Training & Camp Routine Analysis of the Great Ali
Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as the greatest fighter of all time. Ali’s main rival in pure fighting terms is Sugar Ray Robinson, but Ali stood for a lot outside of the ring, which has contributed to his reputation. Ali’s face is recognizable around the world and he was a genius in the ring. His footwork, which he labelled as 'dancing' was the feature of his game plan, which included a lightning jab and combination punching which could barely be seen by his opponents. Ali was revolutionary, never before had this speed been seen in the Heavyweight division. I will provide a detailed analysis and breakdown of Ali’s workload and training regimens and how this helped him develop speed, muscle and power which contributed to his status as the greatest fighter of all time.
Roadwork – Running
Probably the most important concept of Ali’s training. Ali was an early riser and would usually complete his running training at the time of 5.30AM. For a full time fighter, daily road work was was rare in the sport back in those days. Ali would run 6 days a week, with the 7th day being labelled a rest day. Ali would run 6 miles per day, however this peaked at different times in the training camps. Early on the runs would be longer and Ali would begin to reduce the length, as fight night came closer. Ali’s running was also done at a fast pace.
Shadow Boxing : Reflex Training
Ali would allocate close to 30 minutes for his warm up. He would do several light exercises and excessive stretching, to ensure his body and joints were warm, detracting the chances of causing injury. After the stretching Ali would typically do between 5 and 7, 3 minute rounds of shadow boxing. Shadow boxing would be done in front of a mirror so Ali could improve his technique. Ali shadow boxing was a site to see and he was extremely fast.
Sit Ups and Leg Crunches
Ali was well ahead of his time, doing by far the most sit ups of his era. He was also known for doing excessive amounts of leg crunches and other abdominal exercises. It’s unsure the total amount Ali would do per day, however it’s estimated he would do up to 500 sit ups and crunches per day. Ali was always muscular across his core and he had virtually zero body fat. He had a lot of lean muscle mass which ensured his speed always remained.
Ali was an avid fan and believer in the benefits of training on the speed bag. Ali would spend at least ten minutes on the speed bag after his warm up exercises were complete. This would last for ten minutes, or longer without a break. Ali on the speed bag was similar to RJJ on the speed bag, a sight to see. Unbelievable hand speed combined with impeccable timing and coordination.
This old school training method is still consistent in many of todays modern stars. Ali would do a similar routine of jump rope to his routine on the speed bag, both would individually last for ten minutes without a break. Jump rope is extremely beneficial for footwork, balance and building the muscles of the calves, which help add protection once a fighters takes a punch.
Most champions and superstars would destroy sparring partners. Ali was the total opposite. Ali would take extra punishment during sparring, even if his opponent was limited. Ali’s philosophy during sparring was to work on his limitations and take punches, to ensure he was ready for the bout. As his career developed, Ali would do less and less sparring. But early on in his career, he took a lot of punishment in the gym, which probably contributed to his declining health once his career finished.
Diet: Healthy Food - Vegetables
Ali always followed a healthy diet throughout his entire career. He was never one to eat a lot of junk or fast food, like the current great Floyd Mayweather Jr does. Ali’s main meals were chicken and steak, which provided high levels of protein. Ali also ate a lot of vegetables through potato dishes and bean dishes, usually before his work out. The protein steaks and chickens would be consumed after his work out. He would snack on fruit juice, water and fruit between workouts. Ali would avoid fattening food or foods with high levels of sugar. Ali wouldn’t drink alcohol also, he was widely against the consumption of toxins and he got this message out to millions, which helped society improve.
Ali didn’t do heavy weight training. Ali & his trainers view was that this training would slow him down. He did exercises using his natural body weight to increase his strength, but he stayed away from heavy, non body weight training. This is probably the biggest factor to why Ali was able to maintain his excellent speed as his career progressed.
End of Ali’s Career
Towards the end of his career, Ali began to reduce his normal training methods. His body was simply unable to keep up with the demands his old training regimes would put his body through. Ali would often do one workout session per day, or two small workouts during his last few professional fights. At this time it was obvious that Ali was a shell of what he once was. His power and reflexes were gone and only a small amount of his speed remained.
Ali vs Todays Heavyweights
Despite the views of many that all sport progresses. I don’t believe the current heavyweight era or the past era produced any quality fighters which could test or beat a prime Ali. Only a select few current fighters would be able to take a few rounds off Ali and they include Wladimir Klitschko and Povetkin. But both wouldn’t be able to take more than 3 rounds off Ali in a 15 round bout. Future heavyweight prospects such as Britains Anthony Joshua and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker may develop into greats but it’s way to early to tell.
Ali is the greatest, not just because of his achievements in the ring but also for what he achieved outside of the ring which helped advanced society across the world.
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