Creating Benchmarks in Your Training Routine

In this article, I’m going to discuss the long term goals of your training so you can gain perspective on what you want to accomplish this week, for your next fight, and for the toughest fight you’ll ever have. Like most of us still in the fight game, we haven’t reached our full potential just yet, and the positive aspect of this is that we have a lot to look forward to in terms of work to be done, skills to be had, and fights to be won.

The problem however, is that fighters don’t have standard metrics to measure themselves against, they don’t really know their current level or what’s possible. It’s often a guessing game. If you are a 100m sprinter aiming for the olympics, then you know that you have to pull off sprints somewhere under the 10.50s mark if you want to be remotely competitive. If you are an aspiring pro basketball player, then you are measured by points scored per game, or rebounds per game, free throw percentages, your vertical jump height, your actual height etc… coaches and scouts can get get a pretty good idea of what this will translate into at the professional level.

Having said that, your goal as it pertains to the fight game is twofold:

1) Start to define these metrics for yourself through your own experience

2) Keep an open mind as to what you are capable of and the work you are willing to put in (don’t sell yourself short)

In boxing, you don’t always know for sure what it takes to be a champion. You are only as good as your competition and it’s hard sometimes to even know how good they are at the international level. Even if you’ve won a solid amateur title it still comes down to how good the competition was and how you performed on that day. And unlike a lot of sports like tennis, basketball, soccer, hockey you can’t afford to play hundreds or thousands of matches to figure out what works. In the fight game, that’s just a bit too much wear and tear.

So, ask yourself this:

1) How can I take the guess work out of what it takes to be a solid fighter at all levels. How can I tell now if I will be good before I take a beating that wakes me up?

2) What’s it going to take in the gym to become the best fighter I can possibly be in the long run?

The most important thing you can do is focus on what you can control, and the answer to both of the above is threefold:

1) Set goals

2) Benchmark your training

3) Continuous improvement

I’m sure you’ve heard the sayings, ‘the harder you work the luckier you get’ or ‘the more you sweat the less you bleed’, you need to turn those sayings into hard data, something you can measure, and we’ll start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, what you would need to do, how would you need to train to beat Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones jr. in his prime, or Bernard Hopkins in his prime. Your goal as a fighter is to build up to that level of training. There is a direct correlation between how you train in the gym and how well you do in fights, even if you are the type of fighter who has mental issues when you step in the ring for the real deal.

A fighter like Floyd Mayweather throws around 5,000 – 6,000 punches per workout, guys like Pacquiao often perform 40-50 rounds of total work in the gym on any given workout. Let’s say you typically run 3-5 times a week, and when you hit the bag you usually do 6 rounds, with 3 on the speed bag, 3 on the double end, 3 for shadowboxing, along with some padwork, burpees, ab work, weight training etc. These are decent workouts, but the hard truth is that they’re not enough to beat Manny or Floyd. To be successful, you have to be extremely critical and self-confident at the same time.

Unfortunately, we are all limited by our current level of fitness and ability (nobody expects you to beat Floyd tomorrow), plus we have limited time (you may need to work or go to school full time to get by), motivation is a factor (getting motivated for an amateur show is not the same as fighting for $20 million in front of the whole world). I understand that this plays into your life, which means that even more so you have to take advantage of the time you have.

Let’s talk about what it’s gonna take.

1) Set Goals: Take serious note of what you are doing now, how many times a week are you in the gym? How many rounds do you do on the bag? How many punches do you throw per round (video yourself over 4 rounds to get a feel)? How many miles a week do you run? How often do you perform sprints? How many burpees can you do in 5 mins? How fast can you run the 800m, 400m, 100m over multiple sets with a minute rest? How often do you spar? How many total rounds do you perform each workout?

2) Benchmarking: Set standards for yourself that indicate whether you are in shape for your current level. I know I’m in decent shape when I can bust out 100 burpees in 5 minutes anytime, anywhere. I also know I’m in decent shape if I can run the mile in around 5 mins 30 seconds (of course I have other measures, but those are examples). Start to set standards for yourself in anything that you can think of. Measure by total rounds, speed, punch output, number of times per week etc… measure what you can control, and take advantage of what you can control. When you get ready for a fight, you build up to these measures and maintain them for a couple weeks before the fight. You can’t keep training the same way you always have, you have to constantly look for weaknesses and opportunities to improve in your training.

3) Continuous Improvement: Gradually increase your output, frequency, intensity and start to train the way you would need to in order to beat Manny or Floyd… add rounds to your workout, add punch volume, punch intensity, more sprints, more rounds of sparring etc. Do it one piece at a time, one brick at a time, don’t try to knock it out all in one month. One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to have breaks and down times, and this is where benchmarking comes in again. As you get better over the long run, you set your benchmarks higher so you know what you need to get back to in order to continuously elevate your game. 6 rounds on the bag per workout might have been good in your first 3-4 fights, but your gonna need to step it up to 10 eventually, or make sure that those 6 are at a hard pace where you crank out 250 punches per round. The specifics are different for everyone, but I think you know what I mean.

This endeavour should take years, and that’s the whole point of the time you are investing, to realize your full potential as a fighter, as an athlete. Your coaches can help you, they can guide you, your stable-mates can motivate you, and work with you, but it’s ultimately up to you to take it to that level. Nobody is going to hand it to you!