Although it may be the only piece of equipment in the gym that a fighter doesn’t punch in one way or another, it is still one of the most crucial tools used in preparing a boxer for what he will encounter in the ring. When incorporated into a workout, the gym timer can become an integral part of training, conditioning and sports-specific development.
Too often a timer is turned ON and turned OFF and that is about as much as most coaches use it to prepare their fighters. When used to its fullest capacity, the gym timer can help accomplish a variety of tasks and best prepare a fighter for all sorts of conditions.
The basic timer and it’s most fundamental use tracks a two or three minute round with a one minute rest. Although that is the length of the rounds that most fighters encounter, adding some variations on that routine to their workout will better prepare them for the ups and downs in action, as well as the rounds’ intensity and rest periods.
To increase a fighter’s conditioning, push the rounds to four minutes in length. Don’t let them decrease their punch output or pace, just make them maintain it for the added duration. After the fighter has increased his endurance and is able to last the four minutes at a good rate, then take it the next step and reduce the rest time in between rounds to thirty seconds. This will force them to recover faster and push themselves harder. When they return to a one minute rest between rounds, it will feel like an eternity, in comparison.
Using the interval setting that is available on most timers is also a powerful training tool. The interval timer provides a variety of bells, set to different lengths for engaging in less intense versus more intense bouts of action. This is one of the best ways to prepare a fighter for the natural ebbs and flows that occur during a typical fight. Training a fighter to fight at one consistent pace is not boxing-specific, because there is hardly ever a fight where one or the other fighter presses the action in a consistent, predictable fashion. Using intervals set at different lengths and asking a variety of intensity levels from the fighter will get him acclimated to the type of give and take he will face in the ring. Some timers also have a variety of interval settings and changing the rest/action intervals regularly will keep the fighter guessing and will force him to be adaptable.
Another way the timer can be used to break the predictability of training is to set it at a variety of rest periods and intervals and randomly select which bell designates the actual “between rounds” time. This will keep the fighter guessing, will force him to make his body respond to whatever length and demand the coach places on him and keeps him on edge for every second of the round. Again, this re-enforces the need for the fighter to become adaptable. Adaptability, after all, is a key character trait of a champion.
As an actual bout gets closer, it is important to train at the exact length (or as close as possible) that the fighter will be competing at. It’s the best way to be able to tell if the fighter is prepared, in terms of conditioning, and also in gauging how hard he can push himself and what kind of a pace he can fight at.
If the fighter is an amateur and is preparing for a national tournament where more than one timer/bell will be used, it is a good idea to train with more than one timer going. Designate which one you are working from, but get the fighter used to hearing more than one timer sounding. Being able to differentiate between the two and react accordingly could keep the fighter from making a costly mistake come fight time. Having more than one timer maybe a luxury, but it can pay off by helping the fighter to learn to deal with that added element in training before he is in the middle of the actual competitive situation.
One last note to add: In all of these approaches, the fighters should be using the rest in between rounds to focus on bringing their heart rate down. With the rest period, like any other part of training, they’re conditioning their bodies to respond and react. Practice this, like any other part of the routine, and they will become better at actually controlling their breathing and the amount of recovery time they need between rounds. Learning to “catch their breath” will pay big dividends once the bell sounds to start the next round.
In boxing, just like in life, time is either on your side or it can become your own worst enemy. Make the boxing timer a part of your routine. Treat it like it is as important a piece of equipment as the heavy bag or mitt work and it will become something that works for you, not against you. A fighter is either counting the seconds or making the seconds count.