Posts Tagged conditioning

Skip Rope Like You Mean It!

The only thing that annoys me more than lazy skipping in the gym is a guy who doesn’t hit the heavybag, and trust me these guys are out there.  They show up, do an extended warm up, hit the double end bag and then mess around waiting to get padwork from their beloved coach.  Anyways, if you are anything like the way I started out then you’re probably skipping rope like you’re strolling through the housewares section at Sears…casually.  This is really not acceptable, you are wasting your potential by the day.  The difference in skipping ability between a real boxer and a posing trickster is…..







………….SPEED! Turn that rope brotha!

What is your skip rope routine?  One thing about skipping rope is that it is much harder to increase your heart rate and level of work intensity than through running.  So you have to give more of yourself to get the same benefit.  If you had to choose between one or the other you’d be better off running, hands down (this includes sprints and intervals).  In the real world you should be doing both, and when you skip you want to hear the air around you whistle like you’re playing a tune for entire gym.

Here are some skipping routines that I typically use when I come in the gym.

1)  4 rounds of 3 minutes at interval pace.  Meaning, by the last 20 seconds of the round you are begging for a break.  think of it as an 800 metre run on the rope.

2)  10 sets of 50 double jumps  (one round warm up skip)

3)  10 Tabata sets of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off.  Use running on the spot skipping (this is the fastest skip step next to double jumps).  Meaning that going hard for 20 seconds and easy for 10 seconds equals one set.

4)  20 sets of 15 seconds high intensity followed by 15 seconds light intensity, this is a less intense version of Tabata’s

5) 30 minute endurance skip.  Every now and then it’s ok to go light, like just before or after a fight, or when you are coming back after a lay off.  Just don’t make it a habit.

Overall, skipping doesn’t cause much wear and tear on the body, you will adjust to the demands easily and quickly.  So do yourself, your boxing, and everyone you train with a favour by rasing the bar and skipping like you mean it!

Here is my skipping video if you want to get some ideas for variations to make it more fun.


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Breathing in Boxing

Your body’s ability to process and utilize oxygen effectively is essential to good boxing, even though research has shown boxing to be about 70% anaerobic.  This means that boxing simulates short sprints, explosive movements, and dextrous agility that requires big energy on demand and needs less oxygen a more aerobic activity.

The optimal training formula for for boxing is not locked in however, old school long distance roadwork is still a staple of many coaches and boxer’s regimen.  Most good boxers and coaches have figured out one thing though, and that is that training has to simulate the intensity of the actual event, anything less than training for what a fight feels like will leave you performing suboptimally.  There is a slight distinction between breathing, oxygen usage, and boxing efficiency, yet they are all related.  Below, one of my Youtube subscribers brings this issue to my attention, and I’ll attempt to answer it based on a holistic view of performance training for boxing.

I really enjoy your vids! Its helping me alot in every aspect. I was wondering about breathing in sparring. The funny thing is when i hit the bags, heavybag, double end bag, body snatcher bag. i dont have a problem. But when i spar i have a problem. I guess im holding my breath. Can you please give me some pointers? Any help would be greatly apprecated.

First off, the proper breathing technique for boxing allows you to expel air almost completely when you throw your punches so the body’s natural instinct to take air back in goes into effect.  This way you have a steady supply of new oxygen coming in.  To do this you have to exert your exhalation from the lowest part of your abdomen.  If you exhale and only exert exhalation pressure from your upper diaphram or chest then you are going to get tense and tired real quick.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to make a loud “hmph” or “hugh” sound on each punch while keeping your mouth closed and breathing out through your nose.  When the air goes out strong your body will call it back.  It’s ideal to breath back in through your nose, I’ve had a deviated sceptum for years so breathing back in through my nose has always been tough, but it’s ideal.  The specific noise you make when you exhale doesn’t matter, a lot of top boxers make a “SSS” sound when they punch, some like Ricky Hatton, make a loud “Hagh”.  The key is that the air has to come from the lowest part of your abdomen, this also makes your body a bit tougher and more durable against counters to the body.

One way to test this and get a feel is to put your fingertips right below your navel and let out a forceful “Hmph”, do three or four fast ones in a row just like when you throw a combo, you should feel the exertive outward pressure of your abdomen.  Now try this, put your fingertips on your upper abdomen and exhale forcefully without letting your lower abdomen exert pressure, you’ll notice that you feel tight and still have a lot of air left in your lungs to expel.  In the heat of real boxing, this is how a lot of people tend to breath, it takes training, experience and conditioning to get this properly calibrated.

There is a bigger problem for my prospective boxer above though, and poor breathing may be the sympton, but it’s not the cause.  One thing I stress in training is to simulate the fight feel and conditions as much as possible.  A lot of fighters either forget, are unaware, or lack drive to get in the proper shape for a fight.  Hitting the bag is the equivalent of a jog, and fighting is the equivalent of a sprint.  Sparring and fighting is high intensity for the simple reason that the opponent moves, and appliess pressure through offense and his ability to dodge your attacks.  It takes a lot of steam to launch an attack and to retreat to safety, with a bag it only takes about half the effort.  Let me put it to you in measurable terms:  If you are going to have a 100 punch output during a round of sparring, you need to be ready for a 300 punch round on the bag.  This is about the equivalent I have found, it may be a little less depending on your footwork and head movement, but you get the idea.

One thing I stress to fighters is to hit the bag at fight pace.  Fight pace is rapid, it’s dynamic, it incorporates head movement, in and outs, lateral motion, in fighting, and fast fast fast combos!  My recommendation is to have at least 2 workouts a week where you go 4 rounds at fight pace.  This means you warm up for 3 rounds.  And then when round 4 hits, its a mad fury and all out tactical brawl with the bag.

How will you know if you are doing it right?  By the end of the third round at fight pace you will be begging for the bell to ring.  Another way you’ll know is when everyone in the gym is staring at you wondering if they need to exorcise the demon within.

You need to simulate the feel of a real fight in training.  Another trick I used to do is when the bell would go for the round, I would bust out 20 straight burpees before stepping to the bag. I would do this for each round. Under these conditions you will learn to fight tired and under fatigue.  You don’t want to train this way all the time, I recommend twice a week.  Remember in training to simulate the feel of your toughest rounds in the ring!

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The Machine Gun Puncher

Every now and then you’ll come across this guy, he is less skilled than you, doesn’t believe much in defense, has no patterns or combinations, and just comes straight ahead with rapid fire machine gun style punching.  I’m not talking about rapid fire high volume punchers like Pacquiao or P. Williams, these guys have style and slick head movement and footwork to compliment their onslaught.  I’m talking about the ignoramus who just comes straight ahead.  The trouble is that he probably has a decent amount of endurance and speed, and if you are not sure how to handle this guy you might have to wait until the third round to really get his number, if you are having an off day then even that might not happen.  These guys make can make you look bad as they unleash a fury upon you, and all the more so if they brought their girlfriend along to impress.

There are three ways I’ve handled these guys, not all will work the same depending on the speed of your oppenent and your current level of fitness.  These are fight strategies, general strategies that you’ll find work especially well against machine gun fighters of lesser skill.

1)  Tighten up your defense and crowd him.  The rapid fire puncher usually has no clue how to move backwards, let alone fight moving backwards, they expect you to follow the game plan that if he is going to come ahead you will either move back or stay where you are.  This is perfect for him as he can guage distance (the way he does on the bag) and use momentum to chase you down as you retreat.  The other thing he loves is a brawl, it brings you down to his level and negates the finer points of your game.  So this is what I recommend, adopt a Winky Wright style defense, hands high, elbows tight to your ribs, forearms like pillars, make sure your hands are slightly open and the heel of palms are turned a bit inwards to prevent uppercuts from easily finding their way (see image below, I’ve left one glove off so you can see the position of the hand).

Once you’ve adopted this posture move towards your opponent, walk into his punching range, and when he starts firing take another step closer.  It helps if you can twist your body left and right to time and absorb the blows but it’s not necessary, try to make him feel uncomfortably close, if he tries to adjust the distance then get closer.  Most often he will step back to gain space or catch his breath, and this is when you go on the attack.  It’s very rare that I recommend leading with a straight right hand, but this is one of those times, the moment he steps back you step in and unload the straight right hand and left hook, if you connect then throw a few more shots and reset.  I recommend staying close but walking to the right or left, don’t give him space, create angles.  Most of all stay relaxed, and keep your eyes on his upper chest or neck, don’t let his onslaught throw off your vision.

2) Go on the run.  If your opponent has poor footwork and has trouble chasing down a mobile opponent then use your lateral motion and quick in and outs to go on the run.  Let him know that he is going to have to take risks to catch you, he’s going to have time you perfectly, and get you up against the ropes or in the corner to have a chance.  I have most often used this strategy in the first round of a fight when my opponent thinks he is going to intimidate me with a barrage of offense and grunting.  Don’t let it fool you, your skill and ability to weather this storm is the mark of a true boxer, stay calm and go on the run with tight defense, and don’t forget to return the favour a minute into the round.  The beauty of knowing that you can outrun your opponent is that you can most likely catch him when you decide to go on the offense.

3) Punch when he is punching.  This is a bit of Jeet Kune Do theory here, and boxing already has it built in.  For the rapid fire puncher I would avoid throwing if he is in the middle of his attack, the best time to throw is when he starts.

Stay light on your feet and guage the distance and keep moving side to side, when he gets within range and is about to fire then YOU fire.  There are a few rules for this though:

  • Keep your head off the centre line when you throw, this means slip and jab and follow up with more shots, or slip while throwing the right hand, or drop lower and throw to the body.  Don’t come in straight with your head up the middle, that is where he will be firing
  • Do NOT stand still when you throw, either step in with your shot and intercept him, or step back and throw the left hook while stepping back.  Don’t be a sitting duck.
  • This applies all the time but be especially conscious of your chin and the non-punching hand.  If you are going to walk into a fire of punching then stay tight, this is not a time to be loose and slick.

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