Punching Mitts for Boxing Training:
Punching mitts, also sometimes called “focus mitts,” are the next step up from heavy bag training. Working with the mitts properly demands more from a boxer in terms of punching skills, movement, defensive skills and stamina than all but the most specialized of heavy bag drills.
In fact, my own opinion in comparing the two is that the only thing the heavy bag is better at developing than the punch mitts is strength, since the heavy bag emphasizes resistance training so much more. The main drawback of the punch mitts is that they require a coach or training partner to use, but anyone training in boxing who has someone to work with on a regular basis should absolutely incorporate at least two rounds of working the punching mitts into their standard routine.
Basic Punch Mitt Drilling
The most basic form of punching mitt drilling consists of the boxer responding to punches called out by their trainer/training partner. Anyone who has seen boxing training in a movie is most likely familiar with this system. The mitts are held up to head level and several inches forward of the trainer’s face, and the boxer fires punches diagonally as ordered. The diagonal punching — throwing the left jab across to the right (i.e. the trainer’s left hand) — is an important safety measure, since it means missed punches are heading away from the trainer and not straight down the pike and toward his head.
The call signs for punching are fairly universal:
- Straight right/right uppercut (southpaws throw the left)
- or Hook: Left hook (southpaws throw the right hook)
- Uppercut: Right or left, whichever is appropriate.
The basic drill allows the trainer and boxer to work against a target that moves like a boxer might in the ring, providing a more realistic target. Early drills will focus on jabbing against a realistic target, before moving on to mastering basic combination punching, such as the 1-2 and the 1-2-hook.
The basic drills focus on teaching a boxer how to measure space and move effectively in the ring to set up punches. Because even the most diligent boxer does not move and punch against a heavy bag as he might against a sparring partner or real opponent, punching mitt drills are also more effective in preparing a fighter for the real physical demands of a fight than the heavy bag is.
Spicing Up the Basic Drill for Boxing Punching Mitts
Usually the first move on from the basics is to include body punching into punching mitt drills. The trainer can do this either by lowering the mitt to stomach level or by wearing a body protector, and then calling out combos as normal.
After that, the next step up is to include the idea of defense into drilling. Even with ordinary punching mitts, the coach can effectively sweep with the hook or flick out the jab or the cross. Under normal circumstances, a trainer should limit hitting back to counter-punching. Working the mitts is primarily an offensive training technique, but by hitting back on a limited basis, the trainer can teach the boxer about his defensive flaws very effectively. If a boxer likes to carry his jab low and doesn’t have the head movement to get away with that, then he deserves to get slapped with a right-hand mitt until he stops doing it.
Type of Punch Mitts
The basic punching mitt is an ovoid canvas or leather pad with a glove-grip on one side and a circular target on the other. Smaller punching mitts with a curved surface present both a smaller target and one that is shaped more like the human body in some respects, since a human target rarely presents a flat hitting surface. Spar mitts combine a large punching mitt surface on the palm with the design of a boxing glove, which makes the defensive training described above both easier and more realistic.