Boxing, perhaps more than any other sport, is famous for its unusual training methods, diets, and lifestyles. Ukranian pugilist Vasyl Lomachenko is perhaps the epitome of boxing’s eccentrics, peppering bag work with handstands, juggling, and breath-holding, an activity his father Anatoly claims he can perform for four minutes and twenty seconds. For a man who can throw almost 3,000 punches over the duration of a boxing match, it’s a believable feat.
The Bronze Bomber
American Deontay Wilder is another of boxing’s innovators. Famous recently for that bout with the Gypsy King Tyson Fury and for breaking the United States’ almost decade-long dry spell in the heavyweight category back in 2015, Wilder’s success lies in something the Guardian dramatically describes as “beyond rhyme or reason”: power. The Tuscaloosa boxer is widely regarded as the hardest-hitter in modern boxing, with several broken bones to his name.
Wilder will take to the ring again this November 23 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a much-awaited rematch with Luis Ortiz. The Bronze Bomber won the previous bout by knockout in the tenth round and the Wilder v Ortiz odds this time around reflect Wilder’s superior record in the head-to-head. The American is 1/8 with Betfair for the win with a draw at 33/1. Ahead of that clash, let’s take a look at Wilder’s legendary punching power. Is it something we can all learn?
Strength x Speed
Power is the gym teacher’s favorite equation: strength multiplied by speed. It’s arguably one of the most difficult areas of human ability to improve, as it cannot be trained directly; rather, more power comes from training the whole. For anybody who had aspirations to sit on Wilder’s throne though, there’s some bad news – exceptional power may be an innate quality. Jay Deas, one of Wilder’s trainers, claims that the amount of power that can be added to a person’s punch by training as low as 10% of their maximum.
Honing in on that figure doesn’t necessarily require an athlete to tear up their existing training regimen though. For example, Michele Stanten of Harvard University suggests that increasing the tempo of a strength exercise (for instance, by performing the ‘lift’ phase or concentric muscle contraction of a squat faster) can help improve explosive power in a person’s lower body. Form is everything though. You should be comfortable performing an activity slowly at first.
Then, there’s plyometrics, which are exercises specifically designed to increase power. A paper by Alberto Carvalho et al from 2014 found a significant decrease in body fat (16.4%) among professional handball players who participated in a plyometrics program, along with a 2.1% increase in muscle mass and improved jumping ability. Plyometrics involve explosive versions of exercises like lunges, push-ups, burpees, and jump-squats.
But how do any of those exercises help in the boxing ring? Powerful punches require leg stability and good body rotation before they even land. It’s that appreciation of punching as a series of movements rather than an isolated exercise that keeps boxers like Wilder on top of the boxing world.