George Groves feels the power – or not! – of editor Paul Morgan

Boxing is a fantastic conditioning tool, writes Roy Headey, the RFU’s Head of Sports Science.

It’s physically demanding but because guys love doing it they don’t realise just how hard they’re working, and it can get their heart-rates high for sustained periods.

Like tackling in rugby, boxing is all about getting your feet in the right place to punch. It also requires full-body coordination, and your whole body is working while needing to perform explosive movements – as you would in a game.

George Groves, the Commonwealth Super-middleweight champion (right), has worked with the RFU to devise boxing techniques to help players.

Players can use boxing to get fired up on game day, and it’s useful when you’re coming back from injury and can’t yet take part in full-contact sessions but want to train at intensity.

Do low-intensity, low-speed shadow boxing to warm up your trunk, hips and shoulders. Wear wraps to protect the backs of your hands and sparring gloves, where the thumb is stitched to the main part of the glove.

Here are some drills you can do at home:

180 – Two pad-holders will take it in turns to call out a combination of punches for the boxer, who stands in the middle, and has to spin 180° between them. This is hard physically and requires great concentration.

To make it harder, the pad-holders can stop calling out instructions and simply hold the pads out, so the boxer has to recognise which punches to do. To make it harder still, ask him questions about, say, lineout calls or moves at the same time.

Bullying – This makes the training more relevant to rugby, where you have to do a lot of grappling and driving. The boxer throws a set of punches at the pad-holder, and then has to drive him away before the next set of punches. You then swap, so the pad-holder does the driving. This is incredibly tiring, and good practice for when players have to get defenders off them.

Knock down – The boxer throws a set of punches, then quickly gets down on the floor and back up again. This prepares him for the fatigue that can hit you during a game.

Bag work – This won’t develop your footwork but it’s still exhausting. Great for anaerobic conditioning.

It will be more beneficial if you work on technique as well as punching as hard as you can. It’s skills such as footwork and reaction times that will really make a difference to your rugby.

Commonwealth champion George Groves believes boxing can help rugby players because:

  • It’s a different way of practising technique needed for footwork
  • In drills like 180 you have to get your feet into the correct position before you punch – as in a tackle
  • You have to think while in a state of exhaustion

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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