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Following numerous of questions across our social media channels, Boxing Science have decided to breakdown the potential strength and conditioning strategies to help Eddie Hall and Thor Björnsson transition from Strongman Events to the Boxing Ring.

In this article we will cover;

  • What conditioning methods the big men need to employ
  • Transferring strength into fast, powerful actions
  • Developing footwork and speed
  • Reducing the likelihood of injury

We’re entering a new era of Boxing, where retired fighters, celebrities and YouTubers are becoming more tempted to step through the ropes and go toe to toe with a rival.

From KSI vs Logan Paul, to the third instalment of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, these fights get people talking – in negative and positive view points.

The one that has a lot of people intrigued is the heavyweight fight between former World Strongest Man champions Eddie Hall and Thor Björnsson.

The two power-houses have evolved from competitive rivals to personal enemies following conterversy around Eddie Hall’s ‘World Strongest Man’ victory in 2017 where Thor accused the British Strongman of cheating.

We’re not here to talk the politics of the situation, but we’re here to breakdown what training methods these two ultimate athletes.


This is written by Danny Wilson, strength and conditioning coach at Boxing Science who have trained and performed research for over 500 amateur and professional boxers. We have also acquired the insights from World Strongest Man competitor and fellow ‘Sheffielder’ Paul Smith.

Smith, 25, has been competing in strongman events for several years and was thrusted onto the world scene when winning the Ultimate Junior Strongman in 2017. He became one of the youngest ever winners of ‘Englands Strongest Man’ in 2016 at the age of 21.

Paul is a friend of the Boxing Science programme, often training alongside the boxers at Sheffield Hallam University. We will be gaining an insight from a Strongman’s perspective of the different training methods and events that may contribute to boxing performance, and also affect a smooth transition from the Lorry Pull to the Ring.

To Get Better At Boxing … Do Boxing!

Seems a pretty straight forward start to the article, but we want to highlight the most important thing is to improve technical skill, tactical awareness and boxing specific fitness to ensure success on fight night.

However, when athletes adapt to different sports they need to work on adapting their physical characteristics to ensure an effective transition. We’ve seen this many times before between Rugby Union and Rugby League, and when athletes have tried to succeed in totally different sports. Michael Jordan had to go through rigorous strength and conditioning programmes to adapt to the demands of Baseball, then subsequently back to being a Basketballer when returning to the NBA in the mid 90’s.

This article will go through the different adaptations the strongmen will need to make to their regular training to meet the physiological demands of Boxing.


If they are serious about winning this fight…. Then yes!

These guys are huge, and this will be the heaviest boxing fight of all time. To put it in perspective, the heaviest ever world champion was Nikolai Valuev, the 7ft beast that David Haye beat back in 2009.

His peak body mass was at a modest 149 kg. Eddie Hall is supposedly around 165kg at the moment, with Thor recently peaking at 205 kg for his Deadlift world record achievement in April 2019.

To add further perspective, check out how the big guys compare to the current world class heavyweights; Including world champions Anthony Joshua (107 kg) and Tyson Fury (120 kg).

Thor has reported that he has reduced his body mass to 180 kg already, which is a rapid weight loss but seemingly achievable as it takes an extreme diet to maintain a high body mass.

At the moment, Eddie Hall has the competitive advantage of being lighter and training for weight loss / cardio over the past few years. He has also been a competitive swimmer, which will help his all round fitness and athleticism.

That being said, Eddie is still over 40kg heavier than the current boxing world champions. For both athletes, losing weight will help them improve all the physiological adaptations that we’re going to discuss in this article.


Paul Smith has a diet containing of 5000 kcals per day, consisting of 300g of Protein, 600g of Carbs and 150 g of Fat.

However, Eddie and Thor have a lot more body mass and require a lot more calories. It’s been quoted that these athletes were having anywhere between 10,000-16,000 kcals per day! This is a typical daily diet for Eddie Hall when working towards his world strongest man event;

This is an extreme diet, and this was to make sure his weight peaked at 200kg in order to compete for the title at World’s Strongest Man. After winning the title in 2017, Eddie retired and started to trim up showing an unbelievable transformation, dropping around 5 stone to the weight he is today (165kg).


It was documented that Eddie dropped the carbohydrates in his diet in order to lose this body mass. Reducing carbohydrates can be effective for weight loss, however carbohydrates is an important fuel source for Boxing performance.

Carbohydrates are the main fuel source used for high intensity exercise. Eating carbohydrates at strategic times throughout the day, phase of your camp as well as before a fight is essential to perform at high intensity.

Looking at the strongman diet, there are high amounts of fat to help increase the daily calorie intake. The main roles of fats are to act as an energy source for moderate to low intensity exercise as well as a vitamin carrier for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K which have critical roles in health and performance.

Fats improve food quality because they taste good and provide various food options. 

During boxing training, in particular sparring and high intensity interval training, carbohydrates will be used as the main fuel source. 

This means that fats will probably need to be reduced to create a calorie deficit and prioritise carbohydrate consumption to help fuel performance whilst reducing body mass.

Here is a typical macro-nutrient profile for a heavyweight boxer looking to lose fat mass.

PROTEIN – 2.5 g/kg


FATS – 0.8-1 g/kg

The easiest way to do this is to reduce the amount of Red Meat (Beef, Steak) by opting for leaner protein sources White Meat (Chicken, Turkey) and Fish (Cod, Tuna).

Furthermore, their carbohydrate intake are predominantly High GI. They should look to add in low GI carbohydrates for higher fibre content which slows digestion, helps keep blood glucose stabilised and make them feel fuller for longer.


Eddie and Thor are absolute powerhouses, unbelievable athletes that have broken world records on several lifts, including the Deadlift (500 vs 501 kg).

But at a modest 165 kg and 205 kg, the main thing that people expect is that the two will ‘gas out’ after a couple of rounds.

Strongman events do have conditioning stimuli, however none really match up to the repeated high-intensity nature of boxing.


The main energy systems used in strongman are the ATP-PC system and the anaerobic glycolysis (lactic acid) system, events range from one rep max lifts to carrying events where athletes have to work for up to 75 seconds.

These events including loading medleys, this includes carries with different objects all in one event. Then there are vehicle pulls, sled drags, tyre flips and carry events for max distance that are really metabolically demanding.

This means well-conditioned strongmen can produce very high intensity efforts for longer than most people expect however after strongman events athletes will generally be able to rest for 30 minutes or so before the next event.

This means athletes can completely empty the tank and not really have to worry about recovering for another effort. Often to train these conditioning events athletes will do 3-5 run throughs of the event at a slightly reduced but still very high intensity with long rest periods in between to almost fully recover.

Some athletes will use intervals or circuits to train for these longer events but they will generally have short periods of work at very high intensity so that the total workloads are still quite low.

Boxing is obviously a much longer duration affair and having only 60 seconds rest between rounds to recover will be very hard to adapt to for both men.

Often fighters who are naturally very strong and powerful will struggle with their conditioning. Thor and Ed being able to produce so much force they will have to be very careful with expressing that power if they plan to go past the first round with any significant energy left in the tank.


When an athlete has large body mass, whatever composition (amount and type of lean tissue, fat, water), it will increase their energy expenditure.  Each shot thrown, every head slip and foot defence will require relatively more energy to perform.

In heavyweight boxing, a large proportion of actions are forceful whole-body movements requiring significant amounts of energy. This energy comes from short-term energy systems and predominantly aerobic energy systems that require oxygen.

Fighters with a lot of muscle mass can experience high-spikes in muscular acidosis if their muscles are not effective at extracting and utilising oxygen. This will affect their ability to produce high force, speed and work at high intensities due to increased levels of fatigue.

The strongmen need to work on high intensity conditioning, targeting adaptations to help buffer acidosis. At the same time, low-intensity exercise could be used to help develop their aerobic base. This will also help to reduce body mass and may the best way help improve their boxing-specific fitness.

Let’s hypothesize with Eddie’s weight loss;

We quantify aerobic capacity in litres of oxygen taken up by the active muscles and used each minute (VO2 in L/min).

We can compare this value between athletes if we divide by their body mass (VO2 in ml/kg/min).

Let’s say Eddie’s aerobic capacity is 5.5 L/min. At 165 kg his relative oxygen uptake is 33.3 ml/kg/min. And let’s assume that his fitness stays the same but he loses 15 kg (BM = 150 kg)

His relative oxygen uptake will increase to 36 ml/kg/min. Improving VO2 max by 10% without actually improving aerobic fitness. If he makes a conscious effort to improve fitness whilst losing body mass, he will see significant improvements in his aerobic fitness.

“At the lighter weight, Eddie’s engine is relatively larger.”



To increase high-intensity performance we need to challenge an athletes ability to produce, endure and repeat high-intensity performance.

To help the strongmen we’d recommend performing all-out 30s maximal sprints (3 min recovery, 4-6 sets) for 3-4 weeks, followed by a period of muscle buffering training. The muscle buffering sessions train the ability to control muscular acidosis, which decrease the deleterious effects of acidosis on homeostasis.

In these sessions we aim for an intensity that induces 10-12 mmol/L of blood lactate. We use a range of different interval sessions to target the ‘Muscle Buffer Zone’ at various intensities;

  • 2 mins : 3 mins, 5-8 Repetitions
  • 1 min : 2 mins, 6-10 Repetitions
  • 12 secs : 48 secs

Find out more about these sessions below

We normally do these sessions on the Woodway Curve or outdoor sprinting, however with heavier athletes this can be too risky with excessive impact forces.

When we see an increased risk of injury, we often utilise the Watt Bike to target the adaptation whilst reducing the impact forces.

However, the watt bike is predominantly a lower-body conditioning tool. With these guys having so much muscle mass we would need to condition the whole body. Here are different ways we would perform these high-intensity sessions.

  • Aerodyne Bike
  • Strength and Conditioning Circuit (Upper and Lower-Body Movements)
  • Prowler
  • Ski Erg

We wouldn’t normally recommend boxers to attempt this in the swimming pool as most do not have the technique to optimise physiological adaptations. However, with Eddie’s swimming background we think that doing this in the pool could be really beneficial.

Here is an example of how we use the prowler for 30s max out efforts.


When working with athletes with heavy training schedule, developing aerobic base isn’t just as simple as going out on a run. We need to really concentrate on training distribution to ensure optimised performance whilst reducing fatigue, overreach and injury risk.

At Boxing Science, we normally opt for a reverse-polarised approach (more high-intensity than low-intensity) to develop high-intensity performance and utilise low-intensity conditioning methods for active recovery.

However, these athletes will likely need to follow a polarised training model (more low-intensity than high-intensity) to develop endurance and aerobic capacity whilst contributing to weight loss.

We target ‘Zone 1’ training by exercising at heart rates between 65-75% Maximal Heart Rate for 4-5 sessions per week.

These sessions last between 30-90 minutes and can be performed with a range of different methods, including exercise bike, cross trainer, fast walks and swimming. We’d encourage more off-feet conditioning due to the high body mass of these athletes and increased training loads of Boxing.


The ability to produce force is important in Boxing. Punching forces in amateur boxing are around 2500 N. If you weigh 70 kg (11 stone or 154 lbs), you’ll exert about 700 N of force on the ground just stood still. That makes punching force about 3.5 times body mass.

Furthermore, there was a study where heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno (which is over 30 years old now) produced 4000 N of force during a rear hand punch. To put this in perspective, we tried to emulate this with Paul Smith hitting a force plate with a sledgehammer…. And he did not hit anywhere near 4000 N!

Frank Bruno Hit Harder Than England’s Strongest Man With A Sledgehammer!

To make this even more impressive, the punching action was performed under 100 ms. There are supporting research studies that force values even more impressive your punch takes around six-hundredths of a second (60-100 ms) to throw. So you can see how being forceful and fast is an integral component of performance.

Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean that you can punch hard. You need to develop technique, timing, relaxation and speed.

This is why at Boxing Science we utilise a range of strength and conditioning methods to work across the force-velocity curve to create strong, fast and explosive athletes.


People may not expect it when seeing them grind out max lifts but most of their training is based on moving weights from 50-90% of one rep max quickly and powerfully. Add in throwing events and explosive carries and you have athletes that could easily throw huge shots with no technical training.

Thor owns pretty much every throwing event world record that you could find and although not as good in that department, Ed can throw around incredibly heavy weights ridiculously quickly.

The biggest challenge would be at totally the other end of the force-velocity curve, working on speed-strength and light resistance exercises.


Even though some of these lifts are fast, they encourage maximal tension of muscles in order to produce force.

A big factor in boxing is the ability to produce forceful movements and then relax to reserve and regenerate energy levels. Learning to pace correctly in relation to individual fitness levels is massively important and something that novices almost always struggle with.

The problem with strongman is that athletes are used to going at max or near maximal intensity, even in an event that requires pacing, for a strongman that will still nearly all be in the red zone of 90 to 100% of maximal heart rate.

Because of this strongmen will generally find it hard to stay relaxed whilst in a competitive environment as they are so used to moving powerfully and explosively and then completely stopping.

This will likely be the biggest shock to the system for both men as they likely won’t have worked on a more relaxed kind of movement for 10-15 years. If Ed can get back into his swimming mindset of smooth movements then he may have the upper hand here but we will have to see.


These guys will need to learn how to transfer their incredible force producing qualities into fast and explosive actions.

At the moment, Strongman and Boxing is miles apart in terms of how force is produced, as demonstrated in the picture below. Eddie and Thor must work further down the force-velocity curve to improve the rate of force development.

Even though they are used to performing dynamic lifts, they cannot just start working at the opposite end of the curve straight away, as this will be ineffective for performance gains and may cause injury. If you get a powerhouse like Eddie or Thor throwing a 5kg medicine ball straight away, their muscles and tendons will not be used to the acceleration and fast deceleration forces –  potentially causing tears, strains or inflammation.

The athletes will need to work on strength-speed first before transitioning to higher-speed actions.

Furthermore, the activation patterns of their lifts will differ.

When you deliver a punch at the target, you’ll use the momentum created when generating the action, relax as the fist moves towards the target and then ‘snap’ to produce force at the target site.  This is something defined as the ‘Double Activation Pattern’. See the infograph below.

Strongmen and powerlifters will be more accustomed to ‘grinding’ and ‘pushing’ all the way through the movement. Eddie and Thor will need to train their ability to be relaxed when throwing punches, and have the ability to prod

This takes years of practicing and developing the technique, however there are a range of strength and conditioning drills that will be able to help accelerate the transition from Strongman to Boxing.


We’re going to split our recommendations into three separate sections to help add speed and power to the big men.


Not much scientific recommendations here, just to make sure there is a cue to ‘relax’ when throwing punches during shadow, pads and bags. Between combinations, the athletes should have a mental cue to ‘reset’ and ‘relax’. They can do this through self-talk or a physical cue of shrugging the shoulders, taking a deep breath in to help relax the muscles.

When punching, the athletes/coaches should consider using lighter punching targets such as paddle boards, speed ball or double ended bad. This will focus on more speed rather than ‘whacking’ the bags as hard as possible.

It looks like Thor has taken on these tactics already on the double ended bag


Velocity Based Training (VBT) encourages athletes to lift at speed, and a great way to developing strength=speed.

VBT is a method whereby the speed of a lift is used to monitor performance and structure programs. It’s often used in strength and conditioning for improving strength and speed.

Barbell velocities can be monitored using linear position transducers (LPT) or wearable accelerometers (e.g. PUSH band) to give instantaneous feedback on the movement velocity during an exercise. In our case, we use an LPT (GymAware) to measure velocity.

Gaining information quickly allows coaches to give very specific feedback to athletes, which increases motivation, competitiveness, mood and performance. We have used VBT at Boxing Science for many years and seen 10-20% increases in strength, speed and explosiveness.

We love using this as many strength-speed training methods require increased technical demands – such as Olympic Lifting and Loaded Jumps. VBT allows us to use exercises such as Squat, Bench Press and Deadlfit to target strength-speed. 

Here are the targets for % 1RM and velocity (m/s).

Strength – 85% 1RM @ 0.55 m/s

Strength-Speed – 70-85% 1RM @ 0.8 – 0.55 m/s

Speed-Strength – 60-70% 1RM @ 1 – 0.8 m/s


We would look to do punch specific exercises to help increase the ‘snap’ at the end of the punch.

The main exercise we use is the ‘Landmine punch with isometric hold’.

Landmine Punch with Isometric hold requires the coach / a training partner to push down on the bar when the athlete is at full extension of the punching action. This will encourage the athlete to create tension in the arm, core and lower-body muscles in a short amount of time, contributing to the ‘Snap’ of the punch.

This also mimics the ‘double-activation’ pattern seen in a punch, making the Landmine Punch with Isometric hold a highly effective exercise when improving punching power.

Perform 3-5 repetitions x 3-5 sets during strength-speed and speed-strength blocks.

Another ‘End-Range’ isometric exercise is the isometric punch holds.

These are a great exercise to use during warm-ups and tapering phases. Isometric punch holds increases stiffness, tension and core stabilisation through the end range of the punch. This helps create an effective SNAP in the end range of punches.

This whole body tension can be an effective tool used to fire up the muscles that contribute to punching. This makes it a great potentiation tool that boxers can use during warm-ups for training and competition.

Other methods include isometric exercises and core training methods. Find out more about increasing the punching ‘snap’ in our article.


Rotational power exercises are held in high regard in the Boxing world as rotational force and speed are integral components for a powerful punch.

Rapid rotation of the hips and torso is a crucial factor when transferring force through the kinetic chain. The core is the key link when force is transmitted from the lower body through to the fist.

In effective torso rotation will create ‘energy leaks’, that can negatively impact punching force and speed. Furthermore, boxers may subconsciously super compensate with muscles in the lower-back to rotate or laterally-flex the spine.

This super-compensation can lead to over-activity in these muscle groups, potentially increasing the risk of inflammation, muscular soreness and injury in the lower-back muscles.

In order to improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury, athletes and coaches should focus on exercises to improve rotational performance.


To punch efficiently you have to be able to comfortably rotate through the hips and T-spine, whilst there is some twisting and rotating required in strongman events, most of the training is done on the sagittal plane with the majority of any rotational work being done as mobility warm up.

There will be emphasis on anti-rotation and the lateral stabilisers is when a strongman is challenged to carry an unstable load and moving forward while the objects try and pull you off your midline. This be needed in carrying medleys where strongmen have to carry objects such as kegs, sandbags etc.

You will find that most high level strongmen are usually quite mobile through the hips and lower body but relatively immobile through the T-spine and shoulders. I think this will be fixable for both men if proper attention is given to this area, Ed will be more used to this rotation with his freestyle swimming but I don’t think Thor will struggle if he commits to working on it.


It sounds like there is very little rotational training / conditioning in Strongman training and events.

Even though these guys are strong and powerful, their ability to punch fast and hard will be limited if they can’t rotate efficiently and transfer force through the kinetic chain.

Furthermore, ineffective movement can cause overuse injuries, especially when an athlete is heavy and producing high amounts of force.


From a ‘Core Rotation’ aspect, there is nothing totally different in terms of how we would improve rotational mobility, strength and speed for one of our boxers.

We would look to improve rotational mobility, strength and stability before moving onto exercises to develop rotational power and speed. Here are the key areas for rotational mobility and exercise examples for initial training phases.

Thoracic Rotation:

Eagles, ½ Eagles, Windmills, Quadruped Thoracic Rotation

Upper-Lower Body Separation:

Seated Rotations, Lunge and Rotate, Lateral Lunge and Rotate

Strength capacity of Lateral Stabilisers:

Lateral Core ISO Holds, Side Plank, Single Arm Farmer Walks

Anti-Rotation Exercises:

Paloff Press, Paloff ISO Holds, Paloff Holds with Manual Resistance

What we would encourage is that they perform more uni-lateral exercises during their key lifts to challenge the lateral stabilisers of the core. This will help increase rotational stability to provide a solid foundation for fast and powerful rotational performance. Here are some examples;

  • Off-Set Squat
  • Off-Set Reverse Lunge
  • Single Arm Push Press
  • DB Row and Rotate

Find out more in our full coaching workshop: Rotational Training for Boxing Performance


The calf muscles play a massive role in boxing performance, mainly for quick footwork and developing power from the foot – the first port of call when developing power in a punching action.  

This is often developed through boxing training and skipping, however there is often a muscular imbalance between the gastrocnemius and soleus. This is due to the gastrocnemius being activated through the foot being plantar flexed for the majority of time during boxing (being on your toes).

This can affect the strength, condition and reactive strength of the calf complex, which can often lead to overuse injuries and inflammation of the Achilles. Therefore, we perform a range of plyometric exercises to help condition the calf complex to help improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.


In strongman there is a lot of time dedicated to training moving and carrying events to be fast and efficient however moving heavy loads in straight lines has very different mechanics to the movement required in a boxing ring.

Furthermore, most of the movement requires a heel strike in order to optimally absorb the external weight load.

In most cases the strongmen that are very good at carrying events are generally athletic and quick on their feet however some of the larger strongmen rely more on their max strength and are good at carrying events due to the weights being relatively light for them rather than them being generally fast and athletic.

For Eddie he’s gradually become a pretty fast mover but has never been the best or the most comfortable looking in these events even as a lighter competitor in his earlier years. In contrast Thor has won many moving events in international competition and although recently at his heaviest bodyweight he hasn’t been as good as in the past, when he was around the 170kg mark he was known for being exceptionally athletic for a strongman.

Whoever can move well and move more efficiently will have a massive advantage in the fight as it really is the foundation of a skilled fighter. I think that Thor will have the advantage here and once he drops down another 10kg or I predict we’ll start to see him become much more agile in his movements.

On a final note, these guys will have to adapt their approach to calf conditioning as the majority of strongmen don’t train their calves, Eddie does usual machine bodybuilding stuff but most guys won’t do anything specifically for them.


With very little emphasis on calf training for strongman events, it’s important that Eddie and Thor improve their calf conditioning for boxing. There will be a massive increase in load through the calf complex due to increased boxing and cardio, plus there is excessive weight for them to deal with.

This can cause ‘cramping’, fatigue and even overuse injuries.

From a boxing perspective, it’s going to be difficult for them to be constantly on their toes due to how heavy they are. I would encourage them to ‘step’ rather than bounce during boxing training, and look to only be on their toes when punching, being on the back foot or performing foot defences.


The main way to condition the calves for the big fellas is doing shadow boxing, making sure to incorporate foot defences following combinations.

Despite encouraging them to ‘step’ instead of ‘bounce’, these shadow boxing drills will be a great way to condition the calf muscles whilst improving technique and engraining good habits, as many novice fighters are often guilty of not moving in and out of range effectively.

Try out some of these shadow boxing combinations, and then transfer this into your pad and bag work.

Low intensity plyometrics would be the way forward for these guys to condition their calf muscles. High-intensity / high jumping actions would create too much forces going through the joints, ligaments and tendons.

Skipping is a great form of low-intensity plyometrics for boxing, and will also improve aerobic fitness, concentration and co-ordination. Perform 2-3 x 3 minute rounds as part of the warm-up for boxing sessions.

To increase the complexity and speed of low-intensity plyometrics, they should try some of the drills used in this video below. These are useful drills to integrate into boxing and S&C warm-ups that will also improve speed, co-ordination and reactive strength of the calf muscles.


It’s been great to analyse these fantastic athletes, and we wish them all the best during their training, preparation and on fight night. 

Here is a round up of the key methods they need to consider when adapting to the physical demands of Boxing. 

  • Get a good Boxing team around them, focus on developing skill, boxing specific fitness and ring IQ
  • Losing body mass will help speed, strength, fluidity and fitness
  • Focus on a polarised approach to build aerobic capacity and improve the muscles ability to control muscular acidosis
  • Improve rotational mobility, strength and power to transfer into fast and effective punching technique.
  • Strength training should be adapted to move fast, relax through the movement and snap at the end range of punches.
  • Focus of calf conditioning through shadow boxing drills and low-intensity plyometrics