Don't be that guy

Updated: Apr 30


Being able to “go the distance” in a 12 round boxing match or any other combat sport competition, requires bulletproof conditioning. In one of my previous posts I was talking about developing aerobic capacity, as a basis for conditioning fighters. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Aerobic metabolism determines the upper limits of performance as well as recovery in between efforts. But what about the high intensity efforts a fighter needs to perform over and over during a round? Well, that’s where all the gruelling heavy bag and pad sessions come in place.

Don't be that guy

Hitting the pads or the heavy bag round after round will definitely increase your endurance and anaerobic conditioning. However, you need to make sure that you’re doing things the right way. One of the most common mistakes I see people make is separating technical work and conditioning. It means that during sessions that are dedicated to technique, they focus on learning and practising new skills. And when it’s time for conditioning, they allow all that technique to go down the drain in favour of going berserk on the heavy bag. The explanation being, “I’m just working on my conditioning today, not skills” or something like that. If only the body worked that way…

How to progress 10 x faster

Performing good quality movements is the basis for high performance in any sports. And learning movement patterns requires repetition. A lot of repetition. Repeating a movement with sloppy form under the excuse of focusing on conditioning will engrave a faulty movement pattern that’s going to be be very difficult to re-programme. It is much easier to learn a movement pattern correctly from the beginning, than to alter a pre-existing faulty habit. And here’s exactly how much easier: according to Schmidt (Motor control and learning), it takes approximately 300-500 repetitions to develop a new motor pattern. Conversely, it will take about 3000-5000 repetitions to rewrite and correct an already existing motor pattern! So think twice (or rather 10 times) before you let your form slip during those all-out conditioning rounds. By focusing on doing it right all the time, you will progress 10 times faster.

Stick to the good old techniques or turn it down

I understand that, as fighters, we are conditioned to turn up the intensity to a maximum, and that’s all right, as long as you’re doing it in a smart way. When performing endurance drills on the pads or the bag, make sure to chose the techniques that you are familiar with and can maintain good form on automatically, even when you get tired, rather than trying to throw a thousand repetitions of a strike you just learned yesterday. Second, if you notice you’re form is breaking down, it is better to slow down than to continue with a sloppy technique. Leave your ego at the door, turn down the intensity and continue to perform good quality movements. Never compromise technique for intensity!

It is not easy to maintain good form when you’re under fatigue. It is something that has to be learned and so it is necessary to practice your skills when you are tired. Just be careful not to cross the line and start repeating sloppy movement patterns.

You’re only cheating yourself

Many people believe that “cheating”, or performing a movement incorrectly will make it easier. This is a misconception. It might feel easier because you’re no longer focusing intensely on keeping good form. However, in reality bad form leads to inefficient movement which, in turn, leads to energy waste. Focusing on your form makes your body move in the most efficient way, with the least energy expenditure. On the other hand, bad form leads to decreased movement efficiency, and a lot of energy being wasted. So you’re not really making your task easier. All you’re doing is wasting energy, while engraving faulty movement patterns that are going to be really hard to correct later.

Train smart, not hard?

I believe a better saying would be train hard, but smart. No fighter wants to hear “Don’t train hard”, right? That’s why we chose this sport after all, to train hard. But that doesn’t justify not training smart. Don’t think that technique and conditioning are two separate things. Don’t repeat bad movement patterns, unless you want to end up performing thousands of corrective repetitions. Skills are hard earned habits, and it is the habits, the automatic movements, that emerge in the ring, when you get tired.

Excellence is not an art. It is the habit of practice.

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