By Patrick Borkowski and Christy Halbert
This week's Women's Task Force blog is an exchange between Patrick Borkowski, High Performance Director of USA Boxing, and Coach Christy Halbert, Chair of USAB’s Women’s Task Force, regarding best practices for training female boxers for boxing four rounds of two minutes in domestic and international bouts.
CH: I think a lot of boxers may be wondering about best training practices, since open men are now boxing three rounds of three minutes, and open women are boxing four rounds of two minutes. For female boxers, what's the best work interval to use in gym training?
PB: First, I would want to comment on the importance of both female and male boxers varying their training at intervals that allow them to stress the various energy and power requirements the sport of boxing demands. Boxing is not a steady-state sport: it involves very high intensity exchanges alternated with active recovery periods. Any athlete's training should be designed to address not just the length of round, but the high-energy demands of these exchanges.
That said, the intensity and duration of any athlete is perhaps the most important aspect after sport skill. Since the women are boxing two-minute rounds, they need to tailor their training to be as strong as possible for those two minutes.
CH: If the gym timer is set on three minutes, will that hurt female boxers' training? Are there any negative consequences?
PB: When implemented properly no, but if the women train on a daily basis at three-minute rounds then they will ultimately suffer due to a lack of intensity.
If you think of it in terms of running, you can run as fast as possible for two minutes or for three minutes. Yes, you will run farther in three minutes, but if you look at the distance you covered in the first two minutes, it will be much less than the distance of a two-minute run. In the end, it really doesn't matter if you have the energy to go an extra minute if you were out-worked in the confines of the round length.
CH: If women and men are training in the same gym, would it hurt men to train on two-minute rounds occasionally?
PB: Going back to my opening statement, no, it would not. Both men and women need to vary their training times and intensities. Majority of the time, it is more beneficial to increase intensity over volume, therefore a male boxer should train at two-minute intervals on occasion, as well as one-minute intervals. The literature and practical application shows that you should even train as low as 15-second intervals at times. The reason being is that boxing is a series of very high-intensity exchanges that last for the duration of the round and bout. To fully develop as an athlete, you need to train not only the duration of the round and bout, but at the duration and intensity of each exchange.
CH: I've met a lot of boxers who think that four or five-minute rounds make them stronger or tougher boxers. They wonder "If two minutes is good, why isn't training at five-minute rounds better?"
PB: I think every good athlete feels this way. It is up to the coach to help guide that dedication and energy. The funny part is, the longer you go, the less actual "strength" you use. Of course you will be able to train for endurance, but the issue then becomes are you able to maintain the necessary intensity with that endurance.
Another way of thinking about it would be like pushing a car. If my task is to push a Mini Cooper, I will be able to use sub-maximal strength and continue that for a longer duration. Unfortunately, that endurance will not help when you have to push a full-size SUV.
CH: The other issue for gym rounds is the rest interval. Most gym timers allow for 15, 30, 45 or 60 seconds of rest between rounds. We all know that boxers rest 60 seconds in competition, but a lot of boxers only want to rest 15-30 seconds in training because they think less rest makes them stronger or tougher. What are the consequences of too little rest between rounds?
PB: Excellent question. Continuing to stress the importance of intensity, if you cut the rest interval down, not allowing for enough recovery, you are essentially increasing the round length, losing specificity. Sure, a 15-second rest is better than no rest, but ultimately, you want to repeat each round with near equal intensity. A lack of recovery will cause the intensity to drop.
CH: So it sounds like, basically, we need to train for boxing the way we want to compete in boxing. We should be able to go strong during the round, and then recover enough to go strong again for the next round. Does that sum it up correctly?
PB: Correct. Intensity of training is the most importance factor. The majority of training needs to be done at or above competition intensity. Therefore, you need to target the bulk of your intervals to be within the confines that define boxing.
CH: Thanks, Patrick.
Boxers and coaches can read more training tips and best training practices in Patrick's column in the USAB magazine.