Cool downs are often prescribed to enhance recovery after a training session. In fact, at the collegiate level in the USA, 89% of trainers recommend a cool down . However, it remains relatively unknown whether a cool down actually shows any benefit over no performing a cool down.
Cooling down after boxing should be performed as an active reset to prepare for you the next training session. Performing opposite stance shadowboxing or mobility circuits are great extensions to your training session and are much better options than static stretching.
If it is not known whether a cool down is really beneficial, then why would you need to perform one?
Why Perform A Cool Down After Boxing?
Cool downs are often prescribed as a way to facilitate recovery after a training session. It is usually said that cool downs help prevent stiffness and soreness before the next training session or the following day.
However, evidence suggests that an active cool down is largely ineffective at improving sports performance later in the same day when training sessions are greater than 4 hours apart .
When looking at sports performance the following day, active cool downs seem relatively ineffective as well. However, there are some beneficial effects to cooling down that may relate to boxers.
Most importantly, cooling down does not help to prevent injury which is another statement often made regarding the importance of cooling down. So do you even need an active cool down after boxing training?
Do You Need To Cool Down After Boxing?
There are two different types of cool downs, passive and active. Passive cool downs are essentially doing nothing. Just sitting, lying, or standing.
They can also involve using external recovery means such as ice baths but for the purpose of this cooling down article, they will not be included. Active cool downs are what they seem, involving some form of movement.
Most generally it is prescribed as jogging.
Same Day Performance
Same day performance refers to when sessions are greater than 4 hours apart as many boxers may train more than once a day in order to fit their boxing training and strength training into a weekly schedule.
It seems that a 20-minute active cool down may reduce muscle pain compared to a passive cool down in professional young soccer players when jogging, walking, and running were performed on land . However, no benefits in performance were seen.
Similarly, futsal players using the same 20-minute active cool down intervention found no difference in performance outcomes between the active and passive cool down .
When using 20 minutes of exercise in water as the active cool down modality in the military population, no performance benefits were seen for active or passive cool downs .
Within the elite Weightlifting population, 15 minutes of rowing had no beneficial effects on subsequent performance or markers of fatigue compared to a passive cool down .
This evidence suggests that performing an active cool down after your first session of the day may not be needed as it does not promote recovery over a passive cool down.
However, there were individual effects where some subjects had beneficial or detrimental responses to the active cool down meaning you may have to experiment with yourself and be aware of how you feel going into your second session of the day.
Next Day Performance
Active cool downs and next-day performance seem to be influenced by the type of cool down performed (e.g. running or water jogging), the activity preceding the cool down, the training experience of the individual, and the individual’s preferences .
The research suggests that activities that involve higher levels of muscular power and muscle damage such as jumping, decelerating, landing, sprinting, or change of direction before any land-based active cool down involving running seems to be beneficial for jump performance but detrimental for sprint performance in professional soccer players .
In non-professional netball players, active cool downs didn’t provide any benefit for jump or sprint performance the following day compared to a passive cool down .
In fact, those performing the active cool down had higher heart rates, blood lactate measures, and perceived difficulty of exercise during the cool down compared to passive cool down.
When a water-based cool down is implemented after extremely muscle-damaging exercise, the active cool down attenuated the decline muscle power the following delay compared to a passive cool down .
Further, an active cool down is generally not effective for reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) compared to passive cool downs, especially in non-elite athletes. However, in well-trained individuals, an active cool down may reduce muscle soreness the next day .
Overall, we can conclude that performing a cool down after your first training session of the day before a second session may not be necessary unless it makes you feel great later in the day.
If you are very well trained, then an active cool down after your last session of the day may help you perform better the following day. So how should you go about it?
Cool Down Exercises After Boxing
One of my mentors Vern Gambetta has influenced how I prescribe cool downs for athletes. Rather than performing mindless activities such as jogging after training, use the time to set up the next training session.
Vern states the cool down should be more active than passive and to think of it as a neural reset. Some great examples he gives are hurdle walkovers rather than jogging, or choreographed yoga poses rather than static stretching.
Another example is performing left handed throws for someone who throws right handed. This is something that could be implemented in boxers where a cool down could be performing shadowboxing in your opposite stance.
Having access to a pool for a water based cool down is very rare and the majority of boxing gyms won’t have a pool so I will not give any examples of that.
Cool Down Routines After Boxing
Here are a couple of examples you can use for your active boxing cool down. Choosing not to perform an active cool down is also fine as the difference between active and passive cool downs seems to be minimal.
However, an active cool down can provide you a chance to work on some skills or physical qualities you need improving.
Option 1: Non-favored stance shadowboxing x10-15 minutes
Not only do you get to improve both stances, but you also add a little extra aerobic conditioning at the end of your training.
Option 2: Yoga Flow focusing on upper body
Put your body through ranges of motion you miss when boxing.
Option 3: Hurdle over and unders
Keep the hips mobile and healthy.
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