This is an excerpt from Total Knockout Fitness by Martin McKenzie & Stefanie Kirchner.
Now that you have the tools and know-how to maintain a good guard and stance, we turn to the skill that the world-famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, was known for: footwork! Footwork refers to the specific movement of the feet; good footwork allows you to move in all directions quickly and smoothly and is the foundation for throwing accurate punches. With good footwork you will burn more calories and be able to change direction very quickly. It improves your balance, giving you a lot more speed, power and accuracy with both single punches and combinations. Balance is critical in boxing, and an integral part of balance is footwork. Bad footwork will put you off balance resulting in weaker punches.
This section explains how to integrate footwork skills into your stance and guard to improve your technique as well as your speed, agility and flexibility. In addition, one of the main outcomes of good footwork skills is being in the flow of punching on the move, which maximises your reactivity, speed and flow of movement (we'll discuss this in more detail later in this round and in round 7). Good footwork is also critical in power generation because you can punch without losing your balance.
Once you understand these key things about balanced footwork, you have the basics to avoid injury and begin to move with speed and precision. The next section addresses moving in specific directions to burn calories and solidify the boxing basics.
Moving Forwards and Backwards
When throwing punches, moving forwards gives you more impact because your body weight adds to the power of the punch. If an opponent is advancing you, you may want to move backwards and throw punches while doing so. The force that propels the movement always starts form the opposite foot to the direction in which you are about to move. When you are moving forwards, the push comes from the back foot. The front foot moves first (see figure 6.3a) and the back foot follows an equal distance (see figure 6.3b). When moving backwards, the push comes from the front foot. The back foot moves first (see figure 6.4a) and the front foot follows an equal distance (see figure 6.4b). Just remember, whether you are moving forwards or backwards, to keep your steps at a normal walking pace. Practise moving forwards and then backwards until you feel confident in the movement. It may take a while.
In boxing for fitness, lateral (side-to-side) movement is good for activating the adductor and abductor muscles as you are pushing off the balls of your feet. In professional boxing you can throw a wider variety of punches and punch combinations with a higher potential of penetrating your opponent's guard. The side-to-side movement is also used when counterpunching or trying to avoid incoming shots from an opponent. Generally, orthodox (right-handed) boxers prefer to move to the left side because it is the most natural movement as they push off the right leg and slide to the left. This is because the left foot is much closer to the opponent. Left-handed boxers usually prefer to move to the right side. Always remember that the push comes from the opposite foot to the direction in which you are about to move. If you are moving left, the push comes form the right foot. The left foot moves first and the right foot follows an equal distance. If you are moving right, the push comes from the left foot. The right foot moves first and the left foot follows an equal distance (see figure 6.5 for a view of the side-to-side movement going left). The back foot functions as the power driver, allowing you to push forwards in fast attack. Note that your front foot always needs to remain towards your opponent. At the same time it needs to be in line with the target. Practise this until it is second nature. It will keep you one step ahead in your Total Knockout Fitness programme.
Learn more about how footwork impacts your fitness level in Total Knockout Fitness.