Resistance-based Pre-conditioning Strategies to Improve Amateur Boxing-specific Performance

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Amateur boxing comprises intermittent bouts of high-intensity activity across 3 rounds of
either 3 or 2-minutes duration, interspersed by 1-minute active and passive rest. The single
method of attack in boxing is a punch aimed at either the opponents head, or the abdomen area,
therefore methods aimed at developing an effective and forceful punch (i.e., impact force and
rate of force development) is desirable for the coach and practitioner. Despite a plethora of
research aimed at describing the proximal-to-distal sequencing involved in a forceful punch,
there is extremely little information on the effectiveness of longer-term or acute interventions
to improve punch performance in boxers. Therefore, through a selection of interlinked studies,
this thesis aimed to assess the influence of acute interventions in improving boxing-specific
and neuromuscular performance in senior elite amateur boxers. The thesis comprised a total of
7 studies (2 systematic reviews; 2 surveys; 3 experimental studies).
In study 1, a systematic review of the acute response to boxing-specific activity was initially
conducted. Study 1 found a considerable physiological, endocrine, and biomechanical demand
associated with boxing-specific activity, though this was evidently greater in competitive bouts
and sparring, compared to simulated activity. This demand seemingly does not induce punch-specific or neuromuscular performance decrements during boxing-specific activity, suggesting
there may also be potential for performance to be enhanced. In studies 2 and 3, senior elite and
non-elite amateur boxers completed two surveys on their general physical preparation
practices, and pre-conditioning and recovery strategies. A lack of post-activation performance
enhancement (PAPE) conditioning activities was evident in the pre-bout warm-up, and
therefore, this was chosen for investigation in the experimental chapters later in the thesis.
Study 4 comprised a systematic review of upper-body PAPE conditioning activities. Several
movement-specific conditioning activities were found to induce trivial-to-moderate increases
in athletic performance, thus select activities (Elastic resistance and Isomeric punch variations)
that were applicable to the amateur boxing warm-up environment, were chosen for further
investigation. Firstly however, study 5 was concerned with the vertical mounting of a force
plate to a custom-built structure, and subsequently assessing the test-retest reliability and
sensitivity of the instrument in relation to punch force and rate of force development. The force
plate showed excellent within-session and good to excellent between-day reliability for peak
punch impact force and rate of force development. Likewise, observation of the standard error
of measurement and the smallest worthwhile changes revealed the vertically mounted force
plate can detect small-to-moderate changes in punch performance, thus, the equipment could
be used in subsequent experimental studies exploring the influence of conditioning activities
on punch-specific performance. Informed by the physical preparation and pre-conditioning and
recovery practices in studies 2 and 3, and the systematic review on upper-body PAPE in study
4, studies 6 and 7 explored the influence of two upper-body conditioning activities on boxing-specific performance. The use of ‘punch-specific’ isometric holds, and elastic resistance
conditioning activities performed in the warm-up, were shown to induce small-to-moderate
worthwhile increases in peak and average force and rate of force development in isolated
maximal punches. This was not observed in the control trial comprising the warm-up alone. A
lack of worthwhile improvement in counter-movement jump height reflected the localised
PAPE effect of the conditioning activities. No interaction (time x conditioning activity) effects
were observed. Most performance variables peaked between 7 and 9-minutes, in agreement
with previous PAPE literature, though this would vary between individuals. When applied to
a boxing-specific exercise protocol, the same elastic resistance and isometric conditioning
activities as above, inclusive of individualised recovery periods, consistently produced small
worthwhile increases in punch force, whilst for rate of force development, this was only evident
in the cross punch following the ISO CA. Again, no worthwhile improvements were observed
in counter-movement jump height. Analysis of individual punch performance against their
individual smallest worthwhile (0.3 x within-subject coefficient of variation – expressed as a
percentage) further revealed 6 boxers elicited the greatest performance improvements
following the isometric conditioning activity, whilst only 1 boxer did so following the elastic
resistance conditioning activity. In 3 individuals, performance changes were similar across
both conditioning activities and the control trial. In summary, the isometric conditioning
activity appears most effective as an acute, pre-bout method to induce PAPE, and thus improve
punch-specific performance, though the elastic resistance conditioning activity may also be an
effective conditioning activity. However, importantly, individual responses suggest that where
possible, the conditioning activity type and recovery period may need to be individualised to
optimise performance improvements.
Date of Award20 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorRICHARD PAGE (Supervisor), MATT GREIG (Supervisor) & CRAIG BRIDGE (Director of Studies)

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