Incorporating boxing in your clients workout program is an excellent way of keeping them interested, motivated, challenged and conditioned. While having fun, your client will be developing balance, eye hand foot coordination, burn tons of calories (900 an hour depending on their weight and boxing skill), decrease stress and increase self esteem. That’s giving them a pretty good bang for their buck!
Now lets keep in mind that fitness boxing is a completely different animal than competitive boxing. The physiological aspects of facing an opponent 15 feet away, who wants to make your brain look like a mushy plate of polenta carries with it a higher degree of consequences, than worrying that your shorts don’t match your shirt.
Remember: Safety First!
Boxathletics will focus on the fitness aspect of boxing. Before embarking on fitness boxing routine lets look at some of the major areas of injury potential and how to avoid them. The most frequent injuries in fitness boxing are injuries of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. The only contusion, bruises or cuts you’ll need to worry about is if your client bumps their nose on the door on the way out the gym.
- Compression, flexion or extensions are the most frequent causes of hand and wrist injuries. You can help avoid them by doing the following.
- Making a proper fist, thumb rapped around the index finger. Don’t let the thumb stick out.
- The impact point of the punch should always be the second and third metacarpal heads. Avoid the 5th metacarpal. This is the weak side of the hand
- Avoid flexion of the wrist; keep them straight at time of contact. Don’t hold your hands like doggy paws. (I know it looks cute, but it's just not functional.)
- Wrap and glove the hands. Hand wraps will keep the integrity of the bones in your hands and wrist intact. They are not meant for padding and are not a substitute for a poorly thrown punch. If you don’t know how to wrap hands properly, you might as well wrap them in toilet paper for the good they will do. Learn to wrap your hands from someone that has real boxing experience. Use boxing gloves that are at least 12 ounce size.
- Compression injuries of the wrist can be a problem if your client intents to punch a surface (bag, focus pads, etc.). And of course that’s what they want! So start them out lightly on striking surfaces. The wrist will most likely adapt to the compression of punching. I find that using gloves that are 16oz size will help eliminate some of the compression.
Elbow and shoulder injuries are quite common in boxing and especially in the beginning stages.
- Hyperextension or snapping of the elbow (ouch!) can come from not having the skill to decelerate your punch, or missing a target. In most cases its just brief pain, worst-case scenario you can chip the bone in the olecranon process (elbow joint).
- Throwing a punch can create explosive acceleration of the shoulder joint and surrounding musculature. A boxer missing a punch can lead to shoulder dislocation. But most likely in fitness boxing it will be a poorly thrown punch or one that is delivered off balance without first stabilization from the boxers core. This is sometimes called arm punching. Be cautious of clients trying to punch too hard for their skill level.
Since clients that are attracted to fitness boxing come in all ages. Before embarking in boxing program, work your clients with a good rotator cuff program, consisting of lots of external rotation. Also strengthen rear deltoids and rhomboids and include a healthy dose of stretching. This may help save them from injuries when they err in skill.
Now lets look at some foundational skills that are essential for boxing.
Stance or On guard position
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, take a step forward with your left foot (if your left-handed, step forward with your right), turn your right foot to a 3 o’clock position. When looking in a mirror you should be able to see your right heel. If you’re hiding your right heel behind your left, you will be in a tightrope stance. This is not the optimal for balance. Keep your weight evenly balanced between both legs. Your weight should be toward the balls of the feet, your heels lightly touching the ground and your knees slightly bent (39% of your punching power come from your legs. If you want to punch with power, bend your knees).
In this position your should be able to rock back and forth and side to side. Observe your hip position. Your left hip should be pointing forward, we’ll call this neutral, your right hip is pointing away from the left shoulder, and we’ll call this an open position. Power or dominant punches are throw from the open hip position. Example, right open hip = right uppercut or right cross. Left open hip = left hook, left uppercut. It is always easier to throw the right cross because your on guard position has you set up for it. The lefthook or left upper cut is somewhat harder because from the neutral on guard position, you must first open the left hip up by rotating the hip to the left. This is why most lefthooks or left uppercuts are thrown behind the right cross or uppercut. Throwing the right cross or right uppercut will close the right hip and open the left, setting up left side punches.
Hands are held cheek high. Elbows pointing down. The left hand slightly extended. Do not clench your fist until you throw a punch, it’s a waste of energy. Shoulders relaxed. Tuck chin into left shoulder.
Throwing a punch is a segmented movement starting from the ground on up to your hand. The first impulse of throwing a power punch is started by the big toe of the dominant leg. Power punches are delivered off the dominant side of the body. When your body weight is shifted to your right leg, you are right side dominant. From this position your power punches are right cross or right uppercut. I don’t teach right hooks, more about that later. When you shift your weight to your left, you are left side dominate, your power punches are left hook or left uppercut. The left jab is generated from the shift of weight from the rear foot to the forward foot.
Throwing a punch is shifting your weight, and every punch has a shift of weight. Throwing punches from the left side of the body to the right, is shifting weight from left to right. Example: left hook, right cross, left uppercut, right uppercut, left hook. The one punch is setting up your body for the following punch. It is much harder is throwing two or three punches off the same side. Example: left hook, left uppercut, and left hook. In this scenario the boxer is forced to reload their weight distribution to the same side of their body.
The left jab is the first and most important punch to learn. All combinations start with a left jab. It sets up balance, timing, and rhythm of all your punches. The source of power of the left jab comes off the right foot as you shift weight from the rear foot to the forward foot. As you shift weight extend the left hand out, palm to the floor, knuckles to ceiling. Bring all punches back as quickly as you throw them. This is often a common mistake for beginners its know as dragging your punch. Avoid lifting the elbows away from the waist while throwing a punch. This poor technique is know as flying (where’d you fly in from? Cleveland).
The right cross is a straight punch. Without boxing skill an individual will most likely throw a looping right hand (schoolyard punch). The purpose of throwing a straight right hand is this; the shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line. This is why I never teach a right hook. The source of power starts from the right foot, begin by bending your knees (sitting into the punch) and dropping your heels to the ground. Pivoting off the ball of the right foot, power sequence follows up the ankle, knee, the right hip begins to close, torso rotates, right shoulder turn and right arm extends. Your palm is to the floor, knuckles to ceiling.
The big, bad, mean, left hook. Unquestionably the most difficult punch to throw in boxing! Source of power is coming off the left foot. Place weight over left leg, anchor the right leg, begin to pivot off the ball of the left foot, sequencing up the ankle, knee, the left hip begins to close as the torso begins it rotation the left elbow is lifted to shoulder height. The position of the hand on impact can be either palm to floor knuckles to ceiling with thumb toward chest or palm facing chest (like holding a coffee cup). Chose the hand position that causes least amount of stress to the wrist on contact. When contact is made with the left hook the elbow should be at 90 degrees. The end of the punch shouldn’t go farther than your right shoulder at the end point. A common mistake is the hook looking like a sideways jab. This is no longer a hook, it’s a schnook. We don’t do schnooks in boxing. The big tip here is look at your clients left foot, if they are not pivoting off the ball of the foot…. Well it ain’t going to happen.
Right upper cut
Source of power the right foot. Slide the right elbow back along the waist, dropping the forearm so that it is parallel to the floor, but never below the waist. If the hand is dropped below the waist you will most likely get a slap instead of a punch. In real boxing this would also cause a low blow. An illegal punch below the belt line. Pull the right elbow back so that that the hand stops just in front of the right hip. Rotate the right foot. Extend the right fist out palms to ceiling knuckles to floor.
The left uppercut is the same as the right but it requires the boxer to open up the left hip by setting it up. This mean setting up the punch by either throwing a right side punch first, or rotating the hip to the left first.
Combinations (punches in bunches)
A combination is putting together a few punches at a time. Lets look at the old one two. The left jab and the right cross. As the left jab strikes its target the right cross is on its way. A good mental imagine is having a rope tied around both wrists with the rope behind the shoulders. As the left hand finishes striking its target and is coming home, the right hand is zeroing in on the target. The one hand pulls the other across.
Combinations should always start with a left jab and they should finish with a left hook or left jab to the head. This would most likely bring the boxer back to well balance position. Of course I’m talking of a well-schooled boxer. But heck! This is fitness boxing so you need not follow tradition. I’ve seen more interesting combinations of punches in cardio boxing classes, than in all my years in a boxing gym. Some of the punches are mystifying they come from such peculiar angles! I wonder if even Paul Chek could describe their kinesiological movement.
Defense is a big part of the sport of boxing. Lucky for us we need not worry about getting hit! Parrying, cross-parrying, blocking techniques we need not include in a workout. But we do want to keep the heart rate up and keep the session interesting. So these three defensive movements are fun to include into a boxing workout.
Standing in an on guard position, bend your knees dropping your butt back like sitting in a chair. Go down balanced between both legs than quickly come up. Keep hands cheek high. The Bob is used to avoid all punches that are aimed at the head.
The Bob and Weave
Standing in the on guard position, bend your knees drop straight down as though doing a bob then shift your weight at the bottom of the movement, so that your head is over either the right or left foot. This will place dominance to your left or right side. If you are on the right you are setting up a right cross or right uppercut, if on the left your setting up a left hook or left uppercut. The Bob and Weave is used to avoid punches to the head. Its also a great way to set up counterpunches. More about that in the advanced workout.
Slipping is a fast cutting movement. Standing in your on guard position, when slipping to the right, bend the right knee and the right side of your waist. The same is done on the left side. The slip is a movement of inches and is used to avoid a left jab. Keep your hands next to your cheeks while slipping.
Move Your Feet
All right! You have your client banging away with both hands she/he looks like a champ. Now you will totally frustrate them by making them move and punch. Yes, boxing is not as easy as standing in one place and punching. But here are a few simple rules to remember that makes it easier.
Never cross your feet
Your on guard position is where your foot position begins and ends. If you move to the right, the right foot moves first the left follows. Same with the left. If you move forward the forward foot leads the rear follows. To move backwards, the rear foot moves first the front follow. When you move keep your feet as close to the ground as possible.
All movements are made in the same increments of measurement. For example, if you step forward with your left foot 3 inches, your right foot follows by sliding up 3 inches. I know this sound simple. It’s not. You may discover that your clients constantly bring both feet together. This is because they haven’t made the on guard position their own. I relate this to a basketball or tennis player. These athletes run all over the court and they continually stop and go. When they stop to make a defensive or offensive move they place their feet in their set positions. For boxing that’s the on guard position.
Punch and Move
OK. Now stay with me here. And, please resist the urge to say Ali didn’t do it that way. Athletes of Ali’s caliber make their own rules. But I guarantee you that when he was a young boy in Louisville; he learned the same foundation I’m teaching you. Your feet must be set before throwing a punch! There are advanced techniques of punching and moving simultaneously. But you won’t get there unless you get this first.
In the on guard position, step forward 3 inches, the rear foot slides up 3 inches and throw a left jab and a right cross, repeat several times. Always starting in a balanced on guard state. Regardless of which direction you move, when you stop you should be at a balanced state. Balanced meaning you are in position to either throw or set up a dominant side punch or to move into one of the defensive postures.
I hope these foundations will make the teaching process easier. By developing the foundational skills for boxing you will be able to create safe workouts that incorporate offensive and defensive moves. Laying out the groundwork and having a firm knowledge of elementary boxing moves is essential for developing workouts, which can then incorporate a higher degree of technical skills. Boxing workouts are then limited to your client’s skill level and your own creativity and imagination.