FIGHTERS have long been known for their toughness. They need to condition themselves to punish their opponent and be able to absorb the punishment inflicted upon them. The great champions understand their bodies and how to prepare themselves to go the distance in a fight. They also understand that fighting in peak physical and mental condition doesn’t start when they walk in the ring on fight night or even on day one of training camp. Success starts in the off-months when they are in between fights and camps.

Boxing and MMA fighters need to look at their sport as a year-round commitment. When I condition fighters, I want them to walk into camp already in basic shape minus acquiring timing. That means they come in at a good weight for them, their endurance and stamina is at an appropriate level and that they have consistently worked on building functional strength. Walking in to training camp out of shape means we have to waste important training time. Every day we need to spend getting them into shape is a day that we could have spent on refining skills and strategy.

Most fighters, depending on their experience and age, can fight three or four times a year. Using a typical training camp schedule that lasts about six-to-eight weeks prior to a fight, that translates to roughly 20-to-32 weeks of actual training camp per calendar year. That means fighters can easily have over six months of incremental off-time. It is during this off-time where fighters need to be diligent in maintaining their conditioning.

There are a few guidelines fighters should follow during these off-months. A major one is to monitor weight and body fat levels to avoid large and unhealthy fluctuations. A healthy body fat level for heavyweights is about 10-to-15 per cent while lighter fighters should be between seven-to-10 per cent. Fighters should not exceed more than about five-to-seven pounds above the rebound weight, assuming the fighter is at his appropriate weight-class. Weight should be pretty consistent throughout the year.

Bernard Hopkins
Tom Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

By coming into training camp within these weight ranges, fighters will not have to drop significant pounds that can leave them sapped of energy and dehydrated.

When discussing weight, it is important to also note that one week prior to a fight, the athlete should be between three-to-five pounds above their ring weight. As the fight gets closer, and specifically in the 24-to-48 hours prior to the weigh-in, fighters should not lose more than 2.5 percent of their bodyweight.

Maintaining proper weight is accomplished by paying strict attention to diet and nutrition. The goal should be to eat three balanced meals and three healthy snacks during the day. Meals and snacks should always include fresh fruit, wholegrain foods, fish (particularly those high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna), chicken and turkey. I often recommend that fighters supplement a healthy diet with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for inflammation, but always check with your physician prior to starting any new supplement. If you happen to take Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplements, consider stopping taking them during training camp as it may prolong bleeding time by making the blood more fluid.

For fitness, alternate fitness centre strength training with cardio training. Usually two fitness centre days and three or four cardio days to build endurance is a good balance. When in the fitness centre, work all muscle groups with push/pull motion (chest press/row). In the off-season, I would recommend two-to-three sets and 10-to-12 reps per set for each exercise, with the exception of core exercises. I would increase reps to 20 –to-25 per set per exercise for those. Cardio training should last about 30 minutes.

When training always remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. As a general rule, if you are working out with low-to-moderate intensity, be sure to drink a half-ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight per day. If you are extremely active, bump water consumption to one ounce per pound of bodyweight. Hydration significantly helps your body to perform during workouts and to recover after workouts.

On a final note, it is important to give the body a rest after the fight is over. Give two or three weeks rest post-fight to let the body heal. This recovery time is especially needed depending on the amount of punishment absorbed and delivered.

I also recommend you have a post-fight medical check-up from your own personal physician. If you don’t have one, by all means get one.

Stop renting your health. Own it before it owns you.

Read how Carl Froch stayed in shape here