Category Archives for "Boxing Training"

The articles here are your boxing training fundamentals. They cover both physical and mental boxing technique. These boxing training articles and lessons aim to give you a solid foundation on which to grow. Study, learn, and practice these boxing basics to accelerate your boxing training. Contact Coach Aaron if there is a boxing training fundamental you feel should be included here.

Protecting yourself from boxing injury

Injury Free Boxing Training

Boxing training is extremely rewarding. Hitting something over and over just feels really good - some days even more so than others... But, if you don't take the proper precautions and use proper technique, you risk injuring yourself. An injury will instantly affect your training even if it is a small one. So, before you start swinging - at minimum ensure you've got these four points covered.

Note that I'm only covering training you do by yourself here. If you're sparring, you have more things to consider.

Training the Boxer’s Mind

It is totally possible for you to train like a boxer and end up looking like a boxer - complete with six pack abs, zero fat, and lean muscle - but looking like a boxer and having the fitness level of a boxer will not automatically make you a great fighter.

The really great boxers train their minds as much or more than they train their bodies.

Training the body is the easy part. The human body responds the same way in most people. It will increase in strength, speed, and endurance by training in a specific way. Over time, with consistency, your fitness level improves.

Your mind is not so easy to deal with but it is a crucial part of the total boxing equation.

10 Technique Errors All Boxers Should Watch Out For

Learning how to box on your own has the downside of not having an experienced coach watching you to correct any errors in technique. That is a bit of an annoyance, but you may be surprised to know that even experienced boxers with a coach in their corner will frequently ignore basic principles - especially when boxing against less experienced boxers. They believe they don't have to be as diligent and that because they are stronger than their opponent the deviations will do little harm.

Whether you are a new boxer or an experienced one, bad technique, no matter how small quickly adds up to nagging little habits that are difficult to correct. At some point they become weaknesses that your opponent can exploit (or that you'll have to learn how to compensate for) - so we all need to be able to recognize when something is out of whack and correct it before it becomes an issue.

Here are 10 common errors that you may observe yourself (or others) doing. If you notice it, correct it before it gets out of hand.

The Art of Counter Punching

Let me tell you a story.

There was a beginner boxer who walked into a gym one day.

He was in fairly good shape but by no means the biggest guy in the gym.  Immediately upon entering he noticed this huge muscular boxer working over the heavy bag and instantly thought about turning around and walking out the door.  The idea of getting in the ring with something like that was none too appealing. 

New boxer decided to stay and give the trainer a chance.  The trainer got him working some basics but more intriguing was this huge guy beating the crap out of the heavy bag.  He couldn't take his eyes off him and could not help but wondering if he would ever have to box something like that.  Surely anyone who did would end up dead on the floor.

Distancing and the Boxing Battlefield

Because boxers fight in an enclosed ring and that ring is big enough to allow movement, it is possible for the boxer to increase or decrease the distance between himself and his/her opponent.

Boxing is a constant negotiation over one little piece of terrain.  It is the ground directly between the two boxers who are just outside of each other's reach.  The entire point of a boxing match is to cross that small distance and strike your opponent without being struck yourself.

Because of this, there are three distances in boxing that you need to be aware of and how you behave in each is important.

How to Put on Your Handwraps – Basic Method

Before hitting anything, you must wrap your hands.

This is not an option. Not doing so will result in injury. You will tear open your knuckles and possibly break one of the many little bones in your hands. If you are thinking of forgoing the purchase of hand wraps, give your head a shake. This is one purchase you cannot do without. Once you have them, you have to know how to properly put them on. Below I will detail how to properly wrap your hands for boxing.

You have a few different options for handwraps. At minimum you should get a set of 180" wraps. Some people prefer Mexican style handwraps. They have a bit of elasticity to keep them tighter on your hands, offering better protection. At any rate, you have to purchase some kind of wraps for your hands. If you are thinking about buying the Everlast ones at Canadian Tire, don't. They are super short and don't offer much protection at all. Get yourself a decent set.

Method 1 (Video): How to Wrap Your Hands - Basic Method

Video or pictures, use what works best for you. Follow the pictures (you can thank my beautiful wife for the photography) in the sequences below. Every number corresponds to a description below the sequence. Obviously this sequence is to wrap your left hand. To do your right, simply reverse everything.

Wrapping is a personal thing, some people do it differently. There are a few different methods. This method is the easiest for beginners to do and it works just as good as any of the other methods.

Some people like a tighter wrap or one with the wrap coming between each finger. You and may be better for you if you find this one slipping. Either one will do the trick to wrap your hands for boxing.

Let's Begin

1. One end of your hand wrap will have a thumb loop in it. Put your thumb through the loop as shown. Always keep your fingers spread wide apart or the wrapping job will be too tight in the end and you'll lose circulation in your hands.

2. Bring the wrap down and up behind your wrist.

3. Wrap around your wrist 3 times, finishing with the wrap on the palm side of your wrist pointing toward the floor.

4. Bring the hand wrap up diagonally across the back of your hand as shown.

5. Bring the hand wrap down across your palm and wrap it a minimum of 3 times completely around your knuckles.

6. Flip your hand over so your palm faces away from you and bring the hand wrap diagonally towards your wrist.

7. Wrap once around your wrist finishing with the hand wrap pointing down.

8. Do another half wrap around your wrist so the hand wrap is pointing up with your palm still away from you.

9. Bring the hand wrap diagonally across the back of your hand and put it between your thumb and forefinger. The wrap will kind of roll into a thin strand, this is okay.

10. Flip your hand over so the palm is facing towards you and bring the hand wrap diagonally across your palm towards your wrist.

11. Bring the hand wrap down around your wrist and finish with it pointing up.

12. With your palm still facing towards you, bring the hand wrap diagonally across your palm. Do not wrap it around your hand.

13. With your palm facing you, bring the hand wrap directly across and betwen your thumb and forefinger.

14. Flip your hand over and run the wrap towards your wrist as in the picture above.

15. Wrap the hand wrap once around your wrist finishing with it pointing up.

16. Flip your hand over so palm is facing towards you and bring the wrap down diagonally away from you.

16.1 (forgive my numbering, I screwed up and missed 3 pics, had to insert them in the sequence) Okay, wrap the hand wrap once around your knuckles and finish with it on the palm side diagonally towards you. From here you are basically making a bunch of figure 8's to cover any remaining parts of your hand.

16.2 Flip your hand over so palm is away from you and bring the wrap diagonally towards you across the back of your hand.

16.3 Bring the wrap down and around your wrist, finishing with it pointing up.

17. Bring it diagonally across the back of your hand.

18. Flip your hand over and wrap it around your knuckles again.

19. Bring it around between your thumb and forefinger.

20. Bring down diagonally across your palm towards you.

21. Wrap the wrap around your wrist and put it diagonally away from you across your palm.

22. Wrap around your knuckles again and bring towards you.

23. You'll have to guage how much wrap you have left. If you have lots, continue making figure 8's around your knuckles/wrist until you have just enough left to wrap a couple of times around your wrist and finish it off.

24. Wrap around your wrist and attach the velcro to hold it securely in place. If you find that the velcro is on the wrong side, simply twist the hand wrap so it is right side up and then fasten it. The twist doesn't matter.

And finally, you have a finished product. Now switch hands and do the other one exactly the same way.

Wrapping your hands takes practice and it will be awhile before you get the hang of it. Just keep practicing and you'll get it eventually. Have a good one. You are now ready to smack someone or the heavy bag around. Enjoy.

How to Put on Your Handwraps – Between the Fingers Method

There is more than one way to wrap your hands for boxing.

In addition to this one - the most basic method is good for anyone starting out. It is easy and provides good protection. That said, there is a better method, in my opinion, that offers even better protection and keeps the wraps in place over your knuckles a whole lot better. It takes a little getting used to as you will feel the wrap between your fingers, but the wrap will not slide off your knuckles even after the most rigourous session on the heavy bag.

You have a few different options for handwraps. At minimum you should get a set of 180" wraps. Some people prefer Mexican style handwraps. They are a bit more elastic and are supposed to offer better protection. At any rate, you have to purchase some kind of wrap for your hands. If you are thinking about buying the Everlast ones at Canadian Tire, don't. They are super short and don't offer much protection at all. Get yourself a decent set.

Method 2 (Video): How to Wrap Your Hands - Between the Fingers

Video or pictures, use what works best for you. Follow the pictures in the sequences below. Every number corresponds to a description below the sequence. Obviously this sequence is to wrap your left hand. To do your right, simply reverse everything.

I find that this method is far superior to the basic method when throwing uppercuts on the heavy bag. I've experienced more knuckle scrapes with the basic method and uppercuts than with this method. Overall, it is a tighter, more secure wrap. It's a little harder to master, but once you've got the hang of it, you're good to go.

Let's Begin

1. One end of your hand wrap will have a thumb loop in it. Put your thumb through the loop as shown. Always keep your fingers spread wide apart or the wrapping job will be too tight in the end and you'll lose circulation in your hands. Bring the wrap diagonally towards your shoulder over the back side of your hand.

2. With palm facing away from you, bring the wrap down towards the floor (back side of wrist).

3. Wrap around your wrist and bring wrap up as shown in the picture.

4. Wrap twice more around your wrist for total of 3 wraps finishing with wrap towards the floor.

5. Bring the wrap diagonally across back of your hand towards outside of your pinky finger.

6. Wrap around outside of pinky across the palm side of knuckles with wrap towards the floor. Your palm is still away from you at this point.

7. Bring wrap up and across your knuckles.

8. Wrap around your knuckles, bringing the wrap diagonally across your palm, down towards your body.

9. Keeping the wrap taught, bring the wrap straight across back of your hand between your pinky and ring finger. You'll need to keep your thumb wide open so the wrap doesn't slide off. It will fold a bit between your fingers, this is okay.

10. Once through your fingers, bring it down and straight back towards your body again.

11. Now, take it straight back across back of your hand and pass it through the space between your ring finger and middle finger just like you did the pinky.

12. Once through your fingers, bring it down and straight back towards your body again (across palm of your hand).

13. One more time, bring the wrap straight across back of your hand and pass it through the space between your middle finger and index finger.

14. Once through, bring it down and straight back towards your body again.

15. Bring wrap diagonally across back of your hand towards the outside of your pinky.

16. Lock everything in place by bringing the wrap around your pinky, down towards the floor.

17 Continue locking everything in place by wrapping around your knuckles, finising with wrap pointing up.

18 Wrap around your knuckles again, finish with wrap towards floor.

19 Bring wrap diagonally across back of your hand towards your shoulder, passing it between thumb and index finger.

20. Pass around your wrist and point towards the floor.

21. Wrap around your thumb by bringing the wrap underneath your thumb and away from you.

22. Finish wrapping your thumb by pulling the wrap back towards you and the floor.

23. Bring it straight up across the back of your wrist, finishing upwards.

24. Wrap around your wrist, bringing the wrap straight back down.

25. Flip your hand over so palm is inwards and bring wrap diagonally across it to pass between thumb and index finger.

26. As it passes through rotate your hand so palm is away from you and bring wrap across back of your thumb.

27. Continue in that direction and pull the wrap down, around your wrist, then back towards the ceiling.

28. From there, you're going to do a series of figure 8's to wrap everything in place. So, bring wrap diagonally across back of hand to pass between thumb and index finger again.

29. Wrap once around your knuckles and end with wrap towards the ceiling.

30. Bring it down, around your wrist.

31. Bring wrap back up..

32. Now repeat the figure 8 pattern - passing it through your thumb and index finger.

33. Wrap once around your knuckles and end with wrap towards the ceiling.

34. Bring it down, across your knuckles.

35. Flip your hand so palm is up and bring the wrap diagonally across your palm towards your body.

36. Wrap around your wrist.

37. Wrap the remainder of the wrap around your wrist and attach the velcro to hold it securely in place. If you find that the velcro is on the wrong side, simply twist the hand wrap so it is right side up and then fasten it. The twist doesn't matter.

And finally, you have a finished product. Now switch hands and do the other one exactly the same way.

Like the basic method, wrapping your hands takes practice and it will be awhile before you get the hang of it. Just keep practicing and you'll get it eventually, and when you do, you'll be ready to hit something. Enjoy.

Developing Punching Power

We all want to know how to punch harder.

For a boxer, there is nothing more satisfying than knocking out your opponent - landing the perfect punch that sends him sprawling across the canvas - dropping him instantly as his legs buckle and his body goes limp as he's instantly transported to the land of dreams.

Some boxers are born with a natural ability to punch while others have to work at it, but the good news is that you can learn to punch harder.  And, if you're a slow learner, you'll be happy to know that it doesn't take a lot of power to knock someone out.

I remember the first (and so far only) time I almost got knocked out.  I dropped my right and I got a hard left hook to the head.  I felt something like an electric shock shoot down through my body causing my legs to instantly relax as if I was paralyzed.  I caught myself before I hit the canvas and regained enough control to keep going, but I'll never forget that feeling.

You'll also be happy to know that punching straight out from the chin like a boxer is not a natural thing to do so anyone coming into the sport has at least some of the same hurdles that you do.  Hitting straight and fast from the shoulder with the full weight of your body behind it takes years of study and practice to perfect.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND PUNCHING POWER 

Punching power is measured in Newtons (N) or pounds of force (in the US).  Consider the results of this study that calculated punching force of 10 Olympic boxers across four weight classes (flyweight, light welterweight, middleweight, and super heavyweight).  In the final analysis, glancing blows were not considered which brought the result set down to 18 punches across 5 boxers.  I've further excluded one super heavyweight boxer from the data below to maintain similarity between weight classes:

Punch Force of Four Weight Classes

Weight Class

Min Force (N)

Max Force (N)

Average Force

flyweight (112lb)

2404

3914

3336

light welterweight (139lb)

1990

3621

2910

middleweight (165lb)

2021

3072

2625

super heavyweight (240lb)

4113

4741

4457

Hand Speed of Four Weight Classes

Weight Class

Min Velocity (m/s)

Max Velocity (m/s)

Average Velocity (m/s)

flyweight (112lb)

6.9

11.5

9.2

light welterweight (139lb)

6.9

8.7

7.6

middleweight (165lb)

10.7

13.4

11.9

super heavyweight (240lb)

7.0

10.6

8.8

The study found:

  1. Punch force increases linearly with weight class.
  2. Hand velocity does not correlate to weight of boxer, peak force, or severity of punch.
  3. Effective mass of a punch is most important in determining the punch force and resulting severity of the punch.

Interestingly, three of the four boxers had what we would consider good technique and maintained a rigid wrist throughout the punch (flyweight, light welterweight, and super heavyweight).  In all three cases the effective mass of their punch equated to the approximate weight of their arm.  The middleweight flexed his wrist on impact which diminished force applied and resulted in an effective mass equal to the approximate weight of his hand.

The physics involved can get complex.  Effective mass is based on the law of conservation of momentum - p=mv where p is momentum, m is mass and v is velocity.  Thus, increasing either mass or velocity increases momentum.  In relation to force, F=ma where m is mass and a is acceleration, thus increasing either mass or acceleration increases force.  Other physics involved include the effects of collision, rotational acceleration, and kinetic energy.

I'm going to stop trying to explain this now before your eyes glaze over - but if that stuff interests you - fill your boots.

WHAT DOES THIS TELL US ABOUT DEVELOPING PUNCHING POWER?

Well, the data seems to reinforce what boxing coaches have intuitively known all along:

  • Punching power increases by weight class - heavyweights hit harder than flyweights.
  • Flyweights are faster - they have quicker hand velocity.
  • Technique is paramount in developing powerful punches.

To some extent it reinforces the notion that punching power is a natural ability - you are born with it - as you are genetically determined to reach a certain natural weight.  We can all move up and down within our genetic limits, but if we don't consciously decide to lose or gain weight, we'll end up at some predetermined weight over time.  

It is also obvious that one can increase punching power by maximizing the effective mass of his or her punch through proper technique.  

When I looked at this data it was interesting to me that speed wasn't playing more of a factor in how much force is generated.  I also found it odd that the middleweight had faster average hand velocity (11.9m/s) than all the other weight classes who generally averaged in the 7.5-9.2 m/s range.  

It then occurred to me that the study is looking at elite level boxers.  One can be reasonably sure that those boxers have developed their body's muscularity and coordination to the point where they are able to most efficiently move the mass of their arms at the highest possible speed.

The middleweight, on the other hand, was flexing his wrist.  This improper technique explains how he is so much faster than the other classes as he wasn't moving as much mass - effectivley only his hand versus his entire arm.  I'm sure that middleweight is a great boxer and is obviously blindingly fast and will score points - but he isn't doing the same amount of damage to his opponents that the other classes are.

From the novice's perspective - speed will play a factor in generating punching power up to the point where your body has reached its peak potential to move the mass involved - your arm.  From there, punching power becomes more a function of technique and maintaining that maximum velocity as you increase arm mass.

HOW TO INCREASE PUNCHING POWER

Now that we understand what is involved - what can you do and in what order to increase your punching power keeping in mind the ultimate goal is to maximize effective mass at the moment of impact?

Perfect Punching Technique

Forget about punching hard in the beginning.  The best thing you can do to learn to hit harder the fastest is to ensure every aspect of your punch is absolutely perfect.  

That means your stance is perfect, your pivot is perfect, your arm shoots straight out and rotates perfectly, and your wrist is perfectly rigid at impact.  The chain reaction that generates momentum beginning in your toes and exits your fist can have no kinks, bends or breaks.  

The momentum generated in each stage has to be passed perfectly to the next without any loss to compound throughout the entire lifecycle of the punch to peak milliseconds before impact.

If you think of your body as a machine made of a bunch of parts that produces punching power - you want to make sure that all parts of that machine fit together perfectly.  

Maximize Conditioning

Once the machine is built properly, then you can increase punching power by maximizing how much work each part in the machine is doing.  

Each part is a muscle and each muscle has the potential of generating a maximum amount of force.  To maximize punching power every part has to work at its maximum.  You can have no weak points.

Every muscle has to be able to accept the momentum generated by the muscle before it and pass it along with its output to the next muscle in the chain - accelerating the momentum along the way to impact.

So, by training to ensure every single muscle involved is developed to the point where it is 100% efficient and producing as much power as possible - coupled with a perfect technique - you'll be able to propel your arm at maximum velocity towards your target.  

Assuming you've achieve perfection and optimal output in each stage - you'll be hitting with maximum effective mass.

Increase Effective Mass

Going back to our machine example, if the machine is running at peak efficiency, the only way to increase production is to increase the capacity of the machine - make it bigger.  

After technique is perfect and your current muscles are trained as they are going to get - you increase muscle size being careful not to go outside your weight limit for the class you compete in.  You have to do this slowly and deliberately to prevent any added mass from messing with your perfect technique.  In whatever weight class you are in - you should always strive to reach your ideal weight.

You have to be smart about this though.  Screwing up the punch bio mechanics you've perfected to this point as you compensate trying to move a heavier arm makes little sense.  You might like having bigger arms - but they aren't going to help you punch any harder if your technique suffers.

You can increase effective mass by increasing the mass of your arms, but if you do, every muscle in the chain before that has to evolve to be able to move that added mass in your arm.  If you can do that and still stay in your weight class - you're golden.  If you can't, then adding additional muscle may not be the best option.

The Limits

You will reach an upper limit of the amount of punching power you can generate.  Like any sport or skill, you'll go through the stages of the learning curve.  You'll start out slowly as you learn some of the basics.  You'll experience a quick surge of progress and see massive gains in punching power that over time will diminish.  As your level of skill increases, it will continually be more difficult to get an extra Newton or pound of force in your punch.  That's an indication that your reaching your optimal level of punching power.  At some point the effort required to generate an ounce more of power may not be worth the time and effort required.

TRAINING TO INCREASE PUNCHING POWER

As a coach, in addition to strength and conditioning training focused on strengthening the core, calves, quads, shoulders and triceps of my boxers, I'd focus most of my effort on perfecting the following aspects of the boxer's punch delivery:

  • Perfect the waist pivot - Momentum transfers from the lower body through the pivot that occurs at the waist. It is not a swinging movement, but rather purely rotational as the shoulders are moved towards the center line of the body. In an orthodox boxer, the left side of the body, down through the forward leg is the pivot point. As long as the line isn't broken, maximum power can be generated.

  • To develop the pivot:

    • Drill 1: Stand upright, feet on a line, toes forward, legs about shoulder width apart. Let your arms hang freely at your sides. Imagine a rod going down through your head, spine, coming out your ass and into the floor. It keeps you from bending in any direction. From there, turn (pivot) left and right allowing your arms to swing. Make sure it is the pivoting motion that is turning the arms, not your arms turning your waist. Bring your shoulder around with every twist so that it is 90 degrees from where it started.
    • Drill 2: Keep everything the same as drill 1, but bend the arms at the elbows, turn the palms up and bring them up to a position about 8-10 inches in front of your eyes. Put your head down - chin to chest. Now pivot in the same manner as drill 1 ensuring no bending or swaying. Continue until it is easy to do.
    • Drill 3: Maintain the same stance as drill 2, but this time extend your left arm directly out and center of your body with palm up. Right hand, palm up is held close to the chest directly behind the left hand. Now pivot and extend your right arm to put your right palm in the exact place where your left was. Repeat the other way and continue until you can shoot them out like pistons. It is the pivot that pushes out the arms, not your arms - you have to have movement around your hips/waist.
    • Drill 4: Now, assume a basic guard maintaining the same square stance. Practice driving both arms through shooting out a left being sure to rotate the arm, keeping your head down, then pivot and drive out the right to replace the left. Repeat.
  • Hip Flexibility- Pivoting requires good flexibility in the hips and most people don't have any. Work on increasing hip mobility to facilitate a more powerful pivot with more range of motion. I'll cover some aspects of flexibility training in a future article.

  • Arm Rotation and Delivery - We know the arm is supposed to shoot out straight from the chin, rotating so the fist is parallel to the ground at impact and then snapping back into the guard position. It's a shoulder/tricep movement versus a strict chest movement to create a whip-like effect instead of a pushing effect. Making sure the boxer is extending the arm as an extension of the pivot rather than breaking the momentum chain will lead to more power.

IN SUMMARY

Remember:

  • punching power is a result of hitting with the body, not just the arms
  • the arms are simply the projectiles that transfer the force to your opponent
  • you increase power by generating momentum from the bottom up using perfect technique and conditioning
  • pivoting is the key component that takes the momentum generated from the lower body, accelerates it, and transfers it to the arm
  • maintaining a rigid wrist and rotating the arm correctly puts the full weight of your body behind the punch (maximum effective mass)
  • punching power is a combination of natural ability and learned technique

Boxing Sparring

Congratulations - you've learned some boxing skills. You're confident and feeling indestructible and now you think you're ready to climb into the ring to see how you do against a real-life opponent.

If you think you are ready to spar - your next step is not to get in the ring - it's to go find a coach.

No joke - sparring should not be undertaken without qualified supervision. Boxing sparring - even between friends - is combat. Tempers can and do flare and things can get out of hand pretty quickly.

Boxing sparring is an essential component of your development as a boxer. Even if you are never planning on competing - sparring adds a whole new dimension to your boxing training - keeping it fresh and exciting.

Done right - climbing into the ring and sparring with an opponent is an enjoyable and addictive experience. Done wrong - and it destroys confidence and can drive once-eager new boxers away from the sport forever.

So when you have a coach and you're ready to introduce sparring into your training regime - here are some guidelines - the do's and don'ts of sparring.

TYPES OF SPARRING

There are three types of sparring - and each has its specific use in developing a boxer.

The first two are types of situational sparring meaning the focus is on what you do when a certain situation presents itself in the boxing match.

The situation could be anything - one boxer has another on the ropes, in the corner, toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring - it doesn't matter - but the goal of the sparring session is to condition responses to specific situations the boxer may find him or herself in.

At the bell - the boxers go through the scenario and once the boxers perform the necessary actions to be successful in the situation - the situation is reset and then it plays out again - to drill the reaction until it becomes instinctual.

Situational sparring includes:

  • Technical Sparring -is sparring with the intent to perfect a specific drill or movement. It's not done as much to develop the boxers ability to think in a combat situation as it is done to perfect the execution of drills and response to a particular situation.
    Technical sparring is very specific and limited to the skill being developed.
    For instance - you may be learning how to get off the ropes.
    You will start the sparring session back against the ropes with your opponent in front of you ready to throw punches. On the go - you will perform the specific steps required to step outside and spin your opponent into the ropes while defending against the incoming punches.
    Once you perform the technique successfully you will stop, the situation will be set up again, and you will repeat - and you will do this over and over until you don't have to think about it anymore.
  • Conditional Sparring - is the second type of situational sparring. Conditional sparring places limits on what can and cannot be done before the sparring session begins. Unlike technical sparring that restricts flexibility (the movements are performed in a specific way each time) - conditional sparring does not remove the boxer's freedom to adapt to what is going on.
    For that reason - this type of sparring is very useful in allowing the boxer to take skills that have been developed during technical sparring and use them in a manner that fits into their boxing style as they adapt to situations in the ring.
    For instance - if the intent of the session is to perfect slipping a jab, the fighters may agree to only throw at half speed and that only one of them will throw the jab while the other slips or that they alternate throws, and so on. Other than that - they are free to move around and react in whatever manner suits their style of fighting.

The third type of sparring - all-out sparring mimics a real boxing match with one key difference:

  • All Out Sparring - is sparring without limitations or conditions. The boxers are doing what they would do if they were competing. It is no different than a boxing match except that the coach is acting as the official and will stop/start the session as required providing feedback to the boxers throughout which is not allowed in a regular boxing match.

    Honestly - there isn't a whole lot of reason to do this very often until a boxer is in the work-up stages of pre-contest development.

    It is effective for giving the boxers a sense of what will feel like to be in a fight and gives them a chance to identify and work out ways of dealing with the effects of combat stress - but only if the trainer and coaches maintain control of the sparring and ensure that feedback and coping strategies are given.

    Coaches have to be careful about when and how all-out sparring is integrated into a boxer's development and watch closely to how their boxer reacts in the ring. All-out sparring can invigorate or it can destroy.

    I've seen boxers train for months, get in the ring to spar, and then disappear forever because they feel inadequate at the end of it.

    In most cases the coach could have kept that boxer around just by providing some encouragement or understanding of what they just went through.

    I'm not saying that coaches need to be all touchy/feely but acknowledging a kid's reaction and re-framing his or her perspective of what just happened can turn what they may perceive as a failure into understanding that it is a normal step on the road to becoming the best boxer possible.

    I guarantee more new boxers would stick with the sport if trainers would stop shunning those who don't perform on their first go in the ring.

    All-out sparring for newer boxers has limited utility. It is generally not effective for learning new skills or trying out new things because the boxers are totally absorbed by the combat experience.

    At best, the boxers will instinctively fall back on whatever has been drilled into them to this point. At worst - the new boxer will freeze completely.

    An adequate amount of technical and conditional sparring is a must so the new boxers can gain more experience and confidence in the ring. Eventually they will be able to maintain some ability to think and strategize - but it takes time and patience and does not happen until the boxer can control the effects of combat stress. Plus, the risk of injury is magnified substantially - use it sparingly.

SPARRING FREQUENCY

Overall - how often an amateur boxer should spar depends on a variety of factors including the short and long-term goals of the boxer, where the athlete is in the overall athletic development cycle, and the learning style of the boxer. Some boxers will learn skills much quicker when faced with an opponent. Others are better at visualizing an opponent and develop just as quickly with fewer sparring sessions.

Technical sparring should be introduced into the training regime when boxers have achieved understanding and demonstrate proficiency with the fundamentals. Boxers require a minimum level of body coordination and technique to ensure the sparring session remains technical and safe.

The purpose of technical sparring should be clearly articulated so that both boxers understand its utility and the purpose for that particular session. Start with one skill or movement and then daisy chain them together into flow patterns (chain drills).

The manner in which the trainer introduces boxing skills and techniques will generally dictate the frequency with which technical sparring should be undertaken, but there is absolutely no problem with putting a technical sparring session1 (properly supervised) into every practice to drill a certain skill or movement learned that day. It can also be done en masse (i.e., delivered in a group setting) without issue.

Conditional sparring requires the full attention and supervision of the trainer. Even if a limit of half-speed is imposed - the sparring session can quickly escalate to all-out sparring if the trainer loses control of what is happening in the ring. Conditional sparring is the next natural progression from technical sparring therefore its frequency depends on what is learned prior and also how quickly the boxer assimilates the new skills.

As an example, I like to use technical sparring to develop skills and movements throughout the week that culminate in a weekly conditional sparring session where boxers are given more freedom to use what they've learned to that point.

All-out sparring should be limited to the later stages of pre-contest development and never introduced until the boxer has the skills necessary to defend him or herself.

No matter what we think as trainers - unless someone has the desire to get in the ring - there is no reason to subject them to full combat. Even then the coach should make sure that the sparring sessions build up the confidence of the boxer - becoming more frequent up to a point in the lead-up to a fight. At that point (a few days before the fight), there should be no all-out sparring to ensure the boxer is free of any injury and is ready to go on the day of the fight.

PICKING SPARRING PARTNERS

With technical and conditional sparring - there is benefit to mixing up the skill and weight classes of the boxers. Boxers become better boxers when challenged or pushed to perform at a higher level. Technical and conditional sparring with someone of a higher caliber or who naturally possesses more power or speed because of their weight class or are taller/shorter is just good training.

All out sparring is different and has a way higher potential for injury - both mental and physical. We're not training street-fighters who could encounter any size opponent at any time. For that reason - mimic the boxing match by ensuring your boxer spars with someone of comparable experience and weight.

It is ok to pit them against someone with better technical skill and that is encouraged - but someone with a set level of skill will find it difficult to overcome more experienced and heavier/lighter opponents.

I'm talking about relatively new boxers here. At some point a boxer's technical skills and level of experience are so sound that they can often offset any advantage offered by a higher or lower weight class.

Sparring is no different than imparting any other skill. Start slowly and build up speed gradually. Pair offense and defense and focus on techniques that complement and flow naturally from one another. Let the boxers develop their own unique style while staying technically pure. Let them mix it up and experiment. The more weapons they can develop, the more adaptable they become.

SPARRING TIPS FOR THE NEW BOXER

So your coach is ready to put you into the ring. It's time to put the drills and skills learned on the heavy bag or in front of the mirror outside of the ring to use.

  • Review the effects of combat stress - Become comfortable with techniques to minimize their effects. You won't ever eliminate combat stress completely, but you can manage its effects so you can still function.
  • Relax - Relax between bursts of energy to conserve energy for the next burst of energy. Tensing up will slow you down and will burn you out long before the sparring session is over.
  • Prepare to get hit - All out sparring is fighting. Even with technical and conditional sparring - it can be hard and fast. Situational sparring has an element of control but you are now dealing with another intelligent human being and there is no avoiding getting hit at some point.

    Learn how to deal with getting hit and maintain control of yourself. Instead of turning into a raging lunatic or turtling - remain focused, calm and calculative. Use what you've learned to strike back and do not spar out of anger.

  • Protect yourself - Make sure you wear all the protective gear I describe in the boxing gear guide on Commando Boxing.
  • Keep perspective - Your coach will try to keep things under control, but remember you are sparring to learn - not kill the other guy or gal who is also there to learn - so don't go in swinging wildly and forgetting everything you've spent months training on. Keep your composure and box - don't street-fight.
  • Record the sparring session - When starting out - you'll be so focused on surviving that you won't even remember what you did let alone what the coach is telling you to do. Try and record the sparring session to review with your coach afterwards when you can actually focus on finding your mistakes and then work like hell to correct your bad habits.
  • Have fun - You're finally getting to use what you've been working so hard to perfect over the last few months. Enjoy the sensations of combat.

Your development from here on in will be a function of your desire to perfect what you've already learned and integrate new techniques into your boxing style. Any chance you get, review your sparring sessions. This is where a good coach comes in. Any coach worth the good money you pay them will polish you off and get you ready for your first big bout. Good luck, and feel free to share your successes and failures with us - just leave a comment.

How to Make Your Exercise Workout Plan More Effective with Boxing Workouts

More and more personal trainers want to add boxing workouts to their client's exercise plans - and for good reason - boxing workouts are some of the most effective and motivating workouts on the planet.

In terms of intensity - boxing workouts rank at the top of all sports. According to ESPN's panel of experts - pound for pound - boxing is the toughest sport around.

If you want a more effective exercise plan - you should consider adding one or two boxing workouts to your exercise workout plan each week - and here's why...

Boxing Workouts Are All Encompassing...

Boxing Workout = Core Training. Photo by Joseph Glorioso

Boxing workouts must ensure that boxers are capable of 100% physical and mental effort - round after round - in combat. That is no small feat.

Physically that means that boxing workouts must develop strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, endurance, stamina, and balance.

Mentally that means that boxing workouts must develop resiliency and durability, nerve, superior hand-eye coordination, and analytic aptitude that facilitates instant decision making in high stress situations.

No other sport (with the possible exception of MMA) requires participants - amateur or professional - to reach such a high standard of physical and mental development where the consequences for failure are potentially catastrophic. Combat is unforgiving.

What is a Typical Boxing Workout?

When people ask me this - it's often difficult to give a precise answer because boxing workouts can be so many different things depending on the focus of the training at that time. That said - when one thinks of a boxing workout certain generalizations come to mind:

  1. Boxing workouts consist of three minute rounds. They are a type of interval training based on three minutes of work followed by one minute of rest although the work/rest interval can change. The length of the work intervals make most other sports look like child's play.
  2. Boxing workouts have distinct phases. They usually consist of a warm up, shadowboxing, heavy bag work, skills development and/or sparring, conditioning, core work, and a cool down that includes mobility or flexibility training.
  3. Boxing workouts are progressive. Each workout builds on the skills learned in the previous workout while ensuring any muscle the boxer builds as a result of strength training is functional.

How Boxing Workouts Fit Into Your Exercise Workout Plan

I recommend adding two boxing workouts to your exercise workout plan each week separated by at least one day of active rest.

It should be obvious that your training focus in every workout cannot be on all things at the same time. Your exercise plan requires some manipulation so you can focus on one effect at a time whether it is strength, anaerobic, aerobic, boxing workout, or some other type of workout.

Spreading your focus too thin across all the different spheres that make up boxing training in every workout means that you'll never develop any of them.

Likewise - focusing only on boxing workouts to the detriment of supporting fitness aspects will eventually burn you out and limit your progress.

Further, boxing workouts should be progressive and consistently build on the skills and conditioning developed by previous workouts.

Over the years I've found that a weekly exercise workout plan such as the one shown below provides an optimal balance of strength training, anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, rest and repair, and boxing skills development:

What is the Best Boxing Workout?

I've done a lot of research to understand how the human body works and how certain workouts create certain results. The most frustrating thing is the sheer volume of conflicting advice in existence. For every study that supports one thing, there is a contradictory study supporting the opposite.

I've concluded that we would all be better off if we treated ourselves like guinea pigs - tracked our results - and made up our own minds about works for us as individuals.

However that doesn't mean that you disregard everything people have done before you and that's why I sought out the research of people like Dr. Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D., FISSA who did some very detailed scientific training analysis with Evander Holyfield.

Holyfield's training was incredibly scientific and he had the best in their respective disciplines training him including Lee Haney (former Mr. Olympia) and Dr. Hatfield.  Hatfield convinced Holyfield that his conditioning would improve dramatically if he incorporated a variety of training principles based on scientific findings into his workouts.  Being the scientist he was, Hatfield recorded everything and Hollyfield's conditioning 12 weeks later improved dramatically from his start state, not just in one area, but all of them:  agility, strength limits, explosive power, and ability to recover.

In terms of an optimal boxing workout - we could do worse than start with the principles Hatfield recommended to Holyfield.

I compared Hatfield's recommendations to what other sports disciplines were doing including sprinting, basketball, and football where the kind of anaerobic and explosive power characteristic of boxing is required either for sustained amounts of time or in short bursts.  Most of those sports had already gone high tech, so to speak, and their top athletes follow plyometrics programs, do sport specific workouts, and train in cycles (periodization).

Boxing, on the other hand, still has an abundance of people recommending the same training methods used fifty years ago.  I compiled a list of boxing training myths.  How many of them are you still following?

Training Periodization

The first and foremost principle one can take away from Hatfield's research is the idea of a training cycle.  A macrocycle consists of a predetermined period that is usually annual but can vary depending on the sport. Pro boxers tend to fight once or twice a year now (which is ridiculous) so a 12 week macrocycle makes sense. At the end of every 12 week cycle - the boxer is ready to fight.

The 12 week macrocycle consists of three week mesocycles - four equal parts.

Each mesocycle consists of smaller microcycles that concentrate on specific conditioning and sport specific skills and each mesocycle builds on the skills and conditioning learned in the previous one.

The boxer's level of skill and conditioning reaches a peak at the end of the macrocycle. Subsequent macrocycles then have heightened start states resulting in ever increasing end states.

Huh?

All I just said is that it makes sense to build boxing workouts into exercise workout plans that are based on 12 week cycles.

Within those 12 weeks, there will be four x three week cycles with each one getting progressively harder.  Completing one 12 week cycle will have you in exceptional shape.  Completing more than one will make you one hell of  a fine physical specimen.

Each 3 week cycle focuses on all the boxing workouts that will develop you as a boxer:  explosive power and strength, endurance, stamina and agility, and so on.

Your First Boxing Workout

Ok enough theory. I promised you a boxing workout, so here it is:

Get ready to sweat.

Like I've said over and over again, boxing workouts are by far the most intense, satisfying workouts you can do. I know you're going to love them.

All aspects of the boxing workout I outline below contain specific directions but in general they should be done in a boxing workout format - 3 minutes on, 1 minute off to simulate rounds in the ring.

When you begin - three minutes is going to seem like an eternity especially if you are giving it your all, but in time, things will get easier and that will be a sign that your conditioning is improving. To be able to go 12 x three minute rounds with one minute rest between each, you have to be in top shape.

Warmup

Round 1: skip rope for 3 minutes, immediately followed by 25 pushups. Rest 1 minute

Round 2: skip rope for 3 minutes, immediately followed by 25 pushups. Rest 1 minute

Round 3: skip rope for 3 minutes, immediately followed by 25 pushups. Rest and wrap your hands.

Note: There are different ways to skip rope. Try mixing it up - boxer's shuffle, crossovers, double unders, side to sides, and so on. All increase the intensity. You should also get used to progressive overload. When you can do 25 pushups for three rounds you increase to 30 pushups, then 35, then 40 and so on. Always increase the intensity if possible.

Shadowboxing

Each round of shadowboxing has a specific focus but follows the same format:

You'll do three rounds of shadowboxing, one minute rest between rounds with each round consisting of:

1st minute: footwork only, work the long and short rhythm described on this site. Move left, move right, pivot...keep your hands up and consciously watch yourself to make sure you are doing it correctly.

2nd minute: Practice your defensive moves. Duck, slip, parry left, parry right, catch jabs. Picture an opponent throwing punches at you, get your imagination working.

3rd minute: Add in the punches. Start slow and end fast. Work through the major combinations: 1-1, 1-1-1, 1-2, 1-2-3. Speed is great, but technique is better at this stage, watch everything. Keep your hands up, stance correct. Picture that opponent, knock him down, knock him out. 

Heavy Bag

To start with, do five x three minute rounds on the heavy bag with one minute rest between each round.

When you hit the heavy bag you focus on specific things. Here are seven sample phases to focus on when you go head to head with the bag (you can incorporate them all in a round or focus on one or two of them):

  1. Technique - slow everything down and concentrate on doing everything right.
  2. Speed - in this phase, speed is your goal, unleash it all and move around the bag, throw punches, defend as fast as the best lightweight out there.
  3. Power- hit the bag hard with every punch, do everything in the correct form, but let it have it. I'm talking Hulk like punches here.
  4. Finesse - in this phase, practice all the different kinds of boxing: outside boxing - emphasis on long rhythm, jabs and footwork - inside boxing - get up close, quick head movements and footwork, lots of hooks, uppercuts, short power punches. Move quickly around the bag, pivot, punch.
  5. Counterpunching - picture the bag throwing them back, react and unleash the countermoves.
  6. Combinations mix it all up, confuse yourself and work it out. You're never going to know 100% what is coming in the ring and you should train how you fight.
  7. Body- Go for body shots, keep your legs fully bent for the duration of this and throw only body shots. Develops extreme power in the legs.

Incorporating all seven phases into each three minute round would look something like:

  • phase 1 - 30 sec
  • phase 2 - 30 sec
  • phase 3 - 30 sec
  • phase 4 - outside/inside - 30 sec
  • phase 5/6 - counters/combinations - 30 sec
  • phase 7 - 30 sec

Boxing Skill Development

Now is when you take two or three rounds to develop some new boxing skill. Whatever it is you do one thing and you do it repeatedly for the entire round. For instance, if it's a certain combination such as a 1-2-5-3-2 you drill that over and over ensuring your technique is perfect.

This would also be the time when you'd do some sparring or mitt work with your coach.

I suspect that most of your boxing workouts are going to be without a partner. You'll likely only have a partner when you are in the gym with your trainer or the like. However, it is the times in between sparring sessions that you learn and perfect your skills - so use the time wisely.

Conditioning

Leading into the cooldown you'll do two sets of bodyweight training focusing on either the upper or lower body.

Upper Body
  • Pullups
  • Pushups
  • Hindu Pushups
  • Bench Dips
  • Tricep Pushups
Lower Body
  • Squats
  • Calf Raises
  • Deadlifts
  • Squat Jumps

Core Work

You will do two rounds of core training at the end of each boxing workout. They can vary but something like the following works good:

The way it works is that you do as many of the specified exercise as you can for the time allotted, then switch to the next exercise without taking a break until the round is over.

Round 1:

  • Crunches - 30 sec
  • Leg Raises - 30 sec
  • V-Sits - 30 sec
  • Left Side Crunches - 30 sec
  • Right Side Crunches - 30 sec
  • Bicycle - 30 sec
  • Rest 1-2 minutes if needed

Round 2: Repeat round 1.

And End with a Cool Down 

Stretch it out. Work on your flexibility and mobility so you can do it all over again without the stiffness and soreness that is inevitable no matter what you do.

But damn - you'll be in good shape. Boxon.

>