Boxer's Book of Conditioning & Drilling

Boxer's Book of Conditioning & Drilling

by Mark Hatmaker

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Going beyond the standard workout for boxers, this innovative manual introduces a diverse set of training methods, integrating them into drill sets that build the athletic attributes for which past and present fighters are known. From Leroy Jones sparring with chickens and Ken Norton’s 15 combined rounds of shadow boxing, sparring, and bag work to Ricky


Going beyond the standard workout for boxers, this innovative manual introduces a diverse set of training methods, integrating them into drill sets that build the athletic attributes for which past and present fighters are known. From Leroy Jones sparring with chickens and Ken Norton’s 15 combined rounds of shadow boxing, sparring, and bag work to Ricky Hatton’s staggering 12-round sparring bouts with a body belt and Kosta Tszyu’s creative tennis-ball and head-strap punching apparatus, this guide highlights a wide vocabulary of exercises, all incorporating boxing-specific equipment. The drills can be performed solo or with a partner, and each piece of equipment is approached individually with detailed descriptions of routines, including floor exercises and drills with the heavy bag, medicine ball, horizontal rope, and jump rope. With two workout menus for weight training, this guide guarantees a regime to suit any individual need—be it professional or simply a desire to train like some of the best athletes in the world.

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Boxer's Book of Conditioning & Drilling

By Mark Hatmaker

Tracks Publishing

Copyright © 2011 Doug Werner and Mark Hatmaker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-935937-44-9



Floorwork is boxing parlance for calisthenics or bodyweight exercises. We'll further subdivide floorwork into: pushing, pulling, legs, core (abs/stomach) and medicine ball exercises.

1.1 Pushing floorwork

Hand release push-ups

• Everyone knows how to do a push-up, but we introduce the hand release, which makes all push-ups just a bit harder.

• At the bottom of each push-up, briefly rest your chest on the floor and lift both hands from the ground.

• This pause lasts no more than a fraction of a second, but it removes muscle elasticity for bounce and forces you to work harder, therefore, get stronger.

• You will use hand release on all push-up varieties when your hands and/or feet are not elevated.

Stacked feet push-ups

• Place the toe of one foot on the heel of the other.

Wide grip push-ups

• Place your hands two shoulder-widths apart.

Roman push-ups

• Place your hands as wide as you can manage with the fingertips pointing away from your flanks.

Diamond push-ups

• Place your hands beneath your chest with index fingers and thumbs touching.

• No hand release here because your chest should rest on your hands.

Staggered hands push-ups

• Placing your hands in unequal positions adds some unusual stress.

Side-to-side push-ups

• Descend toward your right hand. Hand release and back up.

• Repeat on the left side.

Spiderman push-ups

• At the bottom of the first rep, bring your right knee to your right elbow — no hand release on this one — back up.

• Repeat on the opposite side.

Dive bombers

• Place your feet two shoulder-widths apart.

• Arch your hips to the sky.

• Sweep your chest down and between your arms until your hips brush the floor — no hand release.

• Reverse the motion.

T push-ups

• Perform a push-up.

• As you come up shift all your weight to one hand and turn your body to reach for the sky with the other.

• Repeat on the other side.

Push-up & row

• Perform push-up on dumbbell handles.

• At the top of each push-up, alternate rowing the dumbbells to your chest.

• So it's push-up — row right, push-up — row left.

• That's one rep.

Clapping push-ups

• Be sure to add hand release to make it really fun.

Plate crossover push-ups

• Place your right hand on a weight plate, your left is on the floor.

• Hit a push-up (no hand release) and at the top, hop your body to the other side.

• Left hand will now be on the plate and the right on the floor.

• Repeat.

• That's one rep.

Boardinghouse reach

• Hit the top of a push-up.

• As quickly as possible slap the ground 18 inches in front of you with your right, then return your hand to support position.

• Repeat with the left.

• Optimally you will slap right and left as rapidly as possible.

• If you're sucking wind after 10 reps, you're doing it right.

ISO pause push-ups

• Descend to two inches above the floor and hold for five seconds.

• Rise to the half way mark and hold for five seconds.

• That's one rep.

Decline push-ups

• Place your feet on an elevated surface.

• The higher the surface the greater the difficulty.

Single leg decline push-ups

• One leg is posted on the elevated surface.

• The other is held aloft.

P push-ups

• Both feet are elevated and the hands are placed on parallel supports that allow you to descend lower than usual.

Jumping push-ups

• Perform a hand release push-up between the supports.

• Then burst to land in a push-up on top of them.

• Fall back to the bottom position.

One arm push-ups

• That's right, Rocky style, but use hand release.

Bar dips

• Grip the bars and descend until your elbows exceed 90 degrees of bend.

Weighted bar dips

• Add a weight belt to make it more fun.

Ring dips

• Descend until your armpits touch the tops of the rings.

Half cross / ring dip combo

• At the top of each ring dip ...

• Keep your arms straight and slowly extend your arms away from your body.

• Bring them back in. Now hit your dip.

Handstand push-ups

• Kick against a wall (or walk your feet up).

• Descend until your forehead touches the floor.

Handstand kongs

• Hit your handstand.

• Shift your weight to your right and then touch your chest with your left hand.

• Repeat on the other side. • That's one rep.

Handstand walk-ups

• Place two weight plates on the floor.

• Hit your handstand between them.

• Walk your right hand to one plate, then your left to the other.

• That's one rep.

1.2 Pulling floorwork

Inverted row

• Keeping your body straight, pull until your chest touches the bar.

Inverted row underhand grip

• The same as the preceding but with an underhand grip.

Inverted row feet elevated

• You know what to do.

Inverted row underhand grip / feet elevated

• Ditto.

Inverted rows side to side

• Pull toward one hand and then the other.

• That's one rep.

Inverted row single arm punch

• Burst from the bottom and punch the right arm to the sky.

• Descend and repeat with the left.

Inverted row rings

• The same exercises performed with rings take away some stability and add to the difficulty.


• Hit a full dead hang with zero flex in shoulder or elbows.

• Pull until the chin is above the bar.

• You will use the full dead hang protocol on all pull-up/chin-up varieties.

Pull-ups wide grip

• Take a grip two shoulder-widths apart on the bar.


• Use an underhand grip on the bar.

Chin-ups close grip

• Take an underhand grip approximately eight inches apart.

Baseball pull-ups

• Place one hand in an overgrip and the other in an undergrip.

• When pulling, do not allow the body to twist.

• Perform prescribed repetitions, then switch grips and repeat.

Pull rights / lefts

• Pull up taking your chin to your right hand and then the left hand for the next repetition.

Towel pull-ups

• This one is excellent for the grip.

• Throw a towel over the bar and hit your reps.

Ring pull-ups

• Useful for the lack of stability.

Clapping hands pull-ups

• This one is excellent for explosive power.

• Burst to the top of the bar ...

• Hit a quick release and clap your hands.

• Re-grasp and descend.

Weighted pull-ups

• Strap on a weight vest and go.

Weighted chin-ups

• Ditto

1.3 Legs floorwork

You'll find more legwork in Chapter 2, Plyometrics work.

Zombie squats

• Put your arms in front of you.

• Keep flat-footed and drop until your butt is eight inches off the floor.

Prisoner squats

• Place your hands behind your head with elbows pulled back.

• Descend to eight inches.

Prisoner jump squats

• At the top of each squat jump 8-12 inches.

Steering wheel squats

• Hold a weight plate extended in front of body throughout.


• Drop to a squat ...

• Place both hands on the floor and shoot your legs back into push-up position.

• Drop and hit one hand release push-up.

• Return to the squat.

• Jump 8-12 inches, clapping your hands overhead.

Single-leg burpees

• The same as before, but hit all reps using only the right leg and then repeat with the left leg.

Pistols, aka single-leg squats

• Hold one leg in front of you.

• Stay flat-footed and descend until your butt is eight inches off the floor.

• Once the right leg reps are completed, work the left.

1.4 Core floorwork / Roman chair exercises

You will notice no crunches or sit-ups. Why? Exercise science demonstrates that they are highly inefficient for building abdominal/core strength. You'll find the following substitutions grueling enough.

Reverse hip raise

• Rest your abs on the support.

• Raise your hips/legs as one unit until parallel with the floor.

Bent knee reverse hip raise

• Prepare as you did in the preceding, but the legs begin in a 90 degree bend and then extended to parallel.

Back extension

• Place your pelvis on the support and bend your body 90 degrees.

• Return to parallel.

1.5 True floorwork

A good target for each version of the plank is a strict two-minute hold.


• Keeping your body straight, balance on your toes and both elbows for the prescribed time.

Plank single leg

• Hold one leg aloft throughout.

Plank single arm extended

• Keeping your body straight, balance on your toes and elbows for the prescribed time.

Plank single arm & leg

• Lift and extend opposite limbs. For example, lift right arm and left leg.

Side plank

• Rest on one elbow as you support along your body's flank.

Single-leg side plank (top leg lifted)

• The photo is worth more than my words.

Single-leg side plank (bottom leg tucked)

• Ditto.

Mountain climbers

• Support your weight on your hands and quickly jump the right knee to the right elbow ...

• Repeat on the other side.

• That's one.


• Essentially an opposite limb mountain climber.

• Right knee to left elbow and vice versa.

Barbell rollout

• Get on your knees and grip a loaded barbell.

• Roll the barbell away from you until just at the point of collapse.

• Use your core to roll the barbell back.


• Lie on the floor with your hands behind your head.

• Crunch upper back off the floor and bring your right elbow to your left knee.

• Repeat on the other side for one rep.

Hanging leg raise (toes to bar)

• Hang from the bar and bring your toes up to touch the bar.

Knees to elbows

• Bet you know what to do.

Hanging hurdle

• Place a 24-inch barrier perpendicular before you.

• Hang from the bar keeping your legs straight. Touch down first to the right of the hurdle and then to the left for one rep.


Sledge work (wielding a sledgehammer) and/or chopping wood are old school boxing staples to build some serious core snap into punches. We offer the following varieties. You can actually chop wood or use a sledge on an old tire or sandbag. I suggest using a sledge with at least a 16-pound head.

Sledgehammer variations

From both knees.

From one knee.

1.6 Medicine ball floorwork

The medicine ball is an old school tool that still has a good deal of utility behind it.

Medicine ball push-ups two on one

• Two hands on the ball.

Medicine ball push-ups one on one

• One hand on the ball, one hand off.

Medicine ball mountain climbers two on one

• Bet you know what to do.

Medicine ball grasshoppers two on one

• Ditto.


• Lie on the floor with the ball extended above your head.

• Snap your legs and upper body from the mat as if you were going to slam the ball into your toes.

Push pass

• Use a two-hand push to toss the ball to your partner.

Side throw

• Use a scooping motion to toss the ball.

• Match reps on the opposite side.

Granny toss

• Underhand for distance.

Backward toss

• Underhand throw the ball overhead for distance.

Pullover pass

• Lie on floor, stretch ball overhead and toss to coach in front of you.

Gut check and push pass

• Your partner drops the ball on your tightened abs.

• You absorb the impact with a forceful exhalation of breath and push pass it back.

Ball slams

• Using a slam ball (an indestructible, nonbouncing medicine ball) extend the ball overhead and then slam it into the ground with great power.


Plyometrics work

While not strictly floorwork or weight work, the following exercises will build explosiveness in the lower body more quickly and effectively than skipping rope. A 24-inch plyo box and a 24-inch hurdle or two can add a great deal of explosiveness to your punching base. Think of these two pieces of gear as the lower body equivalent of the medicine ball.

Barrier hops

• Use a 24-inch hurdle to jump from side to side.

Hurdle jumps

• Jump forward over the hurdle.

Standing broad jump

• Always go for maximum distance.

Box jumps

• Jump to the top of a 24-inch box.

• Always land with feet toward the center of the box and come to a full stand before stepping down.

Lateral box jumps

• Standing sideways to the box, hit your box jumps.

Death jumps

• Jump from the box landing in a deep squat. Then jump a second time as high as you can into the air.

Box burpees

• Stand in front of the box.

• Perform a burpee complete with hand release push-up. At the jump portion, jump onto the box.

Over box jumps

• Jump over the plyo box.


Weight work

Yes, we've already included some weight gear in the floorwork section but, here, we get into the weight work being the focus of the work as opposed to serving as an assist to the floorwork. To get the most out of weight work for boxing (or any combat sport for that matter), we should abide by the following guidelines.

1. Train unsupported. This means, whenever and wherever possible, stay away from machines. Machines, by definition, are there to make work easier for human beings. Machines support the body, machines keep the weights in strict paths of movement, machines supply stability in most ranges of motion. In other words, machines remove vital aspects that make the human body stronger faster. For those who doubt this pronouncement, find your max weight on a leg press machine, then see how you do with an actual back squat. Or test your Universal machine bench press against a free weight bench press. Machines are ego-stroking conveniences. Leave them behind and let real work do the stroking for you.

2. Train with free weights whenever and wherever possible. If possible choose Olympic weights and Olympic bars over standard free weights. Free weights challenge the body by recruiting secondary and tertiary muscle groups to stabilize the primary groups. Oh, and one more time, no machines.

Even though you use free weights with a Smith machine, it's still a machine. Beyond a power rack and a bench for the occasional bench press, all you need are your O-Bar and your plates.

3. Be a weight thrower not a weight lifter. Lifting for combat sports should be reflective of how these sports are played. Punches are thrown with explosive bad intentions, not slow-motion versions of Arnie biceps curl pumps. By emphasizing explosiveness over slow lifting, we also build a staggering amount of metabolic conditioning. Anyone who thinks weight training can't be a cardiovascular endurance builder simply has never lifted correctly.

4. Don't be a bodybuilder. Don't train for aesthetics, train for performance. Always choose function over form. In other words, no biceps curls when there is a clean and jerk to be done. The boxer has no need to train isolated body parts. The boxer needs the body to work as a whole, so emphasize compound lifts that call on as many body parts as possible. For example, the back squat is a fantastic strength builder, but the front squat might be more ideal as it loads the shoulders, the back, the core, as well as the legs (the extra effort is why front squat totals are lower than back squat totals — it's harder work).


Excerpted from Boxer's Book of Conditioning & Drilling by Mark Hatmaker. Copyright © 2011 Doug Werner and Mark Hatmaker. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Hatmaker is the bestselling author of Boxing Mastery, the MMA Mastery Series, the No Holds Barred Fighting Series, and No Second Chance. He has produced more than 40 instructional videos and he has extensive experience in the combat arts including boxing, wrestling, Jiu-jitsu, and Muay Thai. A highly regarded coach of professional and amateur fighters, law enforcement officials, and security personnel, he is also the founder of Extreme Self Protection, a research body that compiles, analyzes, and teaches the most effective Western combat methods known. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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