Talking Rhames’ Workout

The Workout

You step into the ring. You tell the coach it is your desire to box.

Really, he says.

rhamesThen he invites you to remove your loafers from his canvas. “The approach we took with Ving was the way you train an amateur fighter,” says Darrell Foster (bottom photo, right), coach to Sugar Ray Leonard since the seventies and the owner of Omega Bodies fitness consultancy in Pasadena, California. “We didn’t want Ving to feel entitled to get in the ring from day one.”

Leonard and Foster’s training prescription is one you can put into practice, too, even if you don’t have a professional fight coach and aren’t starting with the 221 pounds of regularly flexed human steel that Rhames brought to the deal. Any or all of the parts of Rhames’s workout can help you, whether you actually go to a boxing gym or hang a bag from the basement ceiling. It’s about strength, endurance, agility, and hand-eye coordination, all of which are equally useful, whether your plan actually involves boxing or ballet: (which, come to think of it, aren’t as different as you might think, except for the clothes).

For starters, a diet low in sugar and heavy on protein and complex carbohydrates for energy (brown rice, baked potatoes, pastas), a morning run of three to five miles three times a week, and some stretching exercises.

Then, the gym.

1. FIFTEEN MINUTES: Shadowbox in a defined space before a mirror, keeping your dukes in a protective position in front of your pretty mug. Move around the “ring”; shuffling without ever crossing your feet preserves balance. Loosen up and breathe. Fill up all four corners of the space. Foster calls this developing “ring generalship”: “You assume a certain presence about your house,” he says. “It’s yours. That’s the way we wanted Ving’s attitude to be about his opponent or anybody stepping into his home: You don’t belong here.”

2. FIFTEEN MINUTES: Into the ring. With a partner. He wears mitts; you wear eighteen-ounce gloves (which will make your punches feel like lightning when you’re wearing the regulation ten-ouncers of an actual fight). Work through combination punches, jabs, hooks, and slipping your head down after you punch in preparation for the other guy’s retaliation. (If you watch the Classic Sports Network, you probably are more able to do this than you think:.) You’re aiming your fists and practicing your footwork and balance, but you’re also now aware of someone on your turf, someone who needs to be dominated. You’re working highly repetitive exercises; as Foster says, “A professional fighter, when he gets in trouble in the ring, his body, pretty much out of instinct, reverts back to how it was trained.”

3. FIFTEEN MINUTES: TO the heavy bag for five minutes; you throw the punches you were throwing at your trainer, only at full strength, Develops your power. Then to the double-end bag–a slippery apparatus suspended between floor and ceiling with rope and spring, kind of like a gigantic paddle ball–for hand-eye coordination and timing, Ditto for the speed bag, which develops rhythm.

4. FIVE MINUTES: Jump rope; this builds hand-foot coordination and the sense of being light on the feet. It’s also one of the best aerobic exercises you can do.

5. TEN MINUTES: Abdominal exercises. A brutal-looking series of one-arm push-ups in which the body faces sideways, not downward, and scissors itself up and down. Also, the classic ten-pound medicine ball to the gut; develops abdominal muscles so they can take a punch. Sage counsel of Sugar Ray: “When you’re not trained to take punches, man, it hurts like shit..” Then home to the hot tub. Any questions, Rhames says, “call Darrell, and for a small fee …”

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  1. Paulie


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