Two Schools of Padwork in Boxing

I’m a “train for what you are going to do” kind of person.

Yes, I put in road and trail work, stadium stairs, jump rope, and so on, and none of those things are what I actually do when I roll into the boxing ring. They do give my muscles the kind of balance that only comes from cross-training, as well as a foundation of good cardio conditioning.


And this is a big however…

I do most of my non-boxing-specific training in boxing rounds.

For example, here’s one of my current favorite workouts. All the work (except for the mile) is done in three minute rounds with 30 second recovery periods. And even that I sometimes do in three minute bursts, like a fartlek run, with 30 second recoveries.

  1. Three rounds stairs
  2. Three rounds hurdles (The hurdles are so intense I actually don’t make it continually through 3 minutes yet)
  3. Three rounds jump rope
  4. One mile to finish (are you happy I didn’t say “to recover” like your coach does? Heh.)

The point is to work hard for 3 minute segments and recover in 30 seconds, and then do it again — because that’s what you do in the boxing ring.

So I see these guys doing incredibly lengthy memorized padwork routines and I think, this doesn’t help me. It looks super-shonuff cool, it does! But it doesn’t look like what I end up doing in the ring.

I hear the arguments that it develops fast hands and punches in bunches, but the situation seems so forced. You memorize a sequence and move through it (like a kata in martial arts). But in boxing you aren’t throwing 32 punches in a single offensive. You have to think, watch your opponent, strategize on the fly.

Maybe I’m just jealous. I don’t have those long combos memorized, and they do seem to carry some cool cred in gyms. I wanna be cool, just like other people.

But I’m gonna stick with training that looks and feels like actual boxing. Check out the video below. THIS is what I think padwork should look like.

One of the things I like about this padwork training session is that the trainer is not smacking down the punches; he lets the punches come to him. The two of them move, stay loose, and circle just like you would in a fight. It’s the real thing, not a show.

Well, okay, it IS a show, it’s part of a press conference, obviously, but you get the feeling that they actually train like this on a regular basis. You know, minus all the reporters crowding the ring.

Padwork is one of the things I love best in boxing.

You get one-on-one time with a trainer or peer who is working on your game, your form, your boxing. You don’t have to share a coach with dozens of other fighters when you’re doing padwork, and you don’t have to factor in a sparring opponent. It’s aaaaalll you, baby. Whipped cream with a cherry on top.

I don’t get much padwork, but when I do, I’m intensely grateful for it, particularly when I feel like it’s going to really move my game forward.

Image by icantu on Flickr

, , , , , , , , , , ,

21 Responses to Two Schools of Padwork in Boxing

  1. Amy Scheer October 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    “Padwork is one of the things I love best in boxing.”

    This is what it comes down to, for me: it’s fun, and you get to hit stuff. I will stumble through combinations and then by about time #4, it just happens. And these are good combinations to know, so it’s worth doing.

    In my fitness classes I smack down on people’s punches, because otherwise they wouldn’t be hitting hard enough. The sound and intensity of the “smack” makes them pick up their game; they know I’m coming at them. It works.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      I think boxing-for-fitness training is different than boxing-for-fighting training. I’m guessing that people are worried very little about form in fitness classes… Although I bet YOUR fitness classes get way better form than most of the ones I see being run in the local community centers — those dudes are using boxing moves and they’ve never thrown a real jab in their lives — I can tell because they shoot a jab from the waist!!

      (Please pardon my rant.)

      When I’m doing padwork, I tend to shorten my punches if the pads person is coming to meet me with the pad. My coaches are forever making sure I’m fully extending the punch. They sometimes stand far enough away to make sure I’m not only extending fully (and using my considerable reach), but also that I’m advancing on the jab. It makes for a powerful offense and keeps me from being sloppy.

      Daggone, does it keep coming down to this: “it’s fun and you get to hit stuff”? Because it sure is true. 🙂

    • Somon May 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

      Loved your article on your boxing training and especially the pad work . I boxed for near fourteen years and the done high level boxing coaching badges and also my boxing tutor qualification. Your regime of training with the three minute rounds and variation between cardiovascular and running and groundwork. My speciality is pad work, I do pad work like an opponent boxer, I call the shots and vary angles and distance including defence and long range boxing and inside. I have developed an excellent style of pad work and coaching, and will hopefully one day go on to coach at International level and also give the pro game a go. Some boxing coaches worry more about themselves looking good! This is why they slap the incoming punches, they suit the session to themselves, and end up short changing the boxer, having them believe they are better than they actually are! Seen this happen so many times. Keep up the good work! And I would love to coach a boxer with your temperament and positive attitude. All the very best.

  2. Margaret Reyes Dempsey October 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    You know I’m not a boxer, but I agree in theory that memorized moves don’t take into account what happens in reality. I imagine that, just like in other areas of life, a combination of skills is probably best.

    I love these posts. Keep them coming.

    • Girlboxing October 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

      My first trainer eschewed pads entirely as bad for boxing, bad for training and then for his extra two-cents worth it was just plain b-a-d. His point was if a boxer is training to fight, the heavy bag, slip rope, shadowing boxing, et al, are where he or she can learn the mechanics, but when it comes to fighting the *only* place to learn is in the ring.

      With Len, I’ve trained with pads since the beginning in what I’d call a hybrid. We move around some, and he calls out different combinations, but there is something routinized about it and is why we’re not doing any more, but rather, we’re focus our energies on sparring so that I can connect the dots better.

      It’s one thing to call out a slip, quite another to actually get out of the way of a left hook. And with the former, I have no problem, but the latter keeps ringing my clock. So on balance, yes, pads have there place in terms of speed, body mechanics and close-in work, but they do not substitute for the real thing. IMHO! 🙂

      • Amy Scheer October 11, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

        When I worked with Len, he did a nice job of pushing me back so I’d practice my reach. It was an AHA moment of “Oh: I *can* punch from way back here.”

        And as you said, there’s something to getting out of the way of a mitt coming at your head. That’s where the rote memorization is key–that is, the muscle memorization of what to do when a certain thing is happening. Lisa is right on the idea that too many punches in a combo can lose their effectiveness, but the fact is that your opponent is going to throw certain predictable combos, as well, so you need to have an arsenal of responses.

        (All this from my limited experience, you understand.)

        As for fitness, Lisa, it has very little if nothing to do with actual boxing, but in my classes I do harp on technique. One, because they’ll get a better core workout, and two, because I don’t want them hurting themselves on the bag or mitts. Three, because they then think I’m badass and they pay to take my classes.

        But how bout those crazy aerobic hooks?!?!?

      • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

        You mentioned something I also notice about padwork, which is that you have to really listen to your coach. There’s something to be said for being in the thick of a fight, hearing your coach call commands, and translating that into action at just the right moment. Damn, but it’s hard!

        Padwork does the same thing — coach calls the combo, you respond. You do only what the coach calls for, rather than what your instinct is. My failure to do this bloodied Jay’s lip once, and seriously threatened another padwork trainer’s thin wire-frame glasses, hah. 🙂

        It’s harder than people might think!!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      You are such an interesting woman, Margaret. You say you’re not a boxer, yet you come over to all our sites and cheer, comment, observe, and share insights with us.

      I think you are secretly training to kick all our asses in the ring.

      (OMGPonies, Wouldn’t that be fun??)

      • Margaret Reyes Dempsey October 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

        I’ll admit you and GB have definitely made me consider giving it a go, but then the thought of getting socked in the face surfaces. 🙂 I’m an armchair boxer. 😉

        You both have inspired me to include some boxing scenes in my in-progress novel. I’ll be bugging you down the road when I get to the serious research/fact checking stage.

        • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm #


          We (and I know I speak for all of us) can’t wait to bestow our wisdom!

          Hello, Amy? We do it cause it’s fun and we get to hit stuff AND cause Margaret will put our infinite wisdom in her booooook!

  3. Girlboxing October 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Yep, and meanwhile, we’re going to get Margaret to Gleason’s doing some pad work and before you know it … as you say Lisa, she’ll be ringing our chimes! 😉

  4. Margaret Reyes Dempsey October 12, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    🙂 You guys crack me up!

  5. Laura October 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    I’m being lazy and haven’t read the rest of the comments so forgive me if this has been covered…

    But there isn’t really a great deal of memorizing in pad work. I mean.. for a few fitness folks that’s what happens… and, in the beginning, I think that’s what we all want to do. Really, though, pad work is most effective when you learn to react. It’s sparring without actually getting hit. If you recall some training with Terri (I’m not sure if your other trainers did this) but she always says “Watch my chest.” She shows you slow once then you pay attention to what she’s doing, not what she’s saying (which is usually nothing to her fighters). It ups reaction time and helps with muscle memory. You know a trainer is doing padwork the right way (imo, right way) when they mess up on their end and the fighter flows with it (which happens). That’s when you know the pad work is really working.

    And it’s really freaking fun.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe October 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi, Laura!!!

      Feh. I’m probably just jealous.

      So glad you are enjoying training down in Hotlanta. Miss you. 🙂

  6. Hillari Hunter October 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Padwork is sort of hard for me on either side. When I’m holding the pads for someone, I often feel like I’m not calling out enough combinations to make it interesting nor beneficial for the fighter. If I’m the one hitting the pads, I mess up due to not being focused or fast enough. I think padwork is okay as part of the workout, but for me, what I do with them never seems to translate into measurable results in the ring.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 11, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      Hillari – I’m impressed that you’ve been on the other side of the pads. That’s gotta be hard, moving your hands in reverse of what you’re calling…!

  7. Yumigee November 11, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Thanks for posting the video of Manny Pacman.. He’s my Idol .. 🙂

  8. Maja Elise May 16, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    well, I’m not a boxer, I’m a karateka, but I can suggest a good reason to memorise long combinations to work on pads

    one of my biggest problems in sparring is thinking too much. I put waaaay too much pressure on myself and somehow feel like if I’m gonna do a technique it has to be perfect. I’m starting to overcome this, but I still think too much. overthinking makes it nearly impossible to do combos. seriously. so what my sensei did before my last sparring match was to figure out a combo that comes fairly natural to me, make three variatons of the same combo and have me repeat it over and over again. first I did it on my own, then with him and eventually he started randomely countering my attacks or moving in an unexpected way.

    memorising that combo did something wonderful. whenever I freak out and start thinking I always have a go to combo. I start with that one and something magical happens. my training kicks in and I start working on instinct, I start reacting and responding. the drill only has straight kicks in it, but in my actual match that often turned into a roundhouse.

    so yeah, doing some of that kind of work can be super useful 😉

    • June June 11, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      That was really cool to read. I over think too, and it sounds like a great idea to have a go to combination to use in times of need. I like it!

      • Maja Elise June 11, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

        Thanks!! 🙂
        Yup, it’s great. Only downside is you get predictable when you use it too much 😉 still, loads better than shuffling around until someone kicks you in the head! I’m thinking I’ll try and make up two more drills that I feel comfortable with (and can pull of as long as I “mean” the techniques) so that I’ll have three go to’s for panic moments.
        Hopefully I won’t be stuck trying to decide which one to use :p

        • June June 11, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

          I guess that’s the definition of “keep busy”! I’m going to use your idea and come up with my own go to combo. Good luck coming up with your next ones!

Leave a Reply