Boxing can be very self-rewarding, both physically and mentally. Beginners can learn the basics and start moving around in the ring in a matter of months. However, there comes a time in every boxer’s training where their progress drastically slows down. This plateau often discourages people from training further, which only compounds the issue further.
One reason why this happens is the increase in the relative skill of their peers. If your first time training is at a beginners class, you will naturally use the other people in the class to measure your growth over time. Once you progress to a more advanced class, it’s not uncommon to feel like you are suddenly much worse, since your peers are overall at a higher skill level than your previous class.
Shifting your mindset to understand this will help prevent frustration when you do hit a plateau. Once you have cleared your mind, consider these aspects of your training to help overcome your current plateau.
Assess Your Skill Level
The first step to overcoming your plateau is to assess your current boxing skill level. You can break it down in many different ways. What’s important is to have measurable metrics that you can track over time. Some of the categories you can track are hand speed, power, agility (foot speed), fluidity (how well you put together your hands with footwork and head movement), and the body mechanics of your stance, punches, and footwork. Rate these on a scale between one and ten, and be sure to have a reason why you made your decision.
Athletic ability affects the execution of your boxing skills. Sprinting ability has a direct correlation to explosive power. Cardio in general has been linked to some aspects of withstanding a knockout and recovering from one. Shoulder endurance affects your overall punching stamina. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses athletically, rate the attributes between one and ten, and have a reason for each one as well.
Create A Program
Once you have assessed your current skill level, you can start putting a program together to push you past your current plateau. Make your program realistic, and don’t focus on what are already your stronger aspects. Take this time to level out your weaknesses so opponents can’t exploit them. If you have sparred regularly, think back and ask yourself what punches were you caught with. You can then reverse engineer drills and exercises to help with that situation in the future.
For example, if you kept getting clipped by your opponent’s left hook, train different ways to defend it. You can block it, shoulder roll it, weave, step back, step forward, the possibilities are nearly endless. Another example would be if you’ve noticed that opponents tend to stay stationary after the left hook. Drill to weave under it and counter with a right cross from an angle.
Partner drills and technical sparring are powerful tools when done with focus and intent. Partner drills allow both of you to get in lots of reps, building muscle memory and familiarity with the technique. Both partners can work the same technique or work on complementary ones.
For example, both people could take turns working their jab, the receiver either catching or blocking. The same drill could be done where one person jabs, and the other slips and counters with a cross. Tailor your drills to meet the needs of your partner and yourself.
Technical sparring brings uncertainty and reaction time into the equation. It lets you try and practice different techniques without risking injury while dealing with the pressure of a live opponent not bound by the constraints of a drill. This is not hard sparring, and ego should stay completely out of this. Out of all combat sports, boxing is notorious for hard sparring, so picking a level-headed partner to train with is especially important.
Padwork is an invaluable tool for pushing past your plateau. A good coach can change their padwork routine to fit the needs of their fighter. Padwork can range anywhere from the hard-hitting style of GGG or the jab and head movement-based Mayweather style.
If you don’t have a partner, you can still make a solo training program. Much of this will be slow form work, combined with shadowboxing and heavy bag work.
To practice good form, throw punches from your stance looking at a mirror. You want to avoid telegraphing your shot at all and a mirror is a perfect way to check yourself. If you don’t have a mirror, use your phone to record yourself.
Shadowboxing is an essential part of any boxer’s training. Most boxers do not do enough shadow work. It teaches you the importance of weight distribution and how to miss a punch correctly. Focus on punching and moving, while maintaining good form. Most boxers today can either punch or move at a given moment. Being able to do both simultaneously will take your boxing to the next level.
Athleticism And Conditioning
Maximizing your athleticism and conditioning will exponentially increase your ability to execute your boxing skills. Most world-class boxers are also world-class athletes. Floyd Mayweather’s cat-like reflexes and Manny Pacquiao’s insane hand and foot speed may be genetic gifts, but they trained tirelessly to develop them into the potent tools they are now.
To increase your maximum speed and power, you need to train your fast twitch fibers, especially the muscles of the posterior chain. Even if you mostly have slow twitch fibers, research suggests that, with training, you can actually convert some of your muscles to have fast twitch fibers!
The first exercise is sprinting. Train your 100m dash at least once a week to see what your max speed is, as this correlates directly to anaerobic power. As you improve, you will see a change in your time, even if the progress seems too slow for you to directly feel.
Sled pulls are essentially sprints with added resistance. Sprint 100m at least while pushing the sled. Alternate sets of pulling and pushing to fully maximize your results.
Medicine ball slams are also effective at increasing your power. They help you to recruit more muscle during movements. The benefit of doing the gorilla slams is the convenience when training solo (looks possible to be removed because both workouts can be done in a solo setting).
You can either do a gorilla slam, or you can do a rotating throw, which more accurately mimics punching mechanics.
The final modality is plyometrics. Take any bodyweight exercise, such as push ups, pull ups, or squats, then perform them with an explosive contraction.
The most important part of overcoming a plateau is to never give up! Make a plan for success and persevere through it with the heart of a champion. Consider working with a coach as they have the knowledge to guide your development as a boxer. Many world champions attribute their success to their coach and team around them.
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