When it comes to boxing, people always tend to concentrate on the punching, the footwork, avoiding punches but something which is often overlooked is how you breathe whilst training. How you breathe is a crucial element of your game, I have had people tell me they cannot spar or compete in boxing because they hold their breath when punching, which means you gas out that much quicker so it is not a habit you want to develop, let’s go over some key points when it comes to breathing for boxing.
I’m sure many of us have watched boxing and the boxer can be heard grunting through our TV screens, off the top of my head World Champion and for a time the best boxer in the world a couple of years back, Andre Ward did this, Amir Khan is another. All boxers will have some sort of breathing technique when fighting, the most common breathing method is making an almost hissing like sound when punching so you are exhaling air from your mouth. Another good way to incorporate the exhaling into your punching is to say ‘Yes’ through your teeth/mouth guard every time you punch. Think of it like a gas tank, if you are exhaling as you punch, the gas tank gradually decreases but when you step back to breath again, the gas tank refills. If you hold your breath whilst punching the gas tank is not controlled so decreases quicker because you are then forced to compensate for the lack of breathing by trying to take deeper breaths between combinations, this of course means you will be out of gas much quicker.
Between rounds you want to start off by breathing deeply through the nose, this helps control your breathing, take more oxygen in and also helps to de-stress the situation and calm you down. If you ever see a boxer finish a round and sitting down on their stool breathing deeply through the nose and the trainer isn’t saying a word for 10-20 seconds it is because the trainer wants their fighter to control their breathing and calm down before passing on instructions for the next round.
Breathing through the nose has many benefits – already mentioned is stress and the calming effect it provides by controlling and slowing down your breathing, add to that reducing hypertension. Nasal breathing is more efficient than mouth breathing in terms of supplying oxygen to the body, when you are boxing then this is a key element to your success, else what happens is you begin to hyperventilate and that isn’t a good idea when you are in the stress of fighting – Breathing in through the nose helps us take fuller, deeper breaths, which stimulates the lower lung to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body. More oxygen means more energy, especially for such a hard sport like Boxing. Also, the lower lung is rich with the parasympathetic nerve receptors associated with calming the body and mind, whereas the upper lungs — which are stimulated by chest and mouth breathing — prompt us to hyperventilate and trigger sympathetic nerve receptors, which result in the fight or flight reaction,(source www.gaiam.com) again when fighting, this is the last thing you want to happen when someone is trying to punch you in the face.
So the next time you are boxing, keep in mind your breathing habits, by having better breathing habits and better control of your breathing, you will be able to last longer in the ring which means you will be able to box better and punch both faster and harder – you might just find that proper breathing gives you more energy and improves your game to the next level, don’t underestimate your breathing for boxing!
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Author of: The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle
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