top of page

Ask Dave: Building Strength Without Bulk for Boxing

Dave, I know you’re a busy man with a fun filled schedule – but I was wondering when you if you could find a moment could you assist with a query regarding the subject of weight gain or to be more specific the subjective topic of building strength after gaining weight.Me: Sure, tell me more

Cheers Dave, I’ll try keep it brief.

When I am consistently training (When I say training it is mainly cardio for or targeted for boxing) I tend to make weight at 71kg. (71kg is the suggested weight from my coaches for guy of my size) This has been my competitive weight and I feel comfortable at this weight but I do notice my strength/power is somewhat depleted.

When I am inactive my weight usually hangs around the 74/75kg mark. I do believe that this is my natural weight.

I do tend to eat healthy and be aware of the good stuff and the bad.

Since September I decided to post-pone boxing and the consistent training until at least my thesis was submitted. My weight has since fluctuated to 77kg (due to terrible routine/no exercise and eating crap..and christmas!). This is the heaviest I’ve been but this is not my reason for contacting you.

When I return to training in the next few months should I aim to cut down to 71kg or stay around 74/75kg mark and build up the strength/power.

I know what to do to get to 71.

But If it is a case for the latter, my question for you is; what exercise routine do I incorporate that will strip away the fat whilst building and maintaining strength to allow me to be comfortable at that weight? Does it involve ‘bulking up’ with heavy weight/low reps which I am not a keen on?

I know I know, I said Id try keep it brief, apologies….I just hope it makes sense.

Anyway, no rush to respond to this

Thank you for taking the time to read,


Me again: Right, where do we begin? First off, I’ll not second guess your boxing coach, if he says weigh in at 71kg for a match, then that’s what you should do assuming this weight suits you and you perform well at it. This leads to the question of your walk around weight. A rough guideline is to ensure you are never more than 10% heavier than your fight weight, so you being 74/5kg on a day to day basis should be no problem. The question then should be what that weight is made up off. And as much as possible it should be contractile tissue otherwise known as muscle. More muscle, more power. More power, more opponents falling over when you hit them.

You mentioned the word “bulking.”

You’ve no need to worry about this.

Bulking is a term thrown about by body builders, power lifters and strongmen who need mass. Anyone who is purposefully bulking will be eating like it’s their job. As a fighter, the only time you’d “bulk” is if you wished to move up a weight class. Mass building is a double whammy of training and calories. Don’t overload on the calories and you’ll find it very hard to build bulk.

So does that rule out strength training? Absolutely not. It does rule out body building, but that isn’t the method a fighter need employ. Body building is about size, not necessarily strength and certainly not about performance. We are ALL about performance.So yes, lift. But choose carefully what and how.

For strength and power we must lift explosively and lift heavy. To avoid unnecessary hypertrophy (bulking) we need to keep the volume low. some where in the range of 2-3 sets of 1-5 reps. I recommend only using 2 or three lifts per session depending on how often we lift, which is dependant on your overall workload and boxing training.

This can be followed with a conditioning circuit of other exercises to fill in the gaps left by the main lifts. For a fighter, you can;t beat bodyweight training as it builds unified, coordinated strength and a high level of athleticism. But also try kettlebells and dumbell exercises.

These circuits will be short, sharp and aggressive. In terms of developing cardio for a fight, this type of training is superior to standard cardio training. It also leans a body out pretty damn quick, while keeping it fast and strong.

Here’s an example.

1: Power cleans 3 x 3 2: 1 arm Clean & Push Press 3 x 3 Perform enough warm up sets to get the technique grooved in and work up to a 5 rep max. Then hit 3 sets of 3 reps with this weight. Rest up to 90 to 120 seconds between each set. Keep each rep sharp and snappy, speed of each lift is important, you don’t want to be grinding lifts out.

3A: Hindu Push ups 3B: Kettlebell Swing 3C: Bodyweight Row 3D: Goblet Squat This is a conditioning circuit taken straight out of the WMD manual.

As much as possible match the timing to your fight timing. For example if your up for 3 x 2min rounds with 1 minute rest, then this is how your circuit will look. Go through 3A to 3D for 30 seconds per exercise, rest only 10 seconds between each station. This will give you a total of 2minutes work with 30 seconds rest during the round. Rest for a minute before repeating for a second round. Go for up to 5 rounds. Hit each and every drill hard and fast, be as aggressive as possible. The goal here is high intensity, develop the ability to sustain a high output and recover quickly. Develop the ability to outwork and overwhelm your opponent.

This example is great if you lift twice per week. For the second workout change the lifts maybe:

1: 1 Arm Snatch x 3 x 3 2: Plyo Push Up x 3 x 3

and also swap the conditioning circuit around.

A three day split can be arranged differently, as will a four day split. there’s more on that in the WMD manual.

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Training in this manner will not bulk you, but will bullet proof you.

There is still room for road work. it is becoming more and more frowned upon by the strength and conditioning industry, but the old school still swear by it. I believe it has a place and it’s place is a getting out once or twice a week with your earphones in and get in an hour of moving meditation.

Hope this helps.



9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page