.Grossman, D, and Siddle, B. Psychological effects of combat. Academic Press; 2000.Hollingsworth, D. The prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal injuries during a pre-deployment workup cycle: Survey of a marine corps special operations company. Journal of Special Operations Medicine 9(4): 5–11, 2009.6. Hoffman, M, and Street, G. Characterization of the heart rate response during biathlon. Sports Performance and Technology Laboratory, Medical College of Wisconsin. Int Journal Sports Med 13(5): 390–394, 1992.Siddle, B. Sharpening the warrior’s edge. Belleville, IL: PPCT Research Publications; 1996.