By Robert Jackson: As with 'new-school' boxing training, 'old-school' training is based on the notion or idea of reps! Repetition, the amount or quantity of motions, punches, sparring rounds and techniques that a fighter performs is the best way to train muscle memory and prepare a fighter to fight. The difference being that old-school training employed different types of reps than it's modern cousin. Fighters from days gone by ran long runs outside in the 'fresh air' to prepare the cardiovascular system for battle, these long runs were used to train the combatant to breathe normally and not hold ones breath or gasp for air under stress. Walking and hiking also played a part in the old-schoolers conditioning routines.. Today's fighter runs shorter distances in some cases indoors on a treadmill or elliptical trainer and mixes in high speed intervals to mimic the conditions to be expected during a fight. The old-timers also did intervals during their 10 and 12 mile runs that included bursts of high speed running, even though the science regarding interval training had yet to be discovered, or was it considered as such at the time. The 5 major exercises for old-schoolers, boxers, and wrestlers were, pushups, situps, pull-ups, deep knee bends, and neck bridges used to strengthen the neck. Equipment used to supplement the 5 basic exercises were the wall-mounted pulley machine, stationary bike with a weighted wheel, medicine balls and the rowing machine, the use of barbells or heavy weight lifting apparatus was HIGHLY DISCOURAGED, to say the least, but light dumbbells were used while fighters shadowboxed. The USE of old-school equipment was to enhance flexibility, muscle suppleness, build strength and increase muscular endurance, e.g. the rowing machine, provided functional strength, muscular endurance and flexibility in its motions. The old-school fighter could easily dust off sets of: 100 pushups, 100 (bodyweight) deep knee bends, 50 pull-ups and 100 situps at a time. This type of regiment made a fighter naturally strong for his own bodyweight, increased muscular endurance and produced a fine, low mass musculature. In the old-days of fighting it was rare to see a tight, muscle-bound fighter like we see today. Large muscles tend to be heavy and dense taxing the cardiovascular system and impeding the speed of a fighter. The fine muscles developed by fighters-of-old were flexible, strong and could endure 15 or more rounds of fighting, where per round punch averages in all weight classes were higher than today's punch averages. To develop power many fighters including the "Brown Bomber" Joe Louis and Gene Tunney chopped down trees with an axe in Lumber Camps, this developed the whole body especially the 'hip twist', shoulders and arms used for power punching. Cutting down trees also gave a fighter a sense of accomplishment and purpose not experienced by today's fighters hitting a large RUBBER TIRE with a sledge hammer, so it was good for the mind too. New-schoolers aren't adverse to lifting weights and in many cases have a weight lifting regime that they follow during training. Current fighters like Bernard Hopkins use 'resistance band contraptions' to supplement calisthenics these contraptions function similar to the old-school wall mounted pulley machine. Old-schoolers also conditioned their hands, wrists and forearms to enhance the 'punch delivery system' and prevent hand injuries, grip machines were common is some old-school fighters camps. New-school training implements and includes plyometrics as an addendum to normal boxing routines, to increase power and quickness. Additionally, the old-schooler bathed his face and skin in salt water to toughen the skin and prevent cuts
When it came to skills-training the 'usual suspects' are part of both the old-school regimen and new-school methods, jump rope, speed bag, heavybag and double-end bag. New-schoolers can also use a reflex-bag that combines the motions of the speed bag and double-end bag into one bag, and is good for developing sharp reflexes, old-timers missed out on this one. The multipurpose medicine ball was used by old-timers like punch-mitts are used today, old-school and current trainers also pound their charges, stomachs, chests, ribs, hips, thighs and kidneys with this implement to toughen those body sections. The first notable trainer to employ punch mitts was Charley Goldman who in the late 1940's had some foam sewed onto some work gloves so he could teach Rocky Marciano how to punch accurately. The jump rope as used in earlier days of pugilism provided coordination, conditioning, and balance to it's practitioners. The exception to this standard was Sugar Ray Robinson who implemented fancy footwork and high speed jumps to his jump rope routines. Today's training uses the jump rope for development of quickness, conditioning, agility and speed, with it's many drills. For punching power Rocky Marciano allegedly punched a 300lb punching bag while simultaneously doing deep knee bends. Today's fighter has been told that 'punchers are born', so those with minimal punching power accept this paradigm and do nothing to improve their punching power. Jack Dempsey in his book 'Championship Fighting' said that punchers can be made and considered himself a 'made puncher'. Sparring is the 'breakfast of champions' and old-school fighters could expect to spar against the BEST possible sparring partners brought in because their style mimicked that of his 'fight night' opponent's. From the controlled sparring sessions old-school trainers could evaluate their fighter's strengths and weaknesses and implement techniques to improve on the weaknesses while also developing fight night ring strategy. Today's fighter when sparring gets into many 'gym wars' and on fight night finds he's left his fight in the gym and eventually after so many gym wars he's left his career in the gym. The old-time fighter prepared comprehensively and fundamentally, and stayed in shape between fights because they commonly fought once and sometimes twice a month. A short-notice fighter in those days was a DANGEROUS opponent because they stayed READY; unlike today's short notice fighter who may not have fought for a year or so and just accepts the fight for the payday.
For the old-schooler training camp was like going back to school to re-learn things you already knew, to stay sharp on the fundamentals of the sweet science and to ALWAYS be prepared. For the new-schooler in the modern age of hype and reality TV, if there is no hype the new school mentality sees no reason or REWARD for going the extra yard.
The old training methods were much better. They provided you with coordination, skill and strength. Today guys are just trying to beef themselves up as much as possible. I don't care how much you lift weights, it doesn't mean you're going to be a knockout artist. Frank Bruno was bulked up but couldn't punch like Marciano. It isn't that Bruno couldn't learn to punch, it's just that he's another example of modern training.