Why Traditional Road-work is a Waste of Time for Fighters

Running for miles at a steady pace to ‘get your legs’, is one of the dumbest old school methods for conditioning fighters and crazily some fighters are still doing it, particularly boxers. Those very same fighters are told not to lift weights, as this will make them slow and bulky. So they end up coming to the ring conditioned more like a long distance runner, highly conditioned for endurance, but sorely lacking strength, power and even maximal speed. Why would any coach want to send their fighter to the ring lacking these essential attributes? The mind boggles.

How do I know this? I’ve experienced it first hand from 8 years boxing in the amateur ranks, having coaches make me run for miles and miles and constantly on my back about my desire to lift weights to gain strength. To me being stronger than my opponents was an obvious advantage, to my coaches weight training was some kind of terrible curse for a fighter.

To understand the type of conditioning a fighter needs we need to break down the demands of a typical fight. If we use boxers as an example we have amateur boxers and professional boxers, an amateur bout will typically be 3 or 4 rounds of 2 minutes with 1 minute rest intervals between rounds, a professional fight ranges between 6 and 12 rounds, depending on the level of the fight, and has rounds of 3 minutes duration with 1 minute rest intervals. The most immediate thing that jumps off the page, is that boxing is done in intervals. If we break it down even further, a fighter will typically be constantly on the move, but due to economy of movement and a high level of skill, this movement will be of a low intensity, they will then have sporadic bursts of high intensity action as they get in range and fire off a burst of punches. The better condition a fighter is in, the more frequent these bursts will be, along with the ability to put more power shots in the combinations whilst maintaining a high level of speed. Obviously individual style plays a huge role, but the better a fighters condition, the higher the work rate will be.

So when we break down an actual round, we see the interval pattern emerge even greater, albeit in an unregulated fashion. So it’s safe to say that the physical demands of a boxing match are very similar to very high intensity interval training. So those daily 5 mile (and that’s the distance I did as an amateur) runs are virtually useless. You wouldn’t condition a 100m sprinter with 1500m runs, which is akin to a boxer doing those long runs.

Here’s the sciency bit: When a boxer is engaged in throwing punches or quickly slipping and rolling (avoiding punches), he/she is engaged in an anaerobic level of physical activity, anaerobic simply means without oxygen, they are working at such a high level, the body can’t effectively burn oxygen fast enough for fuel, so glucose is used as the body switches from the low level aerobic energy system to the glycolytic (short term, high level activity) and the ATP-CP (very short term, maximal level activity), high level anaerobic energy systems. Now the big problem with the long runs is they do not develop the capacity to work in the glycolytic and ATP-CP energy systems, in fact with high volumes of aerobic work, the ATP-CP capacity actually decreases, resulting in loss of speed and power!

Will a fighter gas out if they only train in the glycolytic and ATP-CP energy systems, the answer is a resounding no! the good news is working hard on improving capacity in these energy systems will actually drag endurance up with them, this happens due to a raising of the anaerobic threshold, basically the fitter you become anaerobically, the harder you can work before the switch to the anaerobic pathways, so when a fighter is cruising between bursts of high intensity activity they are able to do so more efficiently. Also the more emphasis on anaerobic conditioning, the faster a fighter is able to recover from the bursts of throwing fast powerful combinations.

So what does this mean for conditioning fighters; it means the long slow road work needs to be replaced with high intensity interval training to develop glycolytic capacity and maximal sprints, maximum effort strength and dynamic effort power training to develop the ATP-CP pathways. Some steady state type cardio can still be included, but it isn’t the main emphasis, it is used as active recovery between the more intense conditioning sessions. Changing training emphasis like this will build stronger, faster, more explosive fighters who still have the conditioning to go the distance, but as a more complete and dangerous fighter.

There’s an old saying in boxing, ‘train hard, fight easy’, while not far off the mark a better saying would be ‘train hard, train smart, fight easy’.

About Nick

Nick has gained over 20 years’ experience and knowledge with successfully coaching numerous people in reaching their fitness goals, a background in amateur boxing, competing at club and championship level. He currently competes in powerlifting and has a passion for all things strength, health and performance that spans nearly 30 years. And with a commitment to continual development as a coach and trainer, with influences such as; Dr Aaron Horschig (squat university), Dr Layne Norton, Stefi Cohen, Wim Hof, Jordan Syatt, Eddie Coan, Jim Wendler, Mark Bell, Christian Thibaudeau and Omar Isuf to name a few. Nick strives to better not only himself, but all those he helps.

Phone: 07812 244550
Email: nick@warriorfitpt.com

Nick Jones – WARRIORFit

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Real Results

In my mind I knew what I was doing. I was a keen runner and studied A level PE in 1994. What could anyone teach me?

I have known Nick for over 20 years but it was not until Jan 2013 that I decided to listen and take his advice. Because I had run and studied exercise I never thought there was much anyone could do for me. How wrong could I have been? I needed to lose a stone at least and despite my running could not shift it. Within a week of providing my current diet Nick had sorted a new diet and exercise plan to cut the fat. That is where the story started. I stuck to his plan to the letter and saw the visual results within a month.

I could not believe how my fitness had increased too with what seemed to me not much time spent on cardio! HIIT was the way forward. Nick continued to develop and manage my goals throughout the year with simple yet effective and easy to follow training plans. His knowledge of training plans and how diet and the body work to achieve results is second to none.

His flexibility to adapt training plans to what I have wanted is also a plus. In January 2013 I wanted to go back to running and tried my 1st 10k race for a few years. As a result of his training plan I managed 6-minute miling and finished in the top 100 of a 1000 strong field.

If you are in need of a switch and looking for some professional advice on weight loss or training plans then I cannot recommend Nick highly enough.

If you are committed about training and think you are achieving your best I would urge you to think again and consult Nick to take you a step or two further.

Noel