Your defensive guard is your foundation for good defense in boxing. The most basic defensive guard involves keeping both hands by your face. Your rear hand should be by your chin, while your lead hand should be slightly in front of your face.
This puts you in a good position to throw punches while making it easy to block punches. You can also throw counter punches from the basic defensive stance, even though outer guards like the Philly shell give you more options.
The key to making the basic guard effective is keeping your hands where they should be. You can’t block with your forearms when your hands are down by your waist.
How To Make Keeping Your Hands Up Part Of Your Muscle Memory
Many beginner boxers struggle with remembering how to keep their hands up when sparring or competing. Some haven’t been properly taught how to position their hands, while others simply don’t have enough experience forcing themselves to keep their hands up as they navigate around a boxing ring.
It’s also natural to drop your hands as fatigue seeps in, making it harder for boxers to keep their hands up. Even professional boxers at the highest levels drop their hands when exhausted. The best way to make keeping your hands in the ideal defensive position when boxing is to drill it to the point it becomes something you don’t have to think about.
Here are some drills that will help you to make keeping your hands up part of your subconscious:
1) Phone And Microphone Drill
Like watching old classic movies? You’ve probably noticed how telephones worked back then. One hand holds the earpiece on your ear, while the other hands hold the microphone. That’s the position your hands should be in your defensive guard.
To begin, place an object by your ear with your rear hand., mimicking a phone conversation. Your lead hand should be by your chin as if you’re holding a microphone. This puts you in a position to block a wide variety of punches. For example, you simply bring your hands together to block straight punches. Watch the video above by Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries from 2:57. Tony gives a clear demonstration of how you can perform his variation of the drill using a heavy bag.
To perform the drill, get into your boxing stance and work on your punches, bringing your free hand back to the microphone position after each strike. This teaches you to keep your hands in the proper position after each punch, making it harder for opponents to land clean punches on you.
2) The Coin Drill
Here’s an effective way to teach yourself to always keep your rear hand by your jaw. It’s also straightforward. Get into your fighting stance with your rear hand by your chin. Adjust your dominant hand, so it’s right under your jaw. Your knuckles should be lined up with your molars in this position. If possible, get a training partner to place a coin between your rear hand and jaw.
Now, start throwing punches with your lead hand and move around. The key is to mimic the movements you would use while sparring or during a match. Your rear hand is the only part of your body that should be stationary as you work on your technique. Throw jabs, hooks, and uppercuts with your free hand while sidestepping, pivoting, and dancing around with your feet.
The key is not to drop the coin despite all your movement. Doing so keeps your hand rear hand in the optimal position to protect your head and to fire off counters during sparring matches or fights.
Shadowboxing is one of the most valuable drills for boxers of all levels since it allows them to focus on their movement, flow, and form without an opponent forcing them to push a pace they might not be comfortable with. Shadowboxing is an effective way to practice punches and combinations and your movement inside the ring. It also helps to stimulate how you would block punches in a fight and where your hands should be.
The key to getting the most out of shadowboxing is to make your sessions as realistic as possible. Don’t waste your time goofing around when shadowboxing. Everything should be done realistically, from your combinations to your blocks.
If possible, have a training partner or coach monitor you while shadowboxing so they can give you pointers and let you know when your hands aren’t in the proper positions.
4) Pad Work
Hitting pads is another excellent way to teach yourself to always keep your hands up during your fights. Many trainers will naturally tell you to keep your hands up when you drop them, and some might even give you a little smack on the head for some negative reinforcement.
That works well since an experienced trainer will take advantage of the opening created by your low hand or hands to teach you the lesson. That way, you see firsthand how an opponent can take advantage of the same opening during your matches.
If you’re hitting pads with a training partner, make sure they don’t allow you to drop your hands without repercussions. Pad work involves throwing combinations, evading attacks, and practicing your footwork, and it mimics the motions you would use while sparring, making it an effective way to build positive muscle memory.
Speed bags effectively improve many boxing skills such as your hand-eye coordination, speed, and punch accuracy. It also teaches you to keep your hands up since your hands have to be in the proper guard position to work the speed bag. Work on a speed bag long enough, and it will feel unnatural for you to have your hands down when boxing.
Practice Creates Muscle Memory
There are countless drills that can help to teach you to always keep your hands up when boxing. The most important thing is you realize the importance of proper hand positioning and deliberately focus on improving your hand positioning.
Mindlessly performing drills isn’t enough to form good habits. You need to be wholly focused on your movements when performing these drills to get the most out of your training.
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