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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 12-09-2004, 09:05 AM   #1
Kevin Okerlund
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I was reliving my youth last night watching Frazier-Ali 3 when they went 14 rounds. The shape these guys were in. I was wondering has there ever been a study done testing boxers in the different fitness parameters?
Thanks
Kevin
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Old 12-09-2004, 02:06 PM   #2
chris muscarella
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Most boxers are in very good shape CrossFit-style just by the demand of their sport: they have to put-out high power for short rounds with minimal rest between rounds. That said, a lot of boxers do far too much long, slow distance--which is unnecessary--and limits maximum power.

A lot of boxing training is like voodoo. It isn't very scientific and everyone has their own special sauce. That is starting to change.

Even at the top level, boxing conditioning can be like voodoo. The link below is for a program that Fred Hatfield (aka Dr. Squat) developed for Evander Holyfield.

http://www.sportsci.org/news/news9709/hatfield.html

To quote Hatfield: "The time-honoured -- but unfortunately ill-conceived -- practice of long, slow distance work as a conditioning regimen for boxers is what Evander learned from the training dinosaurs of his youth, and had continued with for years. When I was brought aboard his team, prior to his fight against Buster Douglas in 1990, Evander was in sad physical condition considering the specific demands of his sport. I immediately tested Evander's responses to three minutes of boxing specific total body work (see the 3-minute drill description below), which brought his heart rate above 180 bpm. He needed a full 7 or 8 minutes to recover back to 120 bpm after this single bout, analogous to one hard boxing round. What was worse, after doing five of the 3-minute drills with a one minute rest between, his heart rate remained above 150 between bouts. In short, he did not have the capacity to sustain a high performance level for even half of the duration of a professional fight.

My responsibilities were limited to the physical conditioning component of Evander's training, which had to be integrated into his skills and sparring training. Boxers require not only agility, speed and strength in short, explosive bursts, but also a high level of anaerobic strength endurance in order to perform these bursts over and over for ten rounds or more. I designed Evander's training regimen and nutritional protocol to reflect these all-important elements. The road work ended promptly and completely."

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Old 12-10-2004, 08:31 AM   #3
John Walsh
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Good question Kevin. I have never seen one. I do remember though seeing Joe Frazier appearing on one of those Wild World of Sports fitness contest in the 70’s where various elite athletes competed in several fields. Smokin Joe did awful. He really looked weak but he still could have knocked out any guy in that contest with a six-inch jab. Joe’s outstanding trait was his toughness. He had a chin of granite and because of his size had to take several shots just to get one in. You can’t teach this in the weight room.

I’ve seen that Hatfield article before. I doubt that Holyfield was ever in “sad” condition. All trainer say they get so and so in bad shape and turn them into champions. Please.

I fought amateur and had over 30 bouts. It’s simply not true that boxing training is not scientific. It is. That’s why they call is the sweet science. You should see the Olympic training program. It’s the only amateur sport I know of where coaches have to be certified. I went through a lot of training to get certification. Every trainer brings their own art to the science and at the pro level those are guarded secrets. Running is part of that training and not all fighter run long distance. Most that do so do it for weight control and keep it limited to a few miles. The corner stone of training consist of shadow boxing, heavy bag, rope, foot work, speed bag, double end bag, focus mitts and sparing all in three minute intervals. It works.

Certain things about the sport are all art and very difficult or impossible to teach. Learning to take a punch, relax and not loosing your temper are crucial for fighters and they are hard to teach. It is as much mental as it is physical. Some people watch too many Rocky movies. No one is out chasing chickens or greased pigs anymore, if they ever did.
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Old 12-10-2004, 09:51 AM   #4
chris muscarella
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John, I'd be very interested in the science of boxing training. I agree that practice is very intense and that there is more emphasis on sport-specific skills.

I'd also be very interested in your thoughts on the Olympic training program and how the art and science mix with each other.

In terms of science, most boxing coaches that I have spoken with are able to give solid reasoning about some of their practices. However, other things are often described in very vague and hazy terms--such as their preferences for abdominal conditioning. Worse yet are the boxers themselves.

I knew several very successful amateur boxers, and their strength training practices were uniformly terrible--on the other hand, their bag work, rope work, and sparring were all excellent. I've always been surprised at the lack of strength training knowledge (the same goes for most gymnasts I've met as well).

They rarely lift compound exercises--with the exception of the bench press. And they don't think much about how to effectively develop power (such as russian twists, cleans, squats). I agree that there is some truth to the old boxing notion that you either have knock-out power or your don't (I attribute that mainly to the ability of the fighter to relax the shoulder and transmit power from the hips), I have seen people add some serious snap to their punches by inclusion of big compound lifts.



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Old 12-10-2004, 10:46 AM   #5
John Walsh
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Chris,

Boxers are a lot like gymnasts in that they get all the conditioning they need from sports specific activities. For a fighter who needs to maintain a certain weight, weight training may hinder him. Most fighters have power. They need to work on quickness and harnessing that power with the proper punch technique. Slipping punches, countering, combinations, clinching, footwork, etcetera, is all part of the science of boxing. It takes a long time to develop these skills. A proper sparring session is like doing a WOD while being hit very hard. Try it sometime and you will have a new found respect for the conditioning and toughness of fighters.

I will agree that among some there is still a bias against weight training in boxing. The thinking being that it will make you tight. Some think you get all the power you need from banging a 100-pound bag or sparing. There is some truth to this. I rarely touched a weight when I was gearing up for a fight. For me it was a matter of time and recovery. This thinking has changed quite a bit.

I’m not sure why you’re surprised by the lack of strength training knowledge when it is so rampant in all sports and even among people who strength train. I know college football coaches that don’t know the difference between a snatch and a C&J and can’t see how this would help their balls players more than a good bench press. The mainstream tends to lag several years behind on cutting edge training ideas. Plus boxing tends to be the realm of the poor, like I was as a kid. Most of these folks are not reading exercise physiology abstracts in their spare time.

Of course this all leads me to believe that all sports need two layers of coaching. One for the sport itself and one for weight training and conditioning. This has already occurred but no to the extent it needs to.
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Old 12-10-2004, 12:04 PM   #6
Larry Lindenman
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Great discussion. I think the WOD is perfect for developing the base GPP necessary for the sport specific training of boxing. If I were training for a fight, I would continue to do the WOD, but scale it down as the fight got nearer; to allow for the extra sparring and not pump the training volume up too much. The WOD only takes 10-40 minutes and allows plenty of training time for SPP. The heavy bag, top and bottom bag, focus mitts, and speed bag, convert the GPP into sport specific training
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Old 12-10-2004, 01:04 PM   #7
chris muscarella
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John, I know what you mean about proper sparring being like a WOD while being hit very hard. It adds another component. I've actually performed my own CrossFit-style sessions with medicine ball drops to the stomach and heavy-bag intervals mixed in--they've been some of the more intense combinations I've been able to come up with.

I think that sport-specific skills are crucial, but often times good strength training can lead to huge gains in performance. Examples: Coach Sommer's son quitting gymnastics for football (I think) and lifting for football. When he went back to do some tumbling, his height on the floor was much improved due to squats, power cleans, etc. Steve Baccari has some very interesting articles on using heavy deadlifts for boxing and the marked improvement in his fighters. Also, let us not forget what happened when Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire really started lifting heavy.

I would also venture a hypothesis: in sports in which sport-specific skill development includes a strength/power component such as boxing or gymnastics, it is more difficult to get people to see the benefits of large compound weighted exercise because they think they are doing all the strength training they need within the realm of their sport.

Some of the more interesting opinions I've heard have actually espoused that certain types of weight-training can be excellent for maintaining looseness and efficiency of movement. Pavel Tsatsouline talks about high repetition overhead kettlebell lifts to develop the shoulder endurance necessary for striking sports. After having practiced them (and things like thrusters), I can attest that they help you manage fatigue in the ring while helping put quite a bit more snap on the end of your punches. Since many of the WODs have this type of work built-in, I agree with Larry that CrossFit would make an excellent type of GPP for boxers.

Steve Baccari articles on boxers, deadlifts, and kettlebells:
http://www.h2hkettlebell.com/articlelist.htm

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Old 12-10-2004, 02:06 PM   #8
Tom Shook
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As a former amateur boxer and current kickboxer, I have to weigh in on this topic. The WOD's would make a great type of foundation training for a fighter. I have been at this game for many years and can attest to the prevalence of a lot of "old school" ideas about conditioning. I also think it is possible to go too far in the other direction and devote too much of your valuable and limited training time to non-specific activities. Most novice boxers should spend the majority of their time training in a sport specific manner...boxing (hitting the bags, mitts, sparring, etc.) It will put a big drain on a new-comer's nervous system just perfecting skills and they will be tired. As you progress in training, a good coach should look for areas of weakness and focus on improving them while maintaining strengths.
Having said that, most fighters turn to "road-work" as their staple supplemental training...exactly what most of them don't need. You can create an environment in the gym that develops enough anaerobic stamina and endurance that running becomes redundant and unneccessary. For example, in my gym we train 3 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest. In amateur fights it is 2 minute rounds and 1 minute rest...we all have plenty of "wind". What most fighters lack is explosive power. My experience shows that ballistic lifts with weights produces a very beneficial type of supplemental training and conditions and strengthens muscles that will translate directly into better punching power and punch output. We prefer to train heavily with kettlebells and perform snatches, swings, C & J's along with bodyweight exercises. Boxers are very fit athletes and I would bet that the demands of the sport require a level of fitness every bit as high as any other, but it is a specific type of fitness...exactly what CrossFit is not about, in my understanding. CrossFit type training can lay the foundation for greatness in any sport, but specific training will be required to become a champion.
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Old 12-11-2004, 10:33 AM   #9
Larry Lindenman
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Good points Tom, I would also add you may do shorter rounds ie. 1 minute with 1 minute rests, to develop power and output. Most people have a tendency to increase the time of a round in training, which is good for "wind" but gives you more time to coast. Shorting the round and demanding full output: 110%, works conditioning as well as thinking and working under fire. It also puts you in the mindset of doing as much damage as you can as fast as possible. . .just a thought.
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Old 12-13-2004, 09:54 AM   #10
Tom Shook
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Larry...good point about manipulating round length for various effects. I have used varioations on that with "punch-out" drills, where you throw non-stop punches on the heavy bag. This is usually the last 30 seconds of a round. This type of training is great for conditioning and increasing punch output.
I have also read where the Cuban boxers were performing punching intervals, as you described above. No need to go into any detail with regard to their success in amateur boxing.
Recently I have introduced the "Fight Gone Bad" style workouts, with several modifications, and have seen real improvements in speed, power and conditioning. These are similar to what Dr. Hatfield describes as "3 minute drills".
It is really nice to see so many knowledgable and informed post on boxing/ring sports here...it is exactly what we need to get out of the old school mentality that continues to prevail in most boxing gyms.
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