The great thing about training boxing is that in its most stripped-down form, you don’t need any equipment. Without gloves, bag, wraps or even a skipping rope, a martial artist can shadow box, working on foot work, flow of punches and practicing utilization of angles. Shadowboxing is a great option when bags aren’t accessible to us. Years ago, I attended a seminar given by Conor McGregor’s striking coach, Owen Roddy, where he joked about annoying his wife and kids by moving up and down the living room or kitchen floors whilst jabbing, bobbing, weaving and slipping and this is something many of us who box or practice martial arts find ourselves doing. After all, training is addictive; once we get used to the dopamine buzzes of bag-work, pad-work and sparring, we often find ourselves with that itch to throw strikes and move like we are in a fight again.
Eventually though, this shadow boxing might become a little bit tiresome and we find ourselves desiring the resistance of a punch bag or a pad, along with those accompanying smacks and bangs of them being whacked that fuel us to put the work in. Pad work requires pads and more importantly, a training partner, but in the absence of a great partner, a bag can provide a great solo work out. A solo work out that is only enhanced with a great app like Heavy Bag Pro, with its dazzling array of different punch drill programmes. Whilst the app can be used on any smart phone, if we’re to run through the training programmes or do some sparring, we’re going to need to get some much-needed training gear.
This might come as a surprise to some of you, but unless you have your own home gym setup, it’s going to be pretty difficult to train naked. Even if you do have a fantastic heavy bag mounted on your wall, you might want to find clothing which prevents anything sensitive from swinging and shifting. As a result, you might want to start with some underwear, then once you’ve sorted that out, get yourself some boxing, Muay Thai or MMA shorts. Karatekas and those who practice various forms of kickboxing might prefer gi pants, or longer tracksuit bottoms but I’m personally a big fan of Twins Muay Thai shorts. In the ten years of wearing them, they have always provided more than adequate comfort and stretch to move around, kick, knee and strike.
Fighters of any discipline can develop their cardio, explosiveness and coordination with PVC plastic cables or polyvinyl skipping ropes. Almost every professional boxer uses skipping as a warm up exercise to get them going before moving on to pads, bag work or sparring.
Even with gloves on, both hands have plenty of bones with varying degrees of brittleness and it makes sense to give those bones and your wrists as much support as possible. When donned properly, wraps can give this extra layer of protection to reduce injury. Whilst it’s important to learn the correct technique to put them on, snug-fitting hand wraps can greatly reduce risk of arthritis, carpal tunnel, bruising and other injuries.
This is something we cover in more detail in another article that you can read here, but to surmise, a good set of 12 OZ Velcro strap gloves will suit almost anyone to hit bags or pads. Premium brands such as Reyes or Fairtex typically cost a little bit extra dough but should provide a decent level of comfort, hand protection and durability.
We’ve covered punching bags in all their many shapes and sizes in another article here. They come in various shapes and sizes to fit different needs of the user.
For a lot of martial artists, footwear won’t be necessary. In the case of Muay Thai, karatekas, Taekwondo practitioners and kickboxers, the majority of the kicks and knee techniques have been learned for competition settings, where fighters are typically without shoes. This means that practicing kicks on a bag whilst wearing shoes is often more difficult and may be likely to scuff up the bag. On the other hand, pugilists training under Duke of Queensbury rules may be used to wearing hi-top boxing boots. These boots allow for more speed and range in foot and ankle movement, providing much needed support for ankles and shins during pivoting and shifting movements.
Shin guards are generally used more to prevent bruising in kickboxing and Muay Thai sparring as well as for pad holders keen to check the defence capabilities of their students or training partners, but those new to bag work, or with injuries and existing health conditions might do well to protect their legs before throwing hard kicks into a heavy bag. Doing bag work with shin guards also allows you to replicate the conditions of sparring rounds or interclub competitions. Cheaper shin guards are typically thinner and made of materials such as neoprene fabric and reinforced foam. As a result, they don’t offer the strongest level of protection and if this is being sought, you may be better off with thicker more expensive guards, usually made from high-quality leathers and elasticated materials, with light but highly shock-absorbent padding built in.
Again, much like shin guards, elbow guards are usually donned to limit damage done and taken in Muay Thai and MMA sparring. Due to potential health risks of serious cuts, elbows are usually restricted during sparring or clinching sessions. Beginners and intermediate Muay Thai practitioners lack the control and experience to throw elbow strikes with their sparring partners. Fighters practicing for “full rules” fights, however will benefit from preventing deep gashes with these guards. They are usually made from high quality cotton, whilst others contain various degrees of high-density foam padding. It is always good to agree with your sparring partner before sparring about what particular rules set you will be following whilst sparring.
If working on a bag, it may not be necessary to wear any additional protective gear, but with regards to sparring, there are other items of protection which are used to keep fighters safe. The obvious item is a gumshield, after all, nobody wants to lose their teeth from a friendly sparring session, or a competitive one for that matter. Boxers may also choose to wear headgear, though kickboxers and Nak Muays often find that headgear will cut down their peripheral vision, meaning that they will be caught with kicks that wouldn’t normally land.
On the other hand, fighters who throw kicks in may be more likely to wear a groin guard. Boxers very rarely have to worry about a low blow, but regardless of gender, there is very little pleasant about one’s genitalia eating a knee or low kick.
Punch and kick pads come in a few different varieties. Those coaching boxers will use “focus mitts”, which are rounded, slightly larger pads which call on the puncher to throw their strikes in the centre of the pad. A good coach can use these pads to train a boxer to slip and weave more, adding defensive movement to their punching combinations. More expensive focus mitts combine high grade leather and composite foam padding to provide trainers with protection under all training conditions. Cheaper ones tend to be of a lower quality of leather, or less durable fake leather. Whilst these are traditionally used by pugilists, MMA fighters, Muay Thai and kickboxers will stand to benefit from the odd training session devoted entirely to working on hand speed and coordination. When they kick, they may want to work with Thai pads.
Thai pads, not to be confused with the delicious Pad Thai, are much longer and are designed to sustain the more intense impact of kicks and knees as well as punches and elbow strikes. Traditional Thai brands like Fairtex, Sandee and Windy are renowned for their well-padded, genuine leather finished pads and can come in straight or curved styles.
Kick shields are larger, more spongy pads which resemble the pads used by both Gridiron Football and rugby players to practice tackling techniques. Their handles and curved shape make them perfect for absorbing low kicks and more heavy body shots.
Lastly, those practicing Taekwondo and more acrobatic forms of karate may be used to lighter kick paddle pads. These pads are held at tilted angles to practice hook kicks and the various spinning kicks practiced. Whilst most Muay Thai and kickboxing kicks tend to focus on landing the shin into the target, taekwondo and karate kicks often pay more attention to the feet, meaning that these paddles are lighter and tend to be more gentle on the more brittle bones.