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Ever wondered “How can I increase punch power?”

The first steps of realizing how you can punch faster and harder is to understand the science behind it….

In this featured article, Boxing strength and conditioning coach Danny Wilson will share the physiological contributors to the punch, and how strength and movement training can help improve it.

In this article, you will learn;

  • The science behind a forceful punch
  • Breakdown on impulse and momentum
  • How we can use S&C to punch harder
2500 N

A Study Found That The Force Of A Punch Could Be Around 2500 N in Amateur Boxers

Punching Technique and Genetics

Punch power isn’t everything in boxing, supreme attacking skill, speed and defensive maneuvers are the keys to victory. However, ask any boxer and they’ll tell you that they want more punch power.

Punch ‘power’ is mostly due to great punching technique and many people have asked us to breakdown the biomechanics of the most powerful punches. However, if you think about the most powerful boxers over the past 20 years, Julian Jackson, Gennady Golvkin, Deontany Wilder and Mike Tyson, you’ll recognise that they all have different boxing styles and punching techniques. Plus, they all knocked out their opponents with different punches, different attacks at various stages of the fight which means there isn’t very much commonality to a knockout punch.

This makes assessing the optimal punching technique for punching power out of our remit. However, what we do know is that you can have all the physical attributes for a solid punch, but they’ll become inadequate if there is a deficiency in technique.

If you have good technique, you can improve your punch power through training the physical contributors to a punch and his is what we will share in this article.

With this in mind, many people think that having supreme punching power is down to genes, it was ‘god-given power’.

Many physiological characteristics are due to genetics, but these can also be trained. At Boxing Science, we focus on the aspects that are very easy to train, the areas that require very little skill and zero talent to unlock your potential.

Improving strength, speed and explosiveness through evidence-based strength and conditioning can help power up your punch. So in this article, we’ll breakdown the science behind the punch and show you how this informs our strength training philosophy.

The physics

Basic physics tells us that punch 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).

If you have more mass (weight) and you can move that mass quickly (momentum) you’ll create more impulse on your target.

This is why heavyweights hit the hardest!

We will explain this more as we go on… but first, we will breakdown the numbers.

FORCE

We can measure punching force (the action of one body on another) in the lab. The metric 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 on the ground just stood still. That makes punching force about 3.5 times body mass.

SPEED

To make these force values even more impressive your punch takes around six-hundredths of a second (60-100 ms) to throw. So you can see how being forceful and fast is an integral component of performance.

Check out the video below of Jordan Gill

Time to perform 4 actioned combination – 0.851 secs

Time to land the backhand – 0.183 seconds

We use this video to dispel the myth of ‘weights make you slow’. At this point, Jordan had been on the programme for 2.5 years, able to deadlift twice his bodyweight and bench press over his bodyweight.

Have weights made Jordan slow? We’ll let you decide.

The Elephant and The Rocket

A punch requires a lot of force to be produced in a short space of time. This is often called, we examine how fast force is developed by measuring something called the rate of force development. In boxing terms, we can simplify it ‘hand speed’.

If something has the potential to generate a lot of momentum it is usually large, like an elephant or a tank. Or it is light but has the capability to produce a lot speed – like a rocket.

So you can make a punch harder by generating more momentum – you can either be 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 you’re 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.

Increase your ‘SNAP’ with Effective Mass

To have a truly effective you’ll need the ‘snap’ at the end of your punch.

This is what’s known as ‘effective mass’, where the whole-body creates a brief stiffening upon impact, this occurs mainly in the arm, shoulders and core.

When you deliver a punch at the target, you’ll use the momentum created when generating the action and the addition of the snap to produce force at the target site.  This creates impulse (force x time). If you generate a lot of impulse you’ll be able to transfer that to the target site and create momentum.

That target site being your opponents head, arms or torso. The greater the momentum, the greater the potential for your punch to be effective.

And all of this means a harder punch.

So we need Force, Speed and ‘The Snap’ for a harder punch.

Force, speed and ‘snap’ are the three basic physical elements required for an effective punch that take no talent to master.

These physical qualities that can be trained and improved through strength and conditioning.

The Kinetic Chain

The kinetic chain describes the pattern that force transfer follows through the entire body during explosive actions. During a punch, force is generated from the floor and transferred from foot to fist, at rapid rates via the kinetic chain.⁣

To deliver hard, fast punches, the lower body must produce a large amount of force extremely quickly. The core and hip muscles must be strong enough to transfer this force through the mid-section and to the shoulders and then arms, which must be mobile enough to efficiently deliver the fist towards the target. This must all be performed with solid technique.⁣

Tightness, weakness or dysfunction at different parts of the kinetic chain can negatively affect force transmission, and can also increase the risk of injury as other areas are forced super-compensate.⁣

Boxers should focus on improving lower body rate of force development, hip mobility, core strength, rotational/shoulder mobility, and most importantly technique to improve the effectiveness of their kinetic chain.

In this next section, we will tell you how we improve these 3 key areas.

Increase Hand Speed

Generating significant force in a short space of time is the result of many integrated processes, including genetic factors, muscle fibre type composition, the ability of your nervous system to recruit motor units and the structure and ultra-structure of muscle. Usain Bolt chose his parents wisely because he has a unique genetic code and was raised in an environment conducive to high performance.

This means he’s been able to develop the ability to produce large amounts of force in a short space of time – he’s what physicists would call ‘impulsive’. Despite how much we might train, most of us will find it nearly impossible to run as fast as him. However, impulse and momentum are trainable qualities.

Impulse is calculated as force multiplied by time. So the largest impulses are created by large forces optimised for the time it takes to perform a skill. It’s important that you can produce large amounts of force but an effective punch relies on technique when initiating the punch and at impact. 

Effective punches are those that transfer large amounts of force in a short space of time. We all know boxers who have incredible hand speed but seem to lack punching force. In these instances, they are sacrificing punch force for speed.

What you need to develop is force and speed, so that you can have an optimal combination to produce a devastating punch, or choose whether the next punch will be fast and light or slower but more forceful. 

Along with a good amount of technical training, there are plenty of strength and conditioning methods that can help you develop a more forceful punch. But it’s isn’t just as simple as “move weights quicker”, you need to approach it from different angles. First of all, we need to train the ability to produce force through strength training.

This should be the priority as the more force we can produce, the more impulse you can develop and the more effective your punch will be.

From our own research, we think that 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 (motor unit sequencing). And by improving effective mass by developing core muscle strength and punch specific movements.

Improving your SNAP!

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 dependent 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. All of these training types can improve the strength of the muscles targeted, but also require a ‘double-activation’ pattern, similar to a punch.

There are some specific exercises that can be used for boxers focussing on developing ‘effective mass’ such as Landmine punch with Isometric hold.

Physical Contributors to the Punch

At Boxing Science, we pride ourselves on our testing battery and scientific research. Part of our early research was to find the largest physical contributor to a punch to help inform our training philosophy and programming.      

The Biggest Physical Contributor to a Punch!

We focus a large part of our attention on body composition because it’s a fundamental component of high-performance and we know that particular areas of body composition are key contributors to effective punches.

It’s also important so we can accurately assess a boxers condition when making weight, and identify what weight category a boxer should perform at. 

The composition analyser we use (Inbody 720) provides a segmental analysis of how muscle mass is distributed around the body – the arms, lower-body and trunk. 

In our statistical analyses, we’ve found that absolute and relative trunk muscle mass explains a large amount of the variation in medicine ball throw distance from a backhand stance. That means those athletes with the largest relative trunk mass were able to throw the ball further in a punch specific test.

This means that developing core mass and strength is a key aim of our programme. When making weight, we aim to maintain muscle mass of the core to ensure our athletes are in the optimal condition when they step on to the scales. 

We can develop this through compound lifts, partial range exercises and core-specific exercises. We share this in our core training system. 

Jump higher… punch harder!

As well as assessing body composition we compared a range of physical characteristics of boxers to identify the key contributors to boxing performance.

Initially, we focused on simple and practical tests that anyone at a boxing club could do,  two of these tests were te countermovement and squat jumps. These 2 types of jumps are important to us because they tell us a little bit about lower limb force production and eccentric control.

Given this relationship and other factors, we’ve observed through training 100’s of boxers our programmes are centred around improving the rate of force development (RFD) of the lower-body through various strength and plyometric training modalities to contribute to effective punching.

STRENGTH TRAINING STRATEGY  

As we have said previously, we use information, research and testing to define our training philosophies, programming and strategies.

It is not as straight forward as lifting heavy weights or moving fast, training needs to be structured systematically and needs to work around the limitations of boxing.

Limitations include high-training loads from boxing, mixture of target adaptations, training history and movement/mobility limitations. 

This means we have to carefully manipulate the exercise selection, volumes and intensities in order to target strength / speed adaptations without being detrimental to performance during technical boxing sessions, sparring and conditioning. 

Want to find out exactly how we train our boxers? Find out more about our membership here…

Conclusion

  • 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.