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December 18, 2022
The heavyweight champion of the world is often considered the "baddest man on the planet." No one embodied that more than Mike Tyson in his prime. Between his explosive knockouts, menacing stare, and jacked physique, few athletes in history were as intimidating as Iron Mike in the ring.
Mike's legendary workouts are possibly as impressive as his championship reign. It's no secret you have to be in great shape to be a successful boxer. Even a few rounds of hitting a heavy bag is enough of a challenge to be a great workout. It's why boxing boot camps are so popular.
But what if you want to take it further and emulate the training required to step into the ring? Incorporating a boxing legend's training and nutrition habits is a great place to start. Working out and eating like Mike Tyson won't guarantee a championship belt, but it will help you get into the best shape of your life.
In this article, we will discuss:
Mike Tyson is a retired boxer who was the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, winning the belt at 20. Although it's hard to compare athletes from different generations, Tyson is one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30th, 1966. Mike's professional career started in 1985 and continued until 2005.
After retiring from the sport, Mike performed a one-person show called "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth." He went on a 36-city national tour, discussing his personal and professional life. The show aired on HBO.
Currently, Mike has a podcast called Hotboxin with Mike Tyson.
Mike started boxing at thirteen years old. It all began when he was at a juvenile detention center, and Muhammed Ali came to talk to the troubled boys. After meeting Ali and seeing how everyone acted around him, Mike wanted to be a professional fighter.
While at the detention center, Mike met a boxer named Bobby Stewart, who eventually introduced him to legendary trainer Cus D'Amato.
From there, the rest was history. D'Amato took Mike under his wing and trained him during his teenage years, turning him into the athlete he ultimately became. After Mike's mother died when he was sixteen, D'Amato became his legal guardian.
Mike won his first 19 professional fights by knockout, 12 in the first round. Iron Mike reportedly started his career with 37 straight wins before losing his first fight.
In 1990, Mike was 37-0 and the world's heavyweight champion. Many people felt he was the best heavyweight in the world and the best boxer pound for pound. He was dominant in the ring and seemed untouchable.
However, in his 38th professional fight, Mike lost to a massive underdog, Buster Douglas. Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas is still one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Tyson was a 42-1 betting favorite.
Mike regained the WBA and WBC world titles before losing them to Evander Holyfield. After getting beat by Holyfield in 1996, they fought again in a highly anticipated rematch in 1997. During the rematch, Mike got disqualified for infamously biting Holyfield's ear.
He fought sporadically for another decade and lost in his only other fight for a title against Lennox Lewis in 2002. After dropping a couple of bouts to journeyman fighters, he retired from boxing in 2005.
In 2020, at 56 years old, he participated in a comeback fight against fellow boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. The fight with Jones ended in a draw, although many people feel Mike won.
At his peak, the Mike Tyson workout routine was as intense as his demeanor in the ring. During fight prep, his workout split would involve training 50-60 hours per week. The life of a professional athlete is a never-ending cycle of training, eating, resting, and repeating, and the Mike Tyson workout routine followed that cycle to a T.
You need to be disciplined to be a champion. As Mike famously said, "discipline is doing what you hate to do but doing it like you love it."
Here's a look at what a Mike Tyson daily workout would have looked like.
Mike’s days started before the sun came up at 4:00 am for a morning run. According to Mike, he wanted to get up early to gain a psychological edge over his opponents. Once you win the morning, you win the day.
Before performing his LISS cardio, Mike would go through a series of stretches to work on flexibility.
After he got back from his run, he would go back to sleep for a bit before waking up and eating breakfast. The key to an early wake-up is ensuring you still emphasize the importance of sleep. With the amount of training Mike did, he needed all the rest he could get.
After breakfast, Mike had the most critical training session of the day. As a boxer, getting quality sparring rounds, boxing exercises, and ring work in is paramount, which is why these were included in his first daily boxing session.
Following the sparring, he would do a little mitt and pad work, focusing on a specific technique.
One unique aspect of Mike’s boxing training was the emphasis on a piece of training equipment called a slip bag. The purpose of the slip bag is to get a fighter in the habit of moving his head correctly.
Being elusive is a critical component of fighting. The slip bag was perfect for Mike’s style. Finally, he would finish the boxing workout with some calisthenics exercises.
After a high protein lunch, Mike would be back in the gym for another boxing session. The second boxing workout of the day focused primarily on skill training.
However, he finished the workout with twenty to thirty minutes of intense jump rope work and more calisthenics. Jumping rope is a staple exercise for boxers.
To develop punching power, Mike used an unusually heavy bag during his teenage year to perform his bag work.
Before dinner would come the Mike Tyson calisthenics workout. One of the craziest parts of his training was his Mike Tyson bodyweight workout, in which he would do an insane amount of bodyweight exercises six days per week.
He would do 2,000 air squats, 2,500 sit-ups, 500 push-ups, 500 bench dips, 500 neck curls, 500 barbell shrugs, and ten minutes of wrestler bridges. Most of the time, he would split this up over ten sets and complete it throughout the day.
That said, most of the bodyweight work got done during his Mike Tyson calisthenics routine, which targeted muscle growth in all of the main muscle groups, even including neck exercises.
Yes, you read that correctly. Mike did 2,000 air squats and 2,500 sit-ups six days per week. Once the ten rounds were complete, he would do ten minutes of wrestler-style bridges for extra neck work. In his prime, Mike had a massive 20-inch neck, enabling him to absorb punches better.
Later in Mike's career, this time slot would be where he met with a strength coach and lifted weights.
After dinner, Mike would end his day with a light cardio session on the exercise bike. The last cardio session of the day was a low impact workout and acted as a cool-down or active recovery from the day's training. He would occasionally also jump in a hot tub.
After getting off the exercise bike, he would wind down before bed by watching old fights. Mike was a student of boxing.
While in prison, after being convicted of sexual assault in 1992, Tyson invented the Mike Tyson squat workout, using a deck of cards to help him train his lower body. The best part about the Mike Tyson prison workout is it can be done anywhere. All you need is a deck of cards (or something similar) to complete this leg workout.
The prison squat workout involves spreading 10 cards on the ground in a line. Your goal is to get to the end of the card line, but the only way to do this is by squatting to set down and pick up each card you're holding along the way.
As you work through your card line, each time you move to a new card on the ground, you have to first squat down to individually set each card you're holding on top of the one you'll eventually be picking up. This means if you're holding three cards, you'll have to squat three times to set each of these cards down on the fourth card. Then, in order to pick up the card pile and move to the next, you'll have to squat down four times to pick up the four cards.
As you move closer to the end of your card line, it requires more squats as you must set down each card you're holding individually (via squatting), and then re-pick up each card one squat at a time, before moving further down your card line.
By the time Mike finished his squat workout, he had done 100 air squats. Mike would do this complete sequence three times. When you compare this to a normal gym routine, there's no denying this equally extreme workout routine for legs is just as tough!
How to Perform the Prison Squat Workout:
At the height of Tyson's career, it was rare for boxers to lift weights. There was a misconception that lifting weights and building muscle would cause you to become slow and clumsy. Remember, although his trainer Cus D'Amato was a legend, he was old school.
However, when he was in prison, he started incorporating weight training into his Mike Tyson workout routine.
Returning to boxing after his incarceration, he maintained his lifting routine. In 1995, strength and conditioning information was becoming more available.
At this time, it was becoming much more popular for boxers to incorporate weight training for muscle hypertrophy and even hire dedicated strength coaches.
Before getting into his lifting routine, a brief disclaimer: In general, there needs to be more information on Tyson’s weightlifting routine. But from interviews and highlight videos, it looks like he stuck to the basics, following a simple upper and lower body routine.
Here is a rundown of what Mike Tyson workouts focused on weightlifting might have been.
Here are some of the “secrets” Mike Tyson followed to become one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time.
The Mike Tyson diet is a lot like his workout routines, basic but effective.
Before we get into his diet, there are a couple of things to remember. For one, Mike was a big dude with a crazy high workload.
He weighed around 220 pounds and trained 50-60 hours per week. Although his diet seems like a lot of food, he would still lose weight, about15-20 pounds, during his fight camp while following this diet.
The outlined meal plan is strict, but when Mike wasn’t preparing for a fight, he would throw in some big bowls of cereal for breakfast and ice cream for dessert. Mike was disciplined, but he was still human.
Mike's first meal was a light breakfast after his morning cardio. As you will notice, this meal was primarily carbohydrates. He saved the majority of his protein for later in the day.
The small size of this meal worked well because he jumped into a training session soon after finishing his oatmeal. Looking for some additional pre-workout eating inspiration? Check out these ideas for foods to eat before a workout!
Nutrition Breakdown: 20g of protein, 91g of carbohydrates, and 11g of fat [543 calories]
After his mid-morning boxing session, he'd come home for his second meal of the day. Mike’s lunch was a large meal with high protein and over one thousand calories. Twelve ounces of high protein low fat foods like chicken breast is no joke, and neither is the pile of rice he'd consume.
He didn't eat many vegetables, so orange juice provided some micronutrients in addition to carbohydrates.
Nutrition Breakdown:120g of protein, 115g of carbohydrates, and 10g of fat [1030 calories]
Mike would have a protein shake and multiple bananas in the late afternoon. Having a shake between training sessions was an easy way to get in a ton of fast-digesting protein. Mike was a big fan of bananas. He would sometimes eat up to six per day.
Nutrition Breakdown: 66g of protein, 88g of carbohydrates, and 16g of fat [760 calories]
The last meal of the day was dense, with over 1,300 calories. For dinner, Mike typically opted for a big steak and a bowl of pasta. With all his hard training done for the day, having this meal be the largest of the day worked out well.
After a long day of training, this high-calorie meal helped boost muscle recovery and prepare him for the next training day.
Nutrition Breakdown: 102g of protein, 160g of carbohydrates, and 35g of fat [1363 calories]
The daily calorie and macronutrient breakdown for this sample day is a whopping 308g of protein, 454g of carbohydrates, 72g of fat, and 3,696 calories.
At 220lbs, 308g of protein is 1.4g per pound of body weight and 33% of his daily calories. The 454g of carbohydrates is 49% of daily calories, and 72g of fat is 18% of daily calories.
Mike Tyson's training routine is much more than most people have time to do (it was more than a full-time job!). But we can still follow a similar program style and see great results.
If you are an average lifter who wants to train like Mike, here is what a typical week could look like. Focus on morning cardio 6 days a week and three weekly lifting sessions: one calisthenics, one upper body, and one lower body training session.
You don't have to wake up before the sun comes up for a 3-5 mile run, but do get in some cardio shortly before your first meal of the day, ideally five or six days per week.
Twenty to thirty minutes on a treadmill, elliptical, or recumbent bike, or jumping rope will work. Prioritizing cardio will be great for your cardiovascular endurance.
For the first workout of the week, trade in the weights for an intense bodyweight circuit.
Start with a warm-up of jumping rope for 5-10 minutes, and then perform this bodyweight workout, 10 rounds as fast as possible.
Repeat 10 times.
The second workout of the week is an upper body routine.
Finish the workout with 15-20 minutes of hitting a heavy bag.
Finish the Mike Tyson leg workout with 15-20 minutes of active recovery on an exercise bike.
To eat like Mike Tyson, follow these basic nutrition principles. And remember, Mike Tyson's training routine is only half the battle. If your nutrition isn't where it should be, you're not going to see nearly as much progress.
As expected, Mike Tyson's workout routine is as intense as he is. Excelling in any sport, let alone a sport as physically demanding as boxing, takes a lot of hard training. Optimizing training and nutrition is a full-time job at the highest levels.
You don't become one of the best boxers in history by accident. Fortunately, we can get in phenomenal shape simply by emulating a fraction of Mike Tyson's routine.
The best part about following a boxing training routine similar to the Mike Tyson training routine is you can look the part without trading punches.
Unless, of course, you want to.
Author: Kyle Hunt, Hunt Fitness
Interested in more athlete training programs? Check out the Lebron James Workout Routine & Diet!
Images courtesy of Mike Tyson's Instagram
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