The elbow controls use of muscles in the forearm, hand and upper arm yet has no muscles of its own. It is bound by tendons and ligaments. In a boxer's pursuit to maximize punching power, the challenge of how to strengthen this all-important joint inevitably arises. It is met with drills that develop technique, with routines that strengthen the elbow's connective tissue and with exercises that fortify the muscles that the elbow itself regulates.
Sparring and bag work are necessary to strengthen all parts of a boxer's physical game. It is important to undergo multiple rounds connecting with a target, be it a speed bag, heavy bag, focus mitt or sparring partner. These high-impact training sessions place stress on arm muscles, tendons and elbow ligaments. When given proper rest, they recover to a more resilient state. Another essential component that maximizes punching drills is to ensure the boxer is mindful of the distance to target so that the elbow does not repeatedly hyper-extend.
Defense-Only Body Sparring
Wolff's Law states that repeated stress placed upon bones causes them to grow and strengthen accordingly. Subjecting a boxer's humerus, ulna and radius bones to medium-impact defensive sparring sessions enacts this principle to strengthen them and the joint where they meet; the elbow. A boxer must pull the elbows into the torso and maintain that defensive position for an entire round while a trainer or a training partner throws moderate hook shots to the body. The boxer absorbs these with the bent arms for several rounds. Several days of rest between these particular sparring session is essential so that the small fissures created in the bones are allowed to fill with calcium and heal stronger.
Success in boxing involves constantly extending the arm to weaken and knock out opponents. Much of the training emphasizes extension rather than flexion, resulting in an imbalance of ligament strength. Overall, elbow strength is maximized by giving some attention to the much overlooked flexion ligaments. Reverse curls train these along with the muscle fibers that punching drills do not. Select light weight dumbbells or run a towel through the handle of a kettlebell. Grip the weights or the ends of the towel with the palms facing down and perform the curls slowly and deliberately for four reps only per set. Ten sets after a workout will also heighten the elbow's stopping ability in the event of a missed punch, avoiding the locked punching arm that leads to elbow injury.
Punching With Dumbbells
Loading the arms with weight while simulating the actions of boxing builds overall strength while reinforcing the mechanics of punching into the tissue memory. The practice of strengthening the entire arm with weight exercises gives the elbow additional reinforcement as the elbow tendons and ligaments experience growth in unison with the upper and lower arm muscles. This drill requires a boxer to select dumbbells of very light weight, anywhere from 4 to 10 pounds. Throw straight punches for one minute, uppercuts for one minute and then hook punches for one minute. Rest for one minute and repeat the series five more times.