If you’re like most fighters or coaches, then you’ve either said it or heard it said a thousand times…”Keep your elbows in”. It may sound basic, but the benefit of making this simple adjustment is anything but. What you can gain with this one, simple adjustment may have more complexities, but also more benefits than you even realize.
Some of the basics of boxing are taught, repeated and ritualized quite simply because they work. Although there may be a handful of fighters who have experienced success and are breaking these basic principles, they are the exceptions and not the rule. Basic boxing fundamentals all emanate from applying common sense, understanding the anatomical system and applying body mechanics. Although you can argue against the importance and effectiveness of adhering to time-tested basics, by ignoring what is physiologically correct, you’re simply not using your natural body structure to its fullest potential. What’s right is right.
There are a variety of styles out there in boxing, fighters who drop their hands, who keep their guard extended out in front of their bodies, even fighters who hold their hands too high. The ideal placement for your arms, in order to properly and most effectively deliver a punch, while adequately protecting your midsection, is to have your elbows positioned in front of your body. Here’s why….
Your elbows help protect your rib cage. You have 24 bones in your rib cage. These bones also serve to protect your internal organs. Why would you choose to expose yourself to punishment to the body by leaving your elbows wide apart or extended away from your body? Instead, give your opponent your elbows to punch on, not breakable bones and soft tissue. Once your adversary connects with your properly placed elbows a few times, he will likely turn his attention away from a body attack and start aiming for your head. And if you’re paying attention, your head won’t be there to be hit or your hands will be on-guard in the proper position, which leaves your opponent few remaining options for targets.
When you tuck your elbows in, they automatically help keep your hands up. If your elbows are tucked in tight and in the proper position, it naturally places your hands high and in the proper position. One right move/technique reinforces the other. When yet your elbows slide out of position and out of proper alignment with your body, your hands fall out of place. You drop your guard. Elbows-in = Hands-up.
Having your elbows properly positioned in front of you and not to your sides helps get your body weight into the delivery of your punches. With your elbows in the proper position, the initiation of the punch happens with your body and shifting your weight. When you allow your elbows to drop to your sides or stray out away from your body, you are taking them out of alignment. That means that your arms have to initiate the delivery of the movement on their own. You are then relying on the muscles in your shoulders to generate movement and power so your punches will inevitably be weaker and lacking in full leverage because you don’t have your full body weight behind the punch.
Placing your elbows in close to your body also helps reduce stress on your shoulder joints. Again, it all comes down to having good, anatomically correct alignment of your body and its skeletal structure. When a strong connection is made and joints stay in alignment with each other, they are able to work together to create synergistic power and natural force. This allows you to expend less energy, utilizes your natural body weight and movement and allows you to put your hands on your opponent more quickly. Too many fighters have problems with their shoulders because of bad form. The shoulders are, structurally, one of the most complex joints in the body so there’s no sense in placing demands on them that are unnecessary, pointless and fundamentally incorrect.
Delivery of your punches is where form meets function. You have to be not only effective, but efficient. Even if you are not one of those fighters who seems to have just been born with the ability to fight, if you work your body the way it was meant to be, you can bridge that gap or even swing the odds in your favor. If you have the discipline to adhere to proper form and functionality, and not succumb to laziness, you can put all of the pieces together and build yourself into a true boxing technician.