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Training Like A Boxer….(Is A Bad Idea)

So my client Gavin, who has featured on this blog a number of times, has decided he wants to take part in a white collar boxing match in 12 weeks time. He’s never boxed in his life.


I will state from the outset that I know nothing about fighting. Thankfully this has never been an issue, as there are probably softer looking targets for muggers than shaven headed guys with forearms.  If the day comes when I get involved in a fracas and a fight appears unavoidable, I plan to use my wits. Pointing over my assailants shoulder, I’ll cry “what on Earth can that be??” before administering a kick to the testicles so tremendous as to eliminate all chances of him passing his aggression on to the next generation.


Regardless, there’s something sexy about the idea of training “like a fighter”.  After all, boxers and mixed martial artists are frequently listed among the fittest all round athletes on the planet.  Fighters possess high levels of strength, endurance, flexibility, power and all round toughness. Legendary Jiu-Jitsu expert Renzo Gracie recently demonstrated these qualities when two halfwits attempted to mug him in New York. Not only did he take them both apart, he managed to live-tweet the entire episode as it happened.


So wanting to be like these guys is understandable, but is trying to emulate their training a good idea?


Well now, I have two issues with the idea of “sports specific” training for ordinary people…


1- Specificity is not always necessary- Training should progress from general to specific. In your first year or so of training, any well-rounded training plan will improve all aspects of fitness to some degree. In fact, a generalist approach will serve you better in the long run


View this as building the base of a pyramid; over time you may choose to narrow your focus in favour of power work or endurance or whatever is necessary for your sport. But a broad base will serve you well. If the Egyptians did build a pyramid narrower at the base, I assume they scrapped the design after it tipped over onto a bunch of slaves the first couple of times. Good slaves are tough to come by.


The take home - You’ll be better served by using a basic strength program instead of trying to emulate the training of top athletes. Lose excess weight and get strong and flexible.


2- Specificity is misunderstood- “Sport specific training” seems to mean different things to different people. The only truly sport specific training is playing your sport. As I mentioned earlier I know nothing about boxing, so the technical aspect of Gavin’s training will be done with another trainer, one who knows what he’s doing when it comes to boxing. Or at least knows that the gloves go on your hands and not your feet, which I already found out from google while researching this piece. (smug face)


What is not sport specific, what is in fact just dumb, is trying to recreate highly skilled, sport specific movement patterns in a gym environment. So Gavin won’t suddenly be throwing uppercuts while holding 20kg weights.  


What is he doing then?


Well why don’t I just show a typical session….


Following a warm up, we’ll perform some type of explosive movement. We’re not doing anything complicated like Olympic weightlifting just yet. Throwing a medicine ball or a few basic jumping drills are fine for now.


We’ll then move on to strength training.  In his current program Gavin is rotating between two options –


Strength Work


Day 1-

Trap Bar Deadlift x 5 reps

Short rest then straight into –

Barbell Push Press x 5 reps

Rest and repeat for 3-5 sets


Day 2-

Reverse Lunge From Box x 8 Reps

Short rest, then-

Barbell Chest Supported Row x 8 reps

Short rest, repeat for 3-5 sets


We then move on to assistance work. To prepare him for the demands of the five two-minute rounds of all out effort that the boxing match will entail, Gavin’s exercises are organised into a similar format. In other words, he does a number of exercises in a row for two minutes, then rests for a minute, then repeats the sequence. We don’t count reps, he simply keeps moving, exerting as much effort as he can for the two minute round.




Round one-

One minute press ups

One minute TRX rows

Rest one minute, repeat once.


Round two-

One minute battling ropes

One minute Skipping

Rest one minute, repeat


Round three-

One minute forward sled drags,

One minute sled rows

Rest one minute and repeat once.


As the we get closer to the fight Gavin's training will have a greater emphasis on strength and power exercises. But at no point will we be getting particularly complicated. As always, the basics done hard and well trump complex training plans. 

As ever, I'll keep you updated on Gav's progress.




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