The speed ball, also known as the speed bag, is a small bag that hangs below a platform that's usually mounted on a wall or sturdy stand. Boxers use the speed ball to work on hand speed and reflexes. The bag moves extremely fast, making it an impressive drill to watch -- and is why boxers also use the drill to show off.
The speed ball looks like a teardrop, usually less than a foot long total and filled with air. It's very skinny at the top and then gets very wide towards the bottom. Since a speed bag is so small and lightweight, it can get moving very quickly.
Speed Ball Benefits
Boxers need to get comfortable with fast-moving objects. In the ring, fighters stand within feet of each other and fire punches as fast as possible. In order to react, a boxer needs to hone good reaction time.
The speed ball also helps with hand-eye coordination. Boxers don't have the luxury of hitting stationary objects, such as a heavy bag. Opponents are constantly moving and dodging punches, so a boxer needs to get comfortable hitting moving targets.
To use the speed ball, start by adjusting the mount to which it's attached. Most speed ball mounts have an adjustable height. You want the bottom of the bag to be at head height so that you almost have to reach up to hit the bag.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be squared, not staggered like in a boxing stance. Clench your fists and hold them up in front of your face. Starting with your non-dominant hand, hit the speed ball in the widest part, near the bottom. Turn your fist to the side when you hit it, so that the meaty part of the pinky-side of your hand strikes the bag.
Hitting the Bag
When you hit the bag, it should fly back, smack the mount, swing back towards you and hit the mount again, then swing back and hit the mount a third time. After the third hit, strike it again as it comes back towards you.
For beginners, letting the bag hit the mount three times gives you ample time to get set and hit it again. As you get more advanced, you can hit the bag after it strikes the mount once. If you've watched professional boxers hit the speed ball in videos this is generally the technique they use.
Hit the speed ball with your non-dominant hand after it hits the mount three times. Try to vary the pace, striking it faster and slower. When you're comfortable with your non-dominant hand, switch to your dominant hand. Do the same thing with your dominant hand until you feel like you can consistently hit the bag.
Once you're comfortable using each hand individually, it's time to combine them. First, strike the bag with your non-dominant hand. After it hits the mount three times, strike with your dominant hand. Keep alternating hands each hit. You'll find that you have to keep your hands moving in a consistent rhythm and in a circular motion, like you're pedaling a bike with your hands.
Advanced Speed Ball Training
Once you get comfortable alternating hands, try hitting the bag harder and harder. Make it move as fast as possible and force your hands to keep up. As you build up speed using this technique, you're preparing to hit the ball using only one hit against the mount.
When you're ready to try using only one hit against the mount, start very slowly. This technique only works if you're alternating hands each hit. Move your hands in a tight circle as you hit the bag, quickly bringing each hand back to hit the bag. It might seem impossible at first to move your hands that quickly, but over time your hand speed will improve and you'll be able to hit the bag so fast that it will look like a blur.