In the past, soccer was treated and regarded as an isolated sport, especially at its professional level. In other words, there was a distinction between playing soccer and engaging in other sports. When soccer players engaged in other sports, it usually was for recreational purposes.
Fast forward to modern-day professional soccer with its never-ending romance with the fitness world, there are notable changes. Soccer players actively engage in other sports to help improve their overall performance on the pitch.
Can we blame them? A whole lot more is at stake in today’s professional soccer world. Games and schedules are a lot more intense and hectic nowadays.
This is not considering the number of resources (financial and otherwise) poured into the sport that continues to keep it on top as the world’s most-watched sport.
Like other intense sports, boxing may have the needed benefits to help soccer players improve their game. Although not common, some soccer coaches have been known to introduce boxing as part of training exercises for individual players.
With the disappointment and lack of zeal that followed Saido Berahino’s failed transfer move to Tottenham in the EPL 2014/2015 season, former West Brom coach Tony Pulis decided to introduce boxing into Saido’s training sessions.
Pulis’ intention was to help improve Saido’s playing performance. Moreso, with few other players voluntarily joining the sessions, the Baggies not only managed to avoid relegation that season but ended up finishing in the 13th position.
This article takes an in-depth look at the benefits of boxing in general and its possible applications in the world of soccer.
Can boxing help with soccer?
Yes, it can! To better understand this, you have to look at what boxing offers to individuals and then find a direct relation to soccer. The evidence stares at you so glaringly in the face!
A notable professional soccer player who engages in a type of boxing is Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimović. He’s very involved in kickboxing and uses it as a great training exercise. Little wonder he can still deliver superb bicycle kick shots and goals at his age.
However, boxing is prohibited in soccer. Minus the fact that the use of hands seldom has a place in soccer (unless you’re the goalkeeper), any careless, reckless, and deliberate action towards teammates and opponent players is heavily frowned upon.
Engaging in the act of boxing on a soccer pitch will attract a send-off card (Red Card) and probably some match ban, decided upon by the football association of the country.
With that aside, there’s no doubt boxing can play a beneficial role in improving the performance of soccer players.
Benefits of boxing in soccer
Boxing has several benefits to the athlete. However, we’ll examine those benefits that have significant application to soccer.
Here are some of the benefits that soccer players can achieve through boxing.
Improved cardiovascular endurance
Boxing, just like soccer, is an intense sporting activity that can have the heart racing and pumping.
Ideally, a physically fit soccer player is one that can endure the demands and stress of a 90-minute game without running the risk of fatigue or being susceptible to injuries.
This is why cardio boxing, like other aerobic exercises like squats, is an excellent way to train the heart to pump at a low rate, ultimately reducing the blood’s pressure.
As a sport that gets most of its energy needs aerobically, soccer will benefit from the intense aerobic training of boxing. Not only will your heart be better for it, but it also helps improve your lung capacity to hold oxygen.
To avoid overworking your body, you should stick to a periodization schedule that works best for you. When in doubt, consult a fitness expert or closely work with your team’s fitness manager (if one is available) to incorporate boxing into your training routines.
Upper body strengthening
At first glance, many will consider this a benefit for just soccer goalkeepers. In actuality, every player position can share in this benefit.
The upper body generally refers to the chest, shoulders, and hands (forearms and arms). However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll include the head since it plays an important role in soccer.
One of the key boxing training exercises is punching at a boxing bag and/or shadow boxing. These focus on improving your upper body strength.
Punching a bag can greatly help a soccer goalkeeper improve his ball clearance and parry skills.
Shadow boxing engages both the chest and hand muscles for strengthening. For a goalkeeper, this helps improve muscle memory to relax the muscles to stretch during dives and saves.
For other outfield players, while the use of hands is prohibited, upper body strengthening allows for better control of the ball with the chest. It also frees up the shoulders to allow for better runs.
During boxing or shadow boxing, you’re required to simulate dodging punches by making quick head movements. While there are no intentions of dodging punches on the field, it helps free up the neck muscles for quick and steady headers.
Improved eye-hand coordination and quick feet
Boxing is much more than just throwing punches and hoping it delivers a deadly blow to the opponent. As the great boxing champion, Mohammed Ali, revealed, it is a combination of quick feet movement, keen observation of the opponent’s movement, and punch delivery.
Continuous boxing training exercises help improve your overall eye-hand movement and coordination. In addition, the mental dexterity of knowing when to throw a punch, step away, and defend the body has excellent application in the world of soccer.
For a goalkeeper, improved eye-hand coordination helps him or her jump at or dive at incoming shots at the right time. It allows for quick anticipation of plays.
In the aspect of quick feet, having great feet reflexes is crucial for quick saves like during a penalty kick or a ball deflection.
While eye-hand coordination may not matter much for outfield players, eye-foot coordination allows players to dribble, make passes, and make runs effectively.
If you want to become a skilled soccer player, improving your passes, runs, and dribbles are a good way to start. You can never underestimate the power of great speed and agility in soccer.
Burn unwanted calories to aid weight loss
If you want to take your professional soccer career seriously, being overweight is not the best way to go about it. Not only does this have a negative effect on your health, but your on-field performance will also be greatly affected.
If this is not quickly addressed, you’ll probably require steroids to maintain energy levels and stamina during soccer games. However, since most steroids are banned in soccer, you’re better off using workouts to burn unwanted calories.
You may not be able to maintain your desired body weight by sticking to boxing alone. Still, in combination with other exercises, you can achieve good results.
When soccer players are encouraged to engage in other sports, boxing is not a common choice for most of them. However, judging by the similarities in the intensities of both sports, there are a lot to be gained from boxing.
You’ll not be allowed to throw punches on the field, but as far as punches go, goalies can maximize them for a good parry and goal saves.
Boxing can help improve soccer players’ overall physical, emotional, and mental capacities when efficiently included in soccer training sessions.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!