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Description How Fred Hatfield Overhauled Evander Holyfield’s Training Evander Holyfield will be remembered in boxing circles as one of the greatest cruiserweight champions of all time. Had he not moved up a weight class into the heavyweight division after becoming undisputed cruiserweight champion, “the Real Deal” might be recalled as the greatest. As a former cruiserweight, Holyfie
Transcript How Fred Hatfield Overhauled Evander Holyfield’s Training Evander Holyfield will be remembered in boxing circles as one of the greatest cruiserweight champions of all time.Had he not moved up a weight class into the heavyweight division after becoming undisputed cruiserweightchampion, “the Real Deal” might be recalled as the  greatest. As a former cruiserweight, Holyfield was often at aheight, weight, and reach disadvantage in his new environment. Despite these disadvantages, he was aformidable fighter. He racked up a series of wins that eventually led him to a 1990 title match with James “Buster”Douglas, the first boxer to beat Mike Tyson (and by knockout no less).The Douglas fight accentuated Holyfield’s frequent size deficit; his opponent was two inches taller, fought aboutten pounds heavier, and had a formidable five-inch advantage in reach. For Holyfield to be successful, he neededto close on Douglas and work the counter-punch game. Otherwise, Douglas would spend the night peppering himwith a heavy left jab that had earlier humbled Mike Tyson. Winning demanded that Holyfield be both a savvier boxer and   a better athlete than Douglas.Perhaps tougher to overcome would be the ingrained peculiarities of a sport practiced since the days of Socrates,the most harmful of which might have been its propensity for pavement pounding. If you ever watched Sylvester Stallone huff through the streets of Philly in a Rocky   flick, you have a fairly accurate picture of how boxers trainedenergy systems.Jogging has a role in the world of sport preparation, but it isn’t as an analog to conditions within the squared circle.In terms of energy substrate, long runs task a boxer’s aerobic/oxygen-dependent abilities. That’s great for ventricular and mitochondrial improvements but not so great for a sport involving three-minute bouts (whichthemselves are marked by irregular flurries of explosive action) separated by sixty-second breaks. Even worse,the localized training effect of jogging is confined to the legs, meaning even tempos and sprints that might be mor effective in an overall sense would confer little or no benefit to a boxer’s punching ability.Holyfield’s team brought on Fred Hatfield, “Dr. Squat” himself, to supervise the fighter’s boxing preparation. In arare stroke of luck for sport professionals and enthusiasts alike, Hatfield wrote extensively about this programming  for Sportscience News . Modernizing the Sweet Science Hatfield had twelve weeks to bring Holyfield into fighting shape without compromising his sport-specific training.The task was more daunting than one would expect with a world-class athlete like Holyfield. The boxer’s archaictraining techniques had hampered his heart rate recovery abilities, meaning that he had little capacity for sustained explosive bouts and little capacity for recovering between rounds. He was also unfamiliar with modernstrength training programming. Finally, Holyfield didn’t incorporate his entire body into his punches. While he couldget away with that as a cruiserweight, he needed every bit of strength and power his body could muster tosucceed as a heavyweight.Because of the constrained time frame and Holyfield’s inexperience with current conditioning techniques, Hatfieldcreated a three-mesocycle program that tried to peak nearly every training capacity possible. Microcycles wereeach one calendar week, and the training day was broken into three training periods: morning, noon, and evening.Match conditioning was as sport-specific as possible without actually infringing on sparring and other tacticalforms of boxing preparation. Hatfield’s “zig-zag” dietary approach of calorie cycling was used to help Holyfieldbuild muscle while minimizing fat gain. To make sure that actual boxing maintained its prominence, it wasscheduled as the first task of every training day. The basic template looked like this: Let’s look at the details of this plan. Energy Systems  After sparring, bag work, and other boxing practice, Holyfield worked with the seemingly lowly ergometer. Onalternating days, Holyfield worked on two machines: a bike apparatus for his legs on one day and a hand-powereergometer on the following day.He began by performing a handful of minute-long bouts with these machines, though by the third mesocycleHolyfield was performing twelve, two-minute rounds while maintaining sixty-second rest breaks the entire way  through. This was the easiest form of conditioning that he did. While not explicitly stated by Hatfield, theseworkouts would have enhanced Holyfield’s recovery while also building up his energetic base.More demanding was the “three-minute drill,” which better emulated the strain of boxing while still avoidinginterference with his actual boxing practice. Held on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday rotation during noon sessions,the three-minute drill used (as its name implies) three-minute bouts of training. Again, rest periods were kept to asport-specific minute.Holyfield was in continuous motion during the rounds, which had him performing sprints, jumps, and similar movements. Hatfield’s concern here was effort. Every movement was to be precise and explosive. When carriedover to the ring, Holyfield would be as fresh at the start of a round as at the end and in prime condition to finish amatch strong. Plyometrics The catch-all term of “plyometric training” is appropriate here because Hatfield employed nearly every methodthat’s ever been called “plyometric.” Morning sessions ended with inflatable stability ball throws. These throwsreinforced total body coordination without causing much stress to the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. There weren’any programmed changes for these drills.Noon sessions held on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday were dedicated to plyometric drills. Unlike the three-minutedrills that these sessions were alternated with, Hatfield coached these activities to minimize fatigue. The one-minute rests gave way to Holyfield’s perceived recovery, and the actual plyometric sequences were timed to lastless than twenty seconds. Hatfield went so far as to call the sessions “relaxed.”During the first mesocycle, Holyfield performed a sequence of jumps, hops, and skips. Intensity and volume wereincreased during the second mesocycle by having Holyfield don a weight vest. The stress was upped againduring the third mesocycle by having Holyfield add more complex bench jumps and twisting skips to the list.Because of the added intensity, the third mesocycle only had two weekly sessions (Tuesday and Thursday.) Hatfield called the third mesocycle plyometrics “shock” plyometrics. I believe this is a general reference to the  impact of jumps from height and not to the specific techniques coined by Yuri Verkhoshansky. Stiff-legged drops ala Verkhoshansky wouldn’t have a very good risk/reward ratio for a shuffling sport that emphasizes hip rotationrather than extension. Weight and Machine Training Last, and actually least, was weight training. Holyfield hit the weights in the evening Monday through Friday.Hatfield provides the most detail on the first mesocycle of training. The workouts were total body routines with afocus on classic bodybuilding moves to spark muscular hypertrophy. They were autoregulated to a degree, assupplemental lifts were added depending on how Holyfield felt. The supplemental lifts were usually somecombination of unilateral, body weight, single joint, or moderately unstable lift. Lee Haney, an eight-time Mr.Olympia, coached Holyfield during this cycle, a sensible arrangement because of Haney’s experience. Haney washelping Holyfield bulk up for heavyweight contests and was responsible for bringing Dr. Squat into the trainingcircle in the first place.The required upper body lifts were generally well-known barbell- or dumbbell-focused compound lifts: benchpresses, seated dumbbell presses, bent rows, back extensions, curls, and push-downs. More interesting were theleg and ab lifts, which featured a trio of exercises not often seen in a commercial gym.For legs, Hatfield programmed safety squat bar squats and keystone deadlifts. Though not discussed in thearticle, Hatfield has elaborated elsewhere on his preference for safety squat bar squats, which he considered aquad exercise. He employed an unorthodox technique with the safety squat bar. Rather than have the lifter holdthe bar by the handles, Hatfield coached his athletes to grab the rack itself. This allowed lifters to use the rack as tool for maintaining an upright stance and even as a form of assistance during sticking points. As you’d expect,Hatfield also appreciated this squat variation because it placed little stress on the wrists, arms, and shoulders.The keystone deadlift looks a bit like a Romanian or stiff-legged deadlift, though it has one major difference.Rather than keep a neutral body alignment or slight back arch at the start of the lift, a lifter performing a keystonedeadlift begins by assuming a total body arch with the hips and stomach pushed forward. In this position, the lifter resembles the round-bellied Keystone Cops of silent era film fame. The bar is then lowered while trying tomaintain the belly-out position. The result is that the hamstrings are loaded under a highly stretched position.For abs, Holyfield relied on Russian twists. Russian twists combine an isometric sit-up with a loaded torso twist.This helps the anterior abdominal muscles maintain the endurance needed to resist ten rounds of body blowswhile also training the rotational force needed for power punching.

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Jul 23, 2017
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