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I'm Looking for an Upper Body-Only Plan

Third week of squats, did 315 for 5 as a PR. For the fourth week, gonna go for a new PR.

But with those strength gains, my cardio is suffering. I honestly don’t think it’s a matter of simply me being tired after the squat workout and not being fresh on the cardio. I don’t know the explanation behind it but the pure strength work is messing with the cardio. So next week, I’ll put my heavy squats on maintenance mode for several weeks while spending lots of time with the stairmill. This is for boxing. I need the cardio for it.

With that, I’m looking for an upper-body split that exclusively trains upper-body only. My favorite upper-body exercise, for example, is the clean pull, which is an amazing posterior chain developer as well. But that might mess with my cardio as well… So yeah, I just gotta do some non-lower-body taxing movements. When I get done going crazy with pure cardio stuff for my legs, I’m back to lifting heavy and doing more than mere maintenance work.

These past few weeks, my cardio performance just dropped. I gotta fix that.

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You ever try something like rope jumping?

That’s usually pretty good for cardio. And keeps you on your toes for good footwork.

Maybe that has changed, but my understanding is that good footwork and cardio are really important for boxing.

How many days a week would you want to do and are you training at a regular gym or a home gym? What kind of equipment is at your disposal and maybe i missed it but are you looking for something strength oriented or something else?

I train at a gym with everything. I squat heavy on a rack that has a platform for Olympic lifts. For upper-body, it has everything imaginable, even those landmine pressing things…

I’ve been squatting heavy every single day so far. This is the beginning of the third week of me squatting heavy every day. I TRIED to put cardio on maintenance mode, training it at lower durations three days a week. It failed miserably. It got weaker. I’m on panic mode right now and I gotta refocus my training on cardio, flipping the frequency by doing cardio every day and heavy squats three days a week, at minimum intensity. It has to last for at least six weeks.

And while I do all that, I gotta do stuff for upper body. All I care about with upper body right now is the looks. I don’t care about bench press numbers or chin up numbers or bent-over row numbers. All I want is aesthetics.

You need to choose one single goal and follow a plan best suited for it. At 5’6" and 250, I suggest that goal is fat loss. Making boxing a centerpiece of that goal is possible. Heavy squatting, let alone daily heavy squatting, is not. Training only the upper body would also not be in line with that goal.


That won’t help.

None of this happens quickly. Any results you hope to achieve are the cumulative effect of time and effort.

Take it easy. Do the work, give it the time and effort it deserves, but no more and no less.


My rationale with the upper-body being trained for aesthetics only is that bodybuilding by itself, at least from how I understand it, will pretty much build your anaerobic conditioning on that part of your body. I mean, why can’t I just do lateral raises for shoulders at the normal hypertrophy rep range instead of doing specific shoulder-endurance drills? The hypertrophy rep range is balanced, it seems, building some endurance and strength. That’s kind of why I just lumped aesthetics training with boxing training.

As for squatting everyday AND training for boxing, yeah yeah… That definitely is messing me up. That’s why I’m adjusting my training. All I can say is that my heavy squatting have been negatively affecting my cardio, but not the other way around. All I really want is after I build up a good cardio fitness, I’ll just maintain it while squatting heavy, only doing the minimum for it so that it won’t go down as I do my squats.

Even though my cardio has suffered, it still is infinitely better than where I started at. And at diminished capacity, doing it at maintenance mode, I’ve never had my squats go down with it. It’s the other way around.

I second this and encourage you to consider the Transformation Challenge next January to help you meet your goals (not that you should wait until then to get started, of course!)

I can’t help but think that losing a significant amount of that weight will do tremendous things for your physique, health, self-image, and performance in the ring. Unless you’ve got crazy reach or speed, being a 5’6" boxer can be frustrating over 175 lbs or so when most of your opponents are closer to 5’ 10" or more.


You should try squatting for a bunch of sets of low reps, with short-short rests, EMOM or “Cluster” style once a week to build up your lungs and your legs.


Guy with plenty of boxing and kickboxing experience here.

While @SkyzykS suggestion of skipping is great for other people, I wouldn’t suggest it for you. You’re too heavy at the moment, and in my experience it’s gonna beat the shit out of your knees and feet. Same with running, which another good choice for fight cardio — especially boxing.

Drop your squatting to 2 days a week. After you finish your squat workout, do 30 minutes of incline treadmill walking or stationary bike work. Keep the pace high. Maybe alternate between them. This will also help loosen up your legs after the squats.

On your upper body days, after weights, hit a heavy bag for rounds (make sure you get some good gloves for this and spend some time honing technique first, not just wailing away like an asshole). If your gym doesn’t have one, do some other kind of interval conditioning for 10-15 minutes. This should be higher intensity than LISS, but not full-blown HIIT.

If you’re actually serious about boxing, @Chris_Colucci is right and you should probably drop some weight. But you also need to shift your focus to increasing both your heart and lung capacity.


You’re going from one extreme to another, and neither is good. You aren’t going to compete in anything that involves squatting, so once or twice a week is enough, but totally cutting it out doesn’t make much sense either. You need something balanced and logical, not panicking and changing everything all of a sudden.


I won’t cut it out. I’ll still squat three days a week. But you’re saying once or twice will be just fine?

But yeah, a shifting of priorities.

Honestly dude I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Because that’d be using a pair of pliers to knock a screw into the wall. It might kinda mostly get the job done sort of, but nobody who knows what they’re doing would suggest it and the finished product won’t be comparable to doing it more efficiently (a.k.a. the right way).

Again, it comes back to focusing on a goal. If you’re after fat loss, then stuff like sparring and bag work (which both build shoulder endurance, plus other sport-specific benefits) aren’t necessarily as important. If you want to become a good boxer, then you’ll be doing plenty of skill work, bags, and sparring, so “bodybuilding-style” weight training isn’t as important.

The two types of training aren’t interchangeable at all. They’re two very different methods with different applications and they deliver different results. 4x8-12 lateral raises are just a bit different than 90 seconds on the speed bag.


Well, I’m glad you’ve chosen your priority. Best of luck in achieving it.

Alright… I think there is something here I should emphasize…

Okay so, my long term goal is to be a good boxer competing in the amateur league and being known as a heavy hitter. That’s my END goal. I don’t squat heavy or do bodybuilding or lose fat thinking each one will make me a good boxer. I do it block by block. And right now, with how I think, I just assume that the proper phase right now is to de-prioritize pure squat strength in favor of endurance work.

And even though bodybuilding for my upper-body is NOT the most ideal for sport-specific training, I still think it’s a good idea to build a foundation of muscle there before doing the specific boxing drills. The boxing gym here ain’t open yet.

And also I gotta lose weight.

I can’t do all of those at the same time, but whatever order I tackle them with, the END goal is to be a hard-hitting boxer.

I think I failed to clarify that in the beginning.

So, there has been some good advice on here. Lateral raises will put some meat on your delts, but I don’t see that helping with the movement of punching. Bodybuilding training is meant to add some size, but not speed. I would think speed is more important. Working the bag will build your endurance and build the fibres you need for boxing. Honestly, Olympic movements would probably help your goals a lot more than Bodybuilding or Powerlifting training.

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As a coach, I would advise against tying yourself down to a specific fighting style until you get some training under your belt. And by some, I mean a lot.

When I started sparring more and getting deeper into training, I really wanted to be like Ali or Bruce Lee; I wanted to be light, fast, pulling off crazy moves and overwhelming my opponent with sheer awesomeness. My coaches very quickly told me off, instead insisting that I was an attrition fighter. I was the kinda guy who would plod along, weathering my opponent’s storm, then catching you with counter shots once your gas tank was empty. This strategy proved WAY more effective for me.

Coaching aside, let’s move onto your original question.

First of all, this…

…is way too much if boxing is your goal. Honestly, I know I said drop squatting to 2 days, but I really think 1 is enough. Your other leg day should be focused on clean pulls or power cleans. Quad strength is almost useless for boxers. If you were a wrestler or judoka, things would be different. You need explosive power in your hips to generate force in your punches.

Punching power moves in a chain up from the floor: triple extension WITH rotation in the lower body, into trunk rotation, culminating in powerful shoulder extension that ends in a snap of the elbow. This means you want to focus on hips, trunk and shoulder power.

Your best moves for this would be power cleans/clean pulls, reverse wood choppers and jerks/push presses.

If you still desperately want to work on putting some muscle on your frame, superset some plate raises, lateral raises and triceps extensions between sets of jerks or push presses. Then do some fluff work for your back and biceps.

And lots of rotational core work. Like, all of it.

ALSO, I’m not just talking out of my ass here. To flex my credentials: I’ve trained in Korean and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay thai and boxing for just over 10 years, and coached them for about 6 or 7. I’ve also trained silat and kali for around 3 years.


Thanks bro.

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Do this

Or this

And definitely do this

images (7)

EDIT: @kdjohn 's advice was money also. I’d rather you listen to him than me


Only when it comes to overarching principles. I think you have a much better grasp of programming than I do. I just constantly take 5/3/1 and horrifically butcher it to suit my liking, haha.

@bapoleon, if you need help programming those movements I suggested, unfortunately I won’t be much help.


Me too buddy, me too :joy:

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