Joe "The Brown Bomber" Louis is often rated as one of the heaviest punchers in boxing history. We know that he augmented his natural power with Jack Blackburn's schooling on his step-and-punch method.
Louis also had speed. For a big man, he put some quick movements together.
Speed is often an innate attribute. It can be helped along with smooth, efficient drilling, but for the most part, speed is a God-given gift. But there's an attribute of speed that can be developed, and that speedy attribute is balance.
Let's have a listen to trainer Walter Smith and what he saw as Blackburn's biggest assist to Louis:
"He taught him balance. As long as a man keeps himself on balance when throwing punches‚ that is one of the basic things of boxing. If you don't have good balance, your punches are not going to be effective."
But let's not take Smith's word on Blackburn's insistence on balance. This is the Brown Bomber himself on what he believed was Blackburn's greatest advice:
"You ask me what one great thing he taught me stands out in my mind? It was the trick of balance — balance in setting to hit, balance in delivering a punch, balance after I landed, but most important, balance if I missed. Balance in action was his god."
Are you hearing that? Balance in action was his god. This, in turn, became one of Louis' self-admitted vital tools.
So how do you make balance an important part of your own game? With the lightweight bag.
Everyone knows that the heavy bag is a staple of boxing training. When it comes to developing power, there's nothing quite like it. The bigger the bag you can handle, the better.
But to develop balance in delivering heavy hands, it's wise to spend time on bags lighter than you would usually consider. For instance, if you commonly work a 90- to 100-pound bag, you should spend a like amount of time on, say, a 40-pound bag.
Ideally, you should throw just as hard as you did on the bigger bag and not adjust for the lightness. Resolving to throw heavy despite the smaller size of the bag will give you more sway and create more chaotic angles that force you to "find your balance" in the middle of misses, near misses and bag grazes.
The following is a bag rotation designed to impart a good balance of speed and power. You'll need a heavy bag and a lighter bag as described above.
Round 1: Bang the big bag hard and fast.
Round 2: Bang the light bag hard and fast. Strive to not reduce your speed or power. There will be more misses and/or awkward moments initially, but that's OK. It's part of the learning process one needs to acquire balance.
Rounds 3-6: Repeat rounds 1 and 2 for two more cycles.
Your goal as a striker is to always find your balance and, should you momentarily lose it while throwing hands, always be able to recover your balance in a heartbeat.
Realize that often fighters miss in the ring when being off-balance matters the most. Therefore, strive never to be off-balance.
Programming your brain by engaging in gym sessions that train you to deal with occasions when you miss the bag or focus mitt will allow you to get a bit closer to the reality of combat. It's also the best way to start making balance in action one of your own gods.
One More Reason to Buy a Heavy Bag
Benefits pertaining to power, speed and balance are widely known to result from heavy-bag workouts. However, few martial artists know that upper-body strength also can be enhanced. Your options for exercises are limited only by your imagination.
- Push-Up: Place your feet shoulder-width apart on a bag that's lying on the ground with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Perform a standard push-up. Repeat 10 to 20 times to develop your pectoralis major.
- Dip: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor, your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your body facing away from the bag. Squat until you can touch the bag. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on it with your fingers pointing toward your butt. Lower your body as far as possible by bending your elbows, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times to build your triceps.
- Row: Straddle the bag, bend your knees and hold the harness that's attached to the top of the unit. Lift the top of the bag to your chest and slowly lower it back to the floor, allowing the bottom to remain stationary. Repeat 10 to 20 times to strengthen your trapezius and latissimus dorsi.
- Front Raise: Get a bag with a water-filled base. Remove the padded top section. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grasp the end of the top section and lift it in front of your body. Once your arm is horizontal, lower it. Repeat 10 to 20 times with each arm to develop your anterior deltoids.
- Lateral Raise: This exercise is similar to the front raise except that you lift and lower the top section while it's at your side. Repeat 10 to 20 times with each arm to build your lateral deltoids.
- Military Press: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grasp the bag and base (filled with enough water to match your ability) and lift it to face level. Hold it horizontal as you slowly raise it overhead and lower it. Repeat 10 to 20 times to work your posterior deltoids.
- Biceps Curl: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. With your arms straight, grasp the bag and base by the ends. Slowly bend your arms to move the unit toward your shoulders, then lower it. Repeat 10 to 20 times to hit your biceps.
- Triceps Extension: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the ends of the bag and base and lift it overhead. Slowly bend your arms to lower it behind your head, then extend your arms. Repeat 10 to 20 times to strengthen your triceps.
Century Martial Arts currently offers a bundle complete with heavy bag, stand, and boxing gloves.
- Wavemaster or Torrent (any bag) - Black Belt Magazine ›
- Find the best bag gloves for your training - Black Belt Magazine ›