Skill, ring craft and fitness are very important in Boxing and Combat Sports, however, most athletes would love to know how to improve punching power.
Punching power is highly reliant on the rate of force development (RFD). This is a large amount of force produced in a very short amount of time.
Punching forces in amateur boxing are around 2500 N. This means if you weigh 70 kg (11 stone or 154 lbs), you will exert around 700 N of force just stood still. That makes punching force about 3.5 times body mass.
To make that even more impressive, your punch takes just six-hundredths of a second (~60 ms) to throw.
The RFD can be developed with strength and conditioning training methods. At Boxing Science, we initially target maximal strength in order to optimise an athletes ability to produce force.
However, to improve punching power through strength and conditioning, we need to train the ability to produce and transfer force through the kinetic chain.
Punch Specific Exercises for Boxing
In this article, we will share punch specific exercises that will improve punching power.
The majority of our S&C program is quite generic as we look to focus on physical adaptations. We want exercises that require us to generate the most force in a short amount of time; therefore we need a higher external load in order to achieve these adaptations.
That’s why we use exercises such as the Squat and the Deadlift as we know that these are the most effective exercises to help improve the rate of force development.
However, this is just producing force through these movements. At Boxing Science, we want our athletes to benefit these improvements in RFD through the punching action. Therefore, we use punch specific exercises.
HOW TO POWER UP YOUR PUNCH
At Boxing Science, we use punch specific exercises as part of an explosive warm-up and core supersets during S&C sessions, as well as becoming a key exercise during the taper phase. We also use them in technical training, sparring and competition warm-up routines to help fire a boxer up and make them feel strong, sharp and powerful.
The desired outcomes of punch specific training are improved hand speed, punching strength and effective mass. We select exercises that promote the kinetic chain sequencing from foot to fist – coaching and cueing forceful hip and core rotation.
MAIN AREAS WE WANT TO DEVELOP
At Boxing Science, we pride ourselves on our evidence-based training methods and how we always work towards a training purpose.
Despite there not being much research in punch-specific exercises, we make sure that we are using the correct exercises in the right way to develop the main contributors to a punch.
RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT – producing a lot of force in a short amount of time
KINETIC CHAIN SEQUENCING – the ability to transfer force efficiently from the foot all the way through to the fist.
HAND SPEED – the ability to accelerate the fist towards the target
DOUBLE PEAK IN ACTIVATION + THE SNAP – the ability to produce force quickly then relaxing to optimise the speed of the punching fist towards the target, before the second peak in muscle activation often known as the ‘Snap’. This is a fast, simultaneous contraction of the muscles in the hips, core and upper limb.
BALANCE, POISE AND GROUND REACTION FORCE – we want to land punches in a solid stance and position, with the majority of the weight in the rear foot.
Landmine punch is the main exercise we utilise at Boxing Science to improve punching power.
Landmine punches are used to develop hand speed, strength and effective mass. This exercise will help develop the kinetic chain sequencing that is required in delivering rear hand straight punches. The Landmine Punch promotes a forceful hip and core rotation, which important transferring force generated from floor to the hips and through to the core.
We hold the Landmine Punch in high regard due to the trajectory of the bar, which is disputed as many believe it does not replicate the punching action due to the diagonal motion.
The trajectory of the bar is beneficial for the punch as it encourages force to be produced in the rear foot. This is desirable when throwing backhand punches.
Banded Shadow Boxing
The ‘Banded Shadow Box’ is a great exercise to help fire up and activate the lower-body during a range of punches and combinations whilst shadow boxing. This is great to fire up the glutes during a warm-up and the tapering phase.
This can also be a great tool to improve technique, as it over-emphasises the role of the lower-body during punches.
See the Boxing Science Instagram video below for banded shadow boxing drills to help improve technique, tactics and lateral movement,
Perform each theme for 30 seconds on 30 seconds off – 3 reps of each prior to main workout.
Landmine Punch Throws
There has been research that has found that 90% of the impact force is explained by impulse. This suggests faster hand speed is the main contributor to improving force.
The Landmine Punch Throw fantastic exercise to improve hand speed, and we implement these during speed-strength phases in our Boxing Science strength programmes.
The throw develops hand speed as there is no need to decelerate at the top of the movement. This means that the athlete accelerates throughout the punching action, which will have a positive transfer to hand-speed.
Perform 3-5 repetitions x 3-5 sets. This exercise is even more effective when using a gym aware to get velocity feedback.
We also use this exercise to assess an athletes punching profile – see the video below, or read the article for more information.
Landmine Punch with ISO Hold
Effective mass is a term given to the ‘snap’ of a punch. This requires the whole body to stiffen up upon impact. The snap requires whole body tension, however the main contributors are the arms, shoulder joint and the core.
This is mostly dependant on skill. The ability to tense upon impact takes years and years of practice.
However, it’s much easier and quicker to make physical adaptations to help improve punch force. Changing someone’s technique may take time, and sometimes hamper a boxers progress, especially for more experienced boxers.
Effective mass can be improved through general strength and conditioning methods, such as heavy compound lifts, Olympic lifting and core training.
Landmine Punch with Isometric hold requires the coach / a training partner to push down on the bar when the athlete is at full extension of the punching action. This will encourage the athlete to create tension in the arm, core and lower-body muscles in a short amount of time, contributing to the ‘Snap’ of the punch.
This also mimics the ‘double-activation’ pattern seen in a punch, making the Landmine Punch with Isometric hold a highly effective exercise when improving punching power.
Perform 3-5 repetitions x 3-5 sets during strength-speed and speed-strength blocks.
Isometric Punch Holds
These are a great exercise to use during warm-ups and tapering phases. Isometric punch holds increases stiffness, tension and core stabilisation through the end range of the punch. This helps create an effective SNAP in the end range of punches.
This whole-body tension can be an effective tool used to fire up the muscles that contribute to punching. This makes it a great potentiation tool that boxers can use during warm-ups for training and competition.
A partner should apply sufficient tension to the end range of your punch, getting their body behind it. Build and apply tension and force for 3-5 seconds, bracing the core, shoulders and lower body. Work through 1-2 repetitions of the jab, cross, hooks, and uppercuts, on both sides.
Medicine Ball Punch Throws
Medicine Ball Punch Throws are a fantastic exercise we integrate into warm-ups, speed and taper phases of an athletes strength programme.
This develops hand-speed as the lower weight loads encourage higher speed movements that can help to improve the force and explosiveness of punches.
The medicine ball punch is the closest we can get to the rear-hand punch, and it develops rapid kinetic chain sequencing to improve punching power.
Another key benefit to the medicine ball punch throw is that it can be easily modified to incorporate different specific elements that can transfer to boxing performance. We can incorporate head and foot defences as well as targeting rear hand body punches.
Check out a few different methods in the video below.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps each side
In this article, we covered a range of punch specific strength and conditioning exercises to help improve punching power.
These exercises focus on a range of key attributes to a forceful punch. These include speed, force production, kinetic chain sequencing and the ‘snap’ at the end range of a punch.
Boxing strength and conditioning should mainly focus on traditional strength training modalities in order to increase the rate of force development. Punch specific exercises can help transfer these force production qualities into a punching action.
Punch specific exercises should be used as key exercises during strength-speed, speed-strength and speed phases, as well as being useful tools in a warm-up.
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