How to Punch harder Part II – The Secret of Speed Training
This is part II on how to punch harder, if you haven’t already, I suggest you read Part I which can be found here(How To Punch Harder) but we’ll go over the basics of that article before we move into the movements you can use to help you punch harder
As mentioned in part I – before you start looking to increase your punching power, ensure you are using correct technique when throwing your punches, this means keeping your elbows nice and high above shoulder level for jabs and crosses, and at least parallel when throwing hooks. You are losing power if you are hooking to the head with your elbows below shoulder level. A good example of a boxer who excels at this with his hooks is Gennady Golovkin, so it should come as no surprise that the unbeaten champion has the highest knock out percentage in Middleweight history.
Footwork, set your base. Keep your back heel raised when moving around the ring and when throwing punches. Learn to pivot. Poor footwork means poor punching power, if your footwork is poor how do you expect to properly fire off your punches when your balance is bad?
Get a good strength base. Before you can full take advantage of speed training, you should have a solid grounding in lifts such as the Deadlift and Squat at the very least, lifts such as the Bench Press and Military Press should also be a staple in your routine. Now I know I said in part I that a big bench does not equate to a big punch, but the goal and style of lifting when training Boxers or MMA athletes is vastly different to those commonly used in Bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is all about hypertrophy, that is not an optimal way to train for an athlete. At the other end of the spectrum you have weight lifters and power lifters who can move lots of weight on the bench(and other lifts) but cannot punch hard(relative to a trained Boxer/MMA fighter) because what they possess in strength, they lack in speed and technique. OK so lets now move on to speed training, what it is and how it works.
Speed Training For Boxing
As a boxing coach I am always open to ideas on anything which can help a boxer improve his training. Speed training is a training technique that is utilised to maximally recruit high threshold motor units/fast twitch muscle fibers. This means decreasing the weight but increasing the speed at which you move the weight. There are differences of opinion on the % of weight to be used, but it all falls between 30-70% of your 1 rep max.
For the purpose of this article we will use 30%. I would suggest sticking to between 30-50% of your 1 rep max for speed training. So if you are squatting 100kg for 1 rep, you would start your speed training with 30kg. Once you become more experienced with speed training, by all means increase it to 40 0r 50% of your 1 rep max.
Speed training was popularised by Fred Hatfield PHD also known as Doctor Squat, he was the 1st person to squat over 1000lbs! Hatfield categorised it as CAT (Compensatory Acceleration Training). It is also extensively used by the well known founder of Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons to train lifters in his gym.
Speed training works, as you are using a moderate/heavy mass which you accelerate quickly. This form of training produces the greatest power output, which recruits your high threshold motor units and improves your strength speed which carries over directly to your strength training.
With speed training, you are generally looking to do between 5-8 sets but of only 2 reps in each set, this is because it is an explosive and fast movement, we want maximal output with each lift, you could probably push it and make it 3 reps, but if you do then I suggest doing no more than 6 sets of 3 reps. 2-3 seconds down and then push the weight up as fast as possible! We are not looking to do a high number of reps in any given set because it is impossible to maintain proper explosiveness and maximal effort if the reps are high and it also then starts becoming more of an endurance lift, we don’t want that when the name of the game is speed, so 2 reps per set, performed nice and slowly on the way down then nice and fast on the way up, the most important part of this lifting technique is speed!
For the purpose of this article we will choose 3 exercises to be performed for speed training, the deadlift, which helps improve the explosive power of the posterior chain but also important areas for punching power such as the glutes and quads(the deadlift is also a good exercise to help you absorb punches when you do get hit because it works the spinal erectors and traps thereby helping to cushion the blow)
The 2nd exercise will be the power squat, so feet wider apart than on the traditional back squat, bar slightly lower down on the traps and your grip on the bar will also be wider. The squat will help develop the lower body, especially the quads and hips, where the real explosive punching power comes from.
The 3rd and final movement is the speed bench press. This is used to develop explosive power in the pecs, deltoids and triceps, the latter two especially are useful for aiding increased punching power. Remember with the bench press, we want the elbows to be nice and tight and close to the body, we don’t want to flare out the elbows – ever had shoulder problems from benching? Chances are you bench with your elbows too far out, if you enjoy having shoulders, keep the elbows in. An easy way to remember this is reminding yourself your lats and elbows are best friends and what do best friends do? They stick together, so keep them in and press up with the weight.
If I was to add a 4th exercise to speed training it would be the speed military press, but personally I wouldn’t replace any of the 1st three lifts, these work best for speed training and transfer over easily for combat sports such as Boxing and MMA(incidentally if you happen to play Rugby, these 3 also make perfect choices)
So for each exercise we’ll go with 6×2 so 6 sets for 2 reps. We’ll be taking 2-3 seconds when taking the weight down to bottom position and then driving up as fast as possible when pushing the weight back up. At the end of this work out you should not feel exhausted! If you do, you are likely using too much weight in which case it is becoming more of a strength work out, aim to leave 30-40% in the tank when you complete this workout, so you leave the gym feeling like you could actually do a lot more if you wanted to, you should leave feeling quite energized really.
With speed training, we are training the body to be explosive, getting the body into a habit of firing and being explosive in an instant, when we need it most like when throwing a punch, speed training will allow you to snap your hips into the punch and to transfer all that explosiveness. Speed + Strength = Power!
- Feet hip to shoulder width apart
- Keep a firm base, knees slightly bent, tight core, weight on heels
- Hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Overhand or hook grip
- Hips down, arms locked, head up
- Core tight, lift explosively with SPEED, keeping the weight on your heels
- Pushing through the floor with your heels, contracting your core, keeping the back flat
- At the top of the movement, tense your glutes and stand upright
- Do not lean back or turn your head
- Start to lower the bar and break at the hips flexing forward and pushing the glutes back. Ensure your back remains flat at all times.
- Feet slightly wider than shoulder width
- Firm base, knees slightly bent, tight core and weight on heels
- Wider than shoulder width grip on bar, resting on traps
- Head up, chest pushed out, slight arch in back
- Descend under control until you reach just below parallel
- Do not lean forward
- Once in bottom position, drive upwards very aggressively using your quads and glutes
- Keep your core tight and ensure your back remains in a slightly arched position
Speed Bench Press
- Feet on floor ensuring a solid base to push from with a slight arch in the back with your chest raised
- Dismount the bar and assume a shoulder width overhand grip
- Slowly lower the barbell under control until the barbell touches your chest
- Applying as much force as possible, press the barbell out as fast as you can until the arms are fully extended
- Once in the top position, take a breath and repeat again
My book Strength and Conditioning for Boxing will help you become faster, fitter and stronger for the ring! Grab your copy now and two more books free!