Getting a boxer ready to fight takes work. It is a process. Alexi Petroulias knows how to do it. He’s forged himself in the fires of battle. And he’s refined others into blades for war.
For Petroulias there are two main factors in conditioning taking shots and giving them.
Conditioned For Impact
“What is conditioning? Conditioning for a fight is getting your body ready to take impact,” the Rebellion Muaythai Hall Of Famer said.
If you walk into the ring, you’re going to get hit. You need to be ready for that. It’s simple. If the boxer isn’t ready for impact, they will fall apart quick and easy.
Conditioned To Strike
The boxer needs to be ready to hit. The second point of conditioning is to create a body that won’t fatigue.
“You need to be able to do certain punches, kicks, and whatnot,” he said.
The fighters must be ready to use all their weapons. If they can’t kick and they can only punch, their bodies aren’t at full capacity. If they get to the final round and can no longer clinch, they won’t be able to attack. If the boxer can’t strike, they can’t score.
So, how do you make sure you’re conditioned, both to take impact and to ensure you don’t fatigue? Here are five steps every fighter should know:
Step 1. Run For Your Life
The first step in conditioning for many is the hardest. The fighter must get up and get out. Put on the shoes and do the roadwork. It is normal in the sport. “Running is essential. If you don't run, you're not fighting. That's my take on it,” Petroulias said.
Roadwork is a staple of combat sports. Muaythai fighters in Thailand run twice a day six days a week. They run 10 kilometers or more in the morning. The morning run is long and slowwhile the afternoon run is usually faster and shorter. Petroulias believes there are two primary reasons to run.
“It's going to help with your endurance and it's going to help with your weight loss,” Petrolias said.
The long runs build the discipline and the battery and gas tank necessary for a fighter. Running is generally not fun and is boring. But by doing the hard yards, the boxer builds a strong base of cardio(and mental resilience?). (duplicate)
Running helps control weight as well. Running burns calories and calories are a primary source of energy. The runs are a continual and constant source of calorie depletion, making weight management easier.
Step 2: Be Ready To Get Hit
Every fighter gets punched in the face. In Muaythai they’ll get elbowed, kneed, and kicked as well. The boxer must condition themselves for this punishment. If they get hit and then quit, or lose their plan, they lose the fight (something to add here as lose is used twice in this sentence).
Petroulias conditions his fighters by putting pressure on them when they’re tired.
“We're doing five rounds of pads and you're fatigued, you're tired, you can't breathe. That's when you start getting smacked. You get your punches into the stomach.”
A boxer who gets hit when they’re fading is more likely to quit. This scenario replicates that in a controlled environment. It trains the boxers to react against their nature. The default is to give up. The desired response is to accept the pain and keep going.
“When you're at ground zero and you've got nothing left, you still need to be able to take those hits,” Petroulias said.
Accepting the hits is easier when paired with a physical response. Breathing and tensing are important to brace for attacks.
“When you take that punch in a fight, you're not going to be as affected by it. You're not going to think that much about it,” he said.
This is a cornerstone of defense. To take a hit by blocking or absorbing the shot is the foundation of a solid defense.
Step 3: Stay In The Clinch
There are different energy systems in the fight. There is the long endurance, the short bursts of energy, the mental energy, and then there is the clinch.
Often overlooked in the West, the clinch is like running. It is a grind. Athletes with strong clinching (standing wrestling) abilities often outlast their opponents.
“My guys will clinch every night, without a doubt, like at least half an hour. I'm big on clinching with the arm so I can get the elbows in,” Petroulias said.
Standing wrestling reinforces athletes' postures so they are more upright and stable. It also strengthens the neck and arms. The biceps are controlled in the clinch. When the upper arms are locked in place the opponent can't elbow.
“We need to be able to pull the arms down and be able to control those arms. I need to strengthen those triceps to be able to have that grip,” Petroulias said.
The majority of clinch exchanges happen at mid-range. The athletes are square to each other and they grapple for position attempting to get inside locks. It is like Greco wrestling pummeling however instead of gripping to the body, Muaythai boxers try to clinch onto the neck. This means that the biceps need to be controlled using strong triceps.
Step 4: No Abs. No Fight.
The next step is clear. It shows in the body. When the body is conditioned, it will look like it.
“When I say no abs, no fight, people laugh. But people don't understand the reason behind it. When you see someone with abs, their body is strong,” Petroulias said.
Abs show on a conditioned fighter. The boxer is controlling their workout AND their nutrition. The discipline necessary is a sign and it’s obvious when it’s missing.he fighter is strict enough with their lifestyle to fight.
Step 5: Push Past Your Limits
The last step is the hardest because there is a correlation between the physical and the mental. The physical boundaries must be pushed. This creates larger physical limits and creates mental toughness.
“When my fighters are done, they get pushed a little bit more. You need to break that barrier between ‘I think I can't, and I know I can.”
The fighters must believe they can fight to the end, that they can go the distance. When they believe they can do it with every inch of their body, they are finally ready to enter the ring.