Championship Preparation, Finding A Winning Formula
By Neil Perkins
I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of ‘fighters’ from top performing MMA fighters, elite level amateurs, recreational white collar boxers and now to championship level boxers. There is not a one size fits all approach to preparing a fighter. There are some hard fast rules that a coach needs to adhere to if he is going to find a winning formula for his athlete, the first one is
Make the athlete believe in the programme
Now the resistance an elite level boxer can give you when preparing for a title fight is equal to the resistance an overweight solicitor can give you when trying to lose some weight. In both cases it is about finding a formula that works for them. They will have their own perceived ideas of what will work in relation to diet, training and life. This will be influenced by peers, the internet, the media and the dark corners of their mind. If you can get them to buy into the formula, then you will have success. If a coach and an athlete can’t agree then the coach either needs to coax the athlete to his way of thinking or end the relationship. A coach waiting for an athlete to fail so he can say ‘I told you so’ does not work, both parties must believe. It is frustrating when in the commercial environment of running a gym when you have members who are not listening to advice and doing things their own way. I always encourage my trainers to be honest and coax people round and educate and communicate, but if that is failing stick to your principals and tell the truth. I am a coach first and a business man second and do not pander to people’s ego. It has meant many people respect me and some think I’m an ego. Usually the migrating people who float from gym to gym continually blame others for their shortcomings, this is common from boxers. These people tend to resist input given to them and prefer to source their own ideas and formula’s, very rarely to these people succeed.
As I have stated previously with blogs. A winning formula can’t just be based on training alone. Your lifestyle, rest, recovery and nourishment are key. Your goals need to be continually referred back to and your mental attitude to the programme must be considered – make the athlete believe in the programme.
An athlete must have something they enjoy doing. A classic example of this is boxing vs weight training. Weight training is far more effective for burning fat than boxing training, however many clients do not enjoy it as much and find it less interactive. If you have an athlete (client) who is looking at training three times per week you are better off putting a programme together where they box as opposed to weight train, even if their primary goal is fat loss. If they lose faith in the programme they are likely to veer off course. Get them achieving and then they’ll be inclined to listen more.
Matt Windle’s winning formula
When it comes to me working with my pro boxer, we understand each other quirky ways and I have found what works for him and he is aware of this and trusts me to provide a winning formula. I will ask his opinion if I am unsure and his input on aspects and the standard questions he will get asked before every training session.
- What did you eat last?
- How did you sleep?
- How do you feel
When pushing a boxer through a training camp you are pushing him near his limits, there is always a risk of over training and couple this with calorie deficit (not massive) these give indicators that he is on course and not over doing it.
For a 10-round championship level contest I need to look at the demands of the contest physically, coupled with the skill and mental aspects. He needs to believe in the programme.
Boxing is known as ‘The Hardest Sport In The World’ It combines a multitude of energy systems. You need a strong aerobic base and when throwing combinations need a high anaerobic threshold. A contest can be decided by strength, speed or skill. The SKILL element is key and his sparring will be the basis of all training.
Monday AM: Skill Training, Sports Specific. Technical Pad Work and Bag Work
Monday PM: Aerobic. Running Long Slow Distance 5m
Tuesday AM: Strength Training. Olympic Weight Lifting
Tuesday PM: Anaerobic Training. Circuits performed tabata style
Wednesday AM: Aerobic Light: Running Mid Distance 3m
Wednesday PM: Skill Training/ Technical Sparring followed by pad work.
Thursday AM: Anaerobic/ Explosive Work. Track Sprint Sessions
Thursday PM: Core/ Mental Training. Bikram ‘Hot’ Yoga.
Friday AM: Skill Training. Sparring
Friday PM: Anaerobic Training. Circuits performed tabata style
Sunday: Skill Training. Sparring
Most boxing coaches would snub this programme and advocate running every day. We have two Long Slow runs per week. Monday night is purely to maintain his aerobic base and we don’t run such a duration on Wednesday as he has sparring in the evening. He has suffered in the past with very tight hamstrings and the running can aggravate this, he will not be lacking in the ‘fitness’ department come fight night.
Circuits are brutal! Explosive exercises like battle ropes, box jumps, tyre flips and sledgehammer is used tabata format. This mimics the explosive stop-start explosive nature of boxing.
Track sprint sessions are varied from 800 to 40m sprints performed in a pyramid style. Again these are explosive burts. We have a secret weapon and a pace setter on sprints, he is very quick over short distances and ensures sprint sessions are explosive, competitive and fun.
Matt has Olympic weightlifted since turning pro. Big compound movements like Clean & Jerk and Snatch have been employed. We have seen his one rep max increase by 60% on these lifts over 12 months, sparring partners have commented on his increase punching power and strength. ‘Off-Season’ he will lift twice per week. This ensures he doesn’t lose strength but allows time for us to focus on anaerobic conditioning and more skill work.
Something that we integrated in when he suffered from tight hamstrings. Yoga is a fantastic core workout and with so much intense and muscle shortening exercise this will help prevent injury and keep his body supple throughout camp. Also something Matt has commented on is his breathing and ability to focus his mind.
Skill Training/ Sparring
This is the most important aspect of his training for physical preparation and mental preparation. Twice weekly, Matt will build up to spar championship duration (10 rounds) with one of the three following sparring partners
Louis Norman. Ranked number 4 in the country at Flyweight, Former English Champion, boxed for the British Title
Andrew Selby. Ranked number 2 in the country at Flyweight, current British Champion, former world amateur number 1
Jay Harris. Ranked number 2 in the country at Super-Flyweight. Undefeated prospect.
The technical and tactical battle is key and only really can technical adaptations we’ve made be practiced. His next opponent has a seasoned amateur and professional pedigree and can adapt to fights. His preferred style is to keep boxing long behind and educated jab and set his boxing up from there, he is also capable of pushing forward to dominate a contest. All three of the above box at a much higher pace than his next opponent. Norman and Selby both set traps and vary their shots, Selby has long arms and an extremely high work rate. Jay Harris like Broadhurst does basics very well. He has an authoritative jab and mixes in flashy combinations off it, particularly favouring the left hook to the body to finish – again something his opponent will use.
Mid-week sparring we will use to amateurs including former Windle opponent Liam Etheridge. This ‘lighter’ four rounds has a very simple mantra – apply pressure but avoid walking onto shots. Not allowing an opponent as seasoned to get comfortable and coast early on is the key to victory. If Matt Windle and Don Broadhurst where to meet at their peak as amateurs Don would win comfortably by boxing at long range. Over three rounds this is an easy task, over ten it is a tiring one. This four rounds is followed by 6 rounds intense pad work.
Matt’s Programme Overview
What we have seen so far is an athlete that believes in his programme. Matt has responded well to this regime, his weight is dropping steadily and on course (read previous blog) and he has been acclimatising to higher levels of sparring partner who we believe are at the level where is next opponent once was (not where he currently stands).
Finding your winning formula
You need to find somewhere where you believe in the programme and adapt it to suit you. What is your goal and where can you achieve it? It must be easily for you to assimilate into your lifestyle and you must believe in it. If you are unsure, follow the plan to the letter over a set time period and if it does not agree with you then fins something else. If prior to starting you are already thinking ‘this is never going to work’ don’t even bother starting – it is destined to fail. If your current gym or routine (mine included) isn’t working for you then change it, go and find your winning formula.