Applying load to the punching action can be seen in many training videos of past and present champions.
Whether that be shadow boxing with both light and heavy dumbbells or punching with banded resistance, it is apparent that this is practiced extensively.
The idea appears logical: adding load to a specific movement pattern in order to develop strength in the involved muscles whilst also allowing the unresisted movement to be perceived as less fatiguing and more dynamic compared to the resisted condition.
However, for such a technical skill as punching, load must be applied strategically to avoid interfering with optimal mechanics and, consequently, disrupting performance in the ring.
Since, the foundation of Boxing Science in 2014, we have been big proponents of the landmine punch throw as a punch specific resistance exercise.
Indeed, this exercise was a major aspect of our original testing service that we made available for both amateur and professional boxers in the North of England and is still present in our testing today!
The landmine punch and it’s variations have stood the test of time in our programming for many reasons, which we will discuss in subsequent sections of this article.
This article also aims to:
Recap the science behind the punch.
Outline the role punch specific loading plays in our programming.
Present the advantages of the landmine punch.
Provide demonstrations of effective landmine punch variations.
Recommendations for the allocation of landmine punch variations to specific training phases.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PUNCH
Boxing punches can be described as intricate actions requiring the recruitment of leg, trunk and arm musculature to function synergistically in a coordinated manner (1)
An effective punch relies on rapid force transmission from the foot to the fist via the kinetic chain.
Pre impact fist velocity is a key determinant of punch force (2) and is a variable we can seek to improve through optimisation of the impulse-momentum relationship.
The above infographic nicely segments the impulse-momentum relationship into its two components.
Impulse as we can see is defined as FORCE x TIME.
This means if we can improve an athlete’s ability to produce large amounts of force in a short space of time we can improve the impulse they generate when throwing a punch..
A larger impulse leads to greater acceleration of an object or body, in our case the punching arm.
Greater rates of acceleration contribute to improved momentum due to enhanced velocity or speed.
Momentum, as indicated in the above infographic is defined as MASS x VELOCITY.
With strength training we can improve the velocity component as stated previously, however increasing mass becomes a bit more nuanced in the case of a boxer…
To increase mass, for most athletes, requires frequent strength training and adhering to a calorie or energy surplus. This is more commonly known as ‘bulking’.
With the presence of weight classes in combat sports, increasing mass in the traditional sense will have obvious repercussions on a boxer’s ability to make weight.
Therefore, we focus on improving effective mass, a training strategy derived from kinematic analysis of the punching action by McGill and Colleagues (2).
Essentially, the authors found a double peak in muscle activation during strike actions.
Specific muscles included those of the hip and shoulder joints as well as the core musculature.
The first peak in muscle activation occurred at the initiation of the movement where these muscle groups contract rapidly, in a proximal to distal manner to generate initial momentum of the punching arm towards the target.
More interestingly, the second notable rise in muscle activation occurred on impact.
The authors suggested that this is a product of rapid stiffening of the involved muscle groups i.e the muscles of the lower body, core and upper limb and is a pivotal aspect of maximising punch impact.
This stiffening is also commonly referred to as effective mass and is essentially the type of mass we aim to improve with some our strength training methods at boxing science.
From this brief overview of the science behind the punch, a two dimensional training approach reveals itself:
Maximise impulse and thus acceleration from the ground up.
Maximise tension development in the involved muscle groups.
To do this we strive to coach our athletes through four distinct steps:
- Move Better
- Get Stronger
- Stronger Core
- Punch Specific
Identifying which step is most important for a given athlete at a given time will largely come down to results obtained from a testing battery.
For most beginners on the program moving better and getting stronger will produce the most significant benefits in performance.
For the purposes of this article we will shift our focus towards step four: Punch Specific.
We often refer to our punch specific exercises as ‘icing on the cake’.
Improving mobility and movement, increasing strength, maximising rate of force development and adding mass to the core are the pillars of an effective strength training program for boxers.
Punch specific exercises such as the landmine punch are in our programs to ensure that gains in strength, mobility and rate of force production are being transferred to the punching action.
These exercises usually feature, in some capacity, throughout a program leading into a fight.
Whether it be landmine punches and medicine ball punch throws we always try to incorporate these exercises into our sessions.
Despite being in the same exercise category the reasoning behind the use of a landmine or medicine ball punch variation can differ depending on the physical adaptation we are aiming to achieve.
THE LANDMINE PUNCH
As stated previously the landmine punch is one of our key punch specific exercises that we prescribe throughout our programs.
The main advantages of the landmine punch include:
The trajectory of the bar encourages the athlete to sit back on the back foot and really emphasises a pivoting motion on the rear leg as well as forceful hip rotation.
Instructing the athlete to ‘make the bar rattle at the top’ is a great way to promote intent but also enforce stiffening of the lower body, core and upper limb at the end range which can enhance that ‘effective mass’ as discusses earlier.
Using the barbell with a punch specific exercise enables us to overload the movement pattern. Whilst general strength development will aid massively in improving punch force, applying load, strategically, to the intricate sequencing patterns of a punch will maximise transfer of strength and power gains to the punch.
Lastly, we have found the landmine punch to be effective in promoting intent and buy-in to the session with the athletes we train. This is largely because it is evidently similar to a punching action and must be performed explosively, providing an added challenge for the boxers we work with.
PERFORMING THE LANDMINE PUNCH
All of this talk about how effective the landmine is great but how do we get the most from the exercise?
Begin in an open or split stance with feet hip width and at a 45 degree angle to the bar.
The free end of the bar should be held at shoulder height.
Shift your weight onto the back foot, keeping your chest upright.
From the set up position, initiate the movement by pivoting on the back foot.
Think about forcefully rotating the the rear hip to allow for optimal transfer of force to the upper limb.
Use the momentum generated from the lower body to punch through with the shoulder.
Focus on making the bar rattle at the top as you approach the final position.
Generate as much tension as possible in the lower body, core and upper limb to stabilise the barbell.
Return to the start position, reset and repeat. Treat every set as a set of single repetitions.
Following this technique guide will allow you to perform the landmine punch correctly and ultimately obtain the most benefit from it.
With recent growth of the landmine punch as a specific strength exercise for boxers we commonly see errors in the execution of this exercise, across social media in particular.
check out the post below and be mindful of some of the common faults when performing this exercise:
LANDMINE PUNCH: VARIATIONS
The landmine punch itself is a fantastic exercise.
However, we can make some slight changes to the standard movement depending on the adaptation we want to elicit.
The three variations of the landmine punch we utilise the most are:
Landmine Punch Throw
Landmine Punch with iso hold
Landmine Catch & Throw
LANDMINE PUNCH THROW
The obvious difference in this exercise is the athlete releasing the barbell at the apex of the movement.
Up until the throw the technique remains exactly the same as the standard landmine punch.
The main effect releasing the bar has is the promotion of maximal acceleration through the full range of motion.
Removing the deceleration component, which is present in a landmine punch in order to stabilise the bar at the top, maximises the recruitment of high threshold motor units which are needed to optimise rate of force development during explosive actions such as a punch.
LANDMINE PUNCH W/ISO HOLD
The landmine punch with isometric hold is a fantastic exercise to reinforce tension development at the end range of a punch.
This variation, in particular, is one we use to improve effective mass.
Adding the isometric hold will really help to maximise stiffening on impact of the involved muscle groups, optimising punch force as a result.
LANDMINE CATCH & THROW
To overload the stretch shortening cycle of the upper body, core and lower body in a punch specific manner we can use this catch and throw variation of the landmine punch.
The stretch shortening cycle refers to a rapid and sudden stretch or eccentric contraction of a muscle before performing a forceful shortening or concentric contraction.
This occurs naturally when an individual is aiming to produce as much force as possible e.g when throwing a ball as far as possible or when performing a maximal vertical jump.
We also see the stretch shortening cycle in action when putting combinations together or when throwing a counterpunch following a slip, roll or step back.
Thus, we can utilise this variation of the landmine punch to develop force absorption and production functions of the lower body and core to maximise acceleration of the upper limb during a punch.
Though these are the three primary variations we use at Boxing Science there are numerous changes we can make to these, thus expanding the landmine punch toolbox.
To see the whole spectrum of landmine punch exercises we program check out the video below:
At Boxing Science we use punch specific exercises in nearly every session to fire up the athletes ahead of the main lift.
Typically, such exercises are included in an extended warm up which follows our standard 10 minute mobility or warm up routine.
To view the warm up that each of our athletes perform at the start of their strength, boxing and conditioning sessions take a look at this video:
Extended warm ups following this mobility circuit can be a great way to ramp up the nervous system prior to a strength session.
Plyometrics, punch specific exercises, footwork drills and specific mobility exercises for a given athlete are all valid options when devising an extended warm up.
A typical boxing science extended warm up might look like:
Pogos x 10 Reps
Landmine Punch x 5 reps each side
Altitude Landings x 5 reps
Repeat 3-4 times before performing warm up sets of your main lift.
Fore more on how we arrange our extended warm ups to get the most our of our athletes for a given sessions read this article: https://boxingscience.co.uk/power-for-boxing-power-circuits-plyometrics/
Knowing where punch specific exercises are best suited in an individual session is useful, however, understanding which variation is appropriate during a given training phase and when trying to elicit a specific adaptation is important to ensure athletes are continually progressing.
Additionally, a phased or block structure is an approach we encourage at Boxing Science so boxers can obtain the correct stimulus as fight night approaches.
Regarding the landmine punch we can categorise its variations into strength, strength-speed or speed-strength movements.
Typically, for strength development we will use the standard landmine punch.
This is because this movement allows us to load the movement more so than other variations (throw for example) without losing the punching motion.
Many athletes when attempting to throw the bar with loads generally used during landmine punches will ultimately resort to a pushing rather than punching motion.
During strength speed phases, the aim is to maximise acceleration whilst still using relatively heavy loads.
Performing a landmine punch with bands can be useful if strength speed is the desired training adaptation for a given training block.
The bands will increase the difficulty of the movement as the athlete approaches the finishing position.
This will promote maximal force and rate of force development throughout the full range of motion which is likely to be absent during a standard landmine punch due to the significant deceleration component seen at the end of these lifts to prevent losing a firm grip of the bar.
If the athlete is strong enough, he or she may be able to use sufficiently heavy loads for strength-speed during a landmine punch throw and therefore this could also be used during these training blocks.
In contrast to strength-speed, the priority during speed-strength phases is the speed of movement under lighter loads.
Medicine ball exercises and light loaded jump variations are typically prominent during such phases, however, the landmine punch throw and catch and throw exercises are also useful options.
Speed-strength and taper phases usually coincide with one another and will often be comprised of similar exercises.
As strength and conditioning coaches we try to think about what is going to have the biggest impact for our fighters in the short term during the taper.
One component of the punch we can aim to maximise in the days prior to competition is tension generation throughout the core and lower body.
Therefore, the landmine punch with iso hold is an ideal landmine punch variation to include during these phases.
Additionally, variations that incorporate some specific elements of boxing into the movement can be useful.
An example of this would be the landmine punch with step back (see in above YouTube video: How to increase punch power) which focuses on reactiveness of the back foot off the floor, similar to a counter punch.
Scientific research into the punch has highlighted a two dimensional training approach to improve punch force that should involve maximising acceleration from foot to fist as well as effective mass.
Punch specific exercises should be viewed useful tools in a coaches tool box but are ultimately icing on top of a cake of structured strength and power training.
Punch specific exercises feature in our programs to ensure that enhanced strength and neuromuscular function are transferrable to the punching action.
The three main landmine punch variation we use in our program are the standard landmine punch, the landmine punch throw and the landmine punch with iso hold.
Further variation can be promoted with the addition of bands, increased plyometric emphasis and manipulation of foot movement.
The landmine punch variation chosen for a given session is primarily dependent on the overall goal of that session and where the session fits into the over-arching training program.
- Turner, A., Baker, E.D. and Miller, S., 2011. Increasing the impact force of the rear hand punch. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(6), pp.2-9.
- Stanley, E., Thomson, E., Smith, G. and Lamb, K.L., 2018. An analysis of the three-dimensional kinetics and kinematics of maximal effort punches among amateur boxers. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 18(5), pp.835-854.
- McGill, S.M., Chaimberg, J.D., Frost, D.M. and Fenwick, C.M., 2010. Evidence of a double peak in muscle activation to enhance strike speed and force: an example with elite mixed martial arts fighters. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(2), pp.348-357.