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Nearly every boxer dreams of having world level fitness. In this article, Dr. Alan Ruddock will discuss the journey on how to make this happen.

Quick facts

  • Boxers must be able to perform high intensity actions, sprint interval training can help to develop this
  • The aerobic system must be well-developed enough to be able to recover from and repeat these efforts
  • A well-structured taper can help to optimise conditioning adaptations and transfer these through to fight night.

Running for Boxing Fitness

Pro boxing isn’t an endurance sport. The only slow-plodding boxers do is during the ringwalk.

It’s a high-intensity intermittent-impact sport. It requires red-zone dominance and adaptability.

What does this mean? ‘Athlete B’ has the capability to perform at higher intensities than ‘Athlete A’. This allows ‘Athlete B’ to control the contest at an intensity that is greater than the opponents.

This will induce cumulative fatigue in the ‘Athlete A’ and lead to a favourable judges view or stoppage.

In general by writing intensity I mean ‘fitness’. The equation in the figure above is simple to calculate but the physical components take years to develop.

So what do you need to do to develop intensity?

First of all, measure your fitness, like we do here with a valid test of intermittent exercise capability.

Then you get to work:

To improve your intensity you’ll need to be able to deliver and use more oxygen in your muscle. Over a 12 week camp this simple three phase approach might be a sensible approach:

1) Extraction & utilisation phase – 0 to 3 weeks – Sprint interval training

30 second, maximum efforts, on a cycle (if you’re way off fighting weight), treadmill, or hill. Rest 4 min. Repeat 4 to 6 times. Aim: exercise as hard and as fast as possible.

Why? Research has shown that training sessions like this activate enzymes that turn on switches to create mitochondria (our metabolic energy plant).

2) Delivery phase – 3 to 10 weeks – high intensity interval training

4 to 8 min efforts at 90% maximum heart rate or 9/10 effort. Rest half of exercise time. Repeat 4 to 6 times. Aim: spend as much time >90% maximum heart rate as possible.

Why? Research has shown this type of training places strain on the heart and the cardiovascular system such that you can deliver more blood carrying oxygen to the muscle.

3) Taper – 10 to 12 weeks

20 seconds maximum effort, 10 seconds recovery, repeated 6 to 8 times. Rest 3 to 4 min. Repeat twice. Aim: Exercise as hard and as fast as possible.

Why? Research shows us that maintaining intensity but reducing volume in the final 2 weeks of training can have beneficial effects on performance.

4) Re-test

Do this either at the end of the week before a fight or at the start of fight week.

Why? Because “if you’re not assessing… you’re guessing!”


Avoid building your fitness using long-slow plods. You’ll need to adapt to anything in the ring but you’ll also need to control the ring with your intensity. Take our methods and adapt them to your needs to improve your fitness and intensity.

To learn more about achieving world level fitness, our Train Like a Champion Conditioning Programme includes a structured guide to High Intensity Interval Training – engineered for Boxing Performance.

If you’re looking to learn more about the science behind this stuff, our Boxing Science membership includes NINE in-depth webinars on conditioning for Boxing. For a limited time, access to the Boxing Science membership is available with a 7-day free trial.