Boxing focus pad routines have many benefits, but if performed incorrectly can cause injury to you and your client. Combat athlete coach Hays Daewoud shares some simple tips for achieving best technique.

As a fitness professional, you may have noticed that many of your clients love hitting the pads when it comes to the boxing for fitness component of their training sessions. However, holding the focus pads (or focus mitts) is an art form, and if performed incorrectly can cause injuries to you and your client.

Focus pads were originally designed for boxing coaches to hold for the fighters they were training. They are used to sharpen up technique, as well as work on coordination, movement and balance. The goal is to imitate the techniques used in the ring. They were not designed as a fitness tool. As the trainer and pad holder, you must make sure that you’re holding the pads safely. With poor pad holding, trainers and clients risk incurring injuries to the wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Common mistakes

The following are three of the main offenders when it comes to incorrect, and potentially dangerous, pad holding.

1. Slappy slap

Many pad-holding trainers use unnecessary force in the form of an excessive slapping action, when attempting to apply resistance to a puncher. This jams the puncher, and prevents them from throwing a proper punch with the full range of motion. The slapping of pads can create injury to both the pad holder and the puncher.

2. Open wide

Pad holders often make the mistake of holding their arms wide open, with the pads facing the puncher. Flaring the elbows out will put a strain on the shoulder muscles, ligaments and tendons when the pads are hit. This can cause rotator cuff injuries and labral tears, among other injuries. Keep your elbows closer to your body; this is where the shoulders are most stable.

3. Combo confusion

Avoid complex combinations that divert the client’s focus from the main objective, which is performing quality punches. We recommend 2-3 punch combinations for most people, and up to 5 punches for more experienced and technically proficient clients.

Keep it simple, lead with some straight punches, and then finish off with hooks or uppercuts. The aim is for good technique and intensity throughout.

Tips for holding pads

  • Have your body in a stable boxing stance.
  • Keep your elbows comfortably close to your body.
  • Angle the pad to the appropriate position of the punch that’s been called.
  • As the punch is making contact with the pad, apply a ‘catching action’ with the pad and apply slight use of the elbow to assist. This should create the correct resistance for the puncher.
  • The puncher should fully rotate their trunk and have the full range of movement with their punch, with no unnecessary force on their fists from the pad.
Using focus pads in your sessions has many benefits to your clients, with research showing that boxing for fitness improves not only strength, speed and power, but also cardiovascular, cognitive and mental health. By making good technique a priority you can ensure you and your clients remain injury-free and continue to reap these benefits.
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