MOST boxers and combat athletes crave the ability to punch/strike harder…. Having the knockout power to dominate their opponents or have the ability to change the fight in a single blow.
Many believe that you’re born with it or you’re not. There is an element of truth in that punching relies on genetics. However, the skill and technique of punching is the biggest contributor to a hard punch. This is developed from hours of learning your craft in the boxing gym.
However, are you maximising your potential?
As well as technique and skill, there are physical characteristics that contribute to a hard punch. We can help improve our punch force by developing characteristics using optimal strength and conditioning training methods.
* Improve the physical qualities which contribute to a hard punch
* Improve the speed and quality of movement
* Reduce the likelihood of injury and improve robustness.
Over the past four years at Boxing Science, we’ve invested our time to research what physical qualities contribute to a hard punch, and the different types of training that help. Using our battery of fitness tests, we are able to compare physical characteristics of boxers and determine key contributors to boxing performance.
We found that lower limb force production had a strong relationship with estimated punch force and that lower-limb force production also had strong relationships with age and body mass, however weak relationship with competitive experience.
Our data analysis suggested that traditional boxing methods are ineffective at getting boxers forceful and fast, and that there’s a need for strength training to assist in the development of punch force. This guide will help you make a few changes and adding a few things to your training to help power up your punch.
Will weights make me slow?
Traditional boxing coaches state that adding weights to a boxers’ training regime will slow them down. Whilst contemporary S&C coaches believe in the benefits of strength, speed and explosiveness.
Both beliefs are correct – doing bodybuilding and powerlifting training methods can result in unnecessary muscle mass and slow contractile properties.
However, S&C can be massively beneficial for boxing when done correctly.
At Boxing Science, we carefully structure our programs so our boxers are avoiding bulking up and becoming slow as we aim for adaptations in strength, speed and explosiveness. Here is the science that sets the foundations for our strength programs.
The Science Behind the Punch
Punching hard is highly dependent on fantastic technique, skill, and timing, forged by thousands of hours of practice, as well as optimal genetics.
Studies have suggested that 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 just stood still. That makes punching force about 3.5 times body mass. To make that even more impressive your punch takes around six-hundredths of a second (~60 ms) to throw.
Furthermore, nearly all boxing coaches will coach you to use your lower-body and rotation of your core to deliver punches – and there is a backlog of research that supports this.
So in order to produce fast and explosive punches. We need to develop force and transfer it through the body as fast as possible!
How is this force generated?
Punching hard relies on the Impulse-Momentum relationship – which states that Impulse (Force x Time) is equal to Momentum (Mass x Velocity). To punch harder, a boxer must increase their momentum. Broken down, it looks like this:
A boxer can improve their momentum by increasing their mass, however, a boxer is limited by the amount of mass they can gain, due to weight category restrictions.
In consideration, we primarily aim to improve IMPULSE and increase the rate of force development (RFD). This is often developed through skill, technique and genetic factors. However, these are physical characteristics that can be developed through a range of strength and conditioning training methods.
Our testing shows a strong relationship between lower-limb force production and estimated punch force – this was determined through jump tests and medicine ball throws. Suggesting the higher you jump, the harder you can punch! This becomes a key factor in our training aims.
This not as simple of just lifting weights to get stronger. At Boxing Science, we carefully structure our programs using a range of methods across different training phases. This includes resistance training, movement drills, maximal strength training, Olympic lifting, plyometrics and sprint protocols.
Can we still improve momentum?
Despite being limited to weight categories, boxers can still increase the momentum of the punch through improving ‘Effective Mass’.
Effective mass is a full body SNAP on punching impact, and the creation of massive amounts of force and tension through the core, shoulders and arms. This is often developed through skill and technique of a punch, but S&C training methods such as Olympic lifting, plyometrics and core training can help improve this.
How is this force transferred through the body?
From research, we know that force is generated from the floor, and transferred through the core, shoulders, arms and finally to the fist and the target. The transfer of force through the body is known as the Kinetic Chain.
In the kinetic chain, hip and torso rotation are key, and a boxer must have sufficient movement, strength and mobility to achieve this.
The most important link in the Kinetic Chain is arguably the core muscles – as core rotation plays a big role in transferring force from the lower-body through to the fist.
In fact, our testing results suggest that the lean muscle of the core is the biggest contributor to punch force – meaning the stronger your core, the harder your punch!
Core strength also plays an important role in generating effective mass, this is known as the ‘snap’ of a punch.
This makes developing lean muscle, strength and stability of the core is a key focus point to our S&C programs at Boxing Science.
In consideration of the research, Boxing Science place massive importance on the following:
Having excellent movement and mobility, allowing for fluid and rapid rotation of the lower and upper body.
Improving the rate of force development through a range strength and conditioning training methods.
Improving strength and speed of the lower-body.
Increasing the strength, stability and lean mass of the core muscles.
Improving Effective Mass to achieve an effective SNAP on impact, at the end range of punches.
I STILL train my own fighters. I was training fighters with Freddie Roach and someone was doing an interview one day and asked me, ‘What do you do with Manny Pacquiao?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I suppose I do some strength and conditioning.’ That was 2004. Before that there were no strength and conditioning coaches for fighters and then it just sort of blew up. Everyone’s a strength and conditioning coach now! That’s all well and good, there’s a lot of good guys out there, but with fighters it’s a different ball-game. It’s an individual sport and the other guy over there wants to beat you up. If you haven’t been in the ring and experienced what a fighter experiences and know what it is to dig down, suck it up and fight, it’s really hard to relay that to a fighter and expect him to give you his respect and his 100 per cent. If you’ve never been where he’s been, it’s just harder. If I had some guy telling me what to do who’d never been in the ring, I’d be like, ‘Really? Give me a break. What do you know?’
The Pacquiao team
I started working with Manny in 2002, stopped in 2008 and then came back for the last Timothy Bradley fight [in April 2014]. The other guy [Fortune’s predecessor Alex Ariza] was an idiot.
When me, Freddie and Manny are together it’s a good team. We work so well together. Freddie was my trainer since 1992 and we just know each other so well. I know what Freddie wants from a fighter and it’s very easy for us to work together. And Manny was happy, because we’re friends to start with, all three of us. If your athlete is happy, you’re going to get 110 per cent out of him.
Make him explosive
I work with him every day. It’s a whole bunch of agility work, speed work and upping his strength. We go to UCLA [university campus], do a bleacher work, different things.
Boxing’s pretty boring, it’s the same stuff – bagwork, mitt work. We do a lot of lower-body and upper-body plyometric work because they’re explosive exercises and they use fast-twitch muscle fibres. We do jumps, floor ladder work, and for the upper body, a lot of ball work and basically speed-pushing work. You’ve either got fast-twitch or you don’t, and if you don’t, you might as well go do long-distance running or something, because boxing’s not your bag.
Keep it interesting
I used to get bored as a fighter so I would always change things up to keep myself interested in what I was doing, and it keeps the body responding. This was 20 years ago, just because I got bored, nothing scientific behind it.
It’s shocking your body into performing all the time. Keep it varied, keep it interesting and we have fun and we work hard.
Work to the opponent
Obviously you cater towards each opponent. With Floyd Mayweather, it was a lot more leg work because we think we’re going to be chasing him and using a bunch of angles, so Manny needs to be super-explosive off his legs. Legs are where your power comes from, legs and hips, so we’re just developing that.
He’s a freak, one of those freak fighters. These guys, they run hard, they run fast, they’re explosive. Manny is super-explosive, his legs are ridiculous, his angles are crazy. You don’t know where he’s going to be. He’s all over the place and that’s Manny’s gift.
That’s the way he fights, he’s very, very difficult to pin down, and when you can’t pin someone down, you can’t hit them.
I want my fighter 100 per cent fit and super-explosive. I do my job, Freddie does his job and Manny does his job, we come out with what we want, which is the win. I know what Freddie wants out of a fighter – I’ve trained a few of his fighters – and that’s what I can give him. Freddie puts his game plan into play and that’s it. It’s a hell of a lot of common sense. Everybody wants to reinvent the wheel. All these guys come into camp with ideas but really boxing’s been around forever and if someone knew about it, it would have been done 30, 40, 50 years ago. There’s only certain ways you can train a body and my training falls back on old-fashioned hard work. If you’re chopping wood or lifting hay bales, you can’t help but get stronger, that’s just the way it is. It’s not rocket science.
Strength and conditioning is becoming more and more popular within the boxing community. In a new article series, Boxing Science provide the Top 5 exercises that we use in our programs to improve punch force.
Impulse is the amount of force developed in a short space of time, and this is an important contributor to running, jumping and throwing performance, as well as… yeah you guessed it, PUNCH FORCE.
This can be improved through hand speed drills and technique. However these improvements might be small. Our programs are designed to improve the maximal force production through strength, speed and movement drills. The more weight load you can shift in the shortest amount of time will give you more bang for your buck. Click below to see number 1.
THE majority of our strength and conditioning program is quite generic as we look to focus on the physical adaptations. We want exercises that require us to generate the most force in a short amount of time; therefore we need a higher external load in order to achieve these adaptations.
That’s why we use exercises such as the Squat and the Deadlift as we know that these are the most effective exercises to help improve rate of force development.
However, this is just producing force through these movements. At Boxing Science, we want our athletes to benefit these improvements in RFD through the punching action. Therefore, we use punch specific exercises.
At Boxing Science, we use punch specific exercises as part of an explosive warm-up and core supersets during S&C sessions, as well as becoming a key exercise during the taper phase. We also use them in technical training, sparring and competition warm up routines to help fire a boxer up and make them feel strong, sharp and powerful.
The desired outcomes of punch specific training are improved hand speed, punching strength and effective mass. We select exercises that promote the kinetic chain sequencing from foot to fist – coaching and cueing forceful hip and core rotation.
The Landmine Punch
The landmine punch is a great exercise to develop strength, speed and explosiveness in a punch specific action.
Check out the video demo by Danny Wilson as he explains the optimal way to perform this exercise, common mistakes and useful variations.
Want help with putting this into your program?
Boxing Science can help you put these training methods in place with our NEW E-book ‘Punch Harder’
This 20-page guide will explain more about each stage, and provide visual demonstrations of 15 different exercises to set you on your way to a harder punch!
We asked strength and conditioning coach Krool for some tips on how to improve your stamina:
The old method of going running and plodding along, if you take sports specific training and apply it to what a fighter would use in a fight, I don’t think it’s really that effective, if you really look at it. If you think of running a 5k, unless on your 5k route you’re doing sprints and there’s different exercises you’re going to bring, then that’s not really functional enough.
It’s just boring going on the road and running, the old school boxing idea of going on a run. In this day and age everything has to change a bit. You could be running for four minutes and then picking up the pace for two minutes on your run, then half pace, picking it up to three quarter pace. Doing a full sprint for 30 seconds or a minute, then recovering. Runs will be more effective if you have the coach, the coach is interactive with the fighters and the coach is on a bike and the coach picks up the pace of the fighters. It brings a different element.
If it’s plodding along, it’s just conducive to injuries eventually. You don’t need to do 10k runs. 5k, with all the other training they’re doing is perfect.
I’ll do lots of explosive exercises with either a tornado ball or I’ll use a medicine ball. I’ll do lots of explosive throwing. So imagine him throwing punches but not in a boxing gym, I’m taking him out of the boxing environment so we might do that in the park.
With a medicine ball, I’ll have him crouching down, getting up and exploding, twisting maybe from your left to your right, so that’s making sure he’s getting enough leverage in his punches. He has to extend to his right side and throw the medicine ball either against a wall, throw it to me and wait for me to get it back to him. He’ll keep on twisting from left to right or from right to left. We’ll do a minute on each side, so his obliques really get strong.
Again if you just have someone lying on the floor doing a sit up, or doing sit ups with oblique twists, it’s not really functional and it’s not really sports specific because he’s not really going to lie down on the floor and fight on the floor, he’s going to be standing up and throwing punches. Again you have to relate the sport that you’re involved in to the exercises that you’re doing.
Knees slightly bent so you’re getting a lot of work out of your core and lower back, because that’s where the power comes from. We have them swinging the kettlebell between the legs, doing two swings basically (imagine them throwing two punches) going half [way up first], then the full American Swing all the way up and have the biceps and the ears in one straight line. So you first go half [way up] then you go full.
Sometimes I have people doing them for a minute. Boxers especially, when you take them out of their comfort zone, mostly it’s when they’reworking on minutes and they’re working on time. It’s mind over matter working through your exercises.
When I do a kettlebell work out, I’ll have them doing those kettlebell swings for a minute then [with 30 seconds rest inbetween], upright rows with the kettlebell, then single kettlebell swings with one arm, so it’s building up the power individually with each arm, you’ll swap arms obviously. For single arm movements I’ll do that for 40 seconds or 45 seconds. Once they start improving you can take it further. Then you can have them changing direction with a kettlebell. It’s working on foot movement, how they pivot in the ring. You bring that dimension into it, where you’re pivoting on the right leg, turning to the left and pivoting on the left leg and turning to the right. As you go up you pivot and when you come down you’ve changed direction, it’s part of the kettlebell swing. You can have them squatting and pressing with single arms again. Instead of swinging now you’re going into a full press. So you go from a full squat, getting as low as possible, and then extending your arm above your head into a shoulder press, using that as a punch. You’re not punching forward you’re punching straight up. Off that, once you’re getting that, you can then add a lunge forward, throwing the punch, then stepping back into the squat again. You bring the footwork into it.
YOU CAN TRY
KETTLEBELL swings 1 min, rest 30 seconds
UPRIGHT row 1 min, rest 30 seconds
SINGLE arm swings, 40 seconds each arm,rest 30 seconds
KETTLEBELL Swing with pivot, 1 min, rest 30 seconds
SQUAT and press, 40 seconds each arm
YOGA helps your mental focus. Because it’s Bikram and it’s done in a hot room it also helps stretch out the muscles. Boxers put a lot of stress on the muscles so he’s doing two hits in one, the mental focus, having to stay in that room for almost two hours or an hour and a half, he’s controlling his respiratory system and he’s also working out a lot of the lactic acid in the stretches and in the hot room itself.