Heavy bags are excellent. They’re one of the best training tools you can use for solo training,
allowing you to practice combinations, strike with power, and give you a target to move around. But they aren’t the only tool at your disposal. Here, we’re looking at some of the most common, and most useful training accessories around.
This won’t be about S&C accessories. This is just for those accessories that can help correct technique and allow you to drill more effectively. I’m also looking to focus on simpler, lightweight methods, that you can take with you anywhere and practice anytime.
Chin ball – Posture
This is more for fixing a specific issue for beginners. If you’re carrying your chin too high when punching, you put yourself at risk of getting hit hard and potentially even dropped. You want to keep it down and keep looking through your eyebrows at your opponent. To this end, take a ball (tennis, lacrosse, something smaller or bigger if you need it) and hold it under your chin without using your hands. It forces you to put your chin down and keep it there. Train combinations however you want while keeping it in place, whether on the bag, shadowboxing, or something else. This can provide one of the most useful, passive traits that you can pick up from the accessories here.
If you’re sparring fairly heavily you’ll probably do this naturally, but it’s best to avoid this before you start catching hands. Deal with bad habits early, and avoid damage wherever possible.
Reflex Ball – Hand-eye coordination
Plenty of fighters have used this in the past to help their hand-eye coordination. There are custom made reflex balls, or this can be pretty DIY if you need it to be.
You will need a headband, something secure and comfortable, that fits around your forehead and over your ears. You can alternatively use a baseball cap turned back to front. At the front of this you need a length of elastic, and on the end of that a tennis ball. If you are making your own, experiment with the length until it feels right.
From there, it’s just about lightly punching the tennis ball. Don’t go too hard or you might just get a face full of felt. This is about hitting it consistently, keeping your attention on the ball, and getting into a good rhythm. It’s an excellent way to train your hand-eye coordination and to get good at hitting small targets under time pressure, with obvious translations over to boxing.
If you need some more guidance, take a look at the following link for a ‘how-to’ guide:
Falling Objects – Hand-eye coordination
There are a few methods for this, some involving partners, some solo. For the partner drill, take two objects and hold them outstretched. All you need to do is drop one without warning. Your partner simply has to swipe the one that you have dropped out of the air. It forces them to learn good timing, to be quick, and to be accurate. In addition, the moving target means that they have to learn good intercepting skills. Simple methods are often the best because they’re quickly repeatable, they can be used anywhere, and you can adapt them and shake them up however you like.
For an example of how to do this, as well as some other tennis ball related drills, take a look at the following link:
Tennis Ball on a String – Head movement
This is the last one with tennis balls, I swear (but they are an underrated tool for boxing).
So in the same vein of DIY, simple accessories to use, try a tennis ball on a string, suspended from the ceiling. Swing the ball and look to move around it without getting hit. You can start with simple head movements, ducking under it and weaving out of the way, to help build up habits of how far you move and getting good timing for avoiding strikes. You can work on a variety of movements, swing it in a straight line to simulate straights, and in a more circular motion to simulate hooks. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, look to add in shadow boxing and footwork to create more complex drills.
In a pinch, you can also use this as an impromptu punch bag, mixing in the hand-eye coordination aspects along with the head movement. You won’t have the opportunity to deliver power punches, but accuracy and speed is definitely required.
Spinning Bar – Head movement
This is breaking the anywhere/anytime nature of most of these accessories, but it’s too interesting a one to miss out. You’ve probably seen training highlights and people showing off their head movement and hand speed on devices like this.
The spinning bar is getting more towards the realm of punch bags, but provides a more interactive tool with more feedback. While you cant perform such in-depth combinations, they do force you to have good head movement – whether pulling or weaving – and to be quick on the attack. The bar is going to come back at you and you’ll need to be ready to defend yourself. It’s also a good drill for building defensive discipline when fighting. Too many fighters are caught when they are admiring their own work and looking to see what effect they had, but the spinning bar forces you to either get your head out of the way or to put a barrier up to defend yourself. It’s an excellent complement to a heavy bag.
For some beginners drills, take a look here:
It’s a bit more involved, but for a guide on how to make your own check this out:
Jump Rope – Footwork
Skipping ropes are a timeless, practical, and mobile tool for training. They’re excellent for warming up, using the whole body and allowing you to put in a good base of steady-state cardio. Even using the skipping rope in a basic way provides benefits to your footwork, as jumping will simulate the movement of bouncing lightly on the feet during a fight, strengthening the muscles in your calves and getting you used to bouncing for long periods of time. It will also help you with timing, learning to jump at the right moment, coordinating your hands and your feet, and using visual cues of the rope swinging down. As you get more proficient you can try mixing in some more complex footwork, bouncing twice on each foot in turn, making your changes irregular, or moving forwards and backwards. It is less about specific motions and more about control of your feet and learning timing, so just play around and see what you can do.
Ladder – Footwork
There are debates over the effectiveness of ladders in order to develop foot speed. I’m therefore not going to get into that, as I don’t have all the answers as to whether it does or it doesn’t. What I would recommend ladders for is more along the lines of coordination. They provide a clear frame of space to move around, clear distances over which you need to step, and allow you to work on stance and footwork. Try staying light, bouncing lightly on the balls of your feet, and moving either forwards or sideways along the ladder. The easiest way to use the ladder is as a grid to check that your stance doesn’t change shape as you move. You can increase the complexity as much as you like, but as a general recommendation, you want to use it to maintain stance length and mark out where you’re stepping at any time.
If you need some advice on footwork drills, we have another article right here that can provide just that.
Give these accessories a try. They can act as excellent complements to the various types of bag available, from heavy punch bags to speedballs, and can allow you to develop a variety of other skills. It’s important to not become overly married to one training method and to not neglect any aspect of skill acquisition.