ON Friday July 8, the boxing world was shaken when it was announced that Kell Brook was stepping up two weight divisions to face feared middleweight Gennady Golovkin. Brook and head coach Dominic Ingle turned to us, at Boxing Science, to help get the extra edge in their preparations to face GGG.
At Boxing Science, we program and deliver strength training, high-intensity conditioning, and movement drills to make our boxers fitter, faster and stronger. Usually, we follow our process-driven, evidence-based, tried and tested training methods. Kell, however, had nine weeks to prepare for the biggest test of his career, at 13 lbs heavier than his normal fighting weight. We put together, a comprehensive and uniquely tailored program designed to improve key physical attributes required for middleweight performance.
- Test and analyse
We began by putting Kell through his paces in our boxing specific test battery. This enabled us to gain an insight into his physiological strengths and weaknesses. Using these tests, we’re able to benchmark performances for strength, speed, and fitness.
- Needs analysis – Unique situation
Boxers and combat athletes often find it difficult to move up weight divisions, as seen recently with Amir Khan and Conor McGregor. With an increase in mass, you have to cope with increased energy demands. This can limit strength, and cause boxers to slow down and fatigue quicker.
- Program and prioritise
In such a short training camp, we knew that we wouldn’t have time to target specific areas for too long. Therefore, we needed to prioritise what training adaptations that are key to middleweight performance. We knew he would be sparring bigger guys, too, so we needed him fresh for that. Our smart training plan targeted strength, speed, and fitness without fatiguing him too much. That was the biggest challenge—we didn’t want to overload and let the exercises take too much out of him.
Week 1…. Steel City to New York City.
We knew that this was going to be a unique program, however, we did not expect we had to create a plan that involved a day trip to New York City!
The US press conference took place on our first week of training Kell. To avoid jet lag getting in the way of training, head coach Dominic Ingle decided to do New York City and back in a day. A long with Alan Ruddock’s time zone adjustment strategies, this meant that Kell’s sleep patterns remained the same and did not affect his performance in training. Methods that Kell undertook had been successful for him before when defeating Shawn Porter in LA.
Golovkin, however, decided to stay in the UK for 2-3 days midway through camp and have only left 6 days to arrive in the UK before fight night. Doing this without an effective time-zone strategy could affect sleep and stomach patterns, causing fatigue, headaches, irritatability and have implications for performance.
Luckily, we had a scientific process in place so negative affects were avoided.
Our programs with younger, upcoming boxers focus on long-term physical development. We have time to develop structural changes to the cardiovascular system and develop Olympic weightlifting technique.
However, we only had nine weeks from fight night so we needed to utilise methods that would induce rapid adaptations. On his pre-camp test, he wasn’t that far away from his welterweight fitness and cardiovascular fitness wasn’t a concern. However, Kell was preparing to compete with 13 lbs of extra muscle.
We had to design a program to improve the way that his muscles utilise energy and deal with acidity. His programme included max effort sprint interval training on a running track and curve treadmill in the pursuit of these peripheral adaptations.
Sprint intervals push our athletes into a dark mental place, these intervals are usually accompanied by searing muscle pain, sickness, and dizziness. We push our athletes to the absolute limit, with a ‘Train Hard, Fight Easy’ mentality.
However, it’s not just about training hard…. It’s about training smart around his boxing training.
Managing Training Volumes and Intensities
The first phase of training camp took place in Ingle Gym Feutreventura, where gym owner Adam Bailey has accommodated the Wincobank boxers on several camps since 2011.
Dominic Ingle was keen on using the natural climate to help speed up adaptations. The heat can help sprinting speed, meaning we could really overload Kell’s oxidative capacity through max effort sprints. This took a lot out of Kell, so head coach Dominic reduced sparring to concentrate on setting the fight strategy through pads, footwork drills and working on the speedball.
Nutritionist Greg Marriott also made sure Kell was fully energised for these sessions, which we could achieve this time around as only dropping to the middleweight limit. This meant that Kell got even more out of the first phase of training.
Returning to the UK, Dominic upped the sparring loads we needed to reduce mechanical load to make sure Kell was fresh, getting the most out of his sparring whilst avoiding overtraining.
We used an altitude tent that dropped the percentage of oxygen to a level that replicated a 2500 m mountain, 500 m above Golovkins big bear training camp. This made Kell’s heart and lungs work hard whilst running at a lower speed. This helped to reduce impact forces on muscles, ligaments, and tendons and kept him fresh for the training camp.
Strength and Conditioning
The extra weight Kell will be carrying will require higher forces to move around the ring, and this can contribute to slower movements and relatively weaker punching strength at middleweight. We needed to train strength AND speed to have a positive transfer on his punching ability at Middleweight.
Therefore, we opted for velocity based training. This is a method that uses position transducer to measure bar speed during key lifts such as deadlifts and bench press. We gave Kell targets at different loads to make sure he performed every rep at speed. It took the guesswork out of our program, as we manipulated loads and speeds at key phases of the camp.
Programming, Monitoring, and Recovery
We knew he would be sparring bigger guys, so we needed to keep him fresh. We put together a smart training plan that was versatile and adaptive, with a big focus on strength, speed, and fitness without fatiguing him too much. The biggest challenge was managing his training load to avoid fatigue.
We recorded everything Kell did. His running speeds, the weights he lifted, his heart rate and his daily wellness to make sure Kell’s training was progressing at the speed we expected.
Our training is data-driven so it was used day in, day out. We knew when Kell needed to be pushed, and when he needed to be held back. We saw from the data that he was getting fitter, faster, stronger, and we were able to change the program to keep pushing Kell to new levels.
We also implemented recovery protocols such as spa sessions and hot baths to help speed up adaptations without Kell having to do extra training. These unique strategies helped get more out of his training without running him into the ground.
It is a cliche, but, no stone has been left unturned. Kell Brook has had a world-class team around him that made sure the planning and processes have been executed with precision, sparring has been world-class and his performances have been exceptional.
Kell’s physiological responses to training have gone according to plan and exceeded our expectations.
Kell Brook is ready to do the unthinkable, and shock the world!