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Workout Edge: Keep Your Hands Up Better in Boxing – Do This.

I hope everyone’s having a great week. If you haven’t checked out the last blog post, go ahead and do that now – It’s a great Clean Snacking recipe that ticks all the boxes – flavor, function, and ease.

I’ve had a few readers write to me asking if I could post a Workout Edge that has to do with boxing, as I haven’t done one in a while. Well, requests answered. I figure with this whole virus stuff, for those of you who can’t get to a gym this would be a good time to offer up another Workout Edge post you can apply at home with minimal equipment as well (and if you haven’t already, check out my Gym In A Bag Workout Guide).

At some point in your life, whether in training for your job or in your adolescent years, you learn to fight. Learning the offense side of things is easy, but knowing how to defend yourself is equally important.

The most important thing to remember, especially in boxing, is that if you like that pretty mug of yours, you’ve got to keep your hands up.

I’m gonna go over a few simple tips that’ll teach you how to do this easier.

Take the gum out of your ears and let’s get started.

Workout Edge: Keep Your Hands Up Better in Boxing – Do This.

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Anyone can throw a punch – the more skilled fighter can connect a punch. Anyone can take a hit – but controlling where you get hit, how hard you get hit, and if you get hit, is a skill worth learning.

Sometimes in boxing, just like in life, you learn to take the hits – but how you handle them is what makes a difference.

Holding your hands up in a fight is easier said than done – it takes practice, requires stamina and endurance, and a sharp mind to regain your guard once broken – or resist getting your guard broken at all. All in all, you’ve got to practice until it becomes habit.

This is why outside of learning your standard punches, keeping your hands up is the second most important thing to teach, learn, and drill into a new fighter’s head.

You can have a punch as hard as a rock but you’ve got to be ready to take a hit and defend yourself against someone else’s punches. This comprises several factors including but not limited to balance, distance, speed, and how well you can ground yourself during a hit. Which leads us to our first point in keeping your hands up…

Tip #1:
Lean forward.

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Let’s start with balance. Poor balance means poor agility, and a poor guard. Balance it the most important thing to master in any and all fighting styles. You’ve got to learn to stay on your feet – this includes while you’re getting hit. It’s easy to just stand there and keep your balance, but getting hit and maintaining balance, or hitting while maintaining balance is where it really counts.

Here’s a tip – lean forward slightly. Get your hands in front of your shoulders a bit. The body will naturally try to balance itself. Now get your shoulders in front of your hips. It’s doesn’t have to be a huge tilt – just a few degrees forward and your hands will naturally go up.

The flip side to this is true, too. Lean your head back (as most new fighters do), and the rest of you will lean back – which means you’re pretty much helping your opponent do half of their job; they want to knock you back – the fact that you’re already halfway there will makes this easy as cake.

So lean forward, and of course, tuck your elbows into your side. This is why it also helps to build your forearms – Bruce Lee believed this and I’d have to agree with him.

Well developed forearms not only help with a powerful punch, but serve as a great guard, creating a “wall” which makes it difficult for your opponent to land front/side body shots. After that, you just have to concern yourself with building a strong back – for those moments when your opponent wants to play dirty and hit you from behind.

Tip #2:
Develop an endurance punching drill.

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Now that we’re on the topic of developing strong forearms, this leads us to our next point – it’s important to develop a good endurance punching drill. This doesn’t mean just punch out drills either – they’re too short, you can get tired towards the end of those, and your speed start to slow.

One thing I’ve done for years, at least once a week, is endurance punching, with 16 oz gloves on. This is something you can slowly build on, as you can increase the reps, as your speed improves.

One of my favorite punching drills is to do 500 punches each arm, with a heavy bag, with no rest except for when you change arms. It not only taxes your forearms, but your shoulders, back, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, all the way down to your calves. The whole time you’re doing this, keep your other arm glued to your jaw, and make sure you lean forward.

You can do all jabs, all crosses, or a combination of jabs/hooks or crosses/hooks but don’t alternate arms. Get to 500 for one arm, then change.

I do this after 10 minutes of speed rope and a quick stretch. Some days, I’ll increase the reps to 600, then 700, and so on, up until 1000. The most I’ve done is 2000 reps each arm, but that was on a day I was feeling really fresh so you’ve always got to take into consideration how your workout the day before might affect you.

Like I mentioned earlier it’s important to keep a log of your time spent on each arm. When your time decreases, increase the reps.

This type of drill improves two things:

It forces you to use punch from the ground up, as I mention in SUPP UP. No Bull, Gym in a Bag Workout Guide – which is momentum mainly from your legs, meaning your individual punches grow stronger, especially your jabs but especially your crosses. Most crosses use momentum of a jab when you transfer weight from one foot to the other.

Most importantly, by the time you get to about 300 reps, the muscles in your forearms and constant contracting of your biceps make you feel like you have lead in your arms, and your shoulders feel like they’ve been injected with battery acid, so you build up lactic acid tolerance, and embed in your subconscious the habit of keeping your non-working arm up, despite being incredibly fatigued while moving around the heavy bag.

Tip #3:
Use the slip bag with gloves on.

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A slip bag is your best friend. It keeps your head moving and lets you know when you start slacking off – the resounding “thud” to the back of the head is a friendly reminder when you’re slowing down.

Whenever I use a slip bag, I train with my mouth guard in (to train my breathing for an actual fight in the ring) and gloves on. I still use 16 oz gloves in the situation, and throw combinations and counters once I’ve “slipped” the bag.

While I know you can use the bag with just your hand wraps, adding heavy gloves to the mix really just reinforces the habit of keeping your hands up. What I’m saying here is, don’t just restrict it to a heavy bag or a sparring session. Get some gloves on and go through your rounds as normal.

Remembering to keep them up obviously isn’t the only thing you have to train into your mind – fatigue will make your hands drop as well. Which is why I’m going to reinforce what I just said in the last paragraph: You can train keeping your hands up without gloves on, true – but guarding and punching, over time, will tax your shoulders pretty vigorously. Train them for endurance now, so you can keep them up better later.

They say once a fighter’s legs are tired, that’s it…I say once your shoulders and legs are tired, that’s really it; outside of mustering up the stuff made of miracles, that “will to keep moving forward” – you’ve lost the fight. So fight smart.

Any one of these tips will help keep your hands up better in boxing, but why not try all three? I dare you to implement these into your boxing workouts for 8 weeks. Write to me with the results – and of course, good luck.

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Photo Credit:

Photo 1: Xuan Nguyen
Photo 2 & 4: John Fornander
Photo 3: Bogdan Yukhymchuk

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