Photo: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Anthony Joshua has the kind of rock star ring entrances that make Apollo Creed’s James Brown-assisted walkout in Rocky IV look like a mere afterthought. Just ask the British-boxing-record crowd of 90,000 raucous fans who crammed into Wembley Stadium in April 2017 to see him defeat Wladimir Klitschko via an 11th-round TKO.
And the undefeated unified heavyweight boxing world champion has just as flashy of a fitness regimen to match, as evidenced by the unique workouts that he regularly posts on Instagram for his 6.7 million followers to watch.
“Boxing is difficult as it is, so, getting fit is half the battle,” Joshua, 28, told MensHealth.com. “If you’re fit, you’re in a good place to be and then, all you have to learn is the technical side of it.”
If that’s really all it takes to be a champ, consider Joshua covered on both fronts. The charismatic fresh face of the sport regularly puts his massive 6’6″, 249-pound (1.98m, 113kg) frame through grueling, constantly-evolving fitness tests, making his life as difficult as possible outside of the ring, so he’s prepared for anything once the bell rings and he faces an opponent. Joshua’s demanding training regimen has paid off, as he sports a flawless 21-0 record — complete with 20 knockouts.
We caught up with the champ in New York City moments after DAZN announced that Joshua’s bout against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley on September 22 will launch its live-streaming sports service. DAZN is looking to position itself as a Netflix for sports, with a monthly subscription fee for live events.
Joshua’s matchup with Povetkin is part of the U.K. native’s two-fight deal with Wembley — he’s also set to fight at the iconic British venue on April 13 of next year.
As Joshua jumps into his pre-fight training, we asked him to revisit some of his favorite Instagram workouts to explain exactly how each exercise correlates directly into the ring during a fight.
Anthony Joshua’s Heavyweight IG Moves
Barbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
3 sets of 8 reps
Balance and leg strength are essential to throwing heavy hands in a boxing match like Joshua. The undefeated heavyweight champ addresses both by doing punishing single-leg barbell RDLs.
While Joshua claims he doesn’t typically go heavy with the exercise, he definitely understands the benefit of keeping the barbell single-leg RDL in his arsenal. “Why can you squat 200KG (roughly 440 pounds) on two legs, but if I took one of your legs away, you could only do 20KG (44 pounds)?” Joshua ponders. “It’s about building up individual balance. You do it leaning forward [because] it builds up your core, but I can’t neglect my hamstrings, my lower back.” As much as the exercise gives Joshua balance, it allows him to develop enough leg strength to generate punching power from his legs up, so he could throw and land blows like this:
Earlier this month, Joshua posted an IG shot of himself hanging upside down outside of the ring with his chiseled physique on full display, racking up 422K-plus likes.
But AJ considers this move more of a stretch than an exercise. Its main function? To fully stretch out his 6’6″ frame to keep him feeling loose.
“We’re standing up all the time and gravity is pulling us down. There’s always a lot of pressure from the top down, so, that’s just reversing the kinetic chain and opening up,” Joshua claimed. “If I hang you upside down, all your money is going to fall out, so it’s letting your whole body stretch out.”
Joshua recommended trying this inverted hang for one minute first, gradually tacking on an extra 60 seconds as you get more comfortable. Just make sure you’re secured properly and safely.
Shadowboxing in Sand
5 rounds, 3 minutes each
Running in the sand is an age old method to add an extra dimension to cardio workouts. Joshua put a twist on that to help his footwork and leg strength in the ring — shadowboxing in the sand.
The champ claimed he took a tip from Brazilian soccer players to take his training to the beach. “I think Brazilian footballers are much better in the world because they probably play football in the sand, so, they tend to build up strength on an uneven surface,” he said. “So, if you make things difficult in practice, it becomes easier in the ring. That is really difficult when your feet are in the sand. It’s making things difficult, but learning how to adapt.”
Joshua performs 15 minutes of sand drilling to help train his feet to move in an unpredictable manner — which is ideal for a sport where anything can happen in the ring.
VO2 Max Testing on Exercise Bike
1 minute increments of speed and incline
Joshua’s last three fights have lasted at least 10 rounds, so he must prepare to go the distance in every match. That means constantly striving to improve his endurance. Joshua preps for this by testing his VO2 max, to help him better design his training plan. The testing gauges how efficiently he uses his oxygen in a minute while pushing the pace on an exercise bike (some custom performance centers also have people test VO2 max on treadmills).
“As time goes on, it gets tougher to pedal, so what it does is it challenges your muscles,” Joshua explained. “In order for your muscles to work, they need oxygen, so it’s testing your VO2 max.” Once again, Joshua claims that difficulty outside of the ring, “makes life easier” in it. You can find an exercise performance centers to test your VO2 max, or strap on any of the multiple wearables that give you an idea of your level if you’re interested to learn more about how your muscles use oxygen.
Underwater Weight Plate Push
AMRAP across distance of 25m
Some bouts put boxers in unchartered territories and Joshua feels like he needs demanding training that can simulate difficult situations. That’s why he’ll submerge under water until he’s about a foot from the floor, before pushing a 45-pound (20kg) plate across the length of the pool without coming up for air once. Joshua says he does that weight plate pull for 25 meters, before resetting and diving back in to repeat. This exercise gives the undefeated boxer a varied conditioning exercise for when he wants to give his joints a rest. “Running pounds the lower back and knees, so, sometimes you have to rest the knees and still work on your cardio,” he says. “I’m making it difficult to keep under water, so it’s building up a mentality that even when it gets tough, you have to stay under water and I’m going to push that weight across.” That would mimic the mentality when Joshua’s opponent would put some pressure on him during a fight.
Medicine Ball Wall Blast
AMRAP for 30 seconds
Stand a few feet away from your gym’s wall, grab a med ball, then cock back and blast the wall with it. Joshua says he performs this exercise with an 11-pound (5kg) medicine ball, blasting the wall for as many reps as possible in 30-second bursts. Although he opts to expend most of his power training on the heavy bag these days, Joshua said the medicine ball wall blast, which he calls the “re-up and shoot,” simulates throwing punches in the ring.
“It helps build up that muscle memory that you can put that much speed and force through your body without getting injured,” he claimed. He recommended directly facing the wall to simulate jabs, while twisting your body slightly to the side to help build up your core and mimic cross and hook punches.
Hold for as long as possible
When it comes to neck strength, Joshua bows down to a boxing legend: “Iron” Mike Tyson.
“To me, Mike Tyson was the founder of neck strength in boxing,” Joshua said without hesitation.
To prepare his own neck to withstand heavyweight punches, Joshua executes isometric neck holds by laying on his back in the middle of the ring, perching up and rolling his neck back as far as possible. He then holds the move for as long as he can. “It’s holding in the position to build strength at the back of your neck,” he added. The aim is to negate that neck-snapping motion when you get punched. No pain, no gain.
Kettlebell Towel-Hang Neck Ups
Have you seen those jaw-strengthening facial toners floating around the market? Yeah… AJ doesn’t use one. Instead, he ties a towel around a couple of kettlebells and hangs them from his mouth and then he performs neck ups for as many reps as possible.
“I look at it like a pitbull has a lockjaw, so, you can’t break that jaw,” Joshua said. “Everybody has an amount of pain they could take if they get punched, but if you could build up the resistance and the muscles in your jaw, hopefully that could protect you.”
It also shatters any chance of being dubbed as a boxer with a glass jaw. Joshua hilariously explained this exercise to an awestruck Conan O’Brien earlier this year:
2x a week
While Joshua keeps his fitness regimen fresh, he needs to keep his body fresh, too. The 28-year-old has two acupuncture sessions per week for a bit of pampering R&R. Those achy knots won’t stand a chance after a treatment, according to Joshua.
We’ll see if Povetkin fares better on September 22.
By Mark Lelinwalla
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