Good medicine is bitter

The best solution is often a simple one connected to our roots. This exercise doesn’t need modern equipment. With this traditional, versatile and perfectly round shaped tool we can do it all. What we need is a good old ball.

The concept is as old as 3,000 years when Persian wrestlers, and thereafter Greek Hippocrates (yes, the one physicians literally swear by) used filled animal materials to train or rehabilitate. Since the 1900s an increasing number of ball games gave it a prominent role. That’s part of the ball’s appeal: It has a fun element to it.

The classic medicine ball is similar to a basketball only heavier. Variations of 2–25 lb (1–11 kg) with 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter are normal. Weightwise let’s initially take 2–6 lb (1–3 kg) as guidance for you girls.

If you can, do make the effort to try with 6 lb (3 kg). Yes, it will be tough as the exercise carries on, but good medicine is bitter. Mildly trained men will go with 10 lb (5 kg) for the exercise sequence we do in the following.

Do each part for some time or repetitions which feels effective. 15 repetitions for each is a good start.

  1. We start lightly with holding the ball with both our hands below our chin. Take your usual boxing stance (One foot in front of the other, left foot front for right-handers, right foot frond for left-handers.) and bounce back and forth.
  2. In the next step push the ball back and forth as well as you continue jumping from front to back. The push trains speed and power equally. That’s plyometrics.
  3. Now, you can give arms some relief. Stop the bouncing and stand firm with your feet in parallel at hip width. Take the ball in your hands and lift them above your head while stretching your whole body as high as you can. You may even get to your tiptoes. What next? Thrust the ball as hard as you can in a straight line to the ground. The ball should bounce back into the air. The higher the better. Catch the down falling ball. And repeat some more times.

    That feels good, right? Enjoy while you can. The active rest is over and what’s in store challenging.

  4. We are still standing, the ball in both hands. Only this time instead of above the head, we take the ball behind our head. The hands are close to triangle shaped similar to the setting technique of volleyball. Bounce the ball in your hands. Not very high, but give it some play. You’ll soon feel your muscles ache. Grin and bear it as much as you can.
  5. The last component to add to the sequence is another active rest. Rotate the ball at shoulder height around your body. Arms outstretched when in front of you and on the sides. When behind the back respectively head you can bend the elbow a little.

With all of these components you can mix and match for a while till you feel you have trained your arms well for the day.

Try out any other exercises you can think of using the all-purpose medicine ball for weight and balance.

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Burpee, how do I love thee

Let’s get our body in shape to stand the distance. This neat little exercise is a true indicator of your fitness. If you try it out now at the beginning of your boxer’s life you will not be amused. But do them again and again and you’ll see how far you have come. It isn’t for nothing that the Burpee originated as a assessment of fitness and was rapidly adopted by the army. Let’s go through it one step at a time.

  1. Begin standing upright
  2. Jump or better said drop down into a crouch
  3. Push your feet backwards to get into a plank
  4. Jump back to your feet into the crouch
  5. Jump up with your arms raised and your body stretched

And now: Repeat!!

GWB burpee

Credits: Gabriela Serrano

The difference to burpees is that the sprawl stretches your stomach additionally. This is done during the plank position. Just get into a yoga-like Cobra position looking up while still standing on your toes. Most coaches like to insert a set or two of burpees in between technical and physical training when you least expect it, let alone think you can do any more. You’ll be surprised how much further you can push. Better learn how to love them because burpees are here to stay.

You got me hooked

Besides the jab the second punch you need to know is the hook. Basically it is a lateral punch, either low or high.

The correct posture is almost a square formed with your arm if we leave out any height difference with your opponent. Your arm is held horizontally at an almost right angle in front of you and your elbow bent inwards. 110° is often described as the best angle.

Punch quick and get back into your protected position.

This is not a swing. Try not to strike out. This opens your guard widely. Besides that, your opponent sees what you are about to do with long anticipation. By the time you make the hit he has already guarded up. And lastly, though forceful stricking out uses a lot of energy which isn’t fully transmitted into the punch itself. It therefore isn’t efficient.

Hip rotation is very important with this punch. You’ll be in your regular stand, your leading foot in front. As you punch, take your body into it as well. By the end of the move your leading leg will be bend inwards.
Use the kinetic energy as your main source. This increases the power of impact significantly. It isn’t your punch itself that gives you the power, it comes from your whole body movement.

You can practice the hook aiming at your supposed opponent’s head or at his side. Hitting the chin could be a real knock-out.

The jab

Here is our first punch. Let’s take it slow to master this fundamental technique.

In principle the jab is a straight-armed fully extended punch with your fist in horizontal orientation. If you are a right-hander your jab is done with your left hand. Sinistrals will usually hit with their right, making them true southpaws.

Coming from your starting position you have your guard up with your arms and elbows in front of your body, both your hands at your face and the chin facing downwards. This is the place from where your punch comes with a quick straight move. Don’t haul out! Your punch comes from your elbow.

If you work together with a partner using focus mitts or alternatively gloves you’ll hit slightly diagonal towards your partner’s right hand, respectively her left if you are a southpaw.

When you hit the jab and your arm is out raise your shoulder as close as you can towards your cheek. This way your shoulder functions as your guard while your hand is away. The other hand is always up as guard.

Hit rapidly and bring your hand back to your guard as quickly as possible. Take care not to over-extend your arm as this can damage your elbow. You’ll feel it.

As goes for all punches, the power comes mostly from your hip rotation which you’ll read about in another post.

Take your stance

Stand up for yourself! It is important that you stand firm in order to withstand the occassional hit and that you stand flexible for agility.

Let’s look at the basic position. Stand 45° sideways with your left foot to the front and your right to the back if you are right-handed. Right to the front and left to the back for the lefties among you. Feet should be about hip-width apart. You may bend your knees a little for a more balanced stance.

This position will give you leverage for your moves. Much of the force in boxing is actually created by hip rotation. We come to that part later.

Raise both your hands to your cheeks to form your guard. Make sure not to open your elbows too much. They should be close together to protect your trunk.

Your chin area is a very sensitive part. A knock there could really knock you out. Instead of looking straight ahead, bend your head, thus lowering your chin towards your chest. This minimizes the contact surface.

Now, relax and bounce if you are comfortable. You definitely look like a fighter and are good to make your first move.

With clenched fists

I have already said it:

“Safety is No. 1 priority.”

Let’s start with the correct fist. Your thumb should be in front of your fingers. Like this.

GWB clenched fist right front GWB clenched fist right side

This way your fingers form a plain surface and your bones are protected.

The natural fist for some of you will be by entering your thumb inside of your fist or placing it upright next to it.

GWB clenched fist wrong in GWB clenched fist wrong up

Both will leave your bones and thumb more vulnerable to fractures and the surface of your punch uneven.

By the way, clenching your fist is supposed to boost your memory, too. Not a bad side effect I’d say.

Rope skipping

What a drag you would say. And so it goes with many activities we are reluctant to do because they are oh so hard, but we are extremely content and proud having done them. Rarely do we look forward to studying or exercising, but the accomplished feeling afterwards is unrivaled.

Rope skipping stands at the beginning of most workout sessions. It is a proper indoor warm up when space is limited. As a cardio routine it enhances endurance. Skipping has similar effects as running. Which in turn isn’t a great option for many smaller gyms. Usually you will train in a group. Warming up with skipping instead of running allows for the group to be closer together and quickly switch to a strengthening exercise in between. Skipping trumps running as it trains ankles and teaches footwork.

For proper skipping look for a rope matching your height. Too short or too long will distract you from smooth momentum. While swinging the rope avoid using to much arm movement. Instead let your wrist do the rotation with a loose grip. Start by lightly jumping to get into your rhythm. Be flexible on your feet and readily jump from one to the other. Being stiff on jumping with both feet at the same time will tire your ankles.

You’ll easily be doing this for 10 or more minutes. To spice things up, try some of the following varieties. If you don’t get it at first, don’t worry, there is some coordination and learning involved. It gets easier with practice.

  • crossing the rope
  • backwards
  • jumping jacks
  • lunges
  • double skip

If you are interested we can cover some of these varieties in more detail in another post.