Danny Wilson discusses whether David Haye’s weight gain is beneficial or detrimental to his boxing performance.
Fan favourite David Haye has exploded back on to the Heavyweight scene as he made his long-awaited return, dispatching Australian Heavyweight Mark Di Mori inside just one round.
You’d be mistaken if you thought the wait had been too long for boxing fans; over 3 million viewers tuned in to see ‘The Hayemaker‘ in his comeback fight.
Many commented on Haye’s noticeable increase in size since his last fight. It turns out he was 1 stone heavier than before his last night.
Is this weight gain is beneficial or detrimental to performance? How would this affect his speed (well regarded as the Londoner’s best fighting attribute)?
Let’s delve into the ‘Science Behind David Haye’
Science Behind the Punch
A forceful punch is dependent of how much momentum you can create. This is how quickly we can move mass towards the target (e.g. Punching arm/fist to face). Heavyweights with fast hands hit so hard because they generate momentum.
However, if you increase mass, you’ll need to produce high rates of force development to make sure it moves just as quick.
A heavyweight boxer is often much slower than a featherweight in terms of hand speed because they have to overcome the intertia of their mass by producing a lot more force.
Haye has increased body mass, so will it be harder for him to maintain his speed? We’ll look at this later on.
Like all of our articles, let’s take an in-depth look at the situation first.
In his post-fight interview, David said that he has built a lot of muscle around his “rotator cuff” to strengthen his shoulder. Haye perceives this as a main contributor to his success last Saturday, by enabling to punch harder.
Another reason maybe because he has come back to a much more competitive heavyweight division with Tyson Fury taking Klitschko’s crown, Deontany Wilder with the WBC title and rising British star Anthony Joshua hot on their heels.
Before ‘semi-retirement’, the average (mean) height of Haye’s opposition that he beat when campaigning at heavyweight was 6 ft 3 in (this is excluding the Russian giant Valuev 7 ft). The average of the new era of heavyweights mentioned in the paragraph above is much taller at an average of 6 ft 6.5 in.
Furthermore, his future possible opponents are also 3 pounds heavier than his former opponents (239 vs 242 lbs), and over 30 pounds heavier than Haye’s last fighting weight (vs Chisora, 2012).
After 3 years out, Haye has now cut the weight deficit to just 15 lbs (227 vs 243 lbs). Standing at a modest 6”3, Haye makes up for what he lacks in height by packing on the muscle.
We can’t directly conclude where he has increased in size without body composition analysis, so our assumptions are made on observations.
In the picture above, Haye looks to have improved the body mass around his core. This is fantastic, as our research suggests that absolute and relative core mass is the biggest contributor to punching force. Read more here.
Mass around the arms and shoulders looks to have increased, this will help develop the snap in the punch and reduce impact forces on the delicate shoulder joint.
Although not as lean as his younger days, Haye doesn’t look to have put on a lot of fat mass. Trimming down in previous fights may have left him in a negative energy balance, therefore not fuelled to optimise his physical performance in training.
This is unknown due to the lack of training information shared in the media. Therefore, we can only talk about the desirable, and the not so desirable methods to gain weight in boxing.
How not to do it
If you are an athlete in any sport, your training has to have positive transfers to competition.
This means that a boxer cannot train like a bodybuilder to put on muscle. They still require a functional approach to improve movement, speed and co-ordination.
Traditional methods to increase muscle hypertrophy often consist of high rep ranges and training large volumes. This type of training is likely to stimulate slow twitch muscle fibres and activate motor units at lower thresholds.
This could negatively affect the speed of muscle contractions, and when you couple that with an increase in body mass, resulting in a much slower athlete.
How to do it
There are many ways to skin a cat and many different ways to increase muscle mass on a boxer without harming speed.
Here are a few methods that we would use.
Keep Speed in the Program
Make sure you keep some sort of strength-speed / speed exercises in the program to maintain/increase speed. This might slow down hypertrophy, making the gains in mass slower but you will be faster so it’s a good trade-off.
Ballistic exercises (loaded jumps, kettlebell swing) and plyometric exercises are great to involve. However, Olympic lifting should be preferred when bulking due to the mechanical tension and eccentric demand (in the catch). Go for slightly higher volumes, 5 reps x 4-6 sets.
This is very dependent on technique, so check out the video below. (Click here to read more about Olympic lifting)
Cluster training is where a set is broken up into multiple blocks, allowing the athlete to have recovery periods in between reps.
Example: 4 reps, rest 20 seconds, 4 reps = 1 set
This allows an athlete to lift higher weight loads for more repetitions; this can give you great improvements in size and strength. Furthermore, high-threshold motor units and fast twitch fibres will be activated more than when traditional hypertrophy training due to higher forces exerted (increased weight).
Occlusion Training is where you wrap around a device to apply pressure towards the proximal (top) of a muscle in order to restrict blood flow to the muscles. The picture above shows how Callum Beardow wrapped therabands around the top of the thigh whilst performing a single leg leg press.
Various studies have found that the restriction of blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the working muscle, this fatigues the slow-twitch muscle fibres, therefore, more fast-twitch fibers are activated despite a low external weight load.
This is a great way to increase functional mass without exposing an athlete to heavy weight training.
The aim of this article was to look at the science behind David Hayes large increase in size. We have analysed the situation and provided training tips for anyone looking to get bigger, faster and stronger.
Following his devastating knockout victory, Haye’s bulking looks favourable at the moment. Let’s see whether his speed and punching force will be as effective with the higher level opposition.
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