Combat Fasting – Training During Ramadan

It’s the start of Ramadan, where Muslim athletes should fast from sunrise to sunset each day throughout the 30 days. Depending on the sport, athletes will continue to train and even compete throughout Ramadan. Some Boxers seem to avoid it, however if they are fighting late August or early September, can they afford not to train?

Although a lot of Muslim athletes find it difficult to train during Ramadan, there has been research supporting training during fasting to maintain or even enhance fitness levels. You can actually see it as a window of opportunity to stimulate different physical responses you wouldn’t normally have during your regular training routine.

A 3 part article series will look at training, nutrition and wellness strategies to Combat Fasting. Part 1 will look at different training methods during Ramadan.

Combat Fasting - Training During Ramadan

Low Volume x High Intensity

When training in a fasted and dehydrated state, it is far from ideal to expose yourself to high training volumes causing large calorie deficits and muscle breakdown.

Some would say to train light to maintain, but I don’t like this concept. I always aim for my programs to progress an athlete, so you have to seek what opportunities that are to be had.

Therefore, well-trained boxers should go for high intensity during strength training to target neural pathways rather than metabolic. Boxers will do enough metabolic work during runs and boxing, especially during Ramadan. So strength training should challenge the nervous system through high intensity training.

High intensity can be achieved in two ways, weight lifted or speed. When looking to load an athlete, I suggest to go between 85-90% maximum for about 3 reps x 3-4 sets. If you are looking for speed, you have a few different options across the force-velocity curve.

  • Speed Lifts: 2 reps x 5-8 sets at 40-50% 1RM (e.g. Squats performed quickly at 40 kg)
  • Accomodated Resistance: Band or chains on squats or bench press, 3 reps x 4-5 sets
  • Olympic lifting: Dependant on training experience, go between 60-70% 1RM. However, Ramadan could be an ideal time to develop your Olympic lifting technique.
  • Ballistic / Plyometric: Jumps, hops, bounds. Keep low intensity and less than 60 contacts.

Training should consist of 2-3 key exercises and a selection of assistance exercises. Again, there are a few options for the remaining assistance exercises.

  • Bodyweight or Low external loads: Focus on quality of movement and mobility rather than developing strength.
  • Tempo: Perform slow repetitions to activate signalling pathways for muscle protein synthesis
  • Leave it: Ramadan is only for 30 days, maybe you can live without the assistance exercises for a short period. Get the main exercises done then finish their for a short, sharp, effective session.

That’s great for the weight room, but what about boxing?

Similar concepts apply in the boxing gym, but its a bit more difficult to stick a percentage on and determing how many reps you should perform. Plus, there is little research into fasted training in boxing. So based on the principles highlighted above, here are a few recommendations:

  • Extended warm-up: Boxers may come into the gym low on energy and not switched on, so an extended warm-up might be beneficial in getting them going and focussed. I find co-ordination drills beneficial when working with tired athletes.
  • Pads: Short intervals with longer recovery times e.g. 1 min on 2-3 mins off.
  • Bags: Same principles as pads, but don’t look to hit the heavy bag with crunching shots. Go for light combinations, overhanging or wire speed ball.

Ryszard and Brendan Pads

High Intensity Sprints with Long Recovery

Sticking with the high intensity theme, a good idea for conditioning would to include short duration sprints (>30 seconds) with long recovery (2-4 minutes) as part of your high intensity interval training.

These short runs can elicit peripheral adaptations such as increased function of the neuromucular system and oxidative enzymes. Furthermore, these sessions can be brief and less demanding on the metabolic system and muscle breakdown, whilst reducing the likelihood of injury or fatigue.

We use these kind of intervals in Combat Conditioning, check out the video below where the boxers are performing 10 second sprints with 2 minutes recovery x 8 repetitions.

>>>>>Click Here to Part 2 >>>>>

Next article we will look at wellness factors when training during Ramadan.

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Danny Wilson co-founded Boxing Science in 2014 following building the successful Boxing program at Sheffield Hallam University where he has coached over 100 amateur and professional boxers as a strength and conditioning coach. He has also helped prepare Kell Brook for his mega-fight with Gennady Golovkin, and his Ingle Gym stablemates including Kid Galahad, Jordan Gill and Kyle Yousaf.

Away from Boxing, Danny is currently the Yorkshire regional strength and conditioning coach for England Golf and has experiences in youth and professional standards across a range of sports.

Danny is a United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association accredited strength and conditioning coach and has a Master of Science degree in Sport Science at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. For his final research project Danny profiled the physiological characteristics of amateur boxers and will share some of the novel findings on Boxing Science. Danny will be contributing to the Strength and Conditioning section by writing about the science behind the punch, training methods, working with junior athletes and case studies.