Legendary boxers like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Roy Jones Jr have proven time and time again throughout their careers that one of the secrets behind their unbelievable success in the ring is having impeccable reaction time. However, it is no secret that great reflexes don’t come naturally for everyone. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be developed and improved upon over time through various training methods.
So how does one improve overall reaction time for boxing?
Improve Your Overall Hand-Eye-Foot Coordination First
Working ? #ICantStop
Posted by Anthony Joshua on Friday, February 10, 2017
Before actually performing the boxing-specific reaction time drills and methods that will be recommended and explored in this article, you need to first condition and improve your overall ability to move fluidly. In boxing, that means improving your overall hand-eye-foot coordination.
Having good hand-eye-foot coordination will allow you to have fast lateral movement and good head and upper body movement all at the same time, while staying relaxed with little to no effort at all. In other words, your entire body and posture will be loose enough to not only react to anything but also execute techniques more quickly and efficiently.
There are many ways to improve your overall hand-eye-foot coordination. Some of the best methods for boxers are the tennis ball drop & catch, as demonstrated by IBF heavyweight champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Joshua in the first video above, and the jab ball cap, as shown by WBO super featherweight champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Vasyl Lomachenko in the video above. Do note that you should try to maintain your boxing stance at all times and constantly move as you perform these exercises.
Tennis Ball Throw & Evade
Posted by Anthony Joshua on Friday, March 31, 2017
Perhaps one of the simplest methods to start with is the tennis ball throw and evade. This exercise is simple: adopt your boxing stance with your back facing the wall and the heel of your rear foot just touching the wall. Next, have a partner throw a tennis ball towards your head. Your aim is to keep your hands as close to your chin as possible while bobbing and weaving to evade the incoming ball. If you are able to evade successfully, the ball should hit the wall behind you and bounce back to your partner.
Remember to start this out slowly first and be sure to turn your hips as well. Be sure to bob and weave to the sides with as little head and upper body movement as possible. The ball should pass the side of your head just above the shoulders. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, start to shadowbox small combinations of punches to build up counterattacks with your reactions.
Action/Reaction Mitt Work
Action/reaction mitt work is perhaps the most common and effective way to develop reaction time in boxing. A good action/reaction mitt work routine can be extremely beneficial to a boxer’s overall defensive and offensive ability – specifically his/her counter-attacking ability. The mitt holder simulates attacks during a set combination. The moments and angles in which the simulated attacks are thrown will train your ability to see shots coming and react.
You can begin by working out simple combinations with your mitt holder and performing them slowly. Be sure that the combinations include both defensive and offensive movements. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, add more variations to the combinations to make them more complex while increasing the speed and pace. Eventually, you will be able to combine several combinations together to make up a routine.
Dynamic Punch Paddle Work
One method not often seen and used in boxing is the dynamic punch paddle work. Punch paddles have less strain on the holder’s wrists and shoulders, which means that faster and more varied angles of attacks can be simulated. The extra reach provided by the paddles also allow more space and comfort for the boxer as he/she moves and defends.
The idea behind a dynamic punch paddle routine is similar to that of the action/reaction mitt work routine. Simply start off by asking your mitt holder to attack as and when he or she pleases with any single strike or combination. During the session, learn to react to the strikes with head and body blocks, parries, slips, pulls, or just simply stepping back to avoid the incoming attacks and reset at the same time.
Boxing Foam Sticks
Compared to regular focus mitts and punch paddles, boxing foam sticks or precision training sticks provide the quickest incoming attacks because of its incredibly light weight. And because of its shape, the sticks provide for a much smaller target; allowing for more precise defensive movements. It can also be used to train up the accuracy and speed of a boxer’s attacks.
Like many of the other methods mentioned here, work with your partner or trainer to develop a combination or routine and execute it slowly. Start increasing the speed and movement required once you have gotten used to it. Be sure to push the pace of this particular method as the light weighted sticks are made to allow for very high speeds and are also not at all damaging on impact.
Slow & Technical Sparring
Finally, the most practical way to develop not just your reaction time in the ring, but your overall technique and fight IQ, is slow, technical sparring. While it is slow in pace and motion, it gets your body and mind used to the movements and reactions needed for real situations in the ring. It also helps you to relax, think, feel out your opponent, manage your range, and come up with creative responses.
Start off slow by getting your partner to attack while you focus only on your defense – evading punches and using your footwork to keep you in good position all the time. This way, you can focus purely on reacting to whatever comes your way. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your ability to react and defend, you can proceed with adding counterattacks, your own combinations, and increasing the pace gradually. But remember to always keep the shots light.
Having good reaction time will definitely set you apart from other fighters and give you an edge against any type of opponent. But remember not to neglect training other aspects of your game like your accuracy and precision, timing, power, speed, and more.