Should I Lift Weights or Do Boxing?

Finding the time to do consistent physical fitness training is sometimes difficult, so choosing which fitness activities you want to do might be challenging. Both lifting weights and boxing can deliver excellent health and fitness benefits, but if you only have the time to choose one, how should you decide which one to choose?

Boxing and weight lifting are both effective ways to get into better shape. However, the suitability of each form of exercise ultimately depends upon your goals. Boxing is better suited to weight loss while lifting weights is better suited to building strength and muscle mass.

In order to come to a more informed decision on picking up lifting weights or picking up boxing as a fitness activity, read on to learn about what factors you should consider before making up your mind.

Is Boxing a Cardio or Strength Exercise?

Many people opt for boxing as a workout because it offers lots of fun and improves overall health and wellness and does not require you to be fit to start boxing. It works incredibly well for people looking to lose weight and get back in shape.

However, it’s not always immediately clear whether this form of exercise should be classified as cardio or strength training.

Boxing is both a strength exercise and a cardio exercise, but it’s mostly cardio because it engages the upper and lower body with intense, explosive, but ultimately low resistance movements. It does provide basic strength conditioning, but it is more of a cardiovascular exercise.

A professional boxer’s body can show you what to expect; they often have a lean body and not usually an excessively muscular body. They can sometimes be muscular due to outside strength training as part of a boxer’s routine, but what stands out most is their speed, agility, coordination, and all-around physical condition.

To shed more light on why boxing is more of cardio than strength exercise, here’s a list of what’s featured in a boxer’s standard training routine:

  • Running
  • Shadow boxing
  • Jumping rope
  • Bag work
  • Shadow boxing
  • Strength training
  • Sparring
  • Conditioning for speed, explosiveness, and agility
  • Pad work

Training regimes may vary depending on what an individual is looking to improve. However, most of the work boxers do is predominantly geared towards turning their bodies into lean, powerful, energy-efficient machines. Having strength and muscle is important, but not if it compromises things like agility, endurance, speed, and precision.

Some boxes will prioritize building power and muscle into their routines, but this emphasis on power can be stylistic if they focus on maximal power output and tend towards pressure boxing and going for knockouts.

Overall, boxing can serve as both a cardio and strength exercise, but it’s more cardio-focused. While it does help build muscle and strength for beginners, the larger chunk of boxing training can easily be classified as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Anyone familiar with the benefits of HIIT will agree that while you can build muscle and strength with it, it won’t be to the same extent as someone lifting weights.

Should I Choose Boxing or Strength Exercise?

Whether you should choose boxing or strength training depends on your goals. Boxing is more useful for weight loss and building endurance, while strength training is better for building strength and muscle. Ideally, you should be doing a bit of both or lean into boxing if you want boxing skills.

Boxing is a better option for anyone looking to burn extra calories and build cardiovascular fitness. Boxing will help somebody become more agile and explosive, build stamina, and improve flexibility and mobility to some extent. So if you’re looking for an all-around improvement in your physical condition without worrying too much about adding muscle mass, boxing is the way to go. 

On the other hand, strength training is better if your primary goal is to add muscle mass for strength or aesthetics. Building up some basic muscle mass can also help get your resting metabolic rate higher if you have not lifted weights much in the past. Some studies have even found that weight training causes you to burn more calories for longer after a session.

If you have never lifted weights you can maximize your fitness results by building up muscle mass for a year and get a substantial result from newbie gains.

But if you compare the net effects of both types of exercise, you’ll find that boxing burns more calories than weightlifting. Of course, that is assuming all other factors remain constant. To drive this point home, let’s look at some scientific facts:

  • HIIT, a core component of boxing training, burns 25-30% more calories than weight lifting. Mind you, HIIT is merely a part of a boxer’s cardio-focused training.
  • Traditional cardio reduces body fat percentage faster than lifting, at the same rate as HIIT. Since boxing incorporates both traditional cardio and HIIT, the fat-burning effect is significant.  

Lifting weights is better for building muscle and strength than cardio-intensive training like boxing. On the other hand, boxing is better for weight loss and all-around physical conditioning.

If you are significantly overweight and getting your body fat percentage down is important to improve your overall health quickly, you might want to lean into getting boxing training into your schedule instead of working on lifting weights.

One of the obvious factors worth mentioning is that if you like the idea of learning boxing skills you should lean into that type of training just because it will be more fun and you will get the secondary benefits of learning the skills you want to learn. Conversely, if you want to compete in powerlifting or other strength sports, you should lean into lifting weights for similar reasons.

There isn’t a right or wrong choice here. What’s important is to be clear about what you want to achieve before settling on a training regime. Stick to your choice and watch the results of consistent body training.

Does Boxing Make Me Lose Muscle?

Boxing can make you lose muscle if your diet is not on point. Muscle loss can occur if you have protein and calorie restrictions so severe that they cause a significant calorie deficit. Maintaining an extreme calorie deficit has been proven to cause muscle loss.

Calories fuel our bodies in many ways ranging from basic functions like operating the brain, nervous system, and internal organs. Protein and calories are also required to provide energy for exercise and to eventually repair minor damage that the body sustains through exercise.

This is important when you factor in that boxing and other forms of exercise break down muscles that need to use protein and calories to repair the muscle tissue. If there is not sufficient protein and calories being consumed, this muscle will be broken down and not repaired, which is essentially why muscle loss tends to happen in severe deficits.

Boxing can create a significant calorie deficit due to energy expenditure from exercise if the diet is not adjusted to come close to matching energy expenditures. Maintaining a healthy calorie deficit is fine and will not usually result in much muscle loss if protein and calorie consumption are not more than 25% less than maintenance.

The real problem is having an extreme deficit is that while fat loss can look good in most cases, if the deficit is too steep and maintaining enough muscle mass cannot happen, poor body aesthetic outcomes are possible. Since boxing is a very effective calorie-burner, you can easily find yourself losing muscle mass if you don’t monitor your diet enough.

That is especially true if you cut back too much on protein. This all-important food element provides the amino acids required to repair your muscles after an intense workout. If you’re not getting enough protein, your muscles will lack the ingredients required to repair the minor tears you subject them to through training.

Combine that with a calorie deficit, and it’s easy to see why it’s possible to lose through boxing.

With that said, you can still maintain or even add muscle mass with boxing. You just need to consume enough protein and calories to support that goal.

Can You Lift Weights and Do Boxing?

You can lift weights and do boxing, but you need to lean into your main goal with volume and keep an eye on diet and recovery. If your goal is to lose weight, do more boxing and stay in a deficit of not more than 25% of TDEE. If you want to add muscle, focus on lifting weights with a minor surplus.

It is very reasonable to do both lifting weights and boxing at the same time. In fact, hitting both types of exercise is ideal for the majority of people since getting cardiovascular benefits alongside the established benefits of building baseline muscle mass and strength can create an overall healthier body.  

Final Thoughts

Both lifting weights and boxing are excellent forms of exercise. Keep in mind that since both forms of exercise can have positive health outcomes when diet and consistency are on point, picking one that you enjoy and will stick with is enough of a reason to favor one exercise over the other.

It all comes down to how you align your nutrition and training routine to your goals. That’s why it’s important to know what you need to achieve from the beginning.

For more check out Is Boxing Hard To Learn?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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