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How Boxers Gain Muscle Mass To Move Up a Weight Class

Accelerate Your Gains!

By Gregor Trost Published 

When it comes to building muscle mass, few sports promote dedicated training as boxing does.

When fighters have a match-up scheduled, they enter into a training regime few could manage. Every day they’re focused on the task ahead, gaining the physical edge to match their talent and mental approach. Get the training wrong, and things go awry quickly. That was proven in the case of Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua. The latter got his training wrong for the first fight and lost his belt. Ruiz then admitted to Fox News he didn’t prepare properly for the rematch and handed them straight back.

Boxers don’t just train for fights; they also occasionally need to put on weight to climb a weight class. Boxing is littered with examples of fighters who moved between weights, none more successful than the legendary Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino southpaw known as PacMan is the only eight-division World Champion in history. He weighed in at just 106 pounds during his 1995 debut, rising to 135 pounds to defeat Ricky Hatton in 2009. He moved between weight classes like no other fighter has before or since.

Canelo Álvarez is the latest fighter to shift between weight classes successfully; he has won multiple world championships in four weight classes, from light middleweight to light heavyweight, including unified titles in three. He is poised to return to light heavyweight this year when he faces Dmitry Bivol, a fight he is the overwhelming favorite in, according to the current Ladbrokes odds on the fight. He's stepping up from light middleweight, (160lbs to 168lbs) to light heavyweight (168lbs to 175lbs), and yet is still fancied more than his opponent. The Russian fighter, Bivol, is undefeated in 19 professional fights but has always been a light heavyweight. So how does the Mexican move so effortlessly between weight classes and remain better than his opponents?

Whether shedding or gaining, Álvarez trains six days a week, resting on a Sunday during a fight camp. There are usually two sessions per day, and he’s up at the crack of dawn for the first, a run. This isn’t something lifters have to consider, but boxing is a sport that demands not only power but also speed and agility. Breakfast is usually eggs before a nap precedes his afternoon session.

When it comes to making the right weight, discipline is the key, evident from his afternoon sessions. “I do work on a little bit of weights just to get my power up. I work a lot of conditioning and stamina,” he said as he prepared for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, whom he beat in 2017. “If I lift any weights I do it more for explosion, but I really use my body weight to build up muscle and strength. I like working with my own body weight, and I just do the best job I can to be healthy and strong, both before and after a fight.”

Álvarez weighed in at 164lb for that fight, although he’ll have to be between 168lbs and 175lbs when he faces Bivol. For his fight with Sergey Kovalev in 2019, he tipped the scales at 174lbs, a big rise from his previous bout with Daniel Jacobs. How does he do it? Simple, he hits the weights.

“I’m lifting more weights,” he confirmed in the build-up to that fight. “I hadn’t lifted that much previously. A lot of reps but not that much weight. So, I’m lifting more weights, eating more carbs, eating protein. I’m very disciplined about my diet when I train. I only eat lean proteins and veggies, like salmon and veggies.”

The key to stepping up a weight class and succeeding in the ring is simple; train hard. “If someone is going to beat me, it’s not going to be because they trained harder,” he said. “I train as hard as I can so when someone beats me, I know it’s because they’re better than me.”

That’s a simple piece of advice anybody looking to improve their fitness, build muscle mass or compete in sports can take; train hard, be the best you can and eat right. If you do that, you’re on the right track.

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