This is a question I get asked a lot when coaching Boxing, along with increasing your punching speed. There is never a simple answer to the question, it is often said that punchers are born and not made, and I do believe that you will come across people, who no matter how much they weigh, they have the ability to be heavy handed and punch with a lot of power. Heavyweights like George Foreman and Ernie Shavers were arguably the hardest punchers in history but they were heavyweights carrying a lot of body mass and muscle, then you will come across Boxers such as Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns, he was able to move up five weight divisions(and win world titles in four) and still be considered a heavy hitter, even at Cruiserweight having started out as a welterweight, he carried his tremendous punching power through the divisions.
So although big punchers are generally born and not made, we can however increase someones punching power by making some adjustments or introducing specific lifts to their routine, in this article I will brush upon just a few exercises(more to come in the future) which I believe can increase how hard you hit. Before I start on the exercises, let me first say that the best way to increase power is to perfect your technique, we’ve all seen Bodybuilders or big guys who weigh a lot yet do not punch harder than a 10st(140lb) Boxer(or any fighter for that matter, such as a Kick Boxer/Muay Thai or MMA athlete) and this is because of poor technique. The untrained person will not be using correct technique to throw a punch, often they are arm punches, and arms are just a very small piece of the puzzle, whereas a trained fighter will be using correct technique and thus using most of their bodyweight,
especially the core, the hips and legs, much larger muscles than the arms and this is where real power comes from. A trained fighter weighing 140lbs will be able to transfer most of his bodyweight into the punch due to his better technique than an untrained person who may weigh even twice as much but has no idea on how to transfer his bodyweight into the punch and ends up merely throwing arm punches or windmill punching(commonly known as the haymaker). Another point to note is that trained fighters can punch on the move and punch moving targets due to good foot work, an untrained person is not used to punching whilst moving or punching a moving target so often much of their power is lost if they are forced into this situation because they do not know about foot work and the balance of power. So before you do anything else to increase punching power, work on your technique, both with your hands and your feet.
Right, we’ve established where the power comes from, so lets now look at some exercises to fully utilise these muscles for punching.
1. Tempo Sets – The Squat and its variations
What is a Tempo set? It is basically a set of repetitions performed at a specified speed(tempo) but the tempo sets I advocate for increased strength and power incorporate an increased pause at the bottom of the movement. Because we’re looking at punching power here, much of which comes from the hip drive and leg muscles, I recommend doing Tempo sets on the squat, this can be power squats(wider grip on the bar, wider foot stance and bar held low on the traps) or the overhead squat, which is the one I would recommend, because you’re working your body as a whole, including the shoulders, back and core. I suggest taking 3 seconds on the way down(commonly referred to as the eccentric portion of the lift, basically lowering down or ‘negative’ part of the lift) to bottom position on the squat, then pausing for 3 seconds holding this bottom position and then exploding or driving yourself back up(The way up is referred to as the concentric portion of the lift, or positive). Why do I like these for increased power? Because as opposed to ballistic or plyometric training(both by the way can also be used in your program, it is
just not something I am discussing in this article) which looks to take advantage of the elastic components of our muscles, pausing forces you to face your challenge with strength and strength alone, so you have no stored energy to take advantage of and no momentum, it is your muscles you need to rely on to produce brute force. Pausing when squatting is great as it helps keep the core tight and increases your stability, so we’re working some of those essential muscles used when punching. The explosive drive up after pausing will increase both hip drive, strength and power, again something to aid our ability to hit harder because your explosive power and fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited to power the weight back up to starting position.
2. Two Handed Russian Kettlebell Swing
I like this movement to aid punching because the two handed swing is very similar to throwing an uppercut due to the hip drive you are using, it will also help your shovel hook. This movement is great for power, explosiveness and flexibility by generating power from the core. You really want to use the hip hinge in this movement to get maximum hip drive and power from the core. To perform the movement position a kettlebell about a foot in front of you, grab the kettlebell with both hands, slightly bending the knees and hips, let the kettlebell swing between your legs and then swing the kettlebell forward to just above chest level, the important part here is to use a hip thrust or hip snap as you swing the kettlebell up, this is key and is where the power comes from. Let the kettlebell drop back down between your legs and again swing it back up using the hip hinge and hip thrust motion. I would recommend you use a heavy enough weight for this exercise as the benefit comes in part to this, using a lighter weight will not generate enough hip
thrust.Be sure to keep your back straight, push the shoulders back and your glutes tight throughout this exercise, your heels should be down and also keep your core tight. To have a strong punch you must have strong hips and a strong core.
3. Floor Presses
Another movement with the kettlebell, Why do I like this? Because the motion of pushing the kettlebell out is very similar to throwing a jab, rotating your fist outwards as you lift the kettlebell out. I recommend the one arm floor press with a kettlebell, not two arms. Contrary to what many may believe, a big barbell bench press does not really aid punching power, this is because it all but eliminates the serratus anterior muscle by pulling the shoulder blades back, this muscle holds the scapulae in its proper position, and it is this muscle which gives you that ‘snap’ at the end of the punch when you throw a jab. Performing exercises which allow your shoulder blades to move freely will aid in developing punching power, the floor press is also a great choice if you happen to suffer from shoulder pain because it takes stress off the shoulder joints, so if you’re struggling to bench press, try the floor press. To perform a floor press, lie on your back, you can either keep your legs straight or bent with feet flat on the floor. Taking the
kettlebell, ensure the weight is on the outside of the hand and the kettlebell is sitting on your forearm, this forces you to correctly keep your elbow close to the body, do not flare the elbow out – this can cause shoulder irritation, your palms should be facing in, elbow against the floor. From this position simply push the kettlebell straight up, rotating your fist as you push so your knuckles end up facing the ceiling and then pull the kettlebell back to its starting position and back up again. Once you have completed a set, switch sides.
So these are just 3 exercises I recommend for increasing your punch power, there will be more to come in future but I hope these help in your training , give these a go and let me know how you got on!