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Boxing Drills – Tips for Success

by Fran on May 24, 2012

Boxing training is about achieving gradual improvements, both in terms of strength and conditioning but more importantly in terms of boxing skills.

To achieve consistent improvements in your boxing skills, a proportion of your boxing training must be devoted to improving those skills in a systematic and structured way.  This is why we have boxing drills.

So, what are boxing drills and what role do they play in boxing training?  In answer to the first part of that question, we can sum it up with the following statement:

“Boxing drills are systematic training of the body and mind by multiple repetitions”

Another, simpler statement would be:

“Practice makes perfect”

Boxing drills allow you to learn a boxing skill or group of skills by repeating that skill or group of skills with a critical eye.  Boxing drills are about precision of execution.  Speed of execution secondary to precision and technical accuracy.  We train the body and mind to work in a particular way under fight conditions.

Two for flinching…

A great example of the ultimate aim of boxing drills can be made by considering your flinch reflex.  The flinch reflex is our instant reaction to threat.  This instant reaction might be closing your eyes and turning your head away if someone throws a ball at you.  In boxing, replace that ball with a strong jab or a right cross.  A boxing ring is not the place to close your eyes and turn your head.

This instant reaction happens, well, instantly.  A primary purpose of boxing drills is to substitute closing the eyes and turning away with something useful, for instance a parry of the jab, slipping or a ducking or an instant attack with long range body punches.

Boxing is, in many ways, absolutely dependent upon reflexes.  By harnessing the reflex action into a practical and useful defensive or offensive action you give yourself the maximum chance of ‘taking care of business’, which is exactly what we need to do.

Memories are made of this

Boxing drills also reinforce ‘muscle memory’, enabling what are initially awkward and unnatural manoeuvres to be gradually made easier, resulting in much more polished execution.  To be truly comfortable and effective as a boxer, excellent co-ordination between the legs and upper-body is vitally important. The path to achieving this co-ordination is made smoother by the consistent repetition of working through boxing drills.

Don’t think…Act

As if you needed any more convincing, another massive reason for building boxing drills into your boxing training is that during a given situation, let’s say for example a boxer trying to knock you out, time is of the essence.  You don’t think to yourself “OK, I’ll move this way, throw this shot, then do this….”  In a boxing ring, things happen far too fast for this to be possible.  We need to be instinctive in our response.

By being disciplined about building boxing drills into your training, it will mean that during fight time your actions ‘just happen’, without thought and with maximum effect; you have predetermined sequences that work over and over again because drills have made them instinctive.

It’s not just boxing

Let’s consider an observation about people who work in professions that may require, from time to time, that they face very stressful situations.  Police officers, soldiers, fire fighters, medics, pilots and so on all face these situations more regularly than us civilians would care to consider.  These courageous and selfless people, when recounting an act of particularly heart-stopping bravery or crushing pressure, often use the term “The training took over.”

Why did the training take over?  The training took over because a proportion of their time in training was devoted to drills.  The same is true of boxing training.  There is no mystery here.  Thomas Jefferson said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.  This was taken forward by the great golfer Gary Player with “The harder I practice the luckier I get.”  Well, you get the point.

If your main aim is to develop your boxing skills, then boxing drills should take up a greater proportion of the time that you spend on your boxing training.  As you become more experienced, this may tail off a little, but more likely you will just keep on developing the range of boxing drills that you use.  You will become an intelligent boxer.

Great Technique = Great Results

Skills development is always a non-negotiable part of boxing training. This is why the world’s best golfers and tennis players retain the services of top coaches right throughout the most productive spells in their careers.  There is always a chance to improve.  Boxing training is no different.

Even if you just want to use boxing training for the fitness benefits rather than fighting, you will not maximize these benefits without using boxing drills.  Why is this?  Because throwing a technically correct punch requires more effort and works more muscle groups than throwing an incorrect punch.  Quite simply, your strength and conditioning will be improved by being a technically proficient boxer.

The Next Step

If you are looking forward to getting on with planning your boxing drills, here are 6 tips for success:

  1. Any of the 40 plus boxing skills videos on this site can be classed as a boxing drill.  It’s a single skill that can be executed repeatedly to establish gradual improvements.  After nailing the basics of the boxing stance, start with simply moving in and out.  There you go, Drill #1.
  2. Always start slowly.  Be methodical, almost robotic.  In time, as you become more familiar with the movements and form, you can build up your speed.
  3. Think of ways of building links between skills, executing skills in a joined up way.  For example you can execute skills together alongside each other, such as with a left hook to the body, or one after another, for example as shown in feinting in boxing.
  4. To think about punching boxing drills, check out the boxing combinations category where you’ll get some basic ideas.
  5. If you have a spare 10 minutes at home, not particularly during a gym session, then work through some boxing drills.  Waiting for the kettle to boil? Run through 2 or 3 minutes of boxing drills.  Waiting for the sink to fill with water for a wash?  Get in your stance for 30 seconds and nail a few boxing drills.  Practice makes perfect.
  6. If you haven’t already, sign up to the Mobility Boxing Drills offer on the MyBoxingCoach homepage.  It’s all free and requires only an email address.

The equation is simple; the more time that you spend working on boxing drills, the faster you will reap the benefits.  Remember, the more you practice, the luckier you get.

I hope that this has helped.  I’d like to think that this type of article, one that pulls together existing resources on the site, is quite useful.  Let me know if you agree, or if you have any other questions, by dropping a comment below.

By the way, one more link to check out is Counter Punching Power Russian Style. Lots of little boxing drills going on there.

Cheers

Fran

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

no

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Fran January 13, 2015 at 9:54 pm

OK 🙂

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Peter December 10, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Love the web site Fran. Just starting out myself and have been full of a cold today and was gutted to not get a full training session in. But don’t feel like I’ve missed a day as went through your top 10 basics and indeed drilled them in the flat as you say when waiting for the kettle to boil etc.
cheers, Pete

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Fran December 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Thanks Peter. Any spare moment 🙂

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Hamas February 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

The information on this site is really good almost too good to be free.

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Fran February 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Thanks Hamas.

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Thom May 8, 2013 at 12:06 am

Fran,
Starting late in life with this sport I have several experiences which substantiate your comments about drills. As a pilot, it was the training drills that saved our lives when the connecting rod went through the cylinder wall of the single engine, that I was flying. Practice may not make perfect but it makes survival a lot more likely!

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Fran May 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Excellent, thanks Thom. Really happy that one of those who has been forced to deal with massive stress situations can relate to why those drills matter so much. Thanks again.

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tom May 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Shadow boxing is of course an essential part of the training. I’m just afraid too many beginners (including me) tend to forget ‘the opponent’ when shadow boxing. Then, it’s rather about improving techniques (at best) than drilling your reaction to a certain situation. In my first gym the coach only shouted ‘faster’ during shadow boxing. Then, it was ‘more accurate’, now it’s ‘don’t throw punches, change angles and throw punches’. I’m afraid quite few coaches are able to explain the sence of shadow boxing and few athlets are able to understand and more importantly to keep it in mind.

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Fran May 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Tom. great comment. There’s an article I’m working on at the moment on shadow boxing. The importance of shadow boxing cannot be over-stated and the things you point out are key. There has to be a free-flowing element to shadow boxing, otherwise it’s just a drill.

Cheers Tom.

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Anonymous May 26, 2012 at 6:59 am

Drills are the backbone of boxing. It is not enough just to learn a sequence of actions – an experienced guy will pick up a drill instantly as he sees it. But using it under stress caused by fatigue and concussion is not a simple task. For that purpose the skill must become automatic. Call it conditioned reflex, muscle memory, subconscious habit, the way to achieve it is roughly 10 000 repetitions. At this point your brain may become your enemy, a boxer involved in a heated battle should not even think in words but in images, sort of a visual-spatial problem solving effort.
Another aspect of drills is predictability. If you do two or three things all the time, the opponent knows what you’ll do (he doesn’t know when). If you do 5 tricks, the odds are better. Great fighters can get away with doing one and the same thing – Joe Frazier bobbed and left-hooked his way to stardom, Pacquiao for all the hype does the “right hook, roll under” drill most of the time. James Toney on the other hand is an old school wizard who rarely does the same thing or any drills at all, he improvises opponent-wise as if he was born with those moves.
Most boxers though should do drills daily and tech-spar as much as possible. Shadow boxing in front of a mirror is “good clean fun” and is not just posturing as some people think, it’s a nice honing tool.

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Ivan May 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

Not anonymous anymore, I take full responsibility for the comment above.

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Fran May 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Hey Ivan. Excellent contribution. I particularly like the fact that you have quantified the efforts to instil the skill, this will give people a real understanding of the kind of commitment required to nail this kind of stuff. There truly are no short cuts in boxing. Another very relevant observation is the importance of variation. Predictability is a sure-fire way to give your opponent an advantage.

I’ve got something coming up on shadow boxing, along side some other cool bits. Thanks Ivan, some great comments there that allow people to get a context for some of this stuff.

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J June 24, 2012 at 1:03 am

Amazing ivan ali continuously jabbed his opponents but he did each of them slightly differently each time maybe doing the same thing a couple different ways may be unstoppable

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ike May 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I love your articals its helps to know its not easy to flow .the steps and the punches, is filming my self box help?

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Fran May 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thanks Ike. You can use a mirror, that’s the quicker and less expensive way. But yes, looking at yourself is a big help.

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tom May 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Thank you for the article. Yes, I find it very useful to decompose the very complex sport into its particular single skills. It for sure makes it easier to grasp them. And I welcome the effort to show how these single skills must work together, in complex. Dialectics:).
As far as drills are concerned, I’d just advocate for benefits of practising them with a partner if possible.

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Fran May 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Thanks Tom. Glad that the article assists. The overlaying and joining up of skills are what this site is all about!

In terms of practising with a partner, I’ve got an article coming up in the next few days that cover exactly that.

Cheers Tom.

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Mohammed May 25, 2012 at 7:01 am

Hi Fran, Please checkout my website tell me what you think

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Mohammed May 25, 2012 at 6:56 am

that is absolutely brilliant

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Fran May 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Mohammed. Checked out your site, looking good. I really hope that you and Ken manage to bring something to the streets that will make a real difference. Congratulations and good luck.

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