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Ever wondered how Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez trains?

In this article, Boxing Science take a look at Canelo’s training methods.

The Ultimate Professional

A two-time world champion by the age of 22 years, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has already become a Mexican legend and is one of boxing superstar’s. Canelo, nicknamed after the spanish word for cinnamon, made his professional debut at the tender age of 15 years old.

Canelo is a 4-weight world champion, and looks in amazing shape all year round. He is the ultimate professional and carries his physical attributes through the weights.

Canelo Core Training

A lot of Canelo’s training videos involve core training exercises. This is something we love to see at Boxing Science, as our research shows a stronger core can contribute to harder punches.

A big part of our testing is a body composition assessment – we use the InBody bioelectrical impendence analyser to assess body fat and muscle mass.

This is important so we can accurately assess a boxers condition when making weight, and also what weight category a boxer should perform at. 

Furthermore, the Inbody machine provides a segmental analysis of how muscle mass is distributed around the body – the arms, lower-body and trunk. 

When analysing the data, we found that absolute and relative trunk muscle mass had the biggest contribution to medicine ball punch distance. Suggesting that core mass and strength has a positive contribution to punch force. 

This means that developing core mass and strength is a key aim of our programme. Also when making weight, we aim to maintain muscle mass of the core to ensure our athletes are in the optimal condition when they step on to the scales. 

As said previously, we mainly develop this through compound lifts and partial range exercises.

However, there’s a limited amount of reps and sets to ensure that the core has the optimal exposure for gains in strength and performance. Furthermore, due to the movements associated with boxing there are muscular imbalances that need correcting. 

This means that isolated core exercises are an integral part of our programmes

Our STRENGTH workouts consist of 4-5 Core Exercises. 

We Also perform 2-3 Core exercises in during Conditioning/Boxing warm-ups, and perform 1-2 Core Circuits post Boxing Session per week. 

Here are a range of exercises that we use at @boxingscience 

Neck Training

During this video clip, Canelo also spends a lot of time Neck Training

Having a strong neck is essential for boxing. A stronger neck will help transfer the torque and force received when taking punches to the trunk. This can help to minimise the risk of concussion.

Most concussions occur when there is a sudden increase in torque around the head and neck. This can occur when a boxer is hit, without being braced or aware of the incoming punch.

Coaches at the University of Memphis during the 2010 and 2011 seasons managed to with reduce concussion rates by 50% after implementing a neck strength program.


The old school methods include Neck Rolls and Jerking movements … this puts a lot of pressure on the neck with very little return. Mike Tyson explained in a Joe Rogan podcast that the years of Intense neck training took his toll and created significant injuries down the line.

The safest and most effective ways to improve Neck strength is using Isometric exercises. Holding for 10-20 seconds @ 60-70% effort, for a total time of 1-1.5 minutes time under tension.

With a qualified professional, you can go to more maximal efforts, however, approach this with caution and under guidance.

This series also includes exercises to improve activation patterns and mobility to help improve overall performance and function of the Neck.

The Training Mask

On the an episode of HBO 24/7, Canelo was filmed running using, what the narrator described, a “Hypoxic training mask that simulates altitude conditions”.


Any of you that have tried the mask on will know that straight away it is harder to breathe. The mask works by restricting your air flow, as you are breathing against a resistance. In comparison, when you breathe at altitude the air is free flowing.  There is not actually less oxygen at altitude, but the barometric pressure is lower (read more here).

As a result, the masks do not generate lower oxygen concentrations in the air when you inhale. Instead they use mechanical valves to breathe against a resistance on inhalation which works your respiratory muscles; diaphragm and intercostals. This type of training is known as inspiratory muscle training (IMT), a good way to view it is strength training for your respiratory muscles.

There is one similar response between the mask and training at altitude, which is the fact that breathing is harder. A physiological consequence of this is decreased arterial oxygenation in the body (SaO2). However, these are a result of two different mechanisms. With the mask, there is some evidence to suggest that the hypoxemia (reduced oxygen in the blood) is caused by the rebreathing of expired carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the mask’s large dead space area.

Essentially you are rebreathing the by-products that your body is trying to get rid of. In addition, your respiratory muscles require more oxygen due to extra mechanical work required to pull in the air through the resistance of the mask. There is a potential that your respiratory muscles are ‘stealing’ the oxygen from your working muscles.

Low-Intensity Plyometrics

Although Canelo appears to have a muscular physique, he is not renowned for regularly performing strength training and weight lifting. He has only been seen using small weights for high speed exercises and doing bodyweight exercises.

In a video by ESNEWSCanelo performs low-intensity plyometrics. These are beneficial for joint stability and smaller motor units that generate low amounts of force, but are highly resistant to fatigue.

Protecting the Achilles

We often use low-intensity plyometrics a something that can help strengthen and protect the achilles. With Canelo boxing from such a young age, you can imagine that his Achilles tendon undergoing some significant wear and tear.

The robustness and stiffness of the Achilles Tendon can be developed through plyometric training. Plyometrics will help the calf muscles and tendons to be able absorb and re-produce force more effectively – therefore more efficient for performance and avoiding overload of the Achilles’ tendon.

Jump Higher Punch Harder

Something we don’t see from Canelo is high-force / high-speed plyometrics. This is something we use to help generate force for a stronger punch. This requires utilisation of the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) effectively, which plays an important role in punching.

Greater development of lower body force and jump height occurs when performing a CMJ compared with a squat jump (SJ). This is due to the sequencing of a fast eccentric (stretching) and concentric (shortening) action of the lower body muscles in the CMJ.

However, boxers actually score higher on the SJ rather than the CMJ. This means that boxers may not effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle due to less control of eccentric movements.

Presuming that he has the same characteristics, Alvarez would benefit from plyometric exercises that have an increased eccentric demand to develop the stretch-shortening cycle.

We have been using dumbbell loaded countermovement jumps (CMJ) that increase the eccentric demand and have been included in training programs that increased jump height by 29%.

Find out more about Plyometrics for Boxing in our FULL WORKSHOP available on our YouTube channel