Introduction & Importance

This article outlines the importance of multi-disciplinary approaches to the principles of boxing footwork. It also suggests how the coach can use the information when developing their coaching process (Nash et al 2008; Miles 2004). Research into boxing generically, suggests there aren’t a lot of researchers that are willing to study boxing, other than in the realms of boxing injuries. This is due to the very nature of the sport, and the fact they would not want to play a role in getting people injured (Smit and Louw 2011). With this in mind, other research states that the footwork and related movements involved can relate to other dynamic sports, such as tennis (Mack et al 2010) and striking and kicking sports (K-1, MMA, Thai boxing) (Kajmovic et al 2007; Kapo 2006).

Boxing Footwork


The correct footwork can be used as a combination, to embark on an attack or to retreat with a defence (Kapo et al 2008). The application of footwork allows you to move away and towards your opponent in a fast motion (Venda et al 2008) which will be beneficial in counter attacking opponents. The ABA outline the four main directions in which a boxer will need to move (Forward, Back, Left and right) as can be seen in the coaching points section. The list of importance’s to incorporate correct biomechanical footwork in boxing could go on and on. Everything starts from the base (stance) and without correct technical application of this; all other elements will suffer dramatically in terms of defence, attack, generation and force production, timing, balance and explosive power etc. Other factors include;

  • Punches will drive from the legs in a twisting motion through proximal-to-distal sequencing (Mack et al 2010). The motion initiates in the larger, heavier proximal body segments and, as the energy increases, proceeds outward to the smaller, lighter distal segments (Ends in the fist).
  • Without correct footwork, the torso will be restricted in its ability to rotate; therefore reducing the impact and force of the punch Power, as suggested in the ABA coaching manual.
  • Punches drive from the legs the force generated then proceeds in a twisting motion through the pelvis ending at the arms/fist as suggested in the ABA coaching manual (2011).


The psychological element will apply itself in the competition phase, determining whether the boxer chooses to apply forward moving footwork (attacking), backward moving footwork (defensive) or neutral footwork (Combined) (ABA 2011; Kapo et al 2008).

Boxing Footwork Graph

Waquent (2004) noted that violence and aggression need to be suppressed which is supported by (Smith & Louw 2011) when reporting that losing control of anger will lead you to a less chance of winning a bout. Other skills and techniques such as footwork and other defensive manoeuvres need to be considered in replacement to pure all out aggression.

All these defence strategies start with the movement of foot. This will mean that if the boxer is unsuccessfully using correct footwork and movement to defend, they could then therefore end up taking unnecessary blows, further affecting their psychological frame of mind, thus resulting in a loss.

On the whole boxing is a muscular endurance sport, with elements of high explosive anaerobic movements. The amount of movement will depend on the duration of the bout and the way in which the bout is being scored (10-9 system or computer scoring). This shows the importance of having a high V02 max and a good tolerance to high levels of blood lactate due to the onset of acidosis (Bonitch-Gongora et al 2010). With this in mind, the movement and footwork will become impaired as the boxer becomes tired, resulting in;

  • Reduced leg Isometric strength
  • Reduced leg Explosive power
  • Increased leg stiffness
  • Less movement
  • Impaired accuracy (Girard et al 2006)

These factors occur for several reasons, including

  • The insufficient rate of re-synthesis of ATP, PC
  • The build up of inorganic phosphate molecules
  • Increased levels of PH due to the onset of Hydrogen ions

Physiology & Psychology

When a boxer steps into the ring, they need to be both physically and mentally prepared for competition. If the boxer does not feel as physically fit as they should do, this can play a huge role in negatively affecting a boxers frame of mind. This will alter the way a boxer goes about the bout, as they may “hold back” as they believe they are not fit enough to maintain a sufficient pace. Relevant coaching implementations need to be applied;

1. Ensure the boxer is in good physical conditioning; in terms of footwork, plyo-metric and muscular endurance training will be beneficial for maintaining explosive footwork.

2. If a boxer is feeling psychologically unprepared for the match up, specialist help may be required. If this is not possible or does not work, ensure the boxer does not compete.

Biomechanics & Physiology

The relationship between these two sciences are critical to the application of boxing technique. If the boxer isn’t prepared physically, their ability to perform correct biomechanical footwork will suffer. For new boxers, the legs will be the main area that will “ache” due to the new/unlearned strain being put on them. This is why it is important to ensure that biomechanical and physical training run side by side in the training programme.

1. Make the leg training days relevant to the technique of boxing footwork; for example when doing squat training, do it in the boxing stance.

2. Try and ensure the correct technique is being replicated, this will aid muscle memory.

Biomechanics & Psychology

Both these two disciplines correlate in the application of boxing footwork. If a boxer knows that their biomechanical technique is “top notch”, they will feel more psychologically sound in terms of their own abilities. They will also be able to change their game-plan as and when necessary, as they will understand the different attack and defence strategies due to the work completed in the technique stage of coaching.

1. Ensure that the technical application is correct, from basic to advanced.

2. Encourage good technique, so the boxer subconsciously knows when they are doing well, this will help the movements to become imbedded into the mind.

Coaching Points

The stance – The positioning should be shoulder width apart with a 40 to 45 degree angle of both the front and back foot. The positioning of the feet is shown in pic 2.The boxer should be balanced with the weight being over on the back leg. The heels should be off the ground and the boxer should be in the ready position. The positioning may cause stress on the legs (especially the weight bearing leg) so relevant muscular endurance and interval training are necessary to ensure the quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocnemeous are able to cope with the strain being placed upon them. Looking and feeling strong may also aid the psyche of the boxer, as they will be able to gain an initial advantage over their opponent. (ABA coaching course 2011).

Boxing Footwork Template

Boxing Footwork
Movement – All footwork movements should be no more than six inches; the stance should remain the same at the start of the movement as it is at the end. Both feet should land simultaneously. There should be no break in the width of the stance and the boxer should be able to move in a different direction whenever necessary.

  • Forwards: Push off from the back foot, moving the front foot first
  • Backwards: Push from the front foot, moving the back foot first
  • Right: Push from the front foot, moving the back foot to the right
  • Left: Push from the back foot, moving the front foot first across to the left (ABA coaching course 2011)


This article indicates that there is not a lot of research directly relating to boxing (Smit and Louw 2011). However, from the research that is out there, we were able to develop a coaching model that can be used as a recommendation for coaches when coaching boxers from an early age. It is also evident that the 3 sciences (Psychology, physiology and biomechanics) correspond with each other, this is important to remember when devising training programmes in the coaching process (Nash et al 2008). Footwork is used in all stages of completion (attacking, defending and combined) (Kapo et al 2008) showing the importance of ensuring boxers get well coached/schooled in this element of boxing. A final thought to consider is, “A boxer can be as fast as lightning with their hand speed, without the fast feet to support this, they will rarely land a punch”. (ABA coaching course 2011).

Author: Jon Shaw

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