They aren’t dumbbells
As you see the likes of Gennady Golovkin – who faces David Lemieux in a middleweight title unification clash on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden – and the rest of the boxers under the guidance of trainer Abel Sanchez at the Summit Gym in Big Bear, they all begin their day’s work by shadow-boxing a few rounds with dumbbells in each hand.
But Sanchez clarifies, “Actually, they’re not actually dumbbells. They’re actually weights that I developed when I had Terry Norris. Today they’re metal; they used to be in cement back then. That’s how we warm up and we finish the day with those. It’s just my system.”
These hand-weights (we won’t dare call them “dumbbells” ever again) weigh between two and four pounds and as you look around Sanchez’s gym – which he happened to construct himself from the ground up – you’ll see they’re used to build up shoulder strength and stamina as fighters simulate throwing punches.
“Absolutely, that’s the whole idea behind it,” he explained. “In a 12-round fight, you’re going to throw a lot of punches. You’re going to exert yourself a lot. You’ve got to have that longevity with the muscles, so it hopefully doesn’t tire as fast as somebody else could.”
According to Sanchez, “They do three rounds with them and then one round without them and then, at the end of the day, they do sets with it.”
More than any other gym, you see Sanchez’s boxers do more work with these specially hand-crafted weights or shadow-box with their gloves on to finish off their day’s work (with or without sparring). Golovkin certainly seems to be a believer, as you see him warm-up and end his training for the day, he dutifully punches away, carefully checking his form and technique with each punch. As you see his physique, while it’s certainly the one you’d expect of a fighter, he doesn’t have that shredded look of, say, a Tim Bradley but he is especially muscular in his shoulder and back region, along with his wrist and forearm area (more on that later).
Golovkin is a naturally heavy-handed puncher and they say those are born, not made. But Sanchez is convinced this constant drilling and habit-forming exercise can enhance anyone’s power. “Absolutely. Since I’ve opened this gym, I’ve had 102 fights my fighters have fought, fighters that I actually train. We’ve had 89 knockouts out of those 102 fights.”
Why Sanchez – who, in the past, has trained the likes of the Norris brothers (Terry and Orlin) and Miguel Angel Gonzalez – doesn’t call them dumbbells is because he has specifically crafted this apparatus to not have a weighted side. The actual weight is designed to be on the thumb side of the boxer.
“This is from watching videos of some of the 1920s and 1930s fighters. They used to use bowling pins and the fact that the bowling pin made you turn your wrists and strengthen your wrist and strengthen your shoulders. I came up with that idea. Like I said, 30 years ago, and we’ve used it very effectively since then,” said Sanchez.
“By having the weighted side near the thumbs, it creates an imbalance which causes you to naturally turn over your punches. Educating the muscles, as they say in golf,” explained the trainer.
There is no one who goes through this daily routine more dutifully than Golovkin. As you see him execute this stage of his training, you notice he is particularly mindful of making sure he is stepping into each punch with proper balance, It’s even more noticeable when throwing certain punches, standing in that posture for a few seconds to make sure he has locked his shoulders in such a way to maximize his power and leverage.
In many ways, Golovkin sets the tempo not only for his training but for everyone else around him.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed that I have a professional that I work with,” says Sanchez, who says he feels like a jockey blessed to ride Secretariat. “He sets the tone here. He’s the reason why all the guys work as hard as they do here.”
And if they don’t do it his way, well, it’s the long, winding road down the hill of Big Bear – and then eventually the highway.
“I run the show here,” states Sanchez, who isn’t hesitant to let boxers go if they simply don’t live up to certain standards or have the requisite work ethic he demands. “They don’t like the way I do it here, they can go somewhere else because when they fight – win, lose or draw – when they win, they win by themselves. When they lose, the coach is no good. So it’s either my way or they can take a hike.”
One thing that has always struck me about Golovkin is how strong and muscular he is from his wrists to his forearms. There is no group of fighters that I’ve seen focus on this area more than “GGG” and other fighters in the Sanchez stable.
In this particular session, as he was winding up his day’s work, Golovkin showed me one of his drills. He placed a kettle bell (weighing 16 KG) and he had me grab it by the handle and try and flip it over. I have sexy wrists if I say so myself but they are rather dainty and I couldn’t budge it. Literally, I couldn’t move it a centimeter. It was rather humbling experience that a guy who’s about 40 pounds lighter than me could move that thing around like it was an Atari joystick (and yeah, I know; I’m dating myself).
But yeah, Golovkin seems to have unusual strength in this region and it seems to be a key component in his punching power.
Here’s the latest edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly.
Mario Lopez and I preview Golovkin-Lemieux and, more importantly, Derek Fisher-Matt Barnes on this week’s “The 3 Knockdown Rule” podcast here…
…and you can download it here.
So who did you have winning on Tuesday night, Amir Mansour or Gerald Washington?…Joel Diaz likes what he’s getting from Ruslan Provodnikov early on…The Lamar Odom situation is sad in every way. Here’s hoping he pulls through…So is Clayton Kershaw not a playoff choker now?…I enjoyed the “30 for 30: Trojan War” but it felt incomplete without Reggie Bush. Again, it’s like doing a documentary on Public Enemy and not featuring Chuck D…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.