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Boxing Drills for Men in Their 40s and 50s

The Combat Sports has always been very important to me. I began martial arts training in the late 80s? I don’t remember exactly what age I started, but I do remember that my mom had to drive me there. So, that puts it late 80s at least. Fast forward to today and I’ve owned martial arts studios, trained MMA and Muay Thai fighters for competition, trained cops and soldiers, and taught many seminars and classes. Out of every martial art I’ve practiced, boxing has always been my goto when it comes to fun conditioning drills. Hitting the heavy bag, shadow boxing, mitt work, it’s all great fun and awesome cardio! Which brings me to why I love boxing as a form of conditioning for men over 40. Boxing meets many of the requirements I have for safe and effective workouts for men in their 40s and 50s.

  • it incorporates short, intense bouts of all out physical activity followed by brief rest (Metabolic Conditioning)
  • It’s easily scalable for ability and conditioning level
  • It can be done by anyone. Even guys without a bag or with bad joints can shadowbox
  • It’s Fun!
  • It’s a great stress reliever

We start to lose testosterone in our late 30s, so we want to maximize what we have. As we start hitting our 40s we want to back off from the long “Mirror Workouts”, and start focusing on getting in and out of the gym in 35 minutes or less. The reason for this has to do with Cortisol production in the body due to stress. Your body doesn’t know the difference between stress from work, or stress from a workout. It’s all just stress. Higher stress for longer durations creates, you guessed it, higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the natural sworn enemy of Testosterone. It’s like the Lex Luthor to Testosterone’s Superman. Naturally, we want to limit the amount of cortisol in the body while maximizing the testosterone we have. The best way I’ve found to do this is to utilize metabolic conditioning workouts. Essentially, MetCon training consists of high intensity bouts of complex movements and short rest periods to create maximal health benefits in minimum time. I have written a brief report on this topic that you may like to check out: How to Workout in Your 40s and 50s.

Boxing Drills for Metabolic Conditioning

Over the years I have amassed quite the collection of boxing drills and MMA/kickboxing drills. Some are very simple to perform, but you shouldn’t judge them as being too easy. When it comes to this type of training, the object is to get more with less. So, what might read easy on paper is usually anything but. I’ve listed some of my favorite boxing/MMA drills here for you to try in your next workout. You don’t necessarily need a heavy bag for most of these, but it is recommended. Shadow boxing is a great tool. But, the added resistance of using a heavy bag or focus mitts with a partner will give the best results.

Jab/Cross/Jab Sprawl

This drill will blow you up fast, so proceed with caution.
In case you’re not familiar, a sprawl is a wrestling move. It’s basically like a burpee without the jump. You drop your hips to the ground to avoid an opponent who is trying to tackle you.
Here’s a quick video:
To Perform the Drill:
  1. Perform a rapid fire, all-out combo of Jab/Cross/Jab
  2. Drop into a Sprawl as soon as the last jab touches the bag
  3. Pop back up into a fighting stance and go again
There’s two ways to perform this drill. You could simply repeat it over and over for a 2 or 3 minute round (which would suck!). What I like to do, however is perform the drill for 10 reps straight with a brief (30 sec.) break in between.

Jab/Cross/Jab – Sprawl – Cross/Hook – Sprawl

This drill is exactly like the drill above, except you are going to hop back up to a fighting stance and fire another combination right away. Then sprawl…rinse and repeat.
To Perform the Drill:
  1. Perform a rapid fire, all-out combo of Jab/Cross/Jab
  2. Drop into a Sprawl as soon as the last jab touches the bag
  3. Pop back up into a fighting stance
  4. Quickly fire a Cross/Hook combo with speed and power
  5. Drop into a Sprawl as soon as the hook punch touches the bag
  6. Pop back up into a fighting stance

10 X 10s

This is another drill that reads easy, but will kick your ass. It’s a great finisher to any workout.
To Perform the Drill:
  1. Perform 10 rapid fire, all-out punches (Jab/Cross/Jab/Cross…)
  2. Reset your feet (don’t even take 3 seconds of rest) and go again
  3. Repeat for 10 rounds = 100 punches
My record for this drill is 800 punches. It was awful, and I don’t recommend it.

5 X 5s

This drill is exactly like the 10 X 10s drill with a few tweaks. It’s a little harder, and requires a bit more skill.
To Perform the Drill:
  1. Perform the following combo as fast as possible (Jab/Cross/Hook/Cross/Hook)
  2. Reset your feet (don’t even take 3 seconds of rest) and go again
  3. Repeat for 10 rounds = 250 punches


Burpee Punching Pyramid

This drill is just plain awful. My students and fighters would loudly groan anytime they heard this drill called out.

To Perform the Drill:
You will alternate between Jabs and Cross punches in this drill (you could also use hooks and uppercuts for a variety). Perform the following pyramid/ladder without stopping to rest.
  • 10 punches followed by 1 burpee
  • 9 punches – 2 burpees
  • 8 punches – 3 burpees
  • 7 punches – 4 burpees
  • 6 punches – 5 burpees
  • 5 punches – 6 burpees
  • 4 punches – 7 burpees
  • 3 punches – 8 burpees
  • 2 punches – 9 burpees
  • 1 punch – 10 burpees
  • If you’ve got anything left…GO BACK UP!

Totals: 55 Punches and 55 Burpees Now you can start getting pretty creative building your own pyramids. Substitute the burpees for push-ups, squats, abs, kettlebell swings, or just about any quick to transition to exercise. The key is to keep moving, and take as little rest as possible. Have fun with it.

1 to 4 and 4 to 1

Simple enough, but very effective in developing the muscle memory needed to fire perfect punches over and over. Even when you’re tired.

To Perform the Drill Perform the following combo as fast as possible:
  1. Jab
  2. Jab/Cross
  3. Jab/Cross/Hook
  4. Jab/Cross/Hook/Cross
  5. Jab/Cross/Hook/Cross
  6. Jab/Cross/Hook
  7. Jab/Cros
  8. Jab

Rest and Repeat as necessary. Going all the way through is 20 punches without rest. Now we have some options here. You could perform this drill in sets of 10, and that would give you a total output of 200 punches. Or, you could set a timer for 1, 2 or 3 minutes and continue the drill the whole time then take a brief rest in between rounds. If you do this, you’ll want to keep track of how many times you get through the drill each time. Keep a record of this to track improvement.

Tabata Punching Intervals

Tabata is a very popular form of MetCon. It utilizes 8 rounds of extremely high intensity exercise comprise of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. It reads easy, but you don’t realize how long 4 minutes is, until you’re doing a Tabata punching interval. To Perform the Drill:

  • Alternate left and right punches as hard and fast as you can for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Repeat for 8 rounds

Notice I just said to alternate “left and right punches”. You can pick any two punches that flow well together. I like to do several Tabatas back to back, working different punch combinations each time. Tabata Punching Combos:

  1. Jab/Cross
  2. L. Hook/R. Hook
  3. L. Uppercut/R. Uppercut
  4. Cross/Hook
  5. Hook/Cross
  6. R. Uppercut/L. Hook
  7. L. Uppercut/R. Hook
  8. Overhand Right/L. Uppercut


Panantuken Lead Switchers

I first learned these combos from Guro Mark Halleck, from his incredible Panantuken Silat Combatives program. These are fun drills that were originally designed to be done with a partner on focus mitts. There are many versions of the drills, but I’ll only post a few of the more basic versions. To Perform the Drill:

  • Perform a Cross/Hook/Cross combo on focus mitts
  • Now step forward with your rear (right) leg. You have now switched leads.
  • Your partners steps with front foot. They are now switched leads
  • Perform the combo again, and step back to the original position

These drills are fun and challenging, as switching leads back and forth make your brain work harder and increases your footwork. Don’t have a partner? No problem, just do the drill on a heavy bag. Instead of stepping forwards and backwards, just do a quick switch of your feet. You can even make it more challenging by jumping up with high knees to switch. Lead Switch Combos:

  1. Cross/Hook/Cross
  2. Hook/Cross/Hook
  3. Lead Uppercut/Cross/Lead Uppercut
  4. R. Uppercut/Hook/R. Uppercut

Okay, I have given you eight drills there to use as a framework for some great boxing workouts. With all the variations of those drills, you should be able to have a different workout every time you step in front of the bag. Here’s some tips I’ll leave you with.

  • Wrap your hands and use proper gloves/gear:  I used to be able to train on the heavy bag bare knuckle, but those days are over. If I don’t wrap up, my hands will hurt for a day or two. Also, gloves and wraps help absorb some of the shock to your shoulders and joints.
  • Warm-up and cool down properly:  A general sport specific warm up should be 10-15 minutes long. You can jump rope, foam roll, jumping jacks, etc. Just loosen up, and break a bit of a sweat. Cools downs should be 5-10 minutes of light stretching or shadowboxing.
  • Don’t over do it:  Get in and out of the gym in 35 minutes or less to take advantage of the cortisol/testosterone relationship.
  • Listen to your body:  Give yourself a few days to recover between boxing workouts…any workouts, really. As we age, it takes the body longer to recover. Proper hydration and rest are critical to keeping us away from that catabolic status, where we start losing muscle mass rather than fat.
  • Get proper instruction:  While boxing is a pretty easy workout to do, it will go a lot better with a little instruction. Go hire a boxing trainer for a few hours to run you through some basic instruction. It’s money wisely spent.

Keith Miller is a Personal Training and Health Coach that specializes in helping men in their 40s and 50s reset their bodies, feel better, lose weight, and perform at levels they haven’t in years. He resides in Louisville, KY and is a lifelong martial artist, father, and business owner.

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