How to do Shoulder Roll and Philly Shell defense in Boxing

Shoulder roll and Philly shell are among the best defensive techniques in boxing. You may have seen boxers like James Toney and Floyd Mayweather Jr. use it often in their fights. What many fighters don’t realize is that there is a difference between the two techniques.

Difference between Shoulder Roll and Philly Shell

A very common mistake that boxers, even experienced ones, make is that they believe that Philly shell is just another name for shoulder roll.

This isn’t true.

The shoulder roll is a defensive move that can be made from any stance or position. You can hide your chin behind your shoulder and avoid opponents’ punches.

Philly shell is a guard that you take up as a defensive strategy against an opponent.

shoulder roll and Philly shell

How to do a Shoulder Roll

  • Start with your normal boxing stance. (Make sure that you get your foot placement right. Don’t forget to read about the footwork drills we posted.)
  • DO NOT drop your left hand. It isn’t necessary to perform a shoulder roll.
  • ‘Roll’ your shoulder, basically, you are lifting it up to hide your chin behind it.
  • Don’t lean to left or right.
  • Keep your back straight and roll your body just enough to block the incoming hit.
  • Sometimes the hit will be blocked by the shoulder.
  • Sometimes it is deflected towards the outside.
  • You needn’t worry about that.
  • Just be ready to counter with the straight right or uppercut.
  • Remember that you can roll to the right or left, depending on the direction of the punch.

How to get into a Philly Shell

This is a defensive boxing stance, not a single movement.

You can protect your head with your shoulder and forearm. Follow the instructions below to get the right stance;

  • Bring down your front arm.
  • The front arm should be held across your abdomen. Imagine that you are holding a shield like the knights of old.
  • The shoulder should be raised to keep your chin safe.
  • The back arm should be held close to the chin.
  • Back arm is the backup, for when punch escapes the shoulder and comes at your head.
  • You can catch the punch and counter or deflect it.
  • Keep your chin low, towards your chest for maximum protection.

When to use a Philly Shell

This technique isn’t a ‘one fits all’ type of stance. You can’t use this against a boxer who is taller than you and has a longer reach.

shoulder roll and Philly shell

There is a scenario where it can be used against taller boxers; when they crouch down a lot during the fight.

It is very effective against boxers who equal in height or shorter.

Strengths of Philly Shell

  • Philly shell can be very useful against boxers with an orthodox stance.
  • It puts in a perfect position to counter the opponent. Either with a straight punch or uppercut.
  • Your jab game gets a boost when you are in a Philly shell defensive stance.
  • Your vision remains clear and you are able to see punches better.
  • Uppercuts, hooks, and crosses are ineffective against a Philly shell.

Limits of the Philly Shell

Like other defensive techniques of boxing, Philly shell has its limitations;

  • You have to move your upper body, especially abdominal muscles a lot, which can be tiring.
  • Inside boxing is effected when you are in a Philly shell stance.
  • The front arm can get hurt with all the hits coming its way.

Now you can perform a shoulder roll and perfect your Philly shell stance.

Practice both these techniques against a sparring partner or coach with focus pads.