Just like the push-up, the pull-up is a staple bodyweight exercise used among boxers. For good reason. You don’t need any equipment other than something to hang from and to develop some serious upper body strength.
You should be performing pull-ups for boxing. They provide structural balance to your upper body and further, pull-ups will help keep your shoulders healthy which is vitally important for the sport of boxing.
If pull-ups are so great for boxers, are there hidden benefits such as turning your hands into hard-hitting steel?
Can Pull-Ups Increase Punching Power?
Pull-ups won’t directly increase your punching power. The contribution from the upper body when punching is not a differentiating factor between experienced and less experienced boxers or between knock-out artists and speedsters and players .
This means that getting a stronger upper body through pull-ups likely isn’t going to help you punch This means that getting a stronger upper body through pull-ups likely isn’t going to help you punch harder.
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This is further evidenced by the fact that 76% of the effort delivered into a punch is accounted by the legs and trunk . But performing pull-ups strengthens the lats which play an important role in snapping the hand back after throwing a punch.
Benefits Of Pull-Ups For Boxing
If pull-ups aren’t going to directly help you punch harder, then what are the benefits of doing pull-ups for boxing?
Boxing heavily taxes the muscles in the front of your body. That is the shoulders, pecs, and arms from holding your hands in a boxing guard and throwing on average 20-23 punches per minute with 130 punches per fight .
When training outside of boxing, you want to target qualities and musculature that don’t get trained when boxing. The muscles of the back don’t get much love when boxing. Therefore, performing pull-ups can provide some structural balance for the upper body by performing a pulling movement.
Improve Shoulder Health
Part of creating structural balance is improving overall shoulder health. But the pull-up in particular does a little more to improve the health of the shoulders. By hanging, you create space in the shoulder joint and create a loaded stretch on the lats.
For those that suffer postural problems, this loaded stretch can enhance shoulder mobility quickly and is one of the best ways to do so.
This only occurs if you perform pull-ups with a full range of motion and allow yourself to hang in the bottom position between reps. What many boxers don’t realize is that the lats attach to the front of the shoulder just like the pecs and biceps.
Boxers often have a rounded shoulder posture and look to use exercises like pull-ups to balance this out and restore proper posture. However, short and tight lats are often a large part of the problem for those with rounded shoulders.
So, it’s important that you allow your arms to be fully straight between each rep.
Chin-Ups Or Pull-Ups For Boxing?
You should always do both chin-ups and pull-ups for boxing unless you have an injury that prevents you from doing one or the other. To quickly differentiate the two, a chin-up is performed with your palms facing you in an underhand grip. A chin-up can also be done with a neutral grip with your palms facing each other.
A pull-up uses a pronated or overhand grip with your palms facing away from you. Generally, chin-up variations are easier than pull-ups because you’ve placed your arms in an advantageous position where they can have a greater contribution to the exercise.
The pronated grip doesn’t allow the stronger arm muscles to exert as much effort into the lift. Using both the chin-up and pull-up for boxing isn’t only about arm involvement, however. It’s about elbow and wrist health.
When performing pull-ups and chin-ups with the grip and grip width, you can run into elbow and wrist problems. Trust me, I’ve been there. But rotating your grips every set, or every session, or every cycle ensures you don’t run into these problems while still getting the benefits of performing pull-ups.
How Many Pull-Ups Can Boxers Do?
According to Men’s Health, Mayweather is reported to bust out 40 pull-ups unbroken. I highly doubt these are strict, full range of motion pull-ups as 40 is a serious feat of strength. Depending on your size, being able to do 10 strict pull-ups in a row would be considered a good benchmark.
Is The Pull-up Good For Boxing?
The pull-up is a great exercise for boxing and should be a staple within your boxing weight training program. If you’re after sets and reps recommendations, it will depend on your current levels of strength. As a general rule, anywhere from 5-15 reps and 2-4 sets will be a good guideline to follow.
For further strength development, you can perform weighted pull-ups using 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps. Don’t forget to use as many different grips and grip widths as possible to keep your elbows and wrists healthy.
1. Filimonov VI, K.K., Husyanov ZM, & Nazarov SS., Means of increasing strength of the punch. NSCA Journal, 1985. 7: p. 65-66.
2. Davis, P., Wittekind, A., & Beneke, R. (2013). Amateur boxing: activity profile of winners and losers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8(1), 84-92
3. Ebben, W. P., & Blackard, D. O. (1997). Developing a strength-power program for amateur boxing. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 19(1), 42-51.