// 7 tips to avoid poor boxing padwork

by Bruce Townhill

Picture this: you are in the gym, training a client and you notice other trainers punching it out with their clients, so you think, ‘I’ll grab some pads and gloves and throw some boxing into my routines – how hard can it be?’

You are now unwittingly about to cross into a massive grey area within the fitness industry. Thousands of instructors have sought formal accreditation and thousands more have opted to just wing it. Boxing is often called ‘the sweet science’, but it can turn sour and downright painful (for both the pad holder and the puncher) in the hands of an inexperienced trainer.

There are hard-and-fast rules as to what is safe and what is not, and specific techniques and skills are required to ensure clients leave your session with a smile and potential referrals. These skills are magnified if you are small in stature and your clients’ tower over you. I once had to train two potential Australian champions for a bout on the same night. both were 6’4 inch heavyweights and I’m 5’4 inches, so I learnt very quickly what to leave in and what to take out of my intense padwork sessions over the 12-week lead up to their fights. I came away unscathed and they both won their respective Australian titles by knockout (KO) and technical knockout (TKO).

I will leave the decision as to whether you need formal accreditation and training with your conscience and your insurer, but the following pointers will separate you from your competition and help you become aware of good and bad form in your padwork sessions.

1. Slamming the punches
This is probably the biggest giveaway that a trainer has no idea what they are doing. trainers will often slam the pad into the punch or worse still slam down on the incoming punch resulting in a doubling of the anticipated impact by the puncher. when questioned why they do this, trainers have reported that they feel ‘it’s more comfortable’ and others have even said they are ‘only doing the pads for fitness and technique doesn’t matter!’ this may or may not be true, but it can have negative and devastating results for your clients who may experience anything from flashes of pain to fractures in the hands. micro shoulder tears are another common result from the slapping/slamming pad holder. this is multiplied tenfold when training teenagers with bones that have not fully developed and hardened.

To avoid slamming the punches you need to be less lazy and more professional by developing good timing. when you have good timing you will be able to tense your muscles and give weight to the pad at the precise moment of impact from each punch. the following pointers will contribute to your success in developing good timing.

2. Posture
You should hold the pads in front of your chest with your elbows tucked into your ribs. as your skill increases your elbows will hardly ever leave your ribs and you should look very similar to how a neat boxer looks. In contrast, the unskilled trainer will hold their pad out at strange angles as if they are guiding a jumbo jet in to land.
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Your chin position is also critical. Keep it tucked in and stand tall with your core muscles engaged. Keeping your chin tucked will also help protect you when the occasional wayward punch comes your way.

All these tips will enable you to apply weight to the pads at the correct moments and avoid slamming your client (and losing potential repeat business).

3. Footwork
Adopting the same stance as your client (orthodox or southpaw) will greatly assist your ability to move and interpret set combinations correctly. trainers often slap/slam the pads onto clients’ punches because they can’t move their bodies, and reach out with their pads to compensate.

Your padwork should nearly always involve footwork. avoid overlapping your feet and always move the foot closest to the direction you wish to move to first. the other foot slides up to within shoulder width. never allow your feet to come together.

Practicing correct footwork within your sessions also adds another challenge for your clients to meet.

4. Pad size
You can vastly improve your padwork form by wearing pads that are the correct hand size. if you are wearing pads that are too big or too old and ‘sloppy’ half your concentration will be spent just keeping the pads on your hands rather than on the timing issues of padwork. Some companies now produce special medium hand sizes on their big pads, acknowledging the huge influx of women into this specialist activity.

5. Handwraps
It’s your duty of care to ensure your clients’ hands are protected by this time honoured ritual, pre-empting a big session on the pads. Most handwrap manufacturers supply wraps with handwrapping instructions so there’s no excuse for not using them. If you’re in a hurry, just supply quick wraps which take about 30 seconds to fit. only the slackest trainers ignore this basic nowadays.

6. Poor depth of knowledge
A personal trainer who lacks knowledge in what they are instructing reflects poorly on both themselves and our industry. This is often displayed by trainers who incorporate ‘filler exercises’ within the boxing round (1 to 3 minutes depending on fitness of client). Never interrupt the flow of a round by suddenly telling your client to ‘drop for 20 push ups’. This kills the great flow of a good boxing combo and promotes ballistic, disorientated punches which can result in serious injury for one or both of you. It is better to incorporate such activities in warm ups and cool downs.

A good boxing combo done using pads and a competent pad holder provides a thorough and tough exercise experience, making ‘fillers’ unnecessary. Trainers who lack the skill, or haven’t researched their combination knowledge, often incorporate alternative filler exercises as a last minute effort to add interest to a stale and poorly planned session/combination.

Make sure that you explain your combo and then start off slowly until you and your client get into a rhythm. Once this rhythm has been established you should lift the intensity to a steady fat-blasting muscle-toning pace finishing with a ten second controlled but accelerated burst to finish. Follow this with a 30 to 60 second break and then roll into your next well planned, challenging combination. Do 4 to 8 combinations in a row (10 to 22 minutes) and then move onto other non-boxing training.

7. Demand respect
I have often witnessed non-accredited trainers struggling with clients who neither understand nor respect other people’s safety or comfort. This is not surprising considering that the trainer is unaware that such methods and systems exist. this often results in the trainer becoming ‘afraid’ of padwork and leaving the sport without gaining the correct knowledge. Respect comes when people see you have the knowledge, and therefore the power, to be the best trainer you can be.


Bruce Townhill
Bruce has taught boxing and designed boxing equipment since 1989. He is the founder and CEO of Punch Equipment International and is a Thaicertified Master Khru trainer of over 22,000 students and 200 ringfighters, including 38 state, national, and world title holders. Bruce is the founder of the Blackbelt Pro boxing and authentic muay thai gym in Sydney and the Punchfit Nationally accredited boxing and kickboxing padwork courses. He is also producer and presenter of the Punchfit Padwork boxing and kickboxing personal trainer DVD collection. For more information visit www.punchfit.com.au

PERSONAL TRAINER NETWORK • AUTUMN/WINTER 2008 • PP12-13