Can Boxing Build Muscle?

Can boxing build muscle? No, boxing doesn’t build muscle mass and muscle mass isn’t something you want for boxing. However, it’s still great for cardio and maintaining muscle tone. And it’s a great complement to traditional strength training.

It’s a terrific addition to traditional strength training or if you want to incorporate cardiovascular fitness and maintain existing muscle tone. 

Does Boxing Build Muscle Mass?

If you watch a boxing match between two dedicated professionals, they will often have large arms and legs, a muscular back, and a chiseled physique. So, did they get this way from boxing training? Unfortunately, not. Although boxing is an excellent activity for many reasons, building muscle mass is not one of them. 

After months of training, someone new to boxing may realize they have more muscle definition and power. So while it may look like they are building muscle, they are, in fact, toning and working the existing muscles. Even though boxing does not build muscle mass, it is a terrific exercise that can help you gain strength and agility and increase muscle tone.

The reason why boxing doesn’t build muscle mass comes down to these simple components: 

  • Mechanical tension 
  • Metabolic stress 
  • Muscle damage 

Mechanical Tension 

Mechanical tension occurs when your muscles are loaded under stress with weight or a form of resistance for some time. 

This tension is standard with weight lifting, resistance training, and body weight exercises. However, boxing does not invoke much mechanical tension, making it unsuitable for muscle growth. 

Metabolic Stress 

The metabolic stress muscles experience during exercise is high when athletes will complete repetitions until failure or use numerous repetitions in many sets with minimal rest periods between each exercise. 

The depletion of muscle energy that brings on metabolic stress doesn’t occur with boxing movements as it happens with weight lifting or other strength training exercises. 

Muscle Damage 

Building muscle requires you to cause miniature tears in the muscle fibres during workouts so they can heal and create more during the process. 

The muscle soreness or stiffness after a hefty workout indicates these small tears are healing and inducing more muscle growth. But you shouldn’t work out until you hurt yourself.

Some boxing training methods can induce muscle damage which may bring on that familiar soreness the day after. However, they are not as common or as effective for building muscle mass as other activities can provide. 

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Do You Want Muscle Mass as a Boxer?

If you are interested in boxing or want to build strength and power, do you need more muscle mass? The answer is no; you can achieve the desired effects without having large, bulky muscles. In fact, some individuals find that having extensive muscle mass is not beneficial for an efficient and agile boxer. 

Overdeveloped muscles can hinder an athlete’s range of motion and agility when competing. For example, individuals with bulkier muscles can strike slower than those with lean muscle mass. 

While you don’t want large muscles, having lean muscle mass can improve your form, endurance, strength, and power with each movement. Of course, you may notice more muscle mass than before with regular training. 

However, it is not the most efficient way to participate as a boxer if you suddenly pile on a large muscle mass. In addition, if gaining muscle is your primary fitness goal, boxing exercises are not the best choice for optimal results. 

Can You Build Muscle for Boxing? 

Anytime you participate in physical activities, your body will engage several muscle groups for more efficient movement. While boxing and its training techniques are not specific for building muscle mass, they will help maintain the muscle tissue you have and use to perform exercises. 

If you are just starting boxing training or want to enhance your strength and endurance, you can build more muscle mass to improve results. The additional gains you will receive will come from weight training and resistance exercises rather than hitting the heavy bag more often. 

Some terrific exercises for building muscle to be more efficient at boxing include the following.

Bench Press

Performing a bench press will help strengthen your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles. You can use various grip placements to target specific muscle groups and alternate for a more comprehensive effect. 


Deadlifts target many major muscles you need for boxing, including the back, core, hamstrings, hips, glutes, and trapezius muscles. Simultaneously engaging all these lower body muscles is an effective method for building strength and muscle mass. 

Hanging Leg Raises 

Completing hanging leg raises will help improve your core strength and hip flexors to benefit your boxing movements. This exercise also aids a strong spine and ensures proper core stability.


Bodyweight or weighted lunges will aid in increasing your muscle endurance and strength in the leg muscles necessary for boxing. With proper form, you will engage the calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads while also engaging core muscles for stability during the movement. 


Performing a pull-up exercise targets your biceps and lats initially but also engages other supporting muscles, such as the core, delts, shoulders, and upper back. This movement is terrific for building muscle and strength in the upper body to execute power during boxing exercises. 


Another fantastic bodyweight exercise that targets the pectorals, shoulders, and core muscles is a push-up. This movement can use several modifications to increase or decrease the intensity and focus on specific muscles when you alter the hand and foot positioning. 


Like lunges, performing squats will target your lower body muscles to help build mass and strength in the calves, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and quads. This movement can be beneficial with body weight or while using a barbell or dumbbell for additional resistance. 

Weighted Punches 

One weighted exercise that adds more efficiency to your boxing workout is using hand weights while performing punches. It may surprise you how difficult it is to go through a shadow boxing routine while holding one or two-pound hand weights. 

Consequently, this additional resistance will increase your shoulder strength and help you gain more energy and quick movement. 

What Muscles Does Boxing Work?

Many people don’t realize that boxing is a total-body workout, providing a great way to work numerous muscle groups simultaneously for optimal fitness. When you participate in boxing, you are targeting these muscles: 

  • Shoulder Muscles
  • Arms
  • Core Muscles 
  • Hips 
  • Leg Muscles 
  • Neck 
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Shoulder Muscles 

Anytime you begin boxing training, you will notice how fatigued your shoulders become, even after a few minutes. Therefore, boxers who train regularly will have strong, developed shoulder muscles from acting as the point where power moves from the body out through the arms. 

The shoulder consists of eight muscles that help navigate movement and control everyday activities. Boxers typically rely on these four muscles: 

  • Deltoids
  • Latissimus dorsi 
  • Pectorals 
  • Rotator cuff 

If your shoulders are tired, your arms will drop, making it more challenging to keep them upright to defend yourself. Strong shoulders are vital for boxing. 


Boxers consistently use their arms to defend and strike their opponent. This movement is not a muscle-building action but does help keep the arm muscles strong and agile for the future. Although it will not promote muscle growth, it supports muscle tone and builds strength and endurance. 

The arm contains 24 different muscles, with five in the upper and 19 in the lower. Surprisingly though, boxing activities typically use only two major muscles, the biceps and triceps.

However, small muscles within the lower arm and wrists will engage anytime you extend your hand and rotate. Although you are not constantly engaging all the arm muscles, they support the movement of your biceps and triceps during any actions. 

Core Muscles 

A strong core will help anyone who boxes to remain upright and transfer strength from their legs and hips to their shoulders and arms. There are five main core muscles in the human body, and boxing will activate three main groups, including: 

  • Obliques
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Spinal erectors

Your core will keep your back strong and in the correct position during movements. Boxers will regularly pivot, twist, and rotate to reach their opponent or move out of the way. Strong core muscles help transfer power from the lower body up to the shoulders and arms, and they will also aid in protecting the midsection from harm. 


The hips are the powerhouse of any boxer because they are the driving force. They are responsible for pivoting and redirecting power from the legs up through the core and to the arms. There are four main muscle groups in the hips, consisting of: 

  • Adductor group
  • Gluteal group
  • Iliopsoas group 
  • Lateral group

When the hip muscles are strong and agile, it is easier to rotate while throwing a punch or manoeuvring out of the way of an opponent. 

Leg Muscles 

Can boxing build muscle in your legs? Boxing will definitely build up muscle strength in your legs with regular practice. Although you may not notice muscle gain, endurance and strength quickly appear when you follow a boxing routine. 

The leg muscles you train while boxing include: 

  • Calves 
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps 

Because the lower body muscles are more significant, they can offer more power and strength during boxing movements. Therefore, combining strength training with boxing will help you generate more power, even if the muscles don’t look bulky. 


Although many athletes don’t consider the neck muscles a critical aspect of training, boxers continuously use their neck muscles. When taking a hit, a strong neck will help minimize the chances of the head snapping backwards and being vulnerable to concussions. In addition, neck muscles enable you to dodge and weave out of the way of an opponent. 

Over 20 muscles within the neck help stabilize the head and enable rotation and movement. Boxing relies on a couple of essential ones, including: 

  • Erector spinae 
  • Trapezius 

The neck muscles work together with the shoulders and spine to ensure proper movement and balance during boxing. 

Building Muscle By Boxing: The Verdict 

So, can boxing build muscle? While boxing can build some muscle in the beginning, it’s not very effective at long-term muscle growth.

If you want to build large muscle mass and get fit, performing boxing exercises is only half the battle. A comprehensive boxing routine will get your entire body into shape fast, helping to build your agility, strength, and balance while leaving you with lean muscle mass. In addition, it is an excellent cardiovascular workout. 

However, when focusing on building muscle mass, athletes will need to supplement their boxing with a weightlifting routine. Exercises that will bring the muscles to exhaustion, create tension and stress, and invoke muscle fiber damage is the most efficient way to gain muscle. 

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