The Heavyweight division is absolutely on fire at the moment, with some of the UK’s biggest ever stars in Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury currently holding the world title straps.
As they’re seeming (or not seeming) to be on a collision course, the rest of the Heavyweight scene are having big fights between each other – with the likes of Whyte, Chisora, Parker, Ruiz, Wilder and Usyk all demanding a Pay Per View (PPV) audience.
It’s a great time to be a heavyweight boxer, and we’re excited to be working with a young, exciting prospect named Fabio Wardley.
Over the past 18 months, Fabio has burst onto the scene to become one of the UK’s favourite rising Heavyweights. His skill, speed and power is eye catching, and certainly has been effective so far.
We have been working with Fabio since midway through 2020 – which has resulted in some impressive gains in physical performance, matched with three explosive fight nights.
In Summer 2020, Fabio picked up his first professional title by knocking out Simon Valily in the 2nd round of their Heavyweight English Title fight. Since then, he has been stepping up the levels against Richard Lartey and former world title challenger Eric Molina, both impressively dispatched inside 6 rounds.
Fabio Wardley x Boxing Science
In this article, we will share some of the methods that we have been using with Fabio. This is an interesting concept with Fabio being a heavyweight, naturally explosive and also living in Ipswich…. 180 miles away from the Boxing Science Performance Centre.
We will explain some of the training services and methods provided to Fabio that’s helped him record 10-50% improvements on his testing results.
We first met Fabio back in pre-covid days when he came to Sheffield Hallam University for a physiological assessment in February 2020.
The aim of this testing session was for Fabio to find out more about himself as an athlete, structure training methods to work on areas for improvement and set new physical performance goals.
Fabio displayed very good lower body force development scoring 35-40% higher than the mean on Jump tests. However, Fabio did display a small difference between Countermovement Jump (CMJ) and Squat Jump (SJ). This indicates that Fabio struggles with ‘Eccentric Utilisation’ during the Stretch-Shortening Cycle.
This means we needed to find ways to improve his ability absorb force to then transfer to more explosive performance.
His Reactive Strength Index (RSI) was good for a heavyweight However I would like to see your RSI increase as this is important for heavier guys for the amount of impact forces going through your joints on a daily basis.
On the Trap Bar Deadlift load-velocity profile, Fabio struggled to lift beyond 2 times his body mass. Furthermore, his cut off speed at 1RM was at 0.45 m/s. This is relatively fast as we normally see lifting velocities cut off at 0.35-0.38 m/s on Trap Bar Deadlift.
This indicates that Fabio needed to improve his maximum strength and postural strength during heavy lifts in order to unlock max force development.
His body mass was 103 kg which is relatively on the low end of the scale when it comes to the modern era of Heavyweights. It was a goal of Fabio’s to put on functional mass steadily fight by fight.
Fitness wise his lactate profile does became quite steep following 13 km/h, this suggests that Fabio struggled to control lactate accumulation beyond his lactate threshold (4 mmol/L). This is highly important for heavyweights to control as they produce high forces and have large amounts of muscle mass, which will stimulate muscular acidosis.
If Heavyweights struggle to control this acidosis can result in high amounts of fatigue following high-intensity bursts or during the latter stages of a fight.
We will explain the appropriate training interventions in the next section.
Remote Training Support
During the madness of Spring 2020, Fabio started on the Boxing Science programme in the build up to his English Heavyweight title fight against Simon Valily on Matchroom Boxing’s inaugural ‘Fight Camp’.
We set this up with no face to face contact, with consultations over Zoom, Phone calls and whatsapp, we set up Fabio with the tools to follow the Boxing Science methods at his own gym in Ipswich.
We provided Fabio with a clear 10-week plan for his strength training, mobility drills and conditioning. These were all based around the results from his testing battery and his training goals.
Before joining the Boxing Science program, Fabio performed higher-volume strength training. So the first steps to getting him stronger was for him to work at lower volumes (3-5 reps) and higher intensities (85-95% 1RM).
This then progressed to lifting from the blocks, with partial range lifts allowing athletes to go beyond their 1RM (110-120%) to increase maximal force development.
This resulted in some fantastic improvements in max strength, with Fabio recording a 230kg Trap Bar Deadlift early in his camp for Eric Molina.
Improve Eccentric Utilisation
We aim to improve eccentric utilisation with a few key training methods. The first would be to increase eccentric strength through resistance training. We implemented some heavy squatting, along with tempo work on the assistance lifts such as Landmine Reverse Lunge and Goblet Squats.
The second would be to increase force absorption. This ‘shock’ method will improve physical qualities and motor skills to improve Fabio’s ability to control forces quickly and provide a strong foundation for explosive performance. The key exercise for this were Altitude Landing variations.
Finally would be to use jumping exercises that overload the eccentric portion of a jumping action and challenge the stretch-shortening cycle. This included depth jumps, drop jump to broad jumps and accentuated jumps with either bands or dumbbells.
Increase Muscle Mass
When a boxer puts on muscle mass, we are very cautious in our approach as putting on ‘too much too soon’ can actually hinder performance. Furthermore, we want to make sure that this muscle is gained in the appropriate locations as we know that lower-body and trunk muscle mass have larger correlations with punch force than upper-body and arm mass (Wilson et al. 2020).
We also need to think about the way that we put on muscle mass. We don’t want to train the traditional bodybuilding way of increasing hypertrophy as this will build Type I (slow twitch) muscle fibres. Therefore, we need to find ways to increase Type II and Type IIa (fast twitch) muscle fibres to help gain muscle and speed.
We performed core circuits at the end of strength and conditioning sessions to target increases in core muscle mass. We also programmed ‘Pump Up Fridays’, which has turned into one of Fabio’s favourite sessions. This included Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) and Pre-Fatigue sets as these help target muscular hypertrophy for fast twitch muscle fibres.
In general preparation phases we utilised cluster sets and drop sets, as these help maintain strength and speed whilst performing higher volume sets. Furthermore, we implemented speed exercises throughout the program to ensure that this was still being improved alongside gains in body mass.
Finally, we need to make sure that this is supported with a structured nutritional plan. As a Heavyweight, Fabio has the luxury of not having to aggressively diet in order to make weight. However, nutrition is important especially when looking to increase lean mass as Fabio will burn a lot of calorie – therefore is at risk of being in a catabolic state. This will mean that our efforts to get bigger and stronger will not be optimal, and can leave Fabio feeling fatigued and sore.
That’s why we got Lee Rickards on board to help Fabio maintain a positive energy balance, fuel performance and boost recovery.
Increase High-Intensity Fitness
All of Fabio’s programs have focussed on targeting peripheral adaptations and muscle buffering capacity.
This will help Fabio be able to tolerate high amounts of muscular acidosis and control lactate accumulation.
The key session we have used is our infamous 30 second max effort sprints on the Air Bike. Here are some highlights from his recent session when Fabio visited the Boxing Science Performance Centre.
These sessions are absolutely brutal – but his performance on this has significantly improved since his first attempt.
We have unlocked some max force and speed development, that was a shock to the system for Fabio but will result in accelerated gains in physical performance.
Bigger | Faster | Stronger | Fitter
Nearly one year on from working Here are some more impressive results from Fabio’s recent testing session at the Boxing Science Performance Centre. He has recorded some really impressive results…
Over the past three fights, Fabio has gradually put on size.
August 2020 – 101.8 kg
November 2020 – 104.5 kg (2.7 kg increase)
March 2021 – 105.5 kg (1 kg increase)
We don’t have body composition assessments for these weigh-ins, but you can see in the image comparison below that these gains have been made with limited increases in fat mass whilst targeting increases in trunk muscle mass.
Fabio has shown steady increases in his CMJ and SJ height, however this is impressive as he performed the test 6kg heavier than he was during initial assessments.
Fabio showed fantastic improvements in RSI, with 11% reduction in ground contact time helping increase RSI by 11%. This will help Fabio produce high forces in shorter time frames to help explosive performance, as well as helping him absorb high forces more effectively when running and boxing training. This can also improve footwork, which is a big asset to Fabio’s performance in the ring.
The biggest improvements were seen during the landmine punch throw assessment – recording between 10-30% improvements across the four assessments (left and right, 30 and 40kg).
Fabio absolutely SMASHED his numbers on the Load-Velocity Profile 📈 showing BIG improvements in strength and power 💥🔥
240kg Trap Bar Deadlift is a MASSIVE 50kg increase to his last testing session back in Feb 2020.
He is lifting this at high speeds for a 1RM – with our normal cut off point being around 0.4 m/s. Due to a lack of postural stability (and room on the bar) we determined his 1RM @ 0.5 m/s.
This shows to us that his program should consist of other training modalities to increase RFD as we won’t be able to target max strength as effectively, therefore we will be looking to utilise exercises such as Isometrics, Loaded Jumps and Accommodating Resistance.
Fabio showed good improvements on his lactate profile – with reduced lactate at both 13 and 14 km/h, and completing one more level (with slightly less lactate).
This means that Fabio is now being able to control muscular acidosis and work at higher intensities more effectively. This will help him perform and recover from high-intensity bursts whilst reducing fatigue.
Check out some of the work we’re doing with Fabio remotely and with added check ins at the Boxing Science Performance Centre.
We continue to search for gains in strength and explosiveness by utilising exercises that challenge acceleration. These include lifts with bands and loaded jumps.
On his conditioning we will look to further his ability to work at high-intensities by improving his muscle buffering capacity.