Focus mitts help improve punching speed and accuracy.

Alternatives to Using a Punching Bag

by Mike McLaughlin

Punching bags are classic training tools for boxers and martial artists. The most popular are the heavy bag and the speed bag. The heavy bag is an excellent tool for improving a fighter's punching power. The speed bag develops quick hands. These bags, however, have their disadvantages. You can easily damage your hands or wrists on a heavy bag if you don't hit it correctly. A speed bag requires you to remain mostly stationary while practicing. Alternative punching practices and targets can more realistically simulate the action of a fight.

1. Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing doesn't require any equipment. You simply throw punches into the air. To get the most out of a shadow boxing session, visualize an opponent in front of you. Deliver punches to your imaginary opponent's body and head. Occasionally bob and weave as you pretend you are evading her punches. While shadow boxing, keep your hands up to protect your face and stand in a boxing stance with one foot slightly in front of you. Move across the floor like you are moving around a boxing ring. Try to complete at least three, two-minute rounds of shadow boxing for a good cardio workout. Play some upbeat music to make this routine more fun.

2. Focus Mitts

Focus mitts are not only an alternative to a punching bag, these pads are better for improving your striking skills. To practice on these pads, you need a coach or training partner who will wear them like a catcher's mitt on each hand. Your partner should frequently move these targets to help you improve the speed, coordination and accuracy of your punching combinations. Practice fast jabs, hooks, straight punches and uppercuts on the focus mitts. To improve your defensive reactions, your training partner should occasionally throw strikes at you. Focus-mitt training is the next best thing to actually sparring with a partner.

3. Paddles

Paddles, also known as double focus pads, are typically used for kicking practice in martial arts classes. These training tools are also becoming popular in boxing gyms. A training session with the paddles is similar to a session with the focus mitts. However, the main difference is that your training partner can hold these targets by their handles instead of wearing them like gloves. This is beneficial to your partner, because her hands and joints won't bear as much impact from your blows. In addition, your partner can more quickly hit you with these training pads. This forces you to be more alert defensively.

4. Body Shield

A body shield is a large rectangular pad that is used in both boxing gyms and martial arts studios. This shield, which your partner holds in front of her torso, is used for practicing blows to the body. Your training partner can pressure you by encroaching on your space while you hit the shield. This practice helps you improve your footwork as you are forced to retreat and move side to side.

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