Although they’ve only begun to gain widespread popularity over the past few of decades, the punch mitts have become an integral part of boxing training. They are such an adaptive and interpretive piece of equipment and, now come in such a huge array or styles and designs, that coaches can use them highly effectively to achieve exactly what they want from their fighter. Each trainer has his comfort level with them, his own idea of how much time a fighter should spend on the mitts or his own philosophy about how they should be used. Like fighters, coaches too have their own unique style and the mitts have a way of bringing these qualities out. For the sake of better understanding how each style works or where you fit in, let’s categorize and name each one:
First, there is The Practitioner. This type of trainer doesn’t stray far beyond the basics. The punches he calls-out on the mitts are simple and his approach is pretty straightforward. He focuses mainly on technique and just having his fighter land their punches correctly. The mitts don’t move in flashes when he uses them and won’t do much to draw a crowd, but he does get the job done. The Practitioner gives the fighter the feel of a moving target and can get them somewhat accustomed to having a real live body in front of them. Sometimes he even employs some defense to go with it and forces his fighter to act and react simultaneously. But, overall, he tends to keep it simple and uses the punch mitts for teaching the basics and maybe warming up before a match. That’s about it.
Next, there is The Showman. This type of trainer approaches the mitts like a choreographed dance routine, with a pre-meditated series of combinations already mapped out. He flies through round after round, running a steady stream of pre-determined punches that work towards conditioning his fighter. The fast-paced routine is designed and executed to empower his fighter with an unrestrained mental and physical capacity to let his hands go. It seems effortless, even graceful and looks pretty impressive. Some arguably say its pointless choreography…all done for show. However, what it can accomplish is the instinctual capacity to throw punches without thinking too much and some cardiovascular benefits that come along with the non-stop action. Both can help create the ability to effortlessly throw and throw often, but, honestly, the Showman does like the response he gets from the crowd who gathers around to watch. It makes for good TV.
In contrast to that, The Strategist takes his time with the mitts. He plods and positions himself around the ring, circling his fighter, setting them up to land that perfect punch. He practices and perfects a handful of combinations he’s sure will find their mark. He rehearses that one punch he thinks can end a fight and he drills it with his student over and over. This approach can be helpful for fine-tuning a game plan, developing strategy and perfecting punching technique. It allows the coach and the fighter to more fully focus on speed, power and explosiveness by breaking it down into simple, bite-sized portions. Then, it establishes a step-by-step game plan for putting those specific punches together on fight night. The Strategist helps his fighter prepare through repetition.
Then there is the trainer who takes more of a freestyle approach, like The Improvisor. For the most part, he makes up his routine as he goes along. His is somewhat of a hybrid of the more choreographed approach, combined with that of the Strategist. He oftentimes draws upon any number of his favorite combinations or old standbys to keep the fighter thinking, responding, and reacting and in the moment. He tends to focus more on proven counter-punching moves, adding complexity to the series of punches he calls out and changes it up often to make the mitts somewhat unpredictable. His approach is more about preparing his fighter for anything and everything, rather than something specific. This style of mitt work can give the fighter a good sense of what he has to accomplish, along with an idea of the type of uncertainty he will face when he gets in the ring.
Although this paints a fairly clear picture of how each training style comes into play, there are also a number of variations that can be made on each of these methods, blends of each and characteristics that stray into other categories. These examples are just meant to provide a general idea of how coaches adopt specific styles when working the mitts, just like fighters do when they enter the gym. The point is…although each one is uniquely different in theory, philosophy and approach, there’s nothing really wrong with any of these methods of mitt work. Using the pads is what you make of it. Styles, strategies and approaches vary. One approach may work perfectly for one fighter and do almost nothing for the next. When it comes to punch mitts, one size does not fit all. The only coach who is actually working the mitts incorrectly is the one who’s not doing them at all or who uses one, unchanging approach to every fighter.
However, having said that, there ARE a few tips that can be applied to making the most of mitt work. Coming Soon…Part Two…