The benefits of cycling and running for boxing cross-training

Apr 15, 2022

To be successful at boxing, participants need to combine high-impact and explosive moves with low-impact and sustained moves.

That's why all the best boxers take part in cross-training - it ensures that muscles are trained to perform both types of movements.

Cycling and running are two forms of cardiovascular exercise that will help improve boxing skills.

While each has slightly different benefits, they will both condition the most important muscle of all, the heart. This will build fitness and stamina, ensuring you can train and fight for increasing lengths of time. 

People who have never tried boxing often aren’t aware of just how intense the cardio demands can be, but having good fitness is the number one way to be a better fighter.

That’s because – no matter how hard you hit or how technically gifted you are – if you can’t sustain energy throughout a bout you will leave yourself open to defeat at the hands of a fitter opponent.

Here we take a look at the benefits of cycling and running as part of a cross-training programme for boxing.

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Cycling

As a non-weight bearing exercise, cycling creates less negative stress on muscles than running. Research has found that muscles of runners suffer more damage and inflammation compared to the muscles of the cyclists, even when their workloads and workout durations are identical.

For anyone who has had issues with lower body joint conditions, cycling is a great way to get in boxing-related cardio training while protecting your body.

Stationary bikes are particularly good at reducing stress on the back, hips, knees and ankles. In fact, using one has been shown to cause less stress on those joints than walking, while burning a lot more calories.

These indoor bikes have the added benefit of allowing you to strengthen muscles at your own pace, by adjusting the tension or resistance to your requirements.

Meanwhile, cycling outdoors can elevate your workout – sometimes quite literally – as you’re challenged to pedal harder to get up any inclines you encounter on your route. 

On the flip side, the times when you can coast downhill will introduce an interval training element to your cycling. Working muscles in this on-and-off manner builds strength while improving your cardiovascular health.

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Running

There can’t be many more iconic moments in film than the end of the training montage in Rocky II, when Rocky Balboa runs up the 72 steps to the top of the Art Museum in Philadelphia.

Running indoors on a treadmill means you have the convenience of being able to work out come rain or shine, and no matter the time of day.

To focus on conditioning while running on a treadmill, it’s helpful to use a variety of inclines and speeds, rather than moving at a steady incline and pace. Most treadmills will have built-in programmes that automatically change the conditions to keep your muscles guessing. Ultimately this means you’ll work harder and get improved results.

In contrast, running outdoors will usually mean naturally coming up against inclines and declines. Your muscles will work harder to adapt and it’s common for this to mean shorter distances can be covered outdoors as compared to on a treadmill.

If possible, choose to run on softer ground such as grass, which helps with shock absorption needed to avoid increased impact on joints associated with harder surfaces such as pavements.

Outdoors you can use markers in your environment, such as lampposts or trees, to incorporate interval training and sprints. This type of training will help transform your fitness even more quickly.

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Which to choose – cycling or running?

Ultimately the decision on whether to incorporate cycling or running into your boxing cross-training should come down to what you enjoy the most.

This is the best way to ensure you keep going with your workouts, remaining challenged and motivated.

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