In the sport of boxing, all of the attention is focused on the hands. In a fight, success depends on how often those gloves land and how hard they hit. And knowing how to hit is essential for anyone wanting to step into the ring. But good boxers know that, in fact, victory flows from good footwork.
Good boxing footwork allows you to keep moving and keep your balance. It means never standing where you opponent’s punch ends up. You maintain control over your spatial positioning and stay hyper-responsive to your opponent’s moves. You can quickly step in and take advantage of an opponent’s mistake, deliver powerful, controlled punches, and then slip out of range again.
There’s a reason why the best fighters in the world put hours into perfecting their boxing footwork. Read on to learn about some ways to help perfect yours.
The Basics of Boxing Footwork
Get the Right Shoes
A good pair of boxing shoes will lay the foundation for some fancy footwork. You want to choose the lightest pair possible so that you don’t feel weighed down or impeded by your shoes. Your shoes should provide plenty of traction, but leave you free to move freely across the canvas.
Perfect Your Stance
You’ve got your shoes. Now it’s time to perfect your stance. This is the foundation upon which all boxing footwork is built and, if you don’t have it down pat, you won’t go far with your footwork drills. Make sure your stance is strong and stable, with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. At this width, your stance is narrow enough to preserve energy and extend your range of motion, while still being wide enough to provide balance and stability.
Stay on the Balls of Your Feet
Float like a butterfly… Moving from the balls of your feet helps you stay fast and responsive as you move through the match. Equally distribute your body weight between both feet and get into a rhythm moving in a forward and back motion. This will allow you to easily shift in any direction in a split second.
Start from the Ground Up
It is tempting to jump straight into shadow boxing or hitting the bag. But it really does help if you focus on training your feet first. Again, your feet and legs serve as the foundation of everything you do in this sport. Strength and agility there will translate to power and efficiency everywhere else.
The Best Boxing Footwork Drills
This list provides an overview of some of the best drills to build up your basic boxing footwork. You can dive into any of these topics on your own, or stay tuned all month as we go into depth on several of these topics.
There is a reason that the jump rope is such a time honored training method for boxers. There is no better exercise to help you improve coordination, endurance, and agility. A good starting point is skipping rope using a drill known as the “boxer skip”. This drill often acts as the basic building block for footwork and conditioning exercises. Check out our jumping rope guide to find some more exercises you can add to your jump rope routine.
Plyometrics, or Box Jumps, are an essential part of well-designed cross-training routine. These exercises force the body to exert maximum muscle force in quick bursts, helping to boost power and speed. They’re a good choice for fighters looking to improve their footwork while also building lower-body strength. You will see people use a lot of different products for these jumps, but a soft-sided plyo box offers greater safety and a variety of jumping heights to choose from.
Training ladders are great for helping to build agility and speed in any sport, especially boxing and martial arts. They’re especially good at helping marry speed and agility and turning footwork into muscle memory so you stay focused when making a hundred quick moves per second.
We’re borrowing another secret from the cross-training playbook with tire jumps. This exercise requires you to rapidly jump in and out of training tires in order to improve your footwork, increase your vertical jump, and build strength in the thighs and legs.
Combine the elements listed above, as well as any other challenges you can think of (like hurdles or cones), into a single footwork training circuit. Challenge yourself or your students to complete the course as fast as possible while still maintaining good footwork. It can be a fun way to incorporate many elements into a single workout. It also provides a nice change of pace from focusing on specific drills.
For an even bigger change of pace (and a very different kind of challenge), you can try taking a dance class. Legendary fighters like Juan Manuel Marquez and David Branch have used the barre to boost their boxing performance before a big fight. Dance, especially ballet, can help increase well-balanced footwork while also improving flexibility and ease of movement.
Dial In Your Boxing Footwork with a Coach
Not even all the YouTube tutorials in the world can serve as a substitute for a good boxing coach. Find one who’s experienced in working with athletes at your level and then sign up for one-on-one training sessions or group classes. You’ll find that when an expert monitors your progress, you’re less likely to fall into bad habits and more likely to slowly and properly build up the fundamentals of a good boxer.