The Science Behind The Punch

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Danny Wilson shares the science behind your knockout punch.

A forceful punch gives you several advantages. Your strong jab allows you to keep your opponent at distance so you can either make an attack or defend one. In your attack you can make rock solid combinations to display your dominance or stop the fight by a KO or TKO.

What do the numbers say?

We can measure punching force (the action of one body on another (1)) in the lab. The score we use is called a Newton (after Sir Isaac Newton). The higher the Newton (N) the greater the force or harder the punch.

Punching forces in amateur boxing are around 2500 N. If you weigh 70 kg (11 stone or 154 lbs), you’ll exert about 700 N of force just stood still. That makes punching force about 3.5 times body mass.

And to make that even more impressive your punch takes around six hundredths of a second (>60 ms) to throw.

The physics

Studies suggest that punching force is dependent on the Impulse-Momentum relationship (the change in momentum experienced by a body under the action of a force is equal to the impulse of the resultant force (1)).

The Science Behind The Punch

What we know

The numbers suggest that a punch in boxing requires a lot of to be force produced in a short space of time. This is often called – rate of force development. More commonly known as ‘hand speed’.

If something has a lot of momentum it is usually large, like an elephant or a tank. Or it is small but has a lot speed – like a rocket. You can make a punch harder by generating more momentum – being an elephant or a rocket.

Since momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity if we improve one, we can improve momentum.

But being a boxer usually means you have to compete at a particular weight. That means unless your a heavyweight it’s difficult to make you into an elephant.

But you can be a rocket.

And since hand speed is an important component in how hard you punch we’re on to a winner.

Impulse

Not only that but you can also develop what’s known as the ‘snap’ or ‘effective mass’. The ‘snap’ of a punch requires the whole body to stiffen up upon impact.

When you combine this with how quickly you generate force in a punch, you create impulse (the effect of a force acting over a period of time). With more impulse you can you change the momentum of another object.

That other object being your opponents head, arms or torso.

And all of this means a harder punch.

How can I punch harder?

Punching technique and skill is the most influential contributor to punching force.

That’s easy to say but how easy is it to improve?

Well, you’ve got to be careful. Depending on your experience, changing your technique could be detrimental to punching force.

So what’s going to give me the most bang for my buck? Improving punching technique or getting stronger?

We think that improving your ability to produce force using strength training is a more effective way to punch harder.

Training

From our own research, we think that a a few things contribute to punching force. These include lower and upper body strength, acceleration and mass of the core muscles.

To develop these characteristics we use sprint, resistance and Olympic weightlifting training. These methods improve hip extension forces that are important contributors to punching, throwing and striking activities.

You can also punch harder by improving the way muscles, joints and limbs co-ordinate with each other (contraction sequencing). And by improving effective mass by developing core muscle strength and punch specific movements.

Conclusion

  • Your punch needs to be hard. A hard punch occurs when you’re able to generate a lot of force in a short space of time.
  • At impact, a hard punch has a lot of ‘snap’. To get snap you’ll need to create something called ‘effective mass’.
  • How hard you punch isn’t fixed. It can be trained by developing technique and physical training.

 

References

1) Rodgers MM, Cavanagh. Glossary of biomechanical terms, concepts, and units. PR.Phys Ther. 1984 Dec;64(12):1886-902.

The Next Round

The next strength and conditioning articles will go into more detail about the mechanics of an effective punch.

Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton and the big punchers.

Danny Wilson MSc BSc ASCC

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Article edited by Alan Ruddock CSci MSc BSc (Hons.)

Danny Wilson co-founded Boxing Science in 2014 following building the successful Boxing program at Sheffield Hallam University where he has coached over 100 amateur and professional boxers as a strength and conditioning coach. He has also helped prepare Kell Brook for his mega-fight with Gennady Golovkin, and his Ingle Gym stablemates including Kid Galahad, Jordan Gill and Kyle Yousaf.

Away from Boxing, Danny is currently the Yorkshire regional strength and conditioning coach for England Golf and has experiences in youth and professional standards across a range of sports.

Danny is a United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association accredited strength and conditioning coach and has a Master of Science degree in Sport Science at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. For his final research project Danny profiled the physiological characteristics of amateur boxers and will share some of the novel findings on Boxing Science. Danny will be contributing to the Strength and Conditioning section by writing about the science behind the punch, training methods, working with junior athletes and case studies.

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