YOGA is not an activity immediately associated with the ‘sweet science’. But flexibility, strength and physical control are all elements that sit comfortably in a boxer’s training routines.
Matt Garcia and Kajza Ekberg have created their own ‘Boxing Yoga’ programme, designed specifically for fighters. “We spent the last couple of years researching, working with physios, working with the fighters, working with people coming in once a week to do their own workout to get fit and really studying how to complement the training,” Ekberg said. “To stretch out, to strengthen the areas that you really need, in your core and your calves, how to prevent injuries, to increase the range of movement, especially in the spine, how to be able to utilise the strength you have in your body in order to throw a punch that’s really strong.
“The main areas are working on a low-gravity stance, working on spiraling, twisting the spine, working on opening up the chest and the shoulders, relaxing the shoulders, strengthening the neck. We incorporate a lot of boxing technique.”
Boxing Yoga can be used to stretch or relax before or after a training session, or as a workout in its own right, which they do over 12 rounds of varying times. “To loosen them up, to loosen the shoulders up so they can move faster, have more body control, more awareness, they can synchronise moving with their breathing better,” Ekberg continued. “If you stretch properly, no matter what workout you do, if you stretch afterwards, you’re going to reduce the risk of soreness and being stiff, you’re going to feel better and you can get back training sooner.”
YOU CAN TRY
FOR the exercises on the facing age, ensure you’re not entirely static but breathe constantly and deepen the posture. Hold for about 30 seconds, or three-to-five deep breaths, and make a smooth and controlled transition between the postures.
1. LUNGE JAB
THE Lunge Jab is a deep stretch which lengthens the hamstrings, strengthens the quads, back and core, while increasing range of movement in the spine through a twisting motion. Aim towards a 90-degree angle on the front leg with the knee directly above the heel. Straighten the back leg and engage the thigh muscle. Maintain a tight guard and twist the spine to extend the reach forward in the punch. Keep the hips parallel and focus forward. Execute slowly.
2. REVERSE LUNGE CROSS
THE Reverse Lunge Cross works on balance, core strength and coordination. Simultaneously straighten the lead leg and bend the rear knee down towards the floor. Extend the arm forward and increase the range by twisting the spine. Aim to eventually bring the shoulders into a straight line and ensure the wrist is straight, focus forward and chin down.
3. THE OPEN LUNGE
THE Open Lunge is a flow movement which opens up the chest and increases mobility in the shoulders. Move back into an original lunge position, drop the arms down parallel to the torso, inhale and circle the arms back whilst the spine follows and chest lifts up. Stay low and grounded on the floor, exhale and draw the arms down through a guard. Make a complete, slow 360-degree circle with the arms. Repeat and deepen the execution each time.
4. THE PLANK CRUNCH
THE Plank Crunch strengthens and stabilises the whole body as well as improves kinetic chain control and balance. Keep the supporting arm and leg straight, then bend to connect the upper elbow and knee. Activate the core, rotate up onto the back toes and pivot the body parallel to the floor. Round the back, take deep breaths and balance.Balance for a couple of breaths, then lengthen the leg and place the hand and the foot down simultaneously to transition through a plank position. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
5. THE CANVAS CORE STRETCH
THE Canvas Core Stretch rounds up the routine nicely by stretching out the abs, shoulders, hip flexors and increases spinal flexibility. Place the palms directly underneath the shoulders (or the knuckles to strengthen the forearms and protect the wrists) and lift the torso up. Look up and make sure that the neck stays in alignment with the spine.