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In this article, we will reveal the science behind why Gennady Golovkin hits so hard. 

Quick facts

  • With 39 wins and just 1 defeat, GGG also boasts an impressive 90% knockout percentage!
  • Golovkin is able to stiffen up on punching impact, using something called “effective mass.”
  • The hardest punches are thrown at mid range, due to something called the ‘length-force’ relationship.
  • ‘Accommodating resistance training’ is a fantastic tool for optimising this relationship, and throwing devastating mid-range shots like GGG.

GGG was always set for stardom following an outstanding amateur career, losing just 5 of his 345 competitive bouts. Golovkin has extended his strong reputation in the professional ranks by knocking out 90% of his opponents.

With one of the highest knockout percentages of the current boxing world champions, everyone is wondering “how does Golovkin hit so hard?”

In this article, we explain the physical benefits of his amazing footwork, that help him move into range and let off those hammering blows.

As we explain in many of our strength and conditioning articles, punching force is dependent on the Impulse-Momentum relationship. This is the change in momentum experienced by a body under the action of a force is equal to the impulse of the resultant force.

So basically, punching force can be improved by either increased hand speed and increase body mass. However, in a weight restricted sport, a boxer is limited in using increased body mass to develop a harder punch. Therefore, exercises to improve hand speed are preferred methods.

You watch Golovkin box, and he doesn’t particularly have lightning fast hands. So how does he generate that much punch force? Yes, he has neat footwork and timing, but a lot of boxers have that with less knockouts on their record.

Golovkin possesses a secret tool….

Effective Mass

Effective mass is a term given to the ‘snap’ of a punch. This requires the whole body to stiffen up upon impact.

So why is this a big contributor to Golovkin’s success?

The snap requires whole body tension, however the main contributors are the arms, shoulder joint and the core.

Looking at Golovkin, the thickness of his core is one of the biggest in boxing. Furthermore, his forearms are quite well developed too. This allows him to create more tension upon impact, giving him a real snap in his punch.

At a moderate stature of 5″10, this makes you question whether being tall and having a long range is a benefit to the 21st century boxer? Or is Golovkin paving the way for the next generation of boxers to concentrate on developing effective mass? 

What exercise can I do to improve this?

There are loads of ways to improve core strength and size. Mainly heavy compound exercises, Olympic lifts and isolated core training.

When particularly targeting the development of effective mass in boxing, we use specific exercises that encourage whole body tension at various stages of a punch.

The main exercise we use is the ‘Landmine punch with isometric hold’. This encourages the stiffening upon impact when throwing straight shots and connecting with your opponent towards the end range of a punch.

Check out the video below.

World-class footwork

A key contributor to Golovkin’s knockout success is his effective footwork. He moves effortlessly in and out of range, creating angles that his opponents struggle to deal with.

GGG finds his range so easily and rarely throws a long shot. He often lets his shots go when he’s well within the range of his opponent, meaning he’s able to maximise the force of each punch.

But why does this allow GGG to put so much force into his punches?

The science behind the mid-range punch

The mid-range punch is the most effective and can be explained by the physiology and mechanics of muscle action.

The length-force relationship describes how much force a muscle can produce at different lengths. There is an optimal length at which force is maximised. Muscle action can be limited if the muscle is stretched or at a very short length.

What does this mean for my punch? 

If you connect with your opponent at the end range of a punch, you might still have hand speed. However, the muscle action may be limited when you stiffen upon impact (effective mass) due to the elbow locking out. Conversely, muscle activation is also reduced when letting shots go at very short ranges.

What does this mean? If you’re out of range or too close, your punch force will be compromised (see graphic above).

The mid-range punch has the potential to provide you with optimal hand speed and muscle action on impact

Due to Golovkin letting his shots go mainly in mid-range, this means the muscle action during a punch will be optimal upon impact – this occurs mainly in the upper-limbs and torso.

We understand that working predominantly within the mid-range of your opponent is a difficult skill to master, that’s why Golovkin is at the top of his game. Therefore, our task from a strength and conditioning perspective is to help our boxers become more effective punchers over different ranges.

How can we improve this?

Let’s say we want a harder punch at a longer range. One way we can do this is to increase the amount of force generating elements within a muscle-tendon unit, in other words, put more muscle mass on.

However, that has negative implications for making weight. 

So, a great way to improve this is by using a technique called Accommodating Resistance Training.

This is where the resistance of an exercise increases with the range of motion, encouraging an athlete to apply more force at the top of the lift. 

This can be achieved with bands, chains or partial range lifts. We mainly use this method with squats, deadlift variations, and upper-body pressing exercises.

We also find accommodating resistance training really useful when working with taller athletes. When an athlete’s limbs are longer, they struggle at the bottom portion of a lift (e.g. bottom of a squat) but find it really easy at the top. Adding bands to a barbell makes the barbell heavier at the top, and makes the bottom the easiest part of the movement, meaning this is perfect for the tall athlete.

If an athlete struggles to drive through a “sticking point” of a lift, then the bands/chains can be a really useful tool/cue to force them to drive through the most difficult portion of a lift, which in turn improves strength and speed – both important for throwing hard punches.

Check out the video below where we have applied accommodating resistance methods on pressing exercises across the Force-Velocity curve.


  • Gennady Golovkin can use footwork and ringcraft to throw devastating mid-range punches.
  • Golovkin is able to stiffen up on impact, and use “effective mass” to a high capacity. We can develop this with exercises such as the landmine punch with Isometric hold.
  • The hardest punches are thrown at mid-range, optimising the ‘length-force’ relationship.
  • At Boxing Science, we often use ‘accommodating resistance training’ to optimise the length-force relationship with our boxers to help them punch hard.

Want to learn more about developing a harder punch?