Occasional hard sparring is necessary
Occasional hard sparring is necessary

I often receive questions from readers on my various social media platforms regarding my opinion on various training methods and the latest comes from John Bolinger via Facebook.

“Curious, What is your opinion on hard sparring and how often?”

Well John, it is important that what is expressed here is my opinion only but here it goes:

Sparring varies for everybody and is based upon pro or amateur, overall experience and other disseminating factors. Traditionally, old school boxing formula was based on total rounds (140 I believe for pros) in an eight-week fight camp barring the first week and last week before a bout. However, with the research of CTE and other trauma related injuries over the course of the last decade, there have been major preventative shifts in combat sports to minimize risk while still enabling a fighter to get in the work needed to be effective.

What I see across both the boxing and MMA landscape these days is that most gyms vary between two and three times a week and when strategically, this is more than adequate for most athletes. I try to wind down any hard sparring at least 2 weeks in advance of a bout and this should be supplemented with 3/4 speed technical work until 7 days out.

Let’s not forget that the whole point of sparring is to instill a given response to a stimulus like a controlled experiment where the fighter is the variable. The partner herein would be the control. When placed in a given situation where he resorts back to a certain habit the experiment should be started over with clarity and refocus until the desired result is achieved.

Of course, this is my humble opinion only but, sparring is a process that begins with the technique stage, reinforced through combative drills, refined via pad-work and finally introduced into unrehearsed sparring.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe that occasional hard sparring is necessary to toughen the spirit, maintain anaerobic conditioning and to teach students how to remain composed in an adrenal-based setting. The aforementioned results however, are much more important than the old school mentality of two guys simply pounding on each other with cheering sections on either side and everybody telling them what to do, when they really should be listening for one voice and that’s their coach’s. To do otherwise is counterproductive and widely ego based.

Spar often my friends, but do so with purpose and the desire to leave with the same brain cells you came with.

You may also like: 3 Types of boxing sparring for developing fighters.