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Fight to be Fit
Metabolic and Subjective Response to Boxing Punching Tempo

Presented by
Len Kravitz, Ph.D.

Research Team
Larry Greene, Jutuporn Wongsathikun, Tony Kemery

Current fitness industry trends include a growing interest in non-competitive boxing programs. The purpose of this study was to examine the physiological and subjective responses of boxing punching at various tempos. Using a commercially available boxing device (SLAMMAN) twelve boxing-trained subjects (six male, six female; age = 22.4±3.4, wt = 68.1±13.4 kg) performed straight left and right punches at six different tempos (60, 72, 84, 96, 108, and 120 b/min). Each trial lasted two minutes, similar to that of traditional boxing-round training. Oxygen consumption (VO2), ventilation (VE), and heart rate (HR) were monitored continuously during each round using open circuit spirometry and telemetry. Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was recorded after each trial. MANOVA with repeated measures revealed a significant (p < 0.001) within group effect for trials. Post-hoc comparisons and Friedman test results for RPE are shown below.

Table 1. Metabolic and Subjective Effect of Punching Tempo
Values are means ± standard deviations
†p<0.05, 60 <72, 84, 108, and 120 b/min, *p<0.05 , 60<84, 96, 108, and 120 b/min
^p<0.05, 60<72, 96, 108, and 120 b/min
Results indicate that faster punching tempos increase VO2, VE, and HR response, suggesting a direct relationship between the number of punches thrown per minute and cardiovascular response.

Boxing Study with Men and Women
Methods and Procedures
We studied the oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR), ventilation (VE), and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) to randomized 2-minute boxing trials using a commercially available boxing device (SLAMMAN).

All subjects had over 30 hours of boxing experience in either formalized boxing or box aerobics. After completing university informed consent procedures, subjects performed a 3-minute warm-up on a cycle ergometer at a self-selected pace. Subjects then went through a 2-minute boxing familiarization with the boxing device using the 12 oz boxing gloves provided with the product. Subjects then rested in a chair for 5 minutes to establish a baseline recovery HR. Prior to each product trial, subjects quietly rested a minimum of 3 minutes prior to the next boxing trial. Trials were ordered in a randomized balanced Latin square design. Subjects completed boxing rounds at the following tempos: 60, 72, 84, 96, 108, and 120 b/min.

On a separate day, subjects reported to the exercise physiology laboratory to do a graded treadmill test to exhaustion. VO2max , HR max, and RPE max were determined. Percent body fat, using skinfold calipers, was calculated using standardized equations (Jackson & Pollock, 1978; Jackson, Pollock, & Ward, 1980). The mean maximum values were as follows: VO2max=41.4±6.7 ml/kg/min, HR max=196±2.5 b/min, and RPE max=18.7±.84 units. The average body fat for subjects was 17.5%.

Although the SLAMMAN boxing device comes with various combination punching sequences, pilot testing of these pre-programmed protocols revealed that it was difficult to attain any consistent metabolic parameters, even with highly skilled boxers. Since all protocols with the SLAMMAN boxing device are at 60 b/min, it was decided to have subjects perform straight right and left punches at this tempo and at other tempos representative of industry boxing aerobic programs. Subjects were encouraged to deliver punches at an intensity similar to their boxing training.

VO2 and VE were measured continuously by expired gas analysis indirect calorimetry (SensorMedics Vmax Series 29). HR was monitored continuously by telemetry (PolarTM Favor). RPE was taken at the end of each boxing trial.

All data was initially analyzed using a one-factor multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with repeated measures. Probability was set at p = 0.05.
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine significant differences of dependent variables. Post-hoc comparisons were completed to determine where differences existed in punching tempos. RPE was analyzed using a Friedman nonparametric test for rankings of each tempo.

MANOVA indicated an overall significant (Wilks' Lambda = 3.152, p = 0.0001) within group effect. Further analysis using ANOVA showed significant differences (p < 0.05) in oxygen consumption, ventilation and heart between trials with post-hoc comparisons presented in Table 1. RPE analysis also showed a significant (p < 0.05) trial effect. Percent of VO2max , HR max, and RPE max are presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Physiological and Psychological Results Expressed as a Percent of Max

b/min 72
b/min 84
b/min 96
b/min 108
b/min 120
VO2% of max 61 68 68 65 69 72
HR% of max 84 88 87 88 91 92
RPE% of max 58 63 67 70 74 81
means±standard deviation

It appears that boxing into a boxing device meets the intensity guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine to improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness. Subjects boxed at 61% to 72% of their VO2max and 84% to 92% of their HR max. It should be noted that heart rates may be affected by the vigorous involvement of the upper body during the punching. Subjects RPE seem to be closer in line with the actual oxygen consumption response, except at the 120 b/min punching tempo. Boxing programs incorporating continuous aerobic movement into a training program appear to provide an effective, and innovative approach to improving cardiovascular fitness and body composition. In addition, results indicate that faster punching tempos increase VO2, VE, and HR response, suggesting a direct relationship between the number of punches thrown per minute and cardiovascular response.

Jackson, A. S., & Pollock, M. L. (1978). Generalized equations for predicting body density of men. British Journal of Nutrition, 40, 497-504.
Jackson, A. S., Pollock, M. L., & Ward, A. (1980). Generalized equations for predicting body density of women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 12, 175-182.

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