A Guide to Boxing Footwork for Beginners
When you start boxing, it’s easy to assume it’s all about your upper body. But boxing footwork for beginners can be one of the most important things to master. Therefore, boxing footwork drills are hugely beneficial for improving every aspect of your boxing skillset.
At its heart, boxing is a process of hitting and not being hit. So, you would naturally assume that fast hands, head, and lateral movement play the most significant role in overcoming an opponent. But, strong footwork is often the difference between those that are good and those that are great. Therefore, boxing footwork drills are essential for training and developing as a boxer.
Is Footwork Really that Important?
Yes, it really is. Many of the most elite fighters in history has possessed magic in their boots. For beginners boxing footwork inspiration, we can look at the fleet feet of Muhammad Ali, which allowed him to glide around the ring against Sonny Liston. Or the spring-loaded attack of Manny Pacquiao that allow him to close distance so effectively. And don’t get us started on Vasiliy Lomachenko! The man is a footwork god.
There are many subtle nuances to footwork that you can use to great effect in both attack and defence. Below, we’ll break down some basic boxing footwork for beginners and some boxing footwork drills to get you started. This will help improve the boxing foundation of any novice and maybe remind a few experienced fighters among our readers why footwork should not be neglected.
Boxing Footwork for Beginners: The Basics
Solid Boxing Stance
Boxing footwork is essential for a solid foundation. Like the foundations of a house providing support for the entire structure, a boxer needs a solid foundation to provide structure for the rest of the body. Luckily for novices, the basics of boxing footwork are pretty simple. You need a solid stance that maintains your balance and forms a sound starting point to launch off from and continue your development.
In a classic boxing stance, the fighter stands as if paused in a walking position, with their dominant foot to the rear and weakest foot at the front. Your knees should be slightly bent to allow movement, provide balance and absorb incoming punches. Skilled boxers will keep their weight central, on the balls of their feet, which makes moving quickly much more effortless. From this position, you should be able to bob and weave your upper body around a punch without losing your balance.
Once you nail the basic stance, movement is the natural progression. If you stay firmly planted in one spot for the entire fight, you will catch a fair few punches, which is never fun. Remember to be on the balls of your feet. Doing so allows you to spring quickly in any direction and provides a solid platform to launch powerful punches.
When you push down on your rear foot (positioned just behind your body), it allows you to push forwards with speed and balance. Whereas when you push weight down on your front foot, it allows for backwards movement. The same can be said for sideways movement — pushing your weight down or through your right foot helps you move left and vice versa.
For clarity, these movements should be a ‘push and step’ rather than a ‘step and drag’, as the latter is more sluggish and less sharp and agile. Lazy footwork can get you in trouble during a boxing fight as it creates pockets for opponents to land clean punches. Tidy footwork means you’ll get hit less, and everyone prefers that.
Moving Off the Centre Line
When you attack in boxing, it is very easy to move towards your opponent, then wait for them to return fire or step back to get out of their reach. The problem is that this makes things very easy for your opponent. In theory, even on autopilot, all they would need to do is move forward in a straight line and swing a punch to cause you problems. Fortunately, pivoting is a decent method to get out of this and practicing pivoting is among the most simple yet effective boxing footwork drills.
To Pivot Left
- From your boxing stance, push from the back foot while spinning on the ball of the front foot.
- The goal is to shift your baseline (toe on the front foot to the heel on the back foot) 45 degrees. The front foot rotates on the spot allowing the back foot to move left.
To Pivot Right
- From your boxing stance, spin the front foot on the spot and lift your back foot.
- Perform the same 45-degree shift, only this time to the right. Don’t let your body weight go over the front leg, as your weight should remain central or on the back leg.
Boxing Footwork Drills for Beginners
Whether you want to become a devasting power puncher or a technical genius, movement and boxing footwork drills should be a core part of your training. Word has it that former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko would spend a minimum of 45 minutes at the beginning of every training session working solely on his movement before he even throws a punch.
Vasiliy Lomachenko, who is known for his Matrix-style movements in the ring, spent years as a child learning Ukrainian dancing, which explains his seamless style of being able to manoeuvre and outmanoeuvre his opponents at will. While we may not be the go-to source for improving your moves on the dance floor, we do have a few basic boxing footwork drills to help!
Skipping ropes and boxing training have gone hand-in-hand since forever. How many clips have you seen of your favourite boxer using a skipping rope? It’s a lot. It helps to build stamina and ensures that you are super light on your feet. When jumping rope, varying skipping styles is a great way to get the most out of it.
Moving from one foot to the other is critical as it replicates the transfer of weight that happens in a boxing fight. Double under skips help build power in your calves, which is a huge benefit for moving quickly and generating punch power.
Pace and positioning are also important. Every training exercise, including boxing footwork drills, should echo fight movements. So it’s recommended to skip for three-minute rounds, followed by a one-minute rest.
During those rounds, it benefits you to have bursts of intensity followed by a more consistent pace. Also, moving forwards, backwards and side to side ensure that you don’t stay fixed in one spot.
This is one of the most fun boxing footwork drills and gives you a serious edge when judging distance, your reflexes and improving ring IQ.
Shoulder tag is where two training partners face one another in the ring or spacious area. Each boxer is in their boxing stance, and the goal is to tag the other person on the shoulder with an open palm. Only straight punches and no combinations. Now, this is where you can have fun, and often trainers will make a game of it — for example, whoever gets tagged three times has to do a set of press-ups before continuing.
Again, the inclusion of a round-based system encourages boxers to focus on both attack and defence. It also introduces a tactical mindset where each fighter needs to adopt strategies to win. After all, no one likes press-ups or losing. The result is two boxers who are suddenly a lot more eager to improve their footwork.
Another classic and hugely helpful boxing exercise is shadowboxing. While it may look as though you are trying to fight an imaginary friend, it can be used to great effect to warm up or cool down. When shadowboxing, it’s important to use the whole space. Many novices stand on the spot to focus on what their hands are doing rather than moving.
The idea behind shadow boxing is to visualise an opponent and practice throwing shots and moving out of range and off the line before they throw a punch back. This can be strange for beginners and daunting when shadowboxing at the gym, so a good place to start is in front of the mirror. This way, you can see which shots are being thrown and practice evading your reflection. Similar to when someone plays themselves at chess.
The Final Round: Conclusion
Boxing is a whole-body workout, so neglecting one area causes an imbalance and underperformance. Yes, a boxer’s arm muscles may get all the attention, but you can’t forget to build up your legs as well. Fortunately, the boxing footwork drills above should help with that endeavour.
Whether you’re boxing for fitness or want to try fighting seriously, you need to work on your lower body strength to really benefit from boxing. So, next time you hit the gym or work out at home, pay attention to your legs and work some boxing footwork drills into your routine to help improve your footwork.
And, when you’re ready to hit the ring with your newfound boxing footwork, make sure you do it in style with a pair of Cleto Reyes boxing gloves.
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