For many coaches, the punch mitts serve as the nucleus of a well-rounded boxing routine. They use their time on the mitts to fine-tune their prodigy, revisit the basics with their beginners and get the most up-close-and-personal look they can get of their fighter. This puts the coach right in front of his boxer where he can critique and analyze them from the same perspective that their opponent does. In this unique role, the coach can then become the teacher, but if they’re using the mitts correctly, the pupil too.
Many coaches have their own approach to the mitts, their own goals and own philosophies about how the mitts should be used within the confines of a training routine. If it works, then why change it? That is…if it works? If it doesn’t, then maybe this is an opportunity to review some common mistakes that can sometimes sabotage what would otherwise be the makings of a fantastic training session on the punch mitts.
If you’re the coach, don’t do all the work. Meet your fighters punch to absorb a small percentage of the impact and create resistance, but make him do the punching. If he’s not extending his elbows, turning his punches over and making some noise each time he connects, then you, as the coach, are letting him off the hook. The mitts should crack when a fighter works them properly (and slapping punches don’t count.)
Set the pace and make it real. When it’s done at its best, this is one of the best training methods you have in the gym. It is the closest drill your fighter has to replicating sparring or an actual fight, because there is interaction, give-and-take and variety. So make the mitts action-packed, intense and set a fiery pace. Press the action and push your fighter to keep up every second of the round.
Don’t slap at your fighters punches. Hold the mitts steady, firm and absorb some of the impact. Don’t be limp-wristed and let the mitts flail about. That doesn’t encourage the fighter to punch full force and risk over-extending his or her elbows. You want resistance. You need to hear the impact, so create a solid target. That’s also the best gauge you have to tell how hard and how effective your fighters punches are.
Hold the mitts in a position in front of you where you can control the action. Hold them too far out, away from your body and you can’t maintain control of your arms because you can’t get any leverage. Hold them too close and you’re liable to take a few stray punches yourself. Both techniques can make you pay a physical price, either on your elbows and joints or on your nose. What works best is what feels right and doesn’t end up creating long term injuries for you, as the coach or the fighter.
The main thing to employ on the mitts is to work them with a purpose. Use mitts to improve conditioning, hone technique, develop hand speed or work on strategic moves that replicate an opponent. If you have a purpose, to each his own, but only as long as you work them intentionally, you can’t really go wrong.