Taken from the Boxing Science – Combat Conditioning Conference 2017, this article is adapted from the notes taken from the ‘Science Behind GB Boxing Workshop’ with Mark Campbell – the GB Boxing S&C coach at this time. Alongside this, Boxing Science Co-Founder and world-class physiologist Dr. Alan Ruddock shares his thoughts on the programme at various points of the article.
Boxing Science online members can access this presentation from the 2017 combat conditioning conference. Click here to learn more about becoming a Boxing Science online member.
Mark introduced his presentation by showing that the 2017 programme focused on building ‘buy in’ – making boxers intelligent in training, and realising the importance of strength and conditioning. He emphasised that the S&C coach should listen and trust the athlete – and ultimately work for them.
Boxers were typically showing better buy in with each cohort. Typically, a lot of boxers they saw on the GB programme were used to doing S&C in metabolic conditioning in circuits based work.
Mark described how the coaches took an athlete centred approach, asking questions – and delivering results to help their athletes get in amazing shape.
The “what it takes to win” philosophy
From working out “what it takes to win,” the GB Boxing S&C coaches were able to build an effective programme to improve boxing performance.
Philosophy – build the best possible physically prepared boxers – to enhance technical performance
Anaerobic athlete – boxers need to work at high lactates and work at high intensities. A lot of Team GB conditioning work was based on developing the boxers ability to work at high lactates.
Attack and defence – perform and repeat high intensity actions
Build a good aerobic system to recover from high intensity efforts
Talent ID – physical testing should not determine their selection – performance is ultimately dependant on skill!
Work out what is controllable – as this can be improved.
Structure exercises and programmes for performance, not because the coach likes them.
Work around movement dysfunction – sport creates dysfunction.
Work out how boxing affects normal posture … and work around this.
The GB Boxing Strength Programme Philosophy
The realisation block is the final stage of training before competition. The volume is low and the intensity is high – working athletes to singles or doubles at over 90% 1RM.
This spike in intensity can feed well into the taper phase.
Mark increases the loading to 85-90% 1RM at 3-4 weeks from competition. Boxers should be well trained working down to heavy single repetitions.
Peaking with minimal dose
The minimal dose response is trying to achieve the optimal results with the minimal work done.
If we can achieve strength and speed gains from 2-3 reps less or 10% less load – why do more?Mark Campbell
Sometimes we have to do more, but when tapering we want to leave reps in the tank and feel great for training.
Key considerations for strength training
Female athletes will struggle with issues around the shoulders
Accessory work should be highly individualised
Metabolic Conditioning should focus on peripheral adaptations
Mark’s go to exercise is the squat. He argues that athletes should squat often and frequently so they become ready for it.
Philosophy is can’t push that much as you want in running, to spar and spar well.
Running is a non-specific stimulus
Repeated speed sessions can be used to excite the nervous system
If sprints are just introduced 6 weeks out, many boxers have had to deal with lower back / hamstring issues. Therefore, when the aerobic training consists of 3-10 minute intervals, GB boxing still includes sprints in the program to make sure the boxers are prepared for high intensity blocks.
Aerobic development includes steady state work, low intensity aerobic work 5-10 minute efforts, fartlek runs, and high intensity aerobic work under 3 minute efforts: for example – 200m efforts repeated several times.
Anaerobic work – Fast 200m sprints with short rests. They may increase rest time, as the body is lazy, naturally wanting to avoid anaerobic work. Boxers need time to recover between sets to make sure they are targeting right system.
Blocks of anaerobic running- aim to reach high levels of acidosis. To avoid burnout of athletes, this will only be completed in a maximum 4-5 week block.
Strongman circuits consist of low and high intensity aerobic, general exercises and include strength based exercises such as loaded carries and wrestling.
These circuits are backed off during heavy sparring periods.
The circuits became quite famous and the boxers enjoyed doing it. The coaches encourage to do this more as the points system had recently changed in 2017 – now boxers needed to come forward and be more aggressive to win fights, which the strongman circuits helped with.
One thing that stands out is the intensity of the GB programme. Notice there are no slow plods. Running is all about being fast and producing force. This is similar to our programme where intensity is integral to get our desired training adaptations.
Some of the thoughts of Mark’s boxers about the sessions certainly have the very similar parallels with our programme. Pain and high levels of physical and mental discomfort are common features!
High quality is essential, and that means at most a 4 or 5 week block is manageable. Our blocks are dependent on the adaptation but our sessions that are similar last for 3 weeks before we move on.
Olympic planner – Rio 2016 cycle – Bringing it all together
Developing and maintaining qualities to prepare for Boxing
April gave a good indication of which boxers had qualified. Following this, there was a 3 week period of a general preparatory phase, including low intensity steady aerobic running work, however speed was kept in.
In the strength programme, high reps at moderate weights were used, with upper body circuits. This carried an aim of conditioning and volume.
May saw an increased running intensity, e.g. fartlek and intervals. Speed and repeated speed was maintained. High sets during strength sessions (6-8), going from 8-6-4 reps and increasing the intensity during the first three weeks, whereas during the next three weeks, reps went from 5-3-1, however the number of sets was maintained (6-8).
Speed and repeated speed work, with a maintenance of aerobic work performed at high intensity, and some high intensity and difficult anaerobic based sessions- e.g. 300m, 200m, 300m, 150m, 300m. Each rep is performed on a four minute cycle. Whatever is left of the four minutes is the rest time for each rep, which maintains the intensity, therefore lactate build up.
Aim was to simply maintain physical qualities, during a period of high sparring and competition prep, with various multi nation camp. The strength loads become lighter, with an emphasis on explosive work, e.g. jumps. Metabolic circuits were still included for some boxers.
Monitor sleep – abnormalities rather than actual amounts of sleep
Critical speed – putting similar boxers together.
Speed testing- 10/20/30m splits.
1km and 3km critical speed testing- this allows running to be grouped and individualised.
Training lift maximums.
Isometric pull, explosive pushup, explosive CMJ, CMJ hands on hips, 30cm drop jump, measuring reactive strength.
These are used as descriptors and motivators- Boxing performance is difficult to pinpoint to single physical qualities.
Work to an athletes strengths … and turn them into super-strengths
This is great, and we have often been encouraged to work towards this by our psychologists as can improve motivation and confidence.
Work towards an athletes strong physical qualities and turn them into super strengths.
Marks top tips for S&C Coaches working in Boxing….
Get experience in various roles and sports
Give the sport a go! You need to empathise with your athletes
Improve your ability to develop relationships.
To learn more about the GB Boxing S&C programme, S&C coach Mark Campbell presented on this topic as part of the 2017 Combat Conditioning Conference. Presentations from this conference are available to Boxing Science members. Click here to learn more about becoming a Boxing Science member to access this presentation.