The heavy bag is an invaluable tool for any aspiring boxer. There is a reason why every pugilist, regardless of their ability, uses one. A heavy bag acts as a semi-stationary training partner that helps boxers progress their techniques from a basic level, which has become especially useful since the emergence of Covid-19.
Today, Evolve is pleased to share three important heavy bag drills to improve your boxing technique.
Mastering The Jab
The jab, a cornerstone for any serious pugilist, is often referred to as the most important punch in boxing. A boxer can win a fight with just a well-developed jab, but the same cannot be said for any other punch in the boxing arsenal.
This first drill utilizes four different types of jabs: the traditional jab, under jab, body jab, and the up jab. Before going into the drill itself, it is crucial to understand the mechanics behind each type of jab. We will cover not only the mechanics of the jab itself but also the best rear-hand position for each type of jab.
The traditional jab is a tried and true classic. It starts from a traditional high guard and shoots out straight to the target, and comes right back to your guard. Your fist starts from a vertical position and rotates inwards just before the punch lands. This allows you to make contact with your index and middle finger knuckles, concentrating your power in a small area and minimizing any chance of damaging your hands.
As you jab, your rear hand should move to cover the area right in front of your chin. A useful cue is to touch your rear thumb to your lead shoulder. The reasoning behind this is twofold: changing your hand position allows full rotation of your lead shoulder to maximize range, as well as putting your rear hand into the best position to defend and counter.
Assuming both boxers are in an orthodox (closed) stance, this rear hand position allows you to catch your opponent’s jab or be in a position to get your cross off before your opponent. Remember, boxing is a game of inches. It’s small adjustments like these that separate good boxers from champions.
The under jab, also called the coffee mug jab, is thrown from a slightly different position. Your weight will be more on your lead leg than the traditional jab. Shoot the under jab straight from your guard once your weight has been shifted to the lead side. This position allows the jab to split the opponent’s guard down the center from a different angle.
Unlike the traditional jab, your fist will remain vertical, even on impact. The motion resembles lifting a coffee mug, hence the nickname. Your rear hand should stay on the rear side of your face. Since the angle of attack is changed from the traditional jab, so are your opponent’s counter options. Keeping your hand on the rear side of your face in a high guard protects you from a counter jab or left hook.
The body jab is used to drain an opponent’s stamina, stop their forward pressure, and set up other punches to the head. The mechanics are the same as a traditional jab, but the target is the body instead of the head.
As you throw the body jab, bend at the waist and stab your opponent in the gut. This can be aimed at the chest, solar plexus, spleen, or even the liver to great effect. Your rear hand’s thumb should touch the lead shoulder when throwing the body jab. This is to safeguard against your opponent’s hard rear cross, which can counter a lazy jab to the body. It is crucial to still punch at eye level and not punch downwards when executing the body jab. The waist bend will lower your level and put your head in line with your opponent’s body.
The final jab in this drill is the up jab, often called the flicker jab. You start this punch by changing levels as if you’re throwing a body jab. Instead of punching at eye level, you punch above your head, in a flicking motion. This often catches opponents off guard and takes your head off of the centerline to avoid a counter. Like the traditional and body jab, your rear hand will touch your lead shoulder to add an extra layer of defense.
The heavy bag jab drill is a simple pyramid drill, done over a standard three-minute round. Start with one jab, then two, all the way up to four. You then go down to three, then two, then finally back to one. Repeat this pattern until the round is over. You can practice a predetermined order to the jabs or vary the jab type in a more freestyle manner – both are extremely effective for building muscle memory.
Punch Conditioning Drill
This next drill builds your punch conditioning and is an effective way to build stamina. It is a simple punch pyramid drill, starting at one punch, then increasing to two, all the way up to 21 punches.
When you first try this drill, stick to your jab and cross, alternating between the two. As you become more comfortable with the drill, you can add hooks and uppercuts, as long as you keep alternating hands with your punches.
Ideally, you want to be able to complete a full pyramid, from one to 21 then back down to one, within a three-minute round. If that pace is too difficult at first, you can either turn off the timer and take your time completing the full pyramid, or complete whatever portion you can within the round. This is an extremely strenuous drill that will prepare you for the hundreds of punches you will throw in a real boxing round against an opponent.
Shuffle Footwork Drill
This drill has two variations that get your body used to taking angles quickly on an opponent. The main focus of these drills is to place yourself in a good position before you let your hands go.
The first variation is the front step shuffle drill. Stand in front of the heavy bag in your boxing stance. Step with your lead foot towards your lead side, twisting your body and back foot as well. This motion looks nearly identical to a lead side slip.
At this point, most of your weight will be loaded onto your front leg. You then execute a triangle step with a short hop and twist towards your rear side. This will put your rear foot where your lead foot just was, and your lead foot will be facing your opponent’s side, giving you a dominant angle. Your weight will naturally be placed on your rear leg, giving you a perfect opportunity for a heavy rear hand uppercut or overhand. This technique can be seen utilized heavily by the Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomachenko.
The other variation of this drill is the rear step shuffle. Start by standing in front of the heavy bag in your stance, like in the first drill. This time, you will step your rear leg towards your rear side, placing your weight on your rear foot and changing head slots. You then perform a triangle step towards your rear side, which ends with your lead foot being where your rear foot started. Your lead foot will end up pointing at the opponent from the side opposite the first variation, with most of your weight on it.
This gives you the opposite angle from the first variation and loads your lead hand for a powerful hook or uppercut. Combining these two footwork maneuvers will keep your opponent guessing and hesitant, allowing you to land heavy power punches on them while staying out of harm’s way.
The combination of these three boxing drills will make you a formidable opponent for any boxer. The jab and shuffle footwork drills will give you control of the fight, allowing you to hit without being hit, and the conditioning drill will give you the stamina to outlast your opponent. Practice these drills both on the heavy bag and during shadowboxing rounds. Implement these in your training and let us know how they improve your boxing game.
Master the basics of the sweet science with the Boxing Fundamentals Master Course, an in-depth 9-hour online video Master Course structured into 11 instructional chapters, taught by WBA Boxing World Champion Drian Francisco!
Learn the vital details behind the boxing stance, footwork, punches, defensive blocking and evasive techniques, counter punching and more. Covering all of boxing’s fundamental techniques, this Master Course will help complete beginners create a strong foundation to build upon. This Master Course can also help more experienced practitioners refine their techniques and fix bad habits.
Now available at US$59.90 for a limited time (equivalent to US$7 per hour), Evolve University’s Boxing Fundamentals Master Course will help you become a better practitioner of the sweet science.
Get Boxing Fundamentals Master Course Today!