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I know that there are many trainers who use focus mitts as a method for developing cardio, but many of the coaches/trainers who I respect seem to reject this notion and feel that the purpose of focus mitts is to develop technique. Assuming that this is valid for the moment, how does one effectively use focus mitts to help students develop technique? What should be focused on (combinations, targeting, speed, etc) and how is this generally done? How should the trainer hold/use the mitts to maximize safety and efficacy for the student?

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There's nothing wrong with using focus mitts for technique or cardio. Although, you'll have to get the technique right first before you use the mitts for a high intensity workout. Probably what these trainers are trying to say is that it's easier to have a fighter wail on a heavy bag for cardio than to punch themselves out on focus mitts. They're likelier to miss with focus mitts, and therefore will be more focused on accuracy and not as focused on putting oomph into their strikes.

To develop technique:

  • Have the fighter focus his eyes on the trainer, usually about chest area
  • Have a signal for each kind of punch you're working. Generally, these are:
    • Straight punch: pad held flat
    • Hook: pad held facing inward
    • Uppercut: pad held facing downward
  • Fighter must always throw with the same hand the trainer is holding up. For example, if the trainer is holding the pad up with the right hand, the fighter must throw a right punch. This ensures the fighter will rotate his torso to effect the punch, which is a major component in generating power. It also gives the trainer a better view of his punch.
  • The trainer holds the pads up with the aforementioned positions at random, in desired combinations (ex: low right hook, high right hook, left cross)
  • Increase speed and move around once the fighter has the drill down. Call out "switch" when you want the fighter to change his stance. This is where you'll get whatever cardio you're gonna get.
  • If desired, have the trainer throw in shots for the fighter to slip. Start out with a lazy "swing" at the temple with the pad. Fighter ducks or slips, and the trainer is ready with the pad for the fighter to hit right after slipping. Build intensity with more focused strikes at the fighter.
  • Make sure the fighter doesn't chase the pads with his eyes. Eyes should focus on the bad guy, not the pads. He'll get clocked if he's looking at hands in a fight. Use peripheral vision to track the pads.
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