A Beginner’s Guide to a Proper Boxing Stance

One of the most important aspects in combat sports is your stance. The way you stand will dictate how you fight because that’s what determines where your center of gravity and, by extension, your sense of balance is. Unfortunately, however, many Heavy Bag Pro users, especially beginners, often struggle with getting their stance right, which makes it harder for them to train. In this article, we’re going to discuss a proper boxing stance as well as a few variations.

Let’s get into it!

Boxer in classic boxing stance

Orthodox vs Southpaw – Which Side in Front?

Usually, right-handed fighters stand with the left side in front (called the Orthodox stance) and left-handed with the right side in front (called the Southpaw stance). So, the difference lies only in the positioning of the lead and rear hands and feet.

The idea is to have the stronger, dominant hand (right hand for orthodox fighters, left hand for the southpaws) in the rear position, enabling it to deliver more powerful punches like the cross or the rear hook.

Southpaw and orthodox stance

The Classic Boxing Stance

Classic boxing stance

The classic stance is where most if not all beginners start out. Master this first, maybe in a few years you can start to experiment with other stances.

In short, your hands are kept at your temples, your elbows are in, and your chin is tucked in. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your lead foot in front and your strong hand in the back. This is great for beginners because it’s effective at protecting the head and body.

You’re also able to load up and launch off your back foot to deliver powerful blows to your opponent’s head.

Getting INTO the (Classic) Stance

Feet position

To get your boxing stance, start off by standing with your feet together, now spread them to around shoulder-width. This is going to distribute your weight evenly so that you can balance. With your weight evenly distributed across both legs, turn your front foot to 30 to 45-degree angle. The rear foot should be slightly off-center from your lead leg and at maximum 60 to 90-degree angle. Once you’ve done all that, you lift yourself onto the balls of your feet.

Upper body

Your legs are now sorted, let’s look at your upper body. First, raise your rear hand and put it against your chin. If you have the glove on, it should touch your face. Your lead fist should be slightly higher. Some fighters like to keep it under the eyes, some slightly above the eyes. Neither option is incorrect, try to find what works best for you.

You can close your hands into fists, but some fighters keep the hands relaxed and only clenching when punching or taking a punch. But make sure that your thumb is outside your hand – and tuck in your elbows and chin. Now you have protection for your face (your hands) and body (elbows).

Other Variations of Boxing Stances

  • The Hands-Down Approach

The hands-down approach is simple; you adopt a wide stance and keep your hands down. It’s cool-looking and the fact that your muscles are relaxed allows a variety of quick attacks and counterattacks with minimal energy lost. You also have the advantage of unpredictability as you’re fighting in a way that your opponent may not be ready to deal with. There is a catch, however, which is that since your hands are down, your head and face are very vulnerable. This is something that you see in kickboxing quite a bit, one fighter’s hands drop, and he takes a nasty kick to the temple.

  • Playing Peek-a-Boo

Okay, so the peek-a-boo guard got its name because…well…it resembles a game of peek-a-boo. Your hands are up, and your elbows are in, you drop your hands slightly and peek out to throw punches. When used correctly, the peek-a-boo guard is a great defensive option because it’s difficult to get through. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this guard as well. Your field of vision is very limited, and you’re still getting hit by your own gloves.

  • The Philly Shell

For this guard, your lead hand is tucked against your body to protect it and your opposite hand is close to your face. This guard is fantastic for defensive fighters because it keeps your field of vision clear and allows a lot of mobility. It’s also great for setting up counterattacks. There are two major issues with the Philly Shell, however, that hold it back somewhat. For starters, you need extremely quick reaction times; your lead hand is down protecting your body, and this leaves one side of your face open. The other problem is fatigue. Getting punched repeatedly in the arm is going to make your arms tired and make it harder to fight.

Note: While these are guards, they are also considered stances.

Distance Management: Long vs. Short-Range Fighting

Long-range boxing is typically done at arm’s length, you’re standing tall and upright and on the balls of your feet to allow for fast movement. For long-range boxing, you’re typically throwing jabs and crosses. However, to throw hooks or uppercuts you’ll have to get closer to your opponent.

Short-range boxing is usually done from about a foot or less from your opponent. You would typically use the peek-a-boo guard and throw powerful body shots. Your base or weight is more evenly distributed thanks to a slightly wider than normal stance. Being able to throw more powerful punches has a caveat or two; first, it’s harder to land combos, and second, and this isn’t really a surprise, you can get hit much easier.

Long, mid, and close range stance

Newer boxers/beginners are typically more comfortable fighting at long range, but they struggle a bit with getting close and fighting at close range. Here are a few ways to work in close/short range.

Something to keep in mind is the idea of closing the distance between you and your opponent is to give yourself an edge – put yourself in a position to throw punches – while limiting your opponent’s options.

Herding your Opponent

This is exactly what it sounds like, you back your opponent into a corner – this is called cutting the ring. You move in the same direction as your opponent, making sure to keep them in front of you, and cut off any attempt to avoid close-range fighting. You want to force them to fight at close range. This tactic limits your opponent’s range of motion and eventually, they’re going to have to fight to get out of their predicament.

Punches are your Pals

If you can’t herd your opponent into a corner, then punches are your pals. You can use them to distract your opponent and, while they’re dealing with your hands, you’re creeping forward to close the gap between you. Speaking from experience, punches can be VERY distracting and if you’re not careful, you’ll be getting some gnarly bruises – ouch!

Both options are great, but a key component of both strategies is to shorten your stance. Usually, your feet are shoulder-width apart but getting closer to your opponent involves moving your feet closer together. They should be almost parallel, this means you can close the gap faster as your feet aren’t crossing a wide space as you move.

Common Mistakes

Let’s look at some common mistakes that occur when learning the correct boxing stance.

  • Standing in a Straight Line

When in your boxing stance, the toes of your lead (front) foot, should be in line with the HEEL of your back foot. This is so that you can move comfortably without losing your balance and deal with (avoid) any incoming attacks.

  • Standing Square

Standing square refers to standing with the bulk of your body facing forward. Now, if you’re close to your opponent it’s not such a big deal; you can throw harder punches. On the other hand, if you’re fighting at long range, all you’re doing by standing square is giving your opponent more targets to hit.

  • Being Flat-Footed

There’s a reason you’re meant to be on the balls of your feet; it ensures good mobility. You can move much faster by rolling off the balls of your feet than if you have to pick up your foot and move it.

  • Pointing your Front Foot

Pointing your front foot, this is an interesting one because it seems rather harmless; you see it in kickboxing and other martial arts all the time. The problem is that pointing your lead foot tends to lead to overcommitment or overextension.  This is when you throw a kick or a punch too far and it typically causes you to lose your balance.

  • Standing Up Straight

Again, this is something that seems innocent enough…until you look at the effect it has on your fighting. When standing up straight, we have a tendency to lock our knees. This severely limits our reach and mobility and throws us off balance. Additionally, we can’t generate real power in our punches.

  • Keeping your Chin Up

We’ve all been told at some point to: “Keep your chin up.”

This is meant to be a motivational thing, and it’s a great message…but it’s not something you want to do in a boxing match. Having your chin up in a boxing match gives your opponent another target to hit and a fairly quick route to a KO (knockout). The reason for that is quite simple; the head is the heaviest part of the body, and wherever it goes the body follows. A straight shot to the underside of the chin would cause the head to snap backward. You stumble back, and fall; unfortunately, we don’t support our heads too well when we fall so your head hits the ground and…well…lights out.

Bottom line: keep your chin tucked in.

  • Having your Elbows Up Too High

This is a common one and it’s exactly what it sounds like, you take your position and bring your hands up. It’s in that latter step that this mistake appears, you bring your hands up, but you also raise your elbows away from your body. This opens your body up to attacks and is generally just going to lead to an unpleasant experience.


Now that you know the correct classic boxing stance, it’s time to start training. If you haven’t yet, download the Heavy Bag Pro app to learn all all the punches and 1000+ amazing boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai combos.

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