For a lot of beginners, being fluid is a challenge in boxing. It’s easy to let the intense nature of the sport make you uneasy and reactive. This creates tension and rigidity that won’t allow you to move freely and will often result in bad positioning, form, and fluidity.
Think about boxing as a motor skill, like walking, cycling, or changing gears in a manual car. You don’t think about these things, you just do them. It comes from intuition and experience. This is the same approach you should have with boxing. It isn’t something you can follow from a textbook and simply learn.
It takes practice and the best way is to start slow and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be fast or strong. Focus on moving freely and the punches will come naturally with time. Listed below are our top tips for overcoming this stiffness so you throw punches will great fluidity.
Relax Your Shoulders & Hips
I think this is where the vast majority of new boxers go wrong, particularly adults who take an overly logical approach to boxing. While there are some fundamental rules, the actual application of boxing purely comes from practice and muscle memory. For instance, many new boxers will put a huge emphasis on keeping their hands up.
This of course is good practice but since they don’t have practical experience using a guard, they keep their hands glued to their orbital bones and try to throw every punch from that position. This is what creates that rigidity.
To overcome this, you want to get comfortable with your guard and make sure that particularly your hips and shoulders and nice and relaxed. Yes, you do need to hold your hands up to protect yourself, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be glued to this side of your head. This will make you stand more square, tire you out faster, and put a lot of tension on your shoulders and traps which will consequently make you stiff.
Don’t even throw any punches to start, just watch yourself in a mirror when you’re on your guard. Visualize what it might be like if you had to fight from the position. See if you could catch or parry punches with your guard and what punches would they be? But most importantly, stay calm, focus on your breathing, ensure that your body is relaxed, and you’re that you’re comfortable in your guard.
Don’t Emphasise Punch Power Initially
This is one of the easiest ways to lose your form as a beginner when boxing. Everyone always wants to have impressive power. It’s exciting and who doesn’t want to be a knockout puncher?
However, I can nearly guarantee if you don’t have your fundamentals down and you focus too much on power, you will be stiff and leave yourself open. This is because boxing requires you to fight against your instincts. Most people who are untrained, puff out their chest when they fight. They make themselves look as big as possible with their chin high in the air and generate power by swinging their punches from their hips and loading up. This is a horrible strategy and a very easy way to get KO’d.
In boxing, you want to be compact, efficient, and precise. If you haven’t got your guard and punch form proper, then simply forget about power. I’m not saying don’t put any force behind your punches but let it be a complete afterthought. Think about technique first, accuracy second, speed third, and power last. Overly emphasizing speed or power too early could easily be a contributing factor as to why your stiff when you box.
Warm-Up Properly For Boxing
Warming up properly can make a world of difference when it comes to smooth boxing mechanics. If you’re tight and tense, your punches will follow suit. Boxing requires, fluidity, athleticism, and explosiveness, so if you’re struggling with movement, its recommended that you stretch before and after you train.
This can be broken down into two segments, dynamic stretching which you should perform before you start boxing, and static stretching once you’ve finished.
Dynamic Stretching (5-10 minutes): Perform dynamic stretches that mimic the movements you’ll be doing in boxing. These stretches help improve flexibility, range of motion, and muscle activation. Here are some examples:
- Arm Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Rotate your arms in small circles, gradually increasing the size of the circles.
- Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall or sturdy object for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward, then side to side in a controlled motion.
- Torso Twists: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended out to the sides. Twist your torso from side to side, keeping your hips facing forward.
- High Knees: Jog in place while bringing your knees up towards your chest as high as possible.
- Butt Kicks: Jog in place while kicking your heels up towards your buttocks.
Static Stretching (5-10 minutes): After your warm-up and workout, perform static stretches to improve flexibility and cool down your muscles. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds without bouncing. Focus on stretching the major muscle groups used in boxing, including:
- Shoulder Stretch: Cross one arm across your body and gently press on the elbow to stretch the shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
- Triceps Stretch: Reach one arm overhead and bend the elbow, gently pressing on the elbow with the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side.
- Chest Stretch: Stand tall and clasp your hands behind your back, then straighten your arms and lift them slightly to stretch the chest muscles.
- Quadriceps Stretch: Stand on one leg and grab the ankle of the other leg, pulling your heel towards your buttocks. Keep your knees together and your torso upright. Repeat on the other side.
- Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg extended straight and the other leg bent. Reach towards the toes of the extended leg, keeping your back straight. Repeat on the other side.
Slow Is Smooth & Smooth Is Fast
Purposeful & deliberate action will always supersede exaggerated movements and undirected aggression. At its core, the quote “slow is smooth & smooth is fast” represents the power of using strategic acumen.
I remember being gobsmacked when I first saw the viral video of Micheal Jai White teaching Kimbo Slice punching mechanics on the set of Blood & Bone. The video amassed millions of views on YouTube and while I couldn’t comment on the veracity of the video, Micheal raised an incredibly valuable point. By simply not creating excessive movements and tensing up, he was able to hit the target.
The point is that explosiveness, power, speed, and athleticism should all be layered onto technique and accuracy. So if you’re struggling with punching smoothly, try slowing down your punches all the way. Break down the punches down to their core mechanics and analyze where the leverage comes from coupled with how you’re positioned when the punch is delivered. Telegraphing your punches often results in that stiffness and simply makes you more predictable in your boxing.