Kristian Blacklock is a world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. He has worked with multiple British, European and World champions including WBA and Ring magazine super middleweight champion Callum Smith and former WBO super welterweight champion Liam Smith.
However, Blacklock’s biggest client is the Gypsy King. He is regarded as the greatest heavyweight fighter of his generation and holds the WBC heavyweight title – having overcome Deontay Wilder in 2020 to get his hands on the belt.
Fury demolished Wilder inside seven rounds to become the second heavyweight boxer in history to win all four major titles including WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO. The only other boxer to achieve the same feat was Riddick Bowe.
Fury – who toyed with the idea of retiring from professional boxing – returned to the ring on October 9, 2021 to defend his WBC title against Wilder. He knocked the Bronze Bomber out in the penultimate round despite being dropped twice during the fight.
The Gypsy King will return to the ring later this year but his opponent remains unknown. Boxing fans are hoping he will face Usyk but Anthony Joshua and Daniel Dubois are names that have been mentioned if a bout with the Ukrainian fails to materialise.
So, with his return to the ring imminent, I decided to catch up with Fury’s S&C coach to see what goes on behind the scenes during a training camp. Something I later regretted when Blacklock put me through my paces in the gym.
Sportsmail’s Charlotte Daly (L) sat down with Tyson Fury’s S&C coach Kristian Blacklock (R)
Blacklock joined forces with Fury in 2015 ahead of his fight with Wladimir Klitschko and is now the longest serving member of the Gypsy King’s team, helping him claim all four major titles
I arrived at Blacklock’s gym in Ormskirk around midday on Wednesday afternoon. I had no idea what I was in for but I was brimming with excitement and nervous energy as I made my way through the doors at Conquer Fitness.
I was immediately taken back by the mural of the Gypsy King smashing Deontay Wilder on the back wall. I was told a Liverpool-based artist called John Culshaw painted the image and that Fury was actually speechless when he first saw it.
The Gypsy King was so impressed with Culshaw’s work he actually commissioned a piece for his own gym in Morecambe. Blacklock said Fury asked Culshaw to recreate the exact same mural at his own gym and that the Gypsy King posted it on social media saying: ‘BOOM! HAVE THAT, WILDER!’.
So, there was something pretty cool about working out in front of Fury’s iconic mural. Although, I can’t say I looked at it much as I was too busy focusing on staying upright during our grueling session.
Blacklock kicked things off with a low intensity warm-up. And, it turns out me and Tyson Fury have a lot more in common than I thought. We both hate warming up. Yep, that’s about it.
Otherwise, he’s a 6ft 7in heavyweight boxer that could finish someone off with one punch and I am a 5ft 5in sports journalist that likes to play hockey in her free time.
Blacklock says that Fury (left) used to be a nightmare when it came to warming up in the gym
Blacklock then put me through the same glute activation warm up that Fury does in the gym
Speaking to Sportsmail during the workout, Blacklock said: ‘Tyson used to be nightmare when it came to warming up. Tyson used to turn up and expect to train. When I started working with him in 2015 he said he had never warmed up properly before. He didn’t warm up at all. ‘
Blacklock went on to discuss how that was normal for boxers back in the day. He said: ‘A lot of boxers in the past didn’t. They would do a bit of shadow boxing and away they would go.’
However, Blacklock has changed Fury’s perception of warm-ups, claiming the Gypsy King knows exactly what is expected of him now. Blacklock explained how he ‘throws the bands at Fury’ when he enters the gym and the 34-year-old cracks on with his glute activations.
So, with that in mind, Blacklock handed me a band and asked me to complete two different exercises as we chatted about the Gypsy King’s career to date.
Speed work is a fundamental part of Fury’s training camp. These sessions help develop the quick reflexes he needs to be successful in the ring. However, Blacklock admitted they aren’t the Gypsy King’s most enjoyable sessions.
Fury gets the majority of his conditioning from sparring but the Gypsy King undergoes two weeks of fitness based drills at the start of camp before he’s allowed to pick up a pair of gloves.
Blacklock said how Fury used to shadow box and hit the pads thinking that was his warm up
However, Blacklock took me through a series of dynamic stretches and leg swings to get going
Those fitness based drills are centered around interval training. But what does that consist of? Well, interval training sees an athlete workout out for a set period of time followed by a set period of rest. This process is repeated several times and helps build endurance and speed.
Fury also works on his cardiovascular system during camp to ensure he has enough in the tank to go the distance in the ring. Blacklock explained how the Gypsy King would usually go for a long distance run once a week to keep himself ticking over.
Weight training has become an integral part of Fury’s training camp. It’s proven to help fighters become faster, stronger and more competitive in their bouts. Therefore, Fury undergoes two strength-based sessions a week during camp.
Weight training can also make a boxer less susceptible to injury as their sessions in the gym help strengthen their muscles, bones and ligaments – which is clearly working for Fury as he’s hardly ever injured.
Fury (left) undergoes two strength-based sessions a week during camp and then works on his boxing technique with his coach SugarHill Steward (right), who joined his team back in 2019
The Gypsy King is known for being top heavy – which comes as no surprise considering upper body and core strength are a key attributes for producing devastating knock outs in the ring
Blacklock explained how Fury completes ‘full-body’ sessions while in camp. This targets all of his muscles in one session and limits the amount of time he has to spend in the gym.
Speaking about his training split, Blacklock said: ‘Most of the fighters, we tend to get about two days a week in the gym. So, for that, I want to do full body. If we get three or four days in the gym we start splitting it up.’
When asked how long Fury’s session typically last, he said: ‘If you factor in warm-ups, cool-downs and stretching, you’re probably looking at an hour and a half. Maximum. I don’t see any point in doing longer than that.
‘Once you get over a certain amount of training, I think it just become pointless. Boxing is 36 minutes for a start so it’s not a full-on endurance sport in the way that a marathon is.
‘They are stopping every three minutes for a minute rest. It’s only the top fights that are 36 minutes as well. Others are six, eight or 10 round fights. So going out for an hour long run is pointless.’
Blacklock works on Fury’s punch power in the gym. One of the key exercises Fury does is the ‘land mine press’ (above). This engages the core, works the legs and develops explosive power
Blacklock also took me through several banded exercises to work on the power in my jabs
Blacklock also spoke about how he incorporates explosive press-ups into Fury’s programme
Fury is known for being top heavy – which comes as no surprise considering upper body and core strength are a key attributes for producing devastating knock outs in the ring.
Blacklock works tirelessly to help improve Fury’s punch power in the gym. One of the key exercises Fury does is the ‘land mine press’. This movement engages the core, works the legs and develops explosive punching power.
Speaking about the movement, Blacklock said: There are a couple of variations you can do. You have the initial jab which you will do with both arms. Then you have the cross. Them we will do a banded version as well. It’s just like a jab. You start with the bar close to your shoulder and from there you punch and throw your hip into it.’
Blacklock went on to explain how much weight Fury would shift when executing this exercise. He said: Tyson will usually do it with weights or bands but it depends on where we are and what we are trying to do.
‘Usually we would go thicker bands and quite heavy on the weight. It also depends on the angle. Tyson is tall so his angle is more like there [and points higher up]. Whereas we are there [and points lower]. It’s actually harder for us so he has to go even heavier to feel it more.
‘I don’t like to go too heavy on it though as you need to have a bit of snap on it. So, sometimes I will put 60kilos on it and other times I might only put 20kilos on it but ask for more speed. Closer to a fight I don’t want it to be heavy, I want it to be really explosive.’
Blacklock then also revealed how Bulgarian split squats (pictured) are Fury’s favourite exercise
He said the Gypsy King swears by the movement and that he is constantly working on them
Blacklock also spoke about how he incorporates explosive press-ups into Fury’s programme. Despite being my worst nightmare, these are something the Gypsy King enjoys.
These press-ups work his chest, shoulders, and triceps – which are all vital to throwing power punches. They also improve the heavyweights endurance – meaning throw 150+ punches a round.
Despite looking top heavy, Blacklock said Fury has some of the strongest legs in the game. He said the Gypsy King has particularly powerful quads but joked they are always covered up.
Blacklock also explained how leg strength can influence punching power, with the most experienced and high-level boxers having greater contributions from their lower body when punching.
The S&C coach said: ‘Everyone looks at Tyson and doesn’t think he has strong legs. I think it’s because he has such long legs. But, he does loads of leg sessions. His legs are really strong and his quads are big but people just see the massive long legs.’
So, with the above in mind, Blacklock set me up to complete some trap-bar deadlifts. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he made me superset them with squat jumps. It’s safe to say my legs were on fire afterwards.
But why did he choose trap-bar deadlifts over conventional deadlifting? Well, trap-bar deadlifts allow greater peak power and velocity when lifting the same load as the conventional deadlift.
So, in layman’s terms, it means you can lift more weight with the trap-bar than you can with a traditional barbell. Plus, you can put a little extra oomph into your lift without adding additional stress to your lower back.
He ended day with a core session, claiming it’s one of the most crucial things to train in boxing
When asked how much Fury can deadlift, Blacklock said: ‘Joseph Parker can actually deadlift more than Tyson. If you look at their physiques, Tyson’s not got the best physique for deadlifting.
‘He’s got really long legs. But Tyson can deadlift around 220kg. That’s proper deadlifts though. All the way to the floor and with a proper Olympic bar. This is a little bit higher and a little bit easier.
‘For his length of leg to be able to do that is actually really impressive. Joe can actually lift a little bit more. Joe can actually lift 240/250kg. But, Joe is about five inches shorter so it’s a lot easier for him.’
Blacklock also revealed how Bulgarian split squats are Fury’s favourite exercise. He said the Gypsy King swears by the movement and insists strong legs make a ‘massive difference in the ring’. So, I guess I had to try them!
Bulgarian split squats force you to train one leg at a time. They engage your core, work your legs and improve your balance. Therefore, they help the likes of Fury move more explosively around the ring.
Speaking about Fury’s love of lunges, Blacklock said: ‘Tyson swears by lunges. He gets a lot of sparring partners coming in, good young pros, and they often join in with the S&C. They hear Tyson swearing by lunges. He says when you have strong legs in the ring it makes a massive difference.’
Blacklock finished the day off with a core session – claiming a boxer’s core is one of the most important things to train. So, we completed two ab role out variations.
It’s safe to say I was feeling it the next day. To be honest I still can’t sit up without grimacing! But, it was interesting to get an insight into how a heavyweight boxer works out.
Fury is expected to return to the ring later this year. Fans had hoped he would face Oleksandr Usyk but negotiations for a unified clash crumbled. Fury has now been linked with both Daniel Dubois and Anthony Joshua.