Walk into any gym that teaches some kind of functional striking art and in a very short amount time you are likely to see some pad work. Pad work is an excellent form of training as it allows a coach to share and sharpen the specific style of a fighter while maintaining a realistic fight dynamic. Pad work is also the single best specific conditioning tool for boxing, kickboxing and the striking elements of MMA because a coach can control the intensity of each round in a way that is not possible during partner work or sparring.
Pad work is so important that many professional Muay Thai and boxing gyms have coaches whose only job is to train athletes with the pads. However, outside the gyms whose focus is primarily on competitive athletes, it is far more common that the role of pad holder will be filled by you and your training partners than exclusively by a coach. This can often present a few challenges because, while most gyms will at least teach their clients how to hold and hit the pads safely, very few teach their clients how to hold and hit the pads in a way which will maximise the training benefits for themselves and their partners.
So, assuming that you know at least enough about pad work to keep you and your training partner safe, here are ten tips to help you improve your pad work.
How To Get The Most Out Of Hitting The Pads.
Treat the pad holder like you would treat a sparring partner.
Move with energy. Cut angles. Work feints and fakes. One of the primary advantages of padwork is that it can closely mimic the dynamics of a fight or sparring match while also allowing an athlete to work on specific skills and strategies with full force and energy.
Be aware of range.
Skilful striking is all about distance control and knowing where you are relative to your opponent and surroundings so don’t just attempt to stand in the pocket and bang away. Generally speaking you should have to take one small step in order to get close enough to hit the pads and, unless the pad holder moves away, no more. The pads do not get “more hit” by getting closer and closer to them.
Work at a speed which allows you to correctly execute everything with good form. It’s not uncommon for enthusiastic beginners to accidentally punch their own fist in their haste so it’s important to realise that it’s not a race to hit the pads. The pad holder won’t take them away if you don’t complete the combination within one Nano second of it being called.
Don’t let the pad holder rest.
Practice keeping the pressure on. Whenever they circle off to break or reset stick to them like glue. This all comes back to training the way you want to fight.
Properly done, pad work is one of the most demanding types of training as someone else is literally calling 100% of the shots. Remember you are training because you want to be – Smile and have fun.
How To Be A Better Pad Holder.
Act and move like a fighter.
Nothing kills the energy and the usefulness of a training session faster than a pad holder who plods and strolls about. A lacklustre trainer builds a lacklustre athlete.
Check your partner’s range constantly.
Frequently put out “range finder” style jabs and teeps to help train your partner’s distance awareness.
Don’t mirror your partner. Set the pace.
Remember that you are the one calling the shots so make sure to cut and move rather than just follow your partner around. Call for combinations when you want them and not just when your partner is ready. Opportunities don’t wait and pad work should reflect this.
Don’t let your partner rest.
Whenever your partner tries to back off or is slow to follow you be sure to push them immediately.
Keep it fun and keep it real.
Pad work is hard work for both you and your partner so be sure to keep things enjoyable too. Just don’t fall into the trap of calling for more and more elaborate combinations – 16 point combos look impressive but are completely unrealistic. Think combinations of 3 to 6 strikes with one or two phases and you won’t go far wrong.