Does Boxing Build Muscle? (It Doesn’t)

August 19, 2023

There are some truly impressive physiques in the professional boxing world. We could deduce that the sport is the reason. But that’d be like saying playing basketball makes you tall. So, does boxing build muscle?

Boxing doesn’t build muscle even though it is a full-body workout. Building muscle requires enough tension to signal muscle growth, typically through high force generation and stretch under load. Boxing provides none of this.

But why, then, are boxers so muscular? Is it not boxing?

Does Boxing Build Muscle?

Boxing does not build muscle, contrary to what popular fitness magazines say. To build muscle, you must create high levels of mechanical tension, as this is a primary driver of hypertrophy [1][2][3].

Mechanical tension is maximized through force generation and stretch. In other words, heavy loads through a full range of motion. But you can also use light loads if sets are taking close to or to failure [4].

Boxing doesn’t meet any of these requirements as you throw punches against a punching bag, pads, or an opponent. There is no load other than your gloves which aren’t heavy enough to provide adequate resistance.

Then there’s an issue at the molecular level. Boxing is an endurance activity, and endurance exercise activates the AMPK pathway to promote endurance adaptations [5]. We want to signal the mTOR pathway, which promotes muscle growth.

The AMPK pathway inhibits the mTOR pathway. It lasts up to 3 hours and is influenced by the intensity and volume of boxing [5][6].

If your goal is to build muscle, boxing won’t get you there. Instead, you must hit the iron and lift.

Why Are Boxers So Muscular?

If boxing doesn’t build muscle, why do so many boxers have muscular upper bodies? There are a few reasons for this. One, boxers perform plenty of high-rep calisthenic exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. Further, many boxers will strength train to improve boxing performance.

Finally, when you see professional boxers in the ring on fight night, they’ve significantly lowered their body fat, making them look more muscular.

Does Boxing Build Back Muscles?

Why Are Boxers So Muscular

Boxing does not build the back muscles, but a strong and powerful back is essential for boxing. The lats play a crucial role in pulling the arm back quickly after a punch. Training the back and lats requires various weighted pulling movements.

For example, weighted chin-ups, lat pulldowns, and various rowing movements. Performing these alongside technical boxing training will build big back muscles and help pull back punches.

Does Boxing Build Arm Muscles?

Boxing doesn’t build arm muscles. Increasing biceps and triceps size requires elbow flexion and extension. Exercises like barbell curls and triceps pushdowns fit these requirements. Boxing doesn’t overload the biceps and triceps, so they won’t grow.

Does Getting Punched Build Muscle?

There is no world where getting punched builds muscle. Punching the abs as you hang from a pull-up bar does nothing for building the trunk muscles or conditioning you to take body shots. It’s a stupid tradition that needs to die.

If you’re using these practices in training to build muscle, it’s time to stop.


Boxing doesn’t build muscle and should be used as a cardio exercise instead of a muscle-building exercise. Instead, traditional strength training combining compound and isolation exercises builds muscle.


1. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(10), 2857-2872.

2. Wackerhage, H., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hamilton, D. L., Lehti, M., & Hulmi, J. J. (2019). Stimuli and sensors that initiate skeletal muscle hypertrophy following resistance exercise. Journal of applied physiology.

3. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methods. International journal of environmental research and public health16(24), 4897.

4. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(12), 3508-3523.

5. Methenitis, S. (2018). A brief review on concurrent training: from laboratory to the field. Sports6(4), 127.

6. Baar, K. (2014). Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Medicine44(2), 117-125.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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