Oleksandr Usyk is quite often referred to as a bigger version of Vasyl Lomachenko, and to a certain extent that could be the case. In terms of their training, it is very similar to what both these master southpaw boxers do in the ring.
However, with both being in the completely other ends of the weight divisions, Uysk has a big difference in focusing on strength and conditioning to bulk up. Especially since moving up to the heavyweight division, but also doing things like CrossFit exercises.
In this article, I will look at Usyk’s unusual but effective training that has got him to the pinnacle of the sport as an undisputed cruiserweight and unified heavyweight champion.
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
Running and cardio
Now it’s unclear how much running Usyk actually does from my research because he will do a range of different cardio exercises within his routine. From what I’ve seen he tends to mix up his cardiovascular exercises, with the following:
- Jumping rope
- Ladder drills
- Hitting the heavy bag
These all obviously help with your cardio, but they also require different muscle groups to give your overall muscle strength in different areas of the body e.g. targeting your lower body muscular endurance. This in itself shows why Usyk can box at such a high intensity for so long as he can adapt at different points in the fight.
Usyk’s mind and cognitive training
Much like Lomachenko, Usyk also participates in mental drills to help keep his mind sharp so he can quickly adapt when in the ring. Whether that be to change the game plan or adapt to how his opponent is in the ring. These training drills also help to improve and train Usyk’s cognitive abilities. Here are just some of the exercises Usyk will actually do.
Usyk uses the Schulte table which was created by a German psychologist, Walter Schulte.
This is a grid that has 25 randomly distributed digits to help train peripheral vision, speed reading, and visual perception.
You need to find all the numbers up to 25, it can be quite distorting as the blocks and numbers can be different colors and be hard to find quickly.
This helps to train your mind and vision to work quickly. When it comes to boxing, this can help Usyk to be one step ahead of his opponent to quickly react to what is in front of him.
Try it out in the video here.
Balance and coordination drills
Another mental drill Usyk uses is Jenga blocks, where he gets asked to match and move blocks at the same time with both hands.
This helps the Ukrainian to become more ambidextrous with both hands, while also helping his mental coordination.
By being able to balance the pieces of Jenga, helps his mind to create balance, process, and react to what is in front of him while using both hands. E.g. just like when he is in the boxing ring.
Holding breath underwater
If you have read my Lomachenko training article and have also got to this point you will start to understand why they call Usyk the heavyweight Lomachenko. Especially as they do a lot of the same things. This also includes holding their breath underwater, which helps to control their breath and mind to keep calm.
This underwater training technique is therefore used for the psychological element. It helps the heavyweight champion to become more aware of his senses. While also potentially stops heavy breathing while he gets deeper in the rounds in a competitive bout.
(***Please note – I do not recommend you try this underwater training unless with someone else)
It doesn’t seem like much, but Usyk’s juggling abilities are pretty incredible, something you would expect a circus clown to do.
But once again, as much as this looks fun, it is there to help things such as hand-eye coordination, reflexes, movement, concentration, spatial awareness, memory, and focus. All of these are vital for any boxer. Juggling is just another way to keep things fun and different while also training your brain.
Another interesting thing I found was, that in a fight documentary with Sky Sports, Usyk was seen to be reading, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Which is a book attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist from over 2,000 years ago.
Some of the contents of the book include the following sections:
- Laying plans
- Attack by stratagem
- Weak points and strong
- Variation in Tactics
As you can tell from the above some of these can be related to boxing. But it’s interesting to think of Usyk’s psychology for reading material like this in the lead-up to a fight. By taking in information like this, does it make him prepare for a fight in the ring as if he were going to war?
Check out The Art of War on Amazon here.
Now just as you expect from any world-class boxer, Usyk uses all the traditional boxing equipment and exercises you would expect. Sometimes old-school training is the best. However, there are some different/unusual drills I have seen him use during his preparation which I will discuss in a moment. But for the most part, it will include
Heavy Bag – work on combinations, power shots, and conditioning work
Pads work – to practice defense, punch combinations, power shots, and footwork.
Double End Bag – Work on reflexes, timing, and speed
Speed bag – shoulder conditioning, speed, timing, and reflexes
Reflex ball – help his hand-eye coordination and timing
Shadowboxing – working on combinations, specific footwork, and visualization of opponents
Sparring – Finally, Usyk will do much sparring in the lead-up to his fights. As a Cruiserweight he would often spar with heavyweights. So this has no doubt helped him since moving up to the heavyweight division in coping with this size. Plus he was also heavyweight at amateur so this isn’t out of the ordinary for him.
Movement drills – Another interesting drill I’ve seen Usyk do is using his coaches to move towards him from different angles where the Ukrainian has to move out of the way. These drills help to work on his slick footwork, by pivoting out the way. Getting used to these movements will help Usyk be much better to adapt quickly while in the ring.
Strength and conditioning
Now just like with any boxer, there are always elements of strength and conditioning that they will do to keep in top physical condition. For Usyk specifically, he has some of the most versatile S&C workouts doing a whole variety of different things. But I wanted to point out some of the unique things Usyk does.
Now believe it or not, since moving up to heavyweight Usyk has confirmed his love for Crossfit as a way to keep fit, and strong as he trains outside of a fight. Here is what he had to say about it:
“I tried these different kinds of things – such as weight lifting etc. But what I really like is CrossFit. I’m so into it. I feel splendid when working out and I think that the approach is important as well. I like the way that it has been developed by my trainer.”Oleksandr Usyk
Now just like his boxing name ‘The Cat’, the Ukrainian likes to have agility in the ring. The good thing about Crossfit for a heavyweight boxer like Usyk is that it works on combined exercise techniques to help build up strength, agility, flexibility, and aerobic fitness all at the same time.
The other great thing about doing this is that Usyk can do boxing-specific exercise movements in CrossFit training. It also helps to vary his training instead of just doing standard weight lifting.
Kettlebell workout originally came from Eastern Europe and it’s great to see the Ukrainian keeping to his routes. If you have ever done a kettlebell workout you will know it is a fantastic way to give you a full-body workout and there is also much versatility to using them.
Usyk using this will help condition and strengthen his whole body which plays into those areas. Thus making it an excellent option for any boxer who wants to fight and grow stronger. Check out my article on Kettlebell training and boxing here.
Diet and Recovery
In terms of Usyk’s actual diet and recovery, I have struggled to find anything precise apart from images of huge bowls of food (Ukrainian dishes). Which I am not an expert in.
However if it helps I imagine it would be something similar to that of Lomachenko, but with Usyk eating many more calories, especially since moving up to heavyweight! You can check that out here.
(I’ll update this article if more information becomes available)
Additional training and sports
Now on top of all this training, Usyk will do other sports to help with fitness, but also help with elements of his coordination. However, I do believe there is a reason for doing these other sports as part of his training regime.
Usyk for the most part as you can tell is an extremely well-rounded athlete so it is easy for him to adapt to almost anything. Being versatile in the other activities he does helps him be able to do this in the ring. Whether that be pushing himself physically or changing tactics mid-fight, due to what his opponent is doing.
It also helps keep things fresh for Usyk and the team, as boxing training itself can become very repetitive. By doing other activities it can keep things fun while still maintaining a challenge and purpose.
Some of the other sports I have seen Usyk do include the following:
Who trains Oleksandr Usyk?
Finally, it’s important to give credit where it is due, as no fighter can do this all by himself, but with a great team, they build around them.
The first name that comes to a lot of people’s minds is Anatoly Lomachenko (above), the father of Vasyl Lomachenko, sometimes referred to as ‘Papachenko’. However, he is in more of an unofficial capacity, as he hasn’t been in his corner in over 3 years.
Nevertheless, after his first heavyweight win, he was asked who his trainer was, and Usyk insisted: “Anatoly Lomachenko trains me.” You can understand why the Ukrainian has such respect and allegiance to Anatoly. He trained under him as an amateur winning multiple championships and Gold at the London Olympics.
Interestingly retired and former Ukrainian world champion and Olympic medalist Oleksandr Gvozdyk said this about Anatoly:
“Lomachenko’s father made this team…He created it. He’s just too humble to say it. But it’s true. Ask Usyk. It’s not only about boxing. He’s a psychologist, a leader. He says something and you believe in it Because everything he tells you, it works.”– Oleksandr Gvozdyk
Now, as much as Anatoly is a true inspiration, Usyk who has also trained under James Ali Bashir, one of the former Klitschko’s coaches. Current trainer Yuiy Tkachenko has played a big part in his training and development too. Despite the changes of coaches in his corners, it’s interesting how Usyk still goes back to the man who started it all for his advice despite other trainers being in his corner.
As you can see from all the above, Usyk has so much versatility in his training. He has a deep focus on boxing training, but he puts himself out of his comfort zone. By doing so many different types of sports and exercises such as CrossFit, he works on his whole body to be as strong and fit as possible.
Most importantly I believe this gives Usyk the mental edge over his opponents, he’s able to quickly adapt to any situation in the ring or change his strategy. Not only that, he has the fitness levels to carry this out.
When you consider all the above, it is no wonder he has won Olympic gold and become an undisputed and unified world champion.
Check out more boxing training advice by visiting the link here or related useful articles below:
- Top 10 Exercises To Improve Hand Speed For Boxing
- 10 Exercises To Improve Your Reflexes For Boxing
- Shadow Boxing Exercises For Home Or The Gym
- 10 Exercises To Increase Your Punch Power For Boxing
- Simple Boxing Workout Routines For Home
- 6 Key Boxing Defensive Techniques – Hit And Don’t Get Hit
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