Boxing Footwork – Moving In and Out with Finesse!

by Fran on February 3, 2010

About Boxing Footwork and Moving In and Out

Before looking at the video, ensure that you have understood the boxing stance.

Boxing footwork, rather unsurprisingly, involves using the feet to move in given directions, an aspect of which being moving forward and backward or more commonly described as ‘moving in and out’.  Boxing footwork in the main involves some relatively simple physical movements in order to enable movement in and out of range.

So much of boxing relates to understanding your position in relation to your opponent, and we define this as “range.”  A boxer can consider from the outset that he or she will be ‘in range’ (both for your shots to go but also for the opponent’s shots to land on you) or ‘out of range’.  When the boxer is in range, this can be broken down further into short, medium and long range.  To find out more on range, check out the article on range finding in boxing.

Having explained range, we should also understand that successful boxing relies on the ability to be ‘on the edge of range’, meaning that you are only very slightly beyond the range of your opponent’s punches.  This means that the boxer is able, with a short explosive movement of the feet, to get within range land effective shots and move out again before the inevitable response from the opponent.  Being on the edge of range and providing that threat of mobility is a method of applying pressure to an opponent and enabling control of the contest.

The Mechanics of Moving In and Out 

Moving In

The mechanics of moving in:

  1. From the boxing stance, the first action is a push from the back foot.
  2. The front foot lifts very slightly from the floor, allowing the power generated from the push from the back foot to propel the body and therefore the front foot forward.
  3. Allow the back foot to follow it’s course, catching up with the front foot.
  4. The entire movement should be no more than 6 to 8 centimetres, and the boxer should retain the stance throughout.

Moving Out

The mechanics of moving out (unsurprisingly the exact opposite of moving forward!):

  1. From the boxing stance, the first action is a push from the front foot.
  2. The back foot lifts very slightly from the floor, allowing the power generated from the push from the front foot to propel the body and therefore the back foot backward.
  3. Allow the front foot to follow it’s course, catching up with the back foot.
  4. The entire movement should be no more than 6 to 8 centimetres, and the boxer should retain the stance throughout.

Common Faults When Moving In and Out

There are a number of common problems that can occur when developing the boxing footwork skills to move in and out:

  1. Often, the boxer will ‘step and drag’.  For example, when moving forward, the front foot will step and the back foot will be dragged forward (vice versa when moving backward).  This method of movement does not allow the speed required for the purposes of not getting beaten up!
  2. The distance between the two feet should remain roughly the same during the movement.  This is a further reason why aiming to move only 6 to 8 centimetres is desirable.  When the stance significantly narrows during movement, then the boxer is off-balance and less able to attack effectively or of more concern to defend effectively.
  3. The boxer will flatten one or both feet, hindering the freedom of movement required for effective boxing.
  4. The front foot will often point toward the opponent rather than retaining the 45 degree angle to the imaginary line, this cause problems with the balance.  This is common but should be identified and resolved without delay!
  5. As covered when examining the boxing stance, it is during movement that the boxer may be likely to lose the line from the toe on the front foot to the heel on the back foot.  This again has the effect of taking the boxer off-balance.

As a next step, try mixing this boxing footwork with the boxing jab. If you’d like to stick with footwork, go with the side step

Cheers

Fran

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny July 23, 2016 at 5:35 am

Hello there can you do video’s on styles of different boxer’s such as Julian the Hawk Jackson?

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Fran July 24, 2016 at 7:20 pm

There are a few on the site Dan, none yet of Jackson though – one of the deadliest punchers I ever saw!

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John December 25, 2014 at 4:37 am

Fran,
Just a short note to express my appreciation of your site.
I only found it today and I really think it’s a great site.
Very well thought out and very well presented.
Thank you very much,
regards
John

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Fran December 27, 2014 at 9:14 pm

John

That is very kind of you, thanks for taking the time. I hope that the site provides you with tons of insight for months and years to come.

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tz October 17, 2014 at 6:07 am

amazing site… thank you for the patient and thorough instruction starting with the real ABCs. Take my money already.

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Fran October 20, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Thank you, glad you like it.

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shane July 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Fran I don’t train for boxing per say, I train for MMA but my coach is very hard on us when we DON’T push step and drag our feet. We also have both our feet in the same 45° angle pointing at the opponent. And I try to use the old English style stand like you use and get scolded for it. But learning my coaches stance is so awkward. I get off balance easily everytime I throw a jab, hook, or cross. Why is he making us use this stance and drag our feet? And why is it so awkward?

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Fran July 18, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Hello Shane

This is quite a complicated thing that actually I think I could do a video on to be honest. In simple terms though, my view is that because MMA guys have to concern themselves with defending kicks and takedowns, a ‘square’ stance helps. I think that a boxing stance could be used in MMA but only at long range/on the edge of range. Once up close it could become a real liability.

Hope this offers an insight Shane

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Fran June 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Hey Matt, I hope you are well.

Sounds good Matt. Just be careful not to overbalance forward. Keeping the weight on the back leg is actually a sign of great control, so well done.

On the jab thing, definitely work on selling the feint, I never stop trying to reinforce the importance of this to boxers. Often, less is more, so be subtle with it. Use foot feints, body feints and arm feints but always be looking to follow it up with the shot. Check out the vid on How to land more punches for a refresh. One more thing, YOU CAN NEVER THROW ENOUGH JABS!!!!!

Thanks for taking the time to ask the question Matt, it means a lot that you have the confidence in me to come up with an answer that’s half way useful!

Take care

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Soojae May 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

To Fran,

Love all the work that you put into this site and I thank you for all the knowledge that you share.

Lately, I have been focusing my attention on footwork. I have been doing different drills to work basic movements (forward, back, pivots, etc.). There is something that I noticed once I start to work explosive movements a bit. When I explode forward to close the distance, I feel like my front foot gets too heavy and I can’t retreat quickly, leaving me open for counter strikes. Is this the nature of the explosive movement forward? Is it something that happens at the beginning, but smooths out after a while? I know its tough to say without seeing me perform the movement. Could it be me shifting too much weight forward? In other words, once I explode forward, should I try to stop the momentum with the front foot or should I try to stop the momentum with both feet landing at the same time? Thank you

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justin March 20, 2014 at 2:45 am

Hello. I am not a boxer by any means, but would like to be able to defend my self efficiently. I have had past cartlidge injurys on both knees. Is it possible to have efficent in and out movement flat
footed (being on the toes puts pressure on my knees). I would find any info you offer useful. Your videos are inspirational to me and I would like learn all i can fron you thank you much.

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Fran March 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm

You could flatten the front foot Justing but try to maintain some elevation on the back foot. Not ideal but would still give you reasonable mobility and good power.

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Jamie April 6, 2013 at 5:49 am

I just came across this video that suits this discussion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqpsh5aqR_g

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Fran April 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Thanks Jamie, nice bit of crossover from sports there. Seems to be a bot of pivoting and diagonal movement going on there.

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RUBBEN February 17, 2013 at 6:17 am

HI FRAN,

WHEN OPPONENT LIKE SWAMERS APROACHING TO ME WITH FLURRIES , SHOULD I RETREAT TOO FAR OR JUST A FEW CENTIMETRES TO COUNTERPUNCH BECAUSE WHEN I MOVE OUT OF RANGE I MISS A LOT OF OPPURTUNITIES TO COUNTERPUNCH AND WHEN I MOVE JUST A FEW STEP I ALWAYS GET CAUGHT BY POST MAN JAB. ANYWAYS THANKS FRAN GREAT ARTICLE ALWAYS MOTIVATING.

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Fran February 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hey Rubben. Go with a few centimetres and stop them with your counter-punches. Landing hard shots is the best way of stopping the advance.

Hope this helps and thanks for the question.

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Rachel February 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I like this video. I have problems with getting my teenagers to STOP “stepping and dragging” their feet. Do you have any suggestions on how to get them to break this habit? Thanks for the videos.

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Fran February 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hey Rachel

Have you checked out the article on Tag Boxing. To be successful at that game they have to use short, explosive movements from the feet. Step and drag will never work! They can improve in this aspect of the game without getting punched in the head.

Hope this helps.

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Matt September 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

Hi Fran

I was just wondering if you could elaborate on why pointing the lead foot more forwards is detrimental to your balance? Does not having the lead foot turned inwards compromise your ability to throw a cross as you can’t turn your hip out as effectively?

Thanks

Matt

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Cal April 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Hey Fran,
I’m a heavyweight amateur boxer away at college, so I’ve been looking to the Internet to act as a trainer. My trainer back home tells me to use a more closed stance (about 70% of your body facing forward) to help keep your feet from crossing while you move. I wrestled in high school so I can definitely see where he is coming from, but your video advocates a more open stance. Would a more open stance be more beneficial to somebody my size (280 lb.) or would it be better to stick with more of a closed option? Thanks

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Fran April 29, 2012 at 11:47 am

Cal

Thanks for the comment and question. Firstly your coach is your coach, I’ll not say ‘he should be saying this’ or ‘he shouldn’t be saying that.’ He knows you best. All I can do is describe how I work with boxers.

I tend to feel that if you are too square on, then you offer a larger target but more worryingly you’re less mobile on your feet. Even for a bigger guy this would be a non-negotiable for me because being mobile is not about bouncing around everywhere like a maniac, it’s the ability to move in the right way at the right time. A less square, more open stance allows this.

I hope this helps

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Craig February 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Hi I was wondering if you could give me some advice, been following this site for a long time and reading your articles but now I’d like to tap into your experience on a related subject.

Moving in to punch with the jab.

Is it step and jab, or step in THEN jab? I have a habit of attacking from out of range, I always step in and jab and because of that it’s telegraphic, the step in gives me away.

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Kshiteej December 26, 2011 at 4:24 am

while moving in and out i feel pressure on my shins and calves. this has led to a minor shin splint. i take care of all the common faults mentioned above but still there is no improvement.
what do you think is the problem?

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Fran December 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Kshiteej. Thanks for the comment. I think that we should roll back and look at the possible causes of your shin splints. This move in itself is not the kind of action that will generate the kind of stresses that cause shin problems. It’s low impact and all of the work is maintained in the calf muscles. So, you need to think about your other gym work and maybe running also. If you are wearing boxing boots to complete the majority of your session, don’t. Boots are entirely unsuitable for the variety involved in a modern boxing workout. Sparring and fighting, yes. Skipping, circuit work and sprints etc. no. A good pair of running shoes is much better. I prefer to see boxers that I work with only wear boots during fighting. Secondly, if you have this condition now, take a total rest from the gym. Let your shins recover then head back to the gym with your running shoes. If the problem persists, see your physician/doctor. Hope this helps.

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Dave I June 26, 2011 at 11:29 am

Saw this vid on youtube-Hope it complements the above post.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqqo9KzOaao

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Malik January 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Hey Fran,

I when I watched this I thought I had an epiphany and it would solve a great deal of my problems with “getting into range” and getting shots off. But I realized something sparring yesterday that has perplexed me, Every time I would move into range and try to punch with this technique he would use the same technique to move back and we would be at the SAME POSITION as we were before what should I do? (also we are in a cage not a ring so the option of cutting off the ring or cage isnt an option)

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DAVE I January 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Good post +video for me Fran cheers.Ive developed one of the bad habits that you mention in the video-namely getting my legs too close together and losing the gap in my stance.
I went to a new coach recently telling him that my sparring partners keep telling me I keep hanging my head into range making myself an easy target.My new coach noticed my fault +he thinks that losing the stance is the root cause of my problem in sparring.

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Fran January 5, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I hope it works out with your new coach, it certainly sounds like he has a clear idea of how to sort out you ‘leaning in’ problem, a problem which can be quite common. A little tip, draw a vertical line up from your front knee. Focus on ensuring that your nose doesn’t go past this line, especially when throwing your right hand; this will bias you toward maintaining your weight centrally or on the back leg. Most importantly, enjoy your sport Dave!

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dominic June 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

great site mate ive watched all of ur vids, they are very helpful.

i have one question – my coach always tells me to keep my palms facing eachother and my right hand by my right ear. left hand infront of left eye. i noticed you keep your hands close together and around both cheeks. firstly – doesn’t this prevent you from seeing infront of u when u have gloves on and secondly doesnt this leave you open to hooks? its certainly more comfortable 2 box in your style and i reckon u can simply pull the hand back to block a hook. also i know there are many different variations on the correct style but i was wondering what ur thoughts wre on this.
thanks , dominic

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Fran June 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Hey Dominic

I’m glad you’re finding the site useful. I’ll explain some of the logic about where I think hands should be held. You’re right, I demonstrate the stance with my hands at about cheek level. This isn’t to say that they’ll stay there at all times. For example, when working at close range, I’d suggest that the hands come up as high as the temples so that hooks at close range can be effectively blocked. I also like to see the hands kept fairly frontal to ensure economy when blocking punches; the shorter the distance your hand needs to travel when blocking or parrying an opponent’s shot, the more chance there is of the block/parry working (I’ll be posting some hand defenses such as blocks and parries in the near future, so keep an eye out!) Finally, I advise my boxers that the palms should be turned slightly towards yourself as this has the effect of bringing the elbows closer in to protect the ribs against body shots. But hey, this is just a way that I coach. Check out some of the styles of the top amateur boxers, e.g. the Cubans, Russians etc. Many of them hold their left hand a long way out in front of them, almost as a permanent jab. Have a number of options in your bag, and they’ll all be used at some point against some particular type of opponent.

Cheers Dominic, and thanks for the input!

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