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Swimming and Boxing

posted September 17, 2009 @ 2:34 AM  |  Featured Workouts | Technique, Tips, and Drills category

~By Nate McBride, West Side Swim Club

Now that our new season has started, many of our new swimmers are being introduced to what I consider one of the best dryland exercises you can do. Boxing.

About three years ago or so, I implemented boxing into my training program with specific swimmers (e.g. swimmers who had developed good upper body strength). I had long been considering the benefits of adding to my dryland program a group of exercises that did not require any weights or mats and only the simplest of equipment and that could be done in a tight space and a short amount of time but would get the swimmer's heart rate through the roof and work both the front and back of their upper body as a whole unit. We had been using plyometric-based routines for sometime to accomplish this but plyometric work does not get the heart rate going at the level I wanted it at. So my goal was to find something that would work given limited time to get the result and limited space.

It had happened that about the same time I had seen a Pacquiao special on HBO as he was preparing for one of his fights. Manny Pacquiao is truly one of those athletes that has it all. Speed undreamed of and agility to go with it. In any event, in this particular HBO special, his trainer Freddie Roach was discussing how important his hip to arm speed and balance was. That got me thinking that one of the things I am always ranting about on deck is the rotation of the hips to shoulders and the balance that has to be maintained. In that same episode, Freddie spoke about how when he watches Manny spar with partners, he is always watching to ensure that balance is maintained between the rotation of the hips, the speed of the punch and the extension. Watching this it occurred to me that he is putting his hip into his shoulder rotation AND that his punching extension was no different than a swimmer's extension with the exception of the final impact. He was almost swimming standing up.

So I went to my best test subject, my assistant Coach Ellen (Ellen has the unfortunate position of being a guinea pig for every crazy training idea I have), and I gave her a pair of boxing gloves that I picked up at a local Sports store. I purchased a pair of sparring mitts for myself and after workout one day I said, "Let's go...I want you to throw 200 punches". I needed to see for myself if the parallel was in fact true. About 4 minutes later...with Ellen about to puke...I realized that I had finally discovered the perfect exercise to do it all AND with the added benefit of the hip to extension rotation balance. Perfect!!

We have come a long way from that first day...Now we have several pairs of gloves and many of my swimmers box every day. We have incorporated multi-punch combos and allowed people to sort of pick their own "style" of boxing and really worked to make it fun. After all, what could be more fun than punching your coach a couple hundred times? Sometimes our combos include me "punching" back, or swinging at them, and they have to duck a lot which brings in a WHOLE new element of work because you get the lower body benefit as well. When I say their own style I mean they are allowed to make up their own 5/7/9 or more punch combos and then give them to me. Jabs, Uppercuts...its all there. Above average swimmer only needs 7-10 minutes of sparring time and they are toast. We also purchased a 120 pound bag and bag stand for this season and the swimmers who have been boxing a long time get to use it while the others still get to spar. Its a great diversion and beats the weight-lifting dryland blues that can happen with the same dryland routines every day.

The results to date have been awesome. Tremendous improvements in conditioning and muscle development which, for an adult, is not nearly as easy as you might think. The anaerobic aspects of boxing are incredible and within a minute any swimmer doing boxing is completely drenched in sweat. Get 'em on their toes and tell them to punch and the rest just sort of takes care of itself.

My recommendation is that if you want a post swimming workout that is quick, inexpensive and doesn't require a large space...find a partner and get a pair of good gloves and mitts (available for about 40 bucks at most sports stores) and get to work. If you can't find a partner...shadow box!!! It works too!!

I've added some YouTube videos of Coach Ellen being taken through some of her morning combos and routines.


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