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James Harden's offseason workout featured boxing

In an attempt to diversify his off season workout, James Harden included boxing in this year's training plan and hopes it pays off with less lower body wear and tear.

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In boxing, your "beard" is another word for your chin. Which, for the uninitiated, is fight vernacular for how well you can take a punch and still respond. It is the great equalizer in the sport (Rocky Marciano and Jake LaMotta made entire Hall-of-Fame careers on the thickness of their "beards"). And it's often what allows boxers to turn fights around and overcome adversity in other areas of their game while in the ring.

It's fitting then, that Houston's own Beard has been featuring boxing as part of his off season training regimen. He led the Rockets through last season's adversity of a mountain of injuries. They also took a 3-1 series haymaker from the L.A. Clippers, failed to go down, and responded decisively to turn the series and the season into an successful one.

Harden told the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen that his offseason training program was designed to feature activities that increased his strength and conditioning, and one of the main components of his regimen was boxing.

"Spin class, workouts in the pool, boxing, things like that to where I'm not pounding on my knees and to where I'll be in condition and effective as well."

Boxing workouts are known for increasing general conditioning, core strength, reflexes and, of course, toughness. And it appears as though the Rockets star shooting guard has dove into the Sweet Science head first as part of his routine, even challenging the press yesterday to "try me."

As the most promising Rockets season in nearly two decades is getting ready to unfold, it's encouraging to see Houston's most important player working hard in the off season and looking for new and diverse ways to get a leg up in physical conditioning.

In what is sure to be yet another meat grinder in this year's Western Conference playoff race, any edge, even a small one in the summer conditioning program, is a welcome addition that will hopefully pay great dividends during the regular season and beyond.