Good reflexes are vital to the success of any boxer, but how do boxers like Canelo Alvarez and Vasyl Lomachenko build those incredible reflexes they display? Here are just a few ways to train up your reflexes for a fight.
Practice, Practice, Practice
There are no shortcuts in boxing, which is especially true for building your reflexes. Muscle memory will always be faster than conscious thought, which is why every great boxer spends hours and hours standing in front of a mirror working on their head movement and punch selection (also called framing). The key here is to make sure everything is perfect, speed and power will be there when you need them, but the technique needs to be trained.
Shoulder Touch Drill
This is an awesome and super safe drill to do with a partner, and it's something I use a lot when I’m not up to sparring for whatever reason. The goal is to touch your partner’s shoulder with your fingertips without allowing them to get yours. This teaches you how to react defensively while still being offensive, and helps you develop a reflexive understanding of distance management and threat prioritization.
A cobra bag is a great piece of boxing equipment for reflex training. It will constantly come back at you when you hit it, forcing you to move out of the way and predict its path based on the angle you hit it at, which is a great way to train yourself to start recognizing punching angles.
There is no way around it, the best way to train your fighting instincts is to fight. Sparring is, in my experience, almost always more fruitful well below 100% effort because at a full pace you tend to return to only what you know due to the risk of taking real damage, whereas at more relaxed levels of effort, you can try new things and work on your abilities without the risk of being flattened for a mistake.
“Free flow” mitt work
Free flow mitt work is basically what it sounds like, instead of following set patterns, your trainer will simply hold pads in certain directions and it is your job to figure out how to strike them accurately, and your job to figure out what footwork to use to maintain a good position. This training style is great for people who have a good handle on the basics in the theoretical field but haven’t had much chance to experience what it's like to use the tools they’ve studied.
Awesome reflexes are one of the flashiest-looking aspects of boxing, and those awesome displays of awareness are a huge part of what drew me to the sport. Like all good things, reflexes don’t come without effort, so think fast and stay quick on your feet.
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