Turn your weaknesses into strengths

One of the main concerns for an athlete’s training is that it should be sport-specific, so we need to identify what “fitness” means for a specific athlete. There would be no need in targeting a good marathon time for a wrestler for example, who has to be explosive over two three-minute rounds; the majority of their cardiovascular training should aim to support high-intensity, short duration power-outputs. An athlete’s training should also aim to account for differences between individuals. Boxing requires many different aspects of fitness, and many individuals will be particularly strong in specific areas; power, strength, endurance or speed, for example. Some fighters will naturally have “a good engine” or be “punchers”. A simple series of tests can help you identify where an athlete needs to improve to meet the demands of their specific sport. Then, with specific training and nutrition, we can streamline an athletes training, rather than just “flogging them” with no specific goal in mind.

Do it yourself

Although the “gold standards” for measuring aerobic power, anaerobic capacity and body fat would be the (lab based) VO2max test, Wingate test, and DXA-scans, establishing a consistent series of tests can easily be done with minimal equipment. 3m run time, repeated sprints and waist measurements are simple but effective measures you could implement at your club…

Test-Retest Culture

The whole purpose of performance-testing is to help a coach give their athletes the specific support they need to improve. One of the most influential ways testing helps an athlete is by simply providing feedback; a boxer can see whether or not they’re improving, and can then focus their efforts on a particular goal. It’s also extremely important to establish consistency around testing, considering the types of test, and also the times at which an athlete is tested. When a fighter has a date for a fight – or even a date for their next test – they have the pressure and motivation needed to maximise their training.

I take the same approach with body weight/fat, by setting weekly targets with performance goals to make sure the athlete improves (rather than suffers from weight-drain) over the course of their camp.

Do it yourself

At the start of a season, coaches can help their athletes stay on track by mapping out the dates of contests and likely periods of inactivity (for example the Christmas break). Scheduling testing sessions for pre-season, and then at scheduled times in the lead up to competitions, can help an athlete avoid losing fitness and gives them the necessary time to turn any weaknesses into strengths.

Phased Focus

The highest level athletes and teams train in specific training blocks. During periods without competition (e.g. pre-season), athletes generally focus on putting in the “hard graft” and completing high volumes of training to establish their base-fitness. Once this is established, an athlete can build on a solid foundation and is more likely to benefit from more specific, higher intensity training. Periodising your training will allow you to stay sharp, and progressively build on your strengths as they develop over time.

Do it yourself

Schedule longer, endurance focused sessions earlier in the season, sharpening up towards shorter, explosive sessions closer to competition.

See the bigger picture

Finally, specific fitness doesn’t only require specific training. All the pieces of the puzzle need to be put in place. If you’re training at high intensity one day, then sufficient recovery needs to be scheduled to avoid overtraining and to ensure an athlete is at their sharpest for the week’s key training sessions. An athlete may also want to consider exercises and even therapy for injury prevention around high intensity strength or speed sessions. Similarly, different types of training need different fuels for fuelling and recovery. High intensity work will draw on the lactic acid and phosphogen energy systems, while aerobic training is more suited to using fat for fuel. I like to call this concept specific nutrition. An athlete should eat, sleep and recover for their specific training schedule…

Do it yourself

Plan your training – and plan your food to match. A simple manifestation of this is to schedule a sugary treat after the week’s hardest session. Earn those carbohydrates and keep both mind and body fresh.

Freddy Brown is currently organising sports science screening events. These can help you to identify areas for focus, guide your training to turn weaknesses into strengths and provide a report and diet plan, tailored to your individual goals. Contact 07746075161 or email freddybrown1984@gmail.com.

*For training information and workouts from some of the biggest names in combat sport don’t miss the Fighting Fit: Train like the Stars special*