Sneaking in boxing workouts at home is one of the best ways for beginners to speed up their skill development, get into fighting shape, and impress their coaches. But that’s not an option unless you’ve got a halfway-decent home gym.
In today’s post, we explain how you can build a world-class boxing gym at home for a fraction of the cost, time, and energy you’d expect. We outline cheap equipment options and alternatives, share great boxing drills that you can practice anywhere, and point you towards training resources that’ll improve your boxing workouts at home.
The number one piece of equipment you’ll need for boxing workouts at home is totally free, and can be created in a matter of minutes.
Beginners get hung up on heavy bags and weight sets, thinking them necessary for quality boxing workouts at home, but open space is everything. The truth is that you can get a top-level training session anywhere there’s room to work; watch world-class coach and A Million Styles Boxing system creator Barry Robinson find space to work in a Norwegian shipyard, in busy downtown Ho Chi Minh City, and even waiting for the train at the London Bridge Underground Station.
With this in mind, maximizing floor space should be a top priority. Before you do anything else, section off an area of your gym as dedicated open space. Clear it out, then do your best to keep it that way. This can be surprisingly tough, especially as opportunities for cheap gym equipment pop up in your social media feed, but just remember that where boxing workouts are concerned, an open training space is always better than a cluttered one.
If you’ve got the budget set aside, you can upgrade your floor space with puzzle matting. After hundreds of rounds of footwork and jump-rope drills, your joints will thank you for the extra shock absorption.
Once you’ve cleared some room to work, an infinite number of shadow boxing variations, footwork drills, and calisthenic or “floor work” routines become available to you. We’re always sharing new training drills at Warrior Punch, so I encourage you to browse the site and Facebook page to find some that apply to the aspect of your game that you’re currently trying to improve. Nevertheless, here’s a few examples:
At a high level, opponents rarely leave openings, so we must create them. The Feint-and-Go drill is meant to open up your offense by developing your feint game. Regular practice will make your feints more believable, and improve the speed of your transitions into real offense. Complete a round of shadowboxing where you initiate all combinations with a feint. There are two variations to this drill: 1) Pick a single combination to set up with different feints. Let’s suppose you’ve decided to work on hooking off of the jab today. You throw a 1-3-2 (jab-lead hook-rear cross) for the duration of the round, but before every 1-3-2 combination, you will execute a feint. For this version of the drill, your goal is to never use the same feint twice. Mix in foot feints, hand feints, head feints, and level changes to freeze your imaginary opponent and land shots. 2) Pick a single feint to set up different combinations. This drill develops a feint of your choosing, improving its speed and “threat level” while also building your understanding of different follow-up options. For example, you decide to focus on feinting the cross: your goal is to sell the feint without putting yourself out of balance, then follow up with different combinations that work from that position. Feinting the cross sets up powerful lead-handed punches, but the possibilities are endless. Find as offensive options that work for you as you continue to tweak the technical details of your feint. Timing tip: With either drill, make sure you give your feint time to work. Beginners often rush their feints, following up with offense before their opponent has reacted to the opener. Like a slip-and-counter, a feint-and-go drill should consist of at least two clear “beats.”
The key to boxing is balance, and that requires strong footwork fundamentals. While basic, the figure-8 drill is perhaps the most important drill you can do in regards to building a solid base. Regular practice will improve your lower body endurance and ability to quickly change directions, while also training you to maintain proper balance and foot positioning at all times. Quite simply, this drill involves moving around the ring or floor space while maintaining your fighting stance. As the name of the drill suggests, your movement will trace the shape of a figure-8 around your training area. Starting at the back left corner of your floor space, you will assume a proper fighting stance: knees slightly bent, with your non-dominant foot, hip, and shoulder held forward, chin tucked, and elbows resting on the ribs. From here, you will move forward with proper footwork mechanics: drive off your back foot, step with your lead leg, then recover the rear foot to reestablish your stance. Advance 3-6 steps (depending on the size of your training area), emphasizing fluid motion, good posture, and correct shoulder/hip positioning. Once you’ve advanced 3-6 steps forward, you will move right using proper mechanics: orthodox fighters will drive right off of their lead foot, step with the rear foot, then recover their stance with the lead. Move right until you’re about to hit the opposite wall, then advance forward again as you did before. Be sure to maintain your shoulder/hip position, and focus on a fluid transition as you change directions. Next, you will move left. Transition to lateral movement using proper mechanics: orthodox fighters will drive off of the back foot to step left with the lead, then move the back foot to recover their stance. Move left until you’ve nearly hit the left side of your training space. Continue to advance forward, left, and right down the length of your training area until you’ve run out of room, then reverse it, replacing all forward steps with backwards movement. Barry Robinson provides a FUNdamental footwork tutorial for his figure-8 drill here:
Advancing the drill: As you get more comfortable with the figure-8 drill and start to nail your directional transitions, start to add jabs as you move forward. Once this gets easy, add jabs going backwards, then left, and finally to the right, until you’re jabbing comfortably while moving in all directions.
Find more footwork training drills you can complete anywhere here.
Punching bags are ideal for boxing workouts at home, but they aren’t always practical. Unless you’re lucky enough to have flat ground, sturdy tree branches, and kind weather, your home heavy-bag setup is probably going to require some remodeling. And even if you have the means to mount and reinforce a heavy-bag, you may not have the option due to noise-sensitive neighbours or roommates.
Of course, impact work is a crucial part of boxing; fighters must develop their muscles, joints, and tendons to transmit power against hard targets, and this cannot be accomplished through shadow boxing alone.
If you can’t mount a traditional heavy-bag in your home gym, consider these options and alternatives:
Freestanding Heavy-bag Options
Free-standing heavy-bags are great for isolating punch techniques, working inside-fighting tactics, and running punch-out drills. That said, they do have some limitations, particularly in the way that they restrict your movement. If freestanding bags are your only option, they’re best used as power and conditioning tools.
Boxing strength and conditioning coach Ross Enamait runs stationary punch-out drills on a traditional heavy-bag. Stand-mounted heavy-bags sometimes make noise issues worse, and the legs pose a tripping hazard for anything except linear in-and-out attacks. If you’re hanging a bag from a stand, be sure to work extra lateral footwork and circling drills into your shadow boxing so predictable linear entries and exits don’t become habitual. Freestanding bags with heavy water or sand-filled bases usually allow for 360-degree movement, but they still pose some problems. Unbeknownst to many, the heavy’s swing is one of its greatest assets; when the bag is in motion, the boxer is forced to adjust to maintain distance and punch with maximum leverage, which develops sport-specific skill and awareness. Freestanding bags that do not hang cannot create this training effect, so you’ll have to do it yourself. If you’re working a heavy-bag that isn’t hanging, make the most of it by constantly creating small angles to punch from. Imagine that you’re fighting a bull of an opponent who won’t back down on the inside, and cut angles on him to create offensive opportunities while nullifying his firepower. Don’t be content to plant your feet and swing; challenge yourself to move constantly and force yourself to adjust as often as possible.
Heavy-bag Alternatives: Focus Mitts
Next to clearing floor space, finding a partner is one of the best things you can do to create quality boxing workouts at home. Focus mitts offer all of the benefits of heavy-bag work and more, and for a fraction of the price. If you’re really on a budget, you can skip the expense altogether and apply focus mitt concepts/drills bare-handed or while wearing traditional bag gloves. You can find 12+ focus mitt drills with video breakdowns and beginner, intermediate, and advanced options here.
Heavy-bag Alternatives: Double-end Bag
If a heavy-bag won’t work in your training space, try a light one. Speed bags are much lighter and lower-impact, but they still suffer from many of the same noise and installation problems as heavy-bags; on the other hand, double-end bags, sometimes referred to as “floor-to-ceiling bags,” are a fantastic option for impact work at home. Traditional double-end bags are ideal. Not only does this style of floor-to-ceiling bag give you countless ways to work your offense, defense, counters, hand-eye coordination, timing, and muscular endurance, but it can be converted into a maize bag by simply detaching the bottom cord, as seen here:
Installing your double-end bag is easy. Find a sturdy beam to mount your anchor ring, then attach your double-end bag’s top cord. You can secure the bottom cord by installing an anchor ring on the floor, or simply weigh it down with a weight or kettlebell.
I personally do not recommend free-standing “reflex bags” for boxing workouts at home. Like free-standing, non-hanging heavy-bags, these are limited in terms of movement, and they eat up precious floor space. Furthermore, the heavy base may rattle as you strike the bag, which can be a problem in noise-sensitive situations.
So you’ve cleared some floor space and found an impact-training option that works for you. What else can you add to your training space for cheap?
The following low-tech training tools will enhance your boxing workouts at home without eating into your budget. You can set up training stations for these three drills for less than $10:
Walk the Plank
This drill works what Kenny Weldon refers to as boxing “rhythm”:
Kenny Weldon teaches a shuffling “rhythm” step. This rhythm keeps boxers mobile and light on their feet, trains them to coordinate their hands and feet, and works as a constant “feinting” motion to confuse the opponent. The “walk the plank” drill is an excellent way to develop this technique. All you need is a wooden plank, line of puzzle matting, or other section of elevated flooring to work with (I have even had success with short sidewalk curbs!). To perform this drill, lay the plank on the ground and stand so you’re facing it horizontally. Starting at the left end of the plank, mimic what Weldon’s fighter is doing in the video above, only stepping your lead foot up onto the plank/curb/puzzle mat every time it comes forward. Move down the line, reversing directions once you reach the end. Your rear foot will not move forward at all, but should be brought with you to recover your stance as you move laterally. As you advance, add the jab, throwing it so that it lands right as your lead foot “rhythms” up onto the plank. Equipment cost: $0 to $5 depending on cut of wood and availability of scrap.
Nicolino Locche was famous for his defensive acumen, much of which was owed to his ability to constantly circle opponents without ever compromising his fighting stance. Accordingly, the Locche drill is all about improving your ability to box while moving in a circle, and will help you whether you’re trying to control the outside of the ring or occupy the center. Rather than literally stepping to the left or right and running into the ropes, this drill teaches you how to circle your opponent while maintaining your fighting stance. To perform this drill, square up with your target in good fighting stance, and begin to circle to the left or right. Your goal is to keep your lead foot, hip, and shoulder in front at all times, and to always stay locked onto your target as you circle. Start slowly and make sure that you are maintaining your fighting stance at all times. As you advance, you can start to add punches, until you’re freestyling an entire round while circling responsibility to the left or right. I recommend buying a hula-hoop for this drill, but anything you can use as a focal point will do; here, Barry Robinson demonstrates a creative option at a local park:
Equipment cost: $0-$3 depending on yard sale pricing and completeness of little sister’s toy collection.
Rope drills are very common defensive training tools, and they’re as affordable as they are effective. In this case, the rope-a-dope drill is not referring to Muhammad Ali folklore, but rather practicing bobbing and weaving under a rope (or hand wrap) stretched across the room.This drill will improve your inside fighting and ability to close range on a mobile opponent. Simply stretch a rope or old hand wrap across the room, tying it to whatever is available, and work your way up and down the line with a series of slips, ducks, bobs, and weaves:
Equipment cost: $0-$5.
When it comes to training, boxing really is about what’s on the inside; that is, your development is controlled more by the knowledge you possess than the equipment in your gym.On behalf of the Warrior Punch team, I sincerely hope these drills, equipment recommendations, and “home gym hacks” help you make the most of your boxing workouts at home. Open up some floor space, get studying, and contact us on Facebook to stay on track with free e-coaching.