Just How Crucial is Weight Training to Professional Fighters?

Importance of Weight Training for Professional Fighters

Ever watched a professional fighter and wondered how they have so much endurance? While it may seem like these fighters spend hours in the gym lifting heavy in order to pack a punch inside the ring, there’s a big misconception around the way boxers train.

At a first glance, it seems obvious that boxers need to be strong and therefore build large and defined muscles. But there’s a specific way that boxers train and a routine they follow in order to be most successful. Some even question whether weightlifting is beneficial at all.

Heavy lifting seems to have been built into every well-known fighter’s routine, it’s a fact of the profession. Yet, as training and diet plans advance, we’re starting to see a shift in the way boxers training plans are put together. Looking to the like of Tyson Fury, even this heavyweight champion has had to alter his plan in order to up his game. In fact, nobody would have been betting on Fury drawing and eventually beating Wilde in his meteoric comeback, however his training routine and mindset helped to him to perform in a manner that shocked the world.

What is weight training?

Weight training is a specific type of strength training that, yes you guessed it, involves lifting weights for resistance. It can be done with free weights or by using resistance machines, in which the aim is to cause stress to the muscle, activating it to get stronger.

If not done correctly, weight training can cause a lot of damage, from strains to sprains and even fractures that can take an otherwise healthy person out of the ring for many months. For this reason, even professional boxers have a trainer rather than coaches and this trainer devises the best weight plan for optimal performance.

What are the pros of weight training for boxers?

Weight training for boxers

Improved endurance

Weight lifting has been proven to benefit endurance sport athletes such as runners and cyclists. While both cardio and muscle strength play an integral part in determining the athlete’s success, heavy strength training has been proven to aid the individual in working nearer their capacity.

Strength training is thought to improve running economy and increase maximum speed, therefore being ideal for track runners, swimmers and cyclists alike.

Protection from the running burn

 Heavy weightlifting is thought to increase tendon stiffness. This is beneficial because it increases the body’s ability to store elastic energy within the muscle. It is also thought to delay development of less efficient muscle fibers.

Ever been out on a run and got a stitch in your side? That’s caused by a backup of lactic acid that the body can’t catch up with while you’re running. Lifting heavy weights is thought to make athletes more resistant to this feeling as the body seems to become more able to work in oxygen deprived conditions.

What are the cons of weight training for boxers?

Decreased agility

While boxers do need to be incredibly strong to beat their opponents, they also need to be able to move quickly around the ring and throw sharp and snappy punches. If a boxer does too much heavy weightlifting, their muscles are going to increase in size, making it harder for them to move so quickly.

With a loss on their nimble edge, the boxer is likely to underperform.

Weight training for fighters

Being in the wrong weight class

Bear in mind, a boxer must compete with boxers in a similar weight class to them. By gaining too much muscle weight, a boxer could not only become slower and less receptive inside the ring, they may also push themselves into an unsuitable weight class.

A change in lifestyle

Let’s take Tyson Fury as an example. Fury was put on a plan where his body went into Ketosis for consuming high amounts of fats and very little carbohydrates. At the same time, he was advised to undertake sports like shadow boxing and swimming in order to keep in shape. He finally reached his optimum weight; however he was no longer lumbering around unnecessary muscle, which many people believe his rival Anthony Joshua does

What sort of training should a boxer be doing?

While some heavyweight lifting can be beneficial, it’s clear that it’s best to generally leave the heavy weights to the resistance athletes out there.

That being said, boxers should still incorporate weightlifting into their training, but with light weights. Light weightlifting that focuses on form overweight is said to be more beneficial to a boxer, as it builds up strength, without causing the muscle to become oversized.

As boxers need to spar and move around quickly, building smaller muscles, without the burn out will increase their overall stamina and performance, ensuring they can pack a punch while being able to move out of the line of dodge pretty quickly too.

In an era where younger weightlifters are becoming known as generation iron, heavy weightlifting can seem more beneficial that it really is. The truth is it depends entirely on what type of athlete you are. While evidence shows that heavy weightlifting builds endurance and is great for runners, bikers and swimmers, it’s best to leave the heavy weights to these athletes. Boxers and other fighters are best off sticking with those grueling squats.

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