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Muhammad Ali's Physical Fitness & Nutrition

author image Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.
Muhammad Ali's Physical Fitness & Nutrition
Many fighters get in the ring using Muhummad Ali as their inspiration. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Muhummad Ali was one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. By the time Ali's career was over, he ranked with Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano at the top of the heavyweight class. Ali was known for his hand and foot speed. He was also a surprisingly powerful puncher. He was a hard worker in training camp and used diet and exercise to get in top condition.


Ali was a dedicated runner when he was in training camp. He was interested in building stamina because in the era that Ali fought professionally --1960 through 1981 -- heavyweight title fights often went 15 rounds. The only way to last in those fights was to do the running needed to build endurance. Ali would wake up early and run at 5:30 a.m. He would normally run six miles per day, six days a week.

Gym Work

Ali worked as hard in the gym as any fighter of his era. A typical Ali workout included 15 minutes of warm-up exercises to work up a good perspiration prior to serious training. Ali would start off with five three-minute rounds of shadow boxing. He would take a 30-second break between rounds. Ali then moved to the heavy bag for six more three-minute rounds. He used the heavy bag to work on his punch combinations and endurance. He would take a 30-second break between rounds. Ali would then do 15 minutes of floor exercises. He would vary his routine, but he did bicycle crunches, sit-ups with a medicine ball and leg raises as his primary exercises. Ali then would put his bag gloves back on and hit the speed bag for nine minutes. He would close out his boxing drills by skipping rope for 20 minutes. Ali would always move while skipping and refused to stay in the same place.


Through the early part of his career, Ali would spar hard. But once he became champion by beating Sonny Liston in 1964, he was not a fan of sparring to get ready. For one, he did not like to beat up his sparring partners and he was more interested in sharpening his defensive skills. Consequently, he took a lot of punches while sparring. Longtime trainer Angelo Dundee often grew exasperated when Ali would take punches while sparring. "Ali never won a decision in the gym," Dundee told the New York Daily News in 1996. "He took shellackings in the gym only because that was the way he wanted to train."


Ali ate healthy foods throughout his career. His breakfasts were always wholesome with eggs, orange juice and toast being the staples. He ate chicken and steak as his main sources of protein. He ate green beans, potatoes and other vegetables to make sure he had the energy for his workouts. He was regularly eating fruit, drinking juice and water throughout the day.

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