How to Condition Your Reflexes – Yes, it is Possible

To an outsider, boxing might look like it’s all about strength.  That’s often what draws a newbie into the gym. However, it’s what is learned over time that keeps them coming back.

It takes more than muscle to stay in the ring.  We need a positive attitude, determined spirit and a great coach.  An experienced coach that knows how to teach every essential boxing skill and ranks reflexes near the top of the list.

Reflexes are automatic reactions that naturally occur without thought.  It sounds crazy to attempt to control something automatic, but with repetitive exercises, these reactions become conditioned responses. A conditioned response is more likely to get the ultimate result.

Learning to reduce our thoughtless reflexes can improve every area of life. Not convinced?  Consider your initial response to a last-minute request at work. Now compare that to how you would prefer to react.  Polar opposite effects when it comes to stress level and consequences.

The good news is that we can manage our responses and, by default, our stress levels outside of the gym by training our reflexes inside the gym.  Enlist a coach to help you start on the following exercises and then commit and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Shadow Boxing Drills

Repetition is a common theme in boxing.  It takes a tremendous amount of time, consistent behavior and dedication to be your best at anything and especially in the ring.  Shadow boxing drills are an opportunity to sharpen our honed skills and improve our less than perfect ones without any distractions.

Simply behave as if you are in the ring, only no one else is there to fight.  Perform the same combination without landing on anything, over and over, and you’ll soon see progress.  What took considerable thought at the start will become reflexive after 100 reps and automatic after 1000.  The key is to keep coming back to what you think you have mastered. Continually add new combos but return to your favorites regularly to keep your edge.

Shadow boxing does more than help deliver the quicker punch.  Conditioning our reflexes in this way also increases our blocking ability.  Over time, these practices become habits that require zero thought. Deducting the thought process can be the difference between blocking a blow and getting hit by one.   Plenty of motivation to keep improving.

Speed Bag

Every old boxing movie includes at least one great scene with a speed bag. Don’t let this fool you! Speed bags are not an outdated boxing tool but a timeless one. The speed bag is an excellent way to improve your eye-hand coordination and reaction time.

What better way to develop instincts and timing than here? When you and the bag are in harmony, it’s rhythmic sound will lull you into a deep concentration that insists on Zen-like reflexes. No thought, just calm, measured reactions – exactly what every boxer aspires to.

This is another multi-purpose exercise.  Reflexes are important but without proper form they are powerless.  Working with the speed bag is an opportunity to perfect our defensive stance while lowering our response time.  The more automated our reflexes become the more attention we can give our foundation.

It’s something we typically learn early but get sloppy about over time.  Mastering every boxing skill is required to become your best overall. Everything works together, including our defensive stances and reflexes.  The speed bag allows you to work both at the same time.

Jumping Rope

Boxing is a full-body sport.  We can’t forget our feet because, when it comes to reflexes, what they do in the ring matters.  Our lower half is responsible for helping us land a punch and expertly avoid one, too.

Jumping rope is a simple, yet effective way to condition your lower half.  Adding variety to our jumping routine will increase your response time and agility, far quicker than doing the same old set day after day.  Explore different styles and mix up the routine. Include double leg, single leg, boxer steps, double-unders, crossovers, and running in place.

Create a routine with two or more styles, and you have another practice to calm your mind and sharpen your reflexes.  A Gloveworx coach can teach you proper form, breathing and technique to prevent injuries and get maximum results.

Pad Work

Pad work drills allow you to build advanced combinations.  Start simple by hitting your coach or buddy’s padded hands with a left hook and right jab.  Do this again and again until it you can do it without thinking about it. Now, add an uppercut.  Repeat and continue adding a new move after you are confident with the last sequence.

The idea is the same as with other forms of work-- with enough repetition the actions become instant. So, the next time you are in the ring with similar stimuli, this practiced combo will automatically emerge. Instantaneously and without fear or forethought.

Starting to see a pattern, yet?  To develop high-quality reflexive action, the formula is to start simple: build combinations and repeat the routine until it becomes a habit.  Watch for complacency, though. Once you have mastered a skill, move on to something new to add to the arsenal, but continue to come back and sharpen the already mastered skills.

The allure of power and promise of physical fitness make boxing very attractive.  Those that try it and become hooked find that what initially drew them in, becomes added benefits.  What keeps them practicing are all the details that boxing fine-tunes; details that include reflexes. Seemingly insignificant within the big picture, but with the right conditioning, make a big difference in all areas of your life. 

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