Interview With a Strength and Conditioning Wizard
By Liz Quevedo Parr
Amateur boxing great Liz Quevedo Parr recently interviewed her husband Yas Parr on the merits of modern conditioning techniques versus old school methods in the world of prizefighting.
Yas Parr is originally from England and learned his profession in a combination of schools in England, Ireland, Wales, and the US.
He began working in health and fitness in 1996 and then concentrated on athletes from 2005 onwards and is continuously learning.
Q) Why did you choose this profession?
A) I chose this profession because I always had an interest in health, fitness and performance. After trying to go down other career paths that I had no interest in I figured that it is always much easier to learn a subject that you genuinely enjoy and have a serious interest in.
Here is what Yas Parr said on a Q and A:
Q: What is a strength and conditioning coach?
A: A S&C coach is a person whose job it is to make a person stronger and faster. A knowledgeable guy or girl can train an athlete regardless of their sport to be much more powerful and gain a massive advantage over an opponent that doesn't have access to this type of training. S&C coaches will gain knowledge from lots of different sources including school, traveling the world doing internships and taking seminars from the best coaches in the business (such as world renowned Charles Poliquin). These days though, it seems that anyone that has a personal trainer certification or an interest in fitness likes to think they can do the same line of work as a real S&C coach. A good S&C coach knows
exactly what muscle fibers, movement patterns, and energy systems are being used in any sport by looking at the sport.
Q: Wow, okay. So have you seen boxers train?
A: Yeah of course, and years ago I did Thai boxing so I know what kind of old school training some sports include. I had a couple of pro fights if you can call them that, but at 30 pounds (less than $50 dollars) a fight you don’t get much.
Q: Seeing as though you’ve fought and trained before, how far would you say boxing is behind when it comes to strength and conditioning?
A: That's difficult to say. At the moment I would say decades. The thing is while everyone is doing the same old fashioned stuff, then nobody can progress. Very few fighters have started to use them but as soon as someone uses a good S&C coach then everyone else will have to follow because the difference in an individual’s strength and speed would be unbelievable. There are fighters in MMA using good S&C coaches that are almost unstoppable like George Saint Pierre.
Q: So what’s wrong with what some boxers do that you've seen? Or what your old trainers made you do?
A: Well the general idea is that if something is difficult or tiring, then it must be beneficial. Most boxers do stuff that has absolutely no transference to boxing and actually makes them slower and weaker. Having someone do crazy stuff like shadow boxing while holding weights and running in a sweat suit looks good to the average guy on the street but to the trained eye it looks quite silly.
Q: Yas, how many different sports have you worked with?
A: I’ve worked with good young athletes in the UK, lots of champions from rugby to table tennis. I was at an Academy of Sports Excellence in Wales (UK) learning from a very knowledgeable coach called Ian Jeffreys. I’ve also done some work in Mexico and in the Middle East before moving to the U.S. in 2007. After three years in L.A. I moved to Connecticut and am currently working with different athletes, mostly from hockey and lacrosse.
Q) What are some of the misconceptions of conditioning and diet?
A) Misconceptions of conditioning and diet are: Anybody with a little knowledge can condition someone to be better at a sport. That diet is not as important as training and that you can eat junk and still be at the top of your game. That supplements are an expensive luxury. That if the training is difficult then it must be good. That lifting weights will make you slower. That you need high starch carbs like pasta for energy.
Q) Can a person over train?
A) A person can over train but it is more of a case of under recovery, there are many things such as good post-workout nutrition that can make a massive difference. When conditioning an athlete the athlete is taken to a point where they are just about to become over trained and then you cut back. When training my wife sometimes I would purposely over train her (some would call this over reaching) for a couple of weeks and then follow this with more conventional training which would result in `Super Compensation` when we cut back. There is a very applicable saying “fatigue masks fitness” which is also why there is a taper week before competition.
Q) Also, you pointed out that in boxing people are doing the same things over and over. What are those things?
A) Because boxing is so old school then the same old fitness training continues to be done. I have seen some more up-to-date things being done like sledge hammer work but if you are just adding something new to the same old workouts like 10 mile runs and swimming then you are wasting your time. Other things such as wearing a sweat suit to lose fat and shadow boxing holding weights are also exercises that should be a thing of the past, while a sweat suit might enable you to weigh less on the scales due to dehydration it will do nothing for fat loss. Shadow boxing while holding weights will develop a faulty recruitment pattern and so make the punches slower.
Q) What are some new things that should be instilled in boxing training?
A) People that condition boxers need to look at and be aware of the energy systems that a fighter uses, also the muscle fibers that are used, movement patterns etc. Also how to manipulate variables such as ‘time under tension’, ‘rest periods’, ‘intensity’, ‘volume’, and ‘frequency’. They need to understand that adding muscle if done correctly will not make the fighter ‘muscle bound’ and slower and also that there is a big difference between training the nervous system and training the muscular system.
Q) Is all running good?
A) Some people would say “is any running good?” The ring is only ‘so’ big, so why run when there are a million other things that can be done that will soon have a fighter drenched in sweat and gasping for air? Personally I would run a fighter, mainly to keep them happy but even so I would have them doing intervals rather than the long steady paced jogs that are traditional. Yes a fighter needs endurance but it’s anaerobic endurance not aerobic, the fighter needs to be powerful time and time again. Training for anaerobic capacity by doing energy systems training in the form of resistance work or intervals will enable the fighter to also improve his aerobic fitness because he will recover aerobically during the rest periods.
Q) Have you ever trained a famous fighter?
A) No not yet, I’ve been working with other sports but I would like to think that it’s something that I will do at some point.
Q)) What is most important in training a fighter?
A)There are many things that can be taken into account and improved. Things already mentioned like how to manipulate the training variables, training the correct energy system, training the correct strength quality (type of strength). Using periodization (method of varying volume, intensity, and exercises for optimal training progress) for a set amount of time e.g. 1 month, 12 weeks, 1 year etc. Supplementation for optimal health and performance. Other things, basic stuff like position of the body e.g. incline bench press because of the angle transfers to throwing a punch much more than flat bench press.
Q) How important is flexibility?
A) Flexibility is very important but dynamic flexibility (during movement) is much more important than static flexibility (when you are still). Also most people train for flexibility by stretching the muscles which is not so effective when compared to stretching the fascia (the connective tissue below the skin that covers the underlying tissues). There are Fascial Stretch Therapists that work with many athletes.
Q) Is heavy weight training good?
Heavy weight training is good, it is essential if you want to be strong and fast. I’m not talking about body builder heavy weight training I’m talking power athlete heavy weight training which is heavier in relation to the percentage of someone’s 1RM (the maximal weight that someone can lift correctly once). The closer you get to your maximum the more the nervous system is worked instead of the muscular system. 85%+ 1RM will achieve relative strength so there will be no change in appearance only strength and speed, 1-5 reps at this high intensity will work the fast twitch type IIb muscle fibers which are the fibers responsible for producing powerful bursts of speed. Other intensities can be used to change a fighter’s appearance and weight, this is the intensity range used for body building but thing’s like speed of contraction would be different. Or a combination of the two (functional strength/hypertrophy) which would still be heavier than the heavy weight training intensities used for body building and would use the fast twitch type IIa fibers.
Q) Can sex hurt a fighter before a fight?
A) FSN Sports Science put this to the test a couple of times, once with heavyweight boxer Chris Byrd and once with my wife Liz Q. both showed an increase in speed, power, and testosterone levels, so I guess the answer to that question is a big NO.
Q) How long should a boxer train?
A) Not including a warm up, training should be no longer than an hour, testosterone levels level drop off after 30-45 minutes and after an hour you stop being anabolic and start being catabolic.
Q) Is there a difference on conditioning between a boxer and an MMA fighter?
A) At lot of it’s the same for example the energy systems and the fact that a lot of stuff wouldn’t transfer to the sport but there are some differences too.
Q) What are the differences?
A) Well, say for example an exercise like dips, this would be a lot more beneficial to an MMA fighter than a boxer the movement pattern would transfer quite well to something like ‘ground and pound.’ Also while training with thick handled bars and attachments is beneficial for everyone it has a big transference to MMA because the fighter has to grab the limbs of the other fighter. Training including isometric contractions (no joint movement) would also be more appropriate to MMA.
Q) What is good food and what is bad food while in training?
A) The most basic advice is stick to the outside isles in the store, all the fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables etc are kept in these areas, and all the crap is in the middle. It’s difficult to give a short straight forward answer without going too much in depth. If you look at the ingredients on a packaged food, if there’s a word you can’t read then don’t eat it.
Also there are many supplements that increase athletic performance, from increased sharpness of the brain to pre-workout stacks for a superior workout, and post-workout nutrition for improved recovery and results.
That concludes our interview with strength and conditioning expert Yas Parr. Anyone interested in contacting Mr. Parr can reach him at (203) 919-4742 or e-mail him at Yasparr@hotmail.com