Boxing is one of the more favoured combat sports across all styles of Martial Art, and this is due to the rising popularity among middle, and lower class citizens. The art of boxing is an extremely dynamic form of striking, which incorporates many different types of fundamental movements. Most people think to be a good boxer they need to have hard or fast punches, but the key factor to becoming a professional boxer is dynamic footwork. This does not just mean fast, and accurate feet, it means strategic footwork positioned to give an athlete the best possible chance at applying accurate punches, while still being able to evade counter strikes.
What this article covers:
- The Importance Footwork Brings to a Fight
- How to Develop Footwork
- The Best Footwork Drills
- How to Develop Power by Using Footwork
Training in the art of boxing is not just for a professional athlete, as anyone can step into the training ring, and improve their efficiency of striking. Hitting the bags or the focus mitts is only one aspect of a much larger puzzle, and all athletes must work extensively on their footwork skills if they want to improve their overall quality of boxing capabilities. There are a multitude of different footwork drills that can be implemented into an athlete's training regime, and understanding how to use them efficiently is one of the key components to increasing an athlete's ability to move fluently around the ring.
THE IMPORTANCE FOOTWORK BRINGS TO A FIGHT
All boxing fights are highly dynamic, and involve athletes to use incredible strength and conditioning. Most professional boxers are exceptionally fit, and this is an aspect they can use to their advantage against an opponent. Outlasting an opponent by knowing how to conserve energy, all comes down to how they can position themselves by using well timed, and strategic footwork. The only way to administer a knockout punch is to be capable of moving into range of an opponent. The only way to achieve this objective is to use good footwork, which will open up many opportunities.
Moving into range is important, but what is even more important is moving out of range, and this is so an athlete does not end up taking on damage from counter striking. This is why boxers use specifically designed footwork to move in and out of range, and circle around their opponent, so they can open up boxing footwork angles, which will allow them to infiltrate the personal space of their opponent. An athlete that has good footwork is also highly capable of catching their opponent on the back foot, or catching them off balance, so they can throw a volley of successful punching combinations.
HOW TO DEVELOP FOOTWORK
There are many different ways that an athlete can develop their footwork skills, and all it really takes is consistency within their training regimes. Shadow boxing is one of the best ways an athlete can develop good boxing footwork techniques, and this is because shadow boxing forces an athlete to engage their core in movement, as they circle around the ring. What makes shadow boxing so instrumental is the fact that there is no opponent striking them back, and this is non impactful on their body, which leaves the athlete in a pure state of focus. The best part is that an athlete's instructor can simply sit back and watch their form, and interject any advice they see fit. This is a great training method, and one of the best ways to enhance an athlete's ability to use the correct footwork techniques.
Another good way to develop incredible footwork skills is by purely skipping. The process of skipping is more than just a cardio based workout, as it will build significant strength, because it is a good leg workout for boxing athletes. Building strength into an athlete's legs has a few different components, as muscular strength, muscular endurance, and even strength in all of the tendons and ligaments is vitally important for maintaining a high, and fast level of footwork conditioning. Along with all of the strength and cardio based aspects, the act of skipping also considerably improves an athlete's coordination skills, which is vital for developing any form of high level boxing footwork patterns.
There are some important tips for developing a great series of footwork skills, and an athlete must stick to a certain set of procedures if they want to be successful inside of the ring. Athletes must always stay on their toes, and this is so they are able to move quickly around the ring, which will help them to step in and out of range, attack their opponent, or avoid any definitive counter strikes. It is important for all athletes to keep their feet a shoulder width apart, and this is crucial for maintaining a good balance, which will ultimately lead to good posture, and a better chance at positioning their footwork in the right place. Staying relaxed, and keeping an athlete's hands up to guard their chin is a non negotiable. In boxing the chin is an easy spot for an opponent to land a knockout blow, so keeping this part protected is pivotal to surviving, and to succeeding in a boxing match. Athletes that are too rigid will often use too much energy, and are unable to move fluently in order to attack, or avoid strikes. This is why staying relaxed must become a part of an athlete's muscle memory, so they can firstly absorb punches if they need to, but more importantly be able to move around the ring with fluency and speed.
BUILDING STRENGTH IN THE LEGS
Leg strength is crucial in boxing, and this is because all power punches derive from an athlete's feet. Hip rotation, and foot pivots are used, which is how they can generate enough power to send up through into their punches. This is why having a strong pair of legs is extremely important for any professional boxer. There are many different ways to increase an athlete's strength within their legs, and using a number of different weight lifting exercises will achieve this objective. However, the best way to build strength in the legs is to use functional exercises that relate to boxing, and this is because an athlete will gain muscle memory from any exercises that they participate in. Jump squats will help build explosiveness in an athlete's legs, and this is where an athlete will stand with their feet a shoulder width apart, before lowering their body towards the ground in a squat. From here they need to jump as high as they can in the air, and they must make sure they land gently so they do not injure any of their ligaments or tendons in their knees. This is a great exercise that will build functional strength within the legs of an athlete.
Sprinting exercises is another great way to build explosive power in the quadricep, and the calf muscles. All professional athletes will run, and use sprinting as a way to improve their muscular strength, their muscular endurance, as well as burn their cardio systems. Boxing is one of those sports where the athlete needs to be fast, fit, and strong, and using a sprint from a training perspective will benefit these athletes immensely. Interval sprinting is one of the best exercises an athlete can use, and this is sprinting for thirty seconds, before jogging for ten seconds, and sprinting for thirty seconds again. This kind of training can be repeated as many times as an athlete needs, and will simulate how an athlete will fatigue in a real life boxing fight. Athletes must develop their recovery systems so that their muscles do not continue to build up lactic acid while they fight, instead their muscles need to recover during a fight if they want to have longer lasting power, and function within their striking.
THE BEST FOOTWORK DRILLS
There are many different footwork drills that can help athletes master their craft. The square drill is a good one, and involves marking out a square on the mat, or simply using a boxing ring. The athlete will start in one corner of the ring, before moving diagonally towards the opposite corner in a forward motion, as they duck their head and throw punches. Once they get to the corner they will shuffle laterally to the opposite corner, before moving diagonally backwards. The athlete should repeat this process, while keeping their hands up guarding their chin, and using their striking ability to throw strikes at an imaginary opponent. This drill may seem simple enough, but it is actually quite advanced, and will help athletes build significant skills in how they utilise their best boxing footwork.
Another good footwork drill is to use a medicine ball, or even a boxing bag that is a free standing bag, or is hung from the roof, and pretending it is an imaginary opponent. The athlete can practice stepping in and out of range, and circling around the bag, as they throw shadow boxing punches. Focusing on shuffling from side to side, and sliding forwards and backwards is a crucial element to enhancing their ability to use footwork. This is also a good method for evading counter strikes, and all athletes must use fast feet in a strategic way to avoid dangers. Having a bag, or a ball to circle around should give an athlete a more strategic standpoint, then the traditional shadow boxing drills.
The mirror drill is also a great footwork drill, which can help simulate a real life fight. This drill involves two training partners standing face to face, as one of them chooses to be offensive, and the other chooses to be defensive. The offensive training partner will move in any way they want, including stepping in and out of range, while throwing punches, and circling around the defensive opponent. The defensive training partner will simply mirror their movements, and look to use footwork to maintain their distance. This is a great way for an athlete to practice their evasive skills, and master their footwork, so that an opponent will not be able to land any effective counter strikes. The mirror drill is a high level footwork drill used by many professional athletes, and if done correctly it can ultimately lead to a more comprehensive ability in boxing footwork.
Building up a comprehensive series of footwork skills includes working on an athlete's agility. In boxing agility is crucial, as all athletes will need to stop suddenly, or move in multi directional ways, with fast reaction times. A good drill to incorporate agility training is using a rope ladder, and all an athlete needs to do is side step through each of the ladder rungs, while throwing shadow boxing punches, and this will help immensely with an athlete's agility. Athletes can also hop from one foot to the other, as they move through the ladder rungs, and use creative ways to step into certain positions, which is a great way to improve their footwork skills. Another good method of training agility skills is by setting up a series of cones a specific distance apart, and using them to weave in and out of. Athletes can try sprinting at the first cone, before moving laterally around the cone, or lowering their body down to touch the cone, and then sprinting backwards. There are a number of different methods they can use on the cones to improve their ability, and this will ultimately benefit the athlete in improving their overall footwork skills.
HOW TO DEVELOP POWER BY USING FOOTWORK
In a real life boxing fight an athlete must have power behind their punch, because without any form of significant power they will be unable to knock out their opponent. Although having a fast jab can still ultimately work in favour of an athlete, there will always be moments where the opponent may have just as much speed and maneuverability. So without any form of power in their punch, the athlete may have a difficult task in achieving a win against an opponent. This may seem strange to most beginners of the art, but power in a boxer's punch comes from the rotation in their hips, and the pivot they will use on their foot.
All athletes must develop a good series of footwork skills in order to build up powerful punches within their repertoire. This is why using specifically designed footwork drills, which can help an athlete develop their punching ability is what is needed. Athletes must focus on how they move their hips, the angle of the pivot they use within their feet, and allow themselves to build significant power within their punch. This will come down to improving strength in their legs, and developing the technique in how they rotate their hips. The athlete should also put in significant time into hitting the focus mitts, or the boxing bags, and this is a sure fire way to increase the power within their punch.
All boxers should be using mobility exercises like yoga, or other various types of movement drills to help their overall range of motion. The act of mobility is to maneuver one part of their body, like their shoulder in a rotational manner, so they can increase their overall range of movement. Mobility is a great way to increase flexibility, but it is also there for injury prevention, and when athletes are engaging in a high impact combat sport like boxing they need to be physically prepared for how their bodies may feel after extensive training sessions. Engaging in mobility exercise can help a number of different physical aspects, but can also have a significant impact on an athlete mentally. Stress relief is a huge factor for any athlete that is engaging in any type of strenuous physical activity, and mobility exercise is a great way to prepare the body in a peaceful way, while maintaining a calm and structured mindset.
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