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How Boxer Muhammad Ali Got His Physique

Cassius Clay didn't always float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Find out what boxing exercises the Greatest used to get his incredible physique.

Being a great fighter requires neither a fancy gym nor state-of-the-art equipment. It does, however, take a set of cast-iron balls—something Muhammad Ali had from his career’s opening bell. “He was the first guy in the gym, and the last to leave,” said Angelo Dundee, Ali’s longtime trainer, who died in February, shortly after we interviewed him. In the gym, Ali avoided lifting weights. “My belief is that a fighter’s muscles can’t bulk up,” Dundee said. “There can’t be any restrictions to their punches. I ain’t got nothing against weights. A lot of guys use weights, and they do well with them, but he didn’t.”

Ali’s best weapon, however, was his agility in the ring. He slipped punches as well as anyone in history, dazzling onlookers with his fancy footwork. “He loved to run,” Dundee said. “A lot of times, he couldn’t get a ride from Miami to 5th Street Gym, so he would run from his apartment and then run back. I’d say it’s about seven miles.” All this helped Ali go from 182 pounds to 212 pounds of lean muscle—becoming “The Greatest of All Time.”

Dundee would probably agree: “He was just a very special human being.”

Ali's 5th Street Gym Workout

  • Stretching Table Sit-ups: legs straight up and down
  • Stretching Table Sit-ups: legs slightly raised
  • Reverse Bicycle Crunch
  • Jump Rope: side-to-side and back-and-forth
  • Shadow Boxing in mirror for rounds

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