WSBB Blog: Training to Fight like Tyson

by WSBB Education on November 24, 2020

Tags: Knockout, Fighters, Strength

Time to Read: 3 min

When it comes to professional fighters, there are many different styles. Some fighters are dynamic strikers choosing to use agility and speed to creatively attack opponents, while others are known to close distance and throw fast, powerful strikes. One fighter that is well respected around Westside Barbell is Mike Tyson.

Known for his ability to fight on the inside using incredible movement, speed, and strength to throw some of the most powerful punches ever thrown in a boxing ring, Mike Tyson is one of the most dominant fighters of the twentieth century. With the upcoming Tyson versus Jones Jr fight, we thought it would be a cool opportunity to further speak on how we train fighters at Westside Barbell, and how we might go about training a fighter with a Mike Tyson skillset.

Max Effort Lower

For max effort lower days, a three week workout wave would be followed. What that means is week one would be a deadlift, week two would be a squat, and week three would be a goodmorning. Deadlifts would be pulled using sumo style from the floor, and conventional style from a rack or high block pull. Squats would be performed to a box, with box heights varying.

Different barbells would be utilized, using primarily the SSB and giant cambered bar to minimize stress on the shoulders. Goodmornings would be done using the giant cambered bar. Accessory exercises would focus on building posterior chain strength, and enhancing the endurance of the leg muscles.

One way we go about this with our fighters is by having them shadow box in the belt squat. The athlete is expected to shadow box for time, while cutting different angles and changing levels in their stance. In addition to that, we will also utilize sled pulls, wheelbarrow walks, farmer carries, and yoke walks for both short and long distance using light and heavy weights.

Max Effort Upper

When strength training fighters, specifically boxers, you must ensure the programming provides adequate time between heavy weight training sessions and sport practice. With max effort upper, we have to take into consideration that the shoulders of a fighter will likely be pre-fatigued from prior sport practice, therefore working up to max effort upper single rep exercises with fighters is inadvisable. Instead, use sets of three, five, and eight.

The sets of three will have an impact on limit strength development, while the sets of five and eight will assist in the development of strength endurance. Being able to read the athlete is important, you want to cut the workout off before the intensity reaches over 90% or the athlete misses a rep. When it comes to athletes, missed reps should be few and far between.

For accessory exercises we would utilize dumbbell presses both heavy for sets of 6-10, and moderate to light weights for AMRAP sets. Exercises that target the upper back and shoulders would also be included, such as barbell rows, chest supported rows, moderate to light rear delt flys, and moderate to light lateral raises. Considering the amount of strain boxing places on the triceps and biceps, arm training is done using moderate to light weight, performing 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

Dynamic Effort Lower

For fighters, dynamic effort lower training is executed similarly to how our powerlifters train. Depending on the body weight of the fighter, band or chain weight between 150-300lbs will be utilized. A three week wave will be followed, using 70/75/80% over the course of the three weeks.

The percentages include the bar weight plus the band or chain weight combined. We recommend 33% of the weight be in bands or chains, with the remaining weight being plate weight on the bar. The recommended set and rep scheme over the course of the three weeks is 5 x 5.

This set and rep scheme will not only help build strength, but strength endurance and overall conditioning as well. For accessory work, similar exercises listed under the max effort lower day would be used.

Dynamic Effort Upper

Speed bench training for boxers should be done with a low intensity, high volume focus. The optimal setup would be 80-100lbs of band or chain attached to the bar, following a three week wave using 35/40/45% bar weight. Sets and reps would be 6 x 5 week one, 9 x 3 week two, and 7 x 3 week three. Accessory work intensity would be considerably reduced on this second upper body training day, focusing on 2-4 sets of 12-15 moderate to light reps. There would be no shoulder specific accessory training done, the focus would be moderate to light dumbbell presses, tricep presses, and curls. Only two or three accessory exercises would be necessary.

When training boxers, it is important to instruct them on proper form and execution of each movement. Specifically upper body movements, it is imperative fighters learn proper technique to protect their shoulders during any pressing exercise. Additionally, a good coach must constantly be monitoring each fighter individually checking for excessive upper body fatigue.

When excessive fatigue is identified, the upper body accessory work will be immediately reduced. If reducing the accessory work fails to improve recovery, the second pressing day will be totally removed for no less than two training weeks. If you follow the guidelines listed in this article, and read between the lines a bit, you will be able to construct a Westside Barbell style training program that could possibly create the next great knockout artist.

If you are a competing fighter or coach, we encourage you to use our Conjugate Club as a resource to further educate yourself on the Westside Barbell approach to combat sports.

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