Despite the criticism Haye has received in the aftermath of his destruction of Audley Harrison, the bout did showcase why he's such a dangerous fighter: he's naturally fast, explosive and powerful, and gets himself into frighteningly good shape – this is a man who's six-pack has a six-pack.
Haye is probably the only heavyweight who possess the natural assets needed to take out double belt-holding heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, which is a good thing because Haye is fighting him this coming weekend.
So how does he prepare for a big fight? "The first round is the toughest because people [normally] rush you so you've got to be mentally switched on," says Haye. Then it's a question of being fit enough to move better than your opponent and land more quality punches than he does.
"It's not enough just to have strong muscles. Boxing is an explosive sport and a boxer needs to increase the speed of contraction in his muscles to get a powerful punch."
Rotational core strength is vital when producing punching force because knockouts come from movement as much as muscle, while rock-solid abs also soak up an opponent's body blows and pack an even bigger punch.
Here’s one of the workouts he uses to get in knockout shape.
1 Weighted chin-up
Sets 3 Reps 8
Put on a weight belt and attach a weight plate of your choice. Start with palms facing you. Hang down at full stretch. Chin up, then lower all the way down.
Haye's tip: “This is a great way to build arm and chest strength. It really pumps you up and gets the testosterone flowing, helping your muscles to grow.“
2 Cable rotation to punch
Sets 3 Reps 10 each side
Place one foot forwards in a boxing stance. Start with your forearm held vertically. Drive your fist forwards. Stop when your arm is extended, draw back.
Haye's tip: “This targets the shoulder rotator cuff. You often rotate your shoulder in a punch and if it's not strong enough you can injure it.“
Sets 3 Reps 8
Rest your lower and hips on the ball. Keep your arms straight. Get a training partner to stand on the ends of your feet. Rotate side to side, turning your shoulders as you go.
Haye's tip: “Core rotational strength is important to boxing because it's where a lot of the punching power comes from. This move will build it up.“
4 Flying stance
Sets 2 Reps 20
Stand in a boxing stance. Bend your knees, explode upwards and forwards, jumping over a step.
Haye's tip: “Boxing is a fast-moving sport and this drill promotes your three-dimensional sense of balance. It also uses plyometrics to improve your explosive footwork.“
Sets 3 Time 20sec
Get into a press-up position, with your feet on the ropes. Lower and then explode back up. Clap your hands together. Catch your body on the way down.
Haye's tip: “Plyometric training is used a lot in boxing because you need speed and power as well as strength to win a fight. This is a classic upper-body plyometric power exercise.“
6 Ball curl to throw
Sets 2 Reps 10
Ask a training partner to throw you a medicine ball. Catch it, bring it under control, then lean right back over the gym ball. Curl all the way up and throw the ball back to your training partner. Keep your lower back unstressed.
Haye's tip: “You get hit in the gut a lot in boxing so you need great core strength across the whole range of motion. This move trains that and has a plyometric element to hit the fast-twitch fibres that fire up during a fight.“
7 Pad drill
Sets 3 Time 60sec
Agree with a training partner on a combination of punches (eg left jab, right cross, left hook high). Keep going for one minute.
Haye's tip: “Add 30 seconds every week, and over four weeks you'll build yourself up the level of fitness that you're going to need in a fight.“
More Boxing Sessions
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Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.