Today's mailbag covers training at home, key parts of the body that generate power, developing footwork, motivating kids to box, foods to eat on fight day, and where to look at your opponent during sparring.
Do you have any tips for training myself at home? – "Trainer"
- Watch lots of videos and do something new everyday. Don't waste your time doing the same'old boring routines trying to outdo the number of push-ups you did yesterday. Be creative, watch different boxers and study different styles. Expand your mind as soon as you can. You have the rest of your life to get in perfect shape so instead, try to focus on becoming more aware of different techniques, methods, and possibilities of movement. Most important of all, try to get some friends over for light sparring. Trying to learn boxing without sparring anyone is like trying to get good at tennis by only playing against the wall. Boxing is not about throwing punches, it's about the simultaneous awareness of defense and offense.
These shorter guys in my gym hit like trucks! What part of the body is the main key to explosive punching power? – Wesley
- Serious punching power comes from your legs and hips! The legs are the biggest muscle on the body and they're connected to the ground which gives you something to push off of. If you want to generate the most power throughout your body, you definitely want to figure out how to incorporate your legs into the punch.
- Think of your hips as the weight behind the punch and muscle that rotates the punch. So your legs generate power off the ground but it's your hips that rotate the body launching the punch forward. The hips are also responsible for dropping your entire body weight into the punch.
- The reason why shorter guys can hit so hard is because there is less chance of bad form and energy loss during their punching motion. When you only have to move your arm a short distance, there is less chance that you will get off balance or fall into inefficient bad form. Shorter arms however, have the disadvantage of being short. It also helps that their hips and legs are a tighter unit and therefore more easily function as a solid motion.
- You might also notice that a lot of the taller guys (think Thomas Hearns) that hit hard, will attack with more of a whipping motion where their long limbs whip out punches like a slingshot. Their punches have a bit of a "relaxed stretch" before it quickly launches forward and gathers up momentum along the distance. Long armed fighters have trouble gathering power on the inside since their arms may have less weight and therefore require distance to pickup velocity before their punches have any real power.
What's the best way to develop footwork? – Anthony C
- Great footwork requires skill, relaxation, and a bit of conditioning. Probably the best exercise I've seen is jumping rope. Sure, you can do some footwork and feet coordination drills too but the probably is that so many guys rush and force their way through these drills and end up missing the point. Jumping rope will require you to be smooth and efficient as you skip and get your feet over the rope each time.
- Chances are: if you're asking me how to develop footwork, you probably need to jump rope more. Try to do it for 1-hour non-stop–it's ok if the rope gets caught on your feet, just reset and keep skipping. Work on your breathing, relaxing your mind and body, and moving around as you jump rope. I recommend nothing else than this for now.
Where should I look at my opponent during sparring? Is it the eyes, shoulders, chest, or hands? – Anthony
- Don't look at any single thing. Pay attention to all of the entire upper body, but be aware of any movement and prepare to react to it. I generally watch my opponent's upper body but I'm very aware of their distance and even foot placement. If they punch with one hand, I will react to it with a block or a slip or even a counter, but I will always still be watching their entire upper body. I never let my mind focus to just one thing.
- Think of it like driving: when you drive, you don't turn your head to look at every car or house that you pass, you just look forward. You are aware of other cars and you may react and steer around other cars but still, your eyes remain forward as you pay attention to what's coming next.
- A beginner driver is too focused on one object and easily gets into an accident because he or she can only process one thing at a time. An experienced driver pays attention to the entire terrain ahead and knows how to react to things without taking their awareness off everything else. Likewise in boxing, a beginner boxer can only block one punch and will usually get hit by the 2nd and 3rd whereas an experienced boxer can see just about anything because they don't over-focus on just one thing.
I am involved in a youth boxing center. How do I keep the kids motivated to come? – Chris
- Make it fun. Show them love and respect. Appreciate their presence, let them know that you care about them. Give them attention and let them know that you will care for them even if they never get any good at boxing. Unconditional love is a powerful and beautiful thing that changes people's lives.
- Understand that it's more important for kids to have fun and come back than for them to ever become a good boxer. Let them goof off and be a kid in the gym. It's much better for them to have fun in a gym around mature role models than having fun on the streets with God-knows-who. Boxing in its raw form can be about fighting, but don't let the environment become a competitive one where kids avoid each other and hold grudges against each other. Make it a positive environment, one where everyone is working together in the spirit of personal success and hard work. Avoid situations that produce "winners" and "losers".
- You have to protect the children from everything, even themselves. A lot of kids have messed up egos and false pride about being tough. They might tell you they want to spar hard but in reality, nobody really likes getting their ass kicked. You have to stop them before they hurt themselves. I see it all the time where kids try to overmatch themselves, get beat up badly, and never come back. The worst part about losing is not the physical pain, it's the mental. Some of them come home blaming themselves for the loss and take it way too personal. For some emotionally fragile youngsters, losing reminds them of everything bad that may have ever been said to them–parents telling them they're not worth anything, friends teasing them, anything. Even the toughest kids have a limit, protect them from that.
What should I feed my son on the day of the fight? – John
- Complex carbs (low glycemic food), nuts, banana, fruits, vegetables. Avoid processed food, cheese, red meat, ANY meat. Lots of water on the day of the fight (half cup every hour), but only sips from 2-3 hours onward. You don't want him to fight with any water in his stomach, that will increase the chance of him wanting to puke when his body performs at maximum intensity.