Oleksandr Usyk – also known as The Cat or The Cossack – has been called the greatest Ukrainian boxer of all time. His long-range capabilities and European southpaw style make him a terror in the ring. His upbeat, intelligent attitude outside of the ring has made him even more popular. He’s a boxer to emulate, and many of us have tried to do so whenever we train ourselves. So how can you become the next Cossack Cat?
Here are 6 ways that you can train to attain your very own Usyk physique:
1. Cognitive Training
You may believe that the first step to becoming a pro boxer is to grab yourself some STING boxing gloves that are AIBA-approved. But Oleksandr Usyk is a fierce advocate in preparing your mindset before you even start to prepare your fighter form. Usyk has been seen reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but his mental prep doesn’t stop there. In fact, he’s constantly using brain training techniques to keep his mind sharp and swift.
For example, Usyk uses the Schulte table, a grid of 25 random numbers and colors. The aim is to run through the 25 numbers in order to test reflexes, perception, and attention.
And the Cat’s next cognitive training exercise might surprise you: juggling! Beyond being a neat party trick, Usyk uses the skill to manage and maintain his hand-eye coordination, movement, multi-tasking, and spatial awareness. And if you’ve seen the video of him juggling a dumbbell, a tennis ball, and a tub of vaseline, you’ll know it’s no mean feat!
2. Running & Cardio
Though Usyk does run, he’s been seen running far less than his competitors. Instead, he trains his endurance through a mix of high-intensity exercises. This includes: jump rope, swimming, rowing, ladder drills, heavy bag sessions, and hill sprints. This variety helps Usyk target and define the many muscles around his body, like stabilizers and peripherals. His high intensity regime allows him to keep strong through long fights, and constantly adapt and pivot into new strategies when necessary.
One of the more unusual techniques that Usyk trains with underwater training. Like a diver, he’ll center himself, clear his mind, then submerge himself in the pool. This works to both improve his lung capacity and his mental focus.
3. Strength Workouts
Though Usyk is best known for his high speed barrages, his heavyweight status means heavy hitting too. Kettlebells are a favorite of his. Kettlebell training is excellent for both muscle strength and cardio fitness. But beyond that, he does a lot of weightlifting, especially Olympic-style weightlifting. He’s said that the explosive power and drive of his legs have empowered his punches, and it’s hard to deny it.
Outside of training for fights, Usyk likes to keep up fitness with CrossFit. He’s said that unlike some of his more grueling exercises, he takes pleasure in it, stating “I’m so into it. I feel fantastic when working out and I think that the approach is important as well.” And unlike standard weightlifting, it’s a great way to train your agility too.
4. Boxing Workouts
When it comes to the fundamentals, Usyk is no slouch. He’ll hit the heavy bag with combos and power shots to condition his fists, and do pad work to train defense and reflexes. He’s no stranger to the double end bag, the speed bag, movement drills, a reflex ball, or a bout of shadowboxing either. If there’s one tool that he prefers above all, it might be sparring. Before a fight, he’ll be sparring day and night, and his partners have been heavyweights since he was in cruiserweight. Always punching above his weight has no doubt helped keep him at the top, and eased his move into the heavyweight division.
Usyk’s diet is kept mostly under wraps. Interviewers have joked that he’s eating Salo (Ukrainian cured pork fat) in bulk to keep him in heavy weight, but the truth remains unknown. What we do know is he’s consuming massive amounts of calories every day – maybe even 5000 a day like rival Anthony Joshua. And the best way to do that? Big meals, and many of them.
Five meals a day is standard during training for many boxers, but some eat even more. A typical day’s diet might involve waking up to overnight oats, a full breakfast of protein pancakes, eggs, and bacon. For lunch, three meals of chicken and rice. And for dinner? Two steaks with pasta and rice, followed by a load of veggies. That’s a serious diet to support a dead serious training regime.
6. Other Types of Sports
And if you thought that was a lot of training, he’s not done yet. Usyk prides himself on his well-rounded regime, so he fits in more than just boxing training drills when it comes to his personal fitness routine. To challenge himself and to keep his mind alert and learning, Usyk has been seen practicing football, basketball, canoeing, volleyball, dancing, and even fishing!
For a fully-body sport like boxing, however, all types of training are guaranteed to help you cultivate your combat skills. Just so long as you’re not training in excess!
If the Cossack Cat’s training style looks completely random, it is, and intentionally so. Usyk avoids comfort and ease like a disease. He values strategy, adaptability, and variety as much as muscle. Having the mental edge on opponents should never be underestimated, even in a muscle-bound sport like boxing– after all, Usyk won gold at the Olympics with his dynamic regime. So stay on your toes, and you too can be just as Cat-like!
If you’d like an introduction to training for athletes – boxing or other sports – just drop us a note. We’ve got a long track record of success training people in Nashville for both professional and recreational sports.