October 21, 2015
October 21, 2015
Manny Pacquiao

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A forceful punch gives you several advantages. Your strong jab allows you to keep your opponent at distance so you can either make an attack or defend one. In your attack you can make rock solid combinations to display your dominance or stop the fight with a KO or TKO.

What do the numbers say?

We can measure punching force (the action of one body on another) in the lab. The score we use is called a Newton (after Sir Isaac Newton). The higher the Newton (N) the greater the force or the harder the punch.

Punching forces in amateur boxing are around 2500 N. If you weigh 70kgs (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.

And to make that even more impressive your punch takes around six hundredths of a second (>60 ms) to throw.

The Science

Studies suggest that punching force is dependent on the Impulse-Momentum relationship. This is the change in momentum experienced by a body under the action of a force is equal to the impulse of the resultant force. To put it straightforwardly, it’s how quick you punch and the snap as it reacts off an opponent’s body part.

Lets break the punch down…

Impulse = Momentum

This means…

Producing force quickly = moving mass quickly.

We can improve impulse by skill, hand speed, strength and acceleration. We can improve momentum by increasing body weight or ‘effective mass’.

What we know

The numbers suggest that a punch in boxing requires a lot of to be force produced in a short space of time. In the boxing world we will call this ‘hand speed’, the scientific definition we’ll use is ‘rate of force development’.

If something has a lot of momentum it is usually large, like an elephant or a tank. Or it is small but has a lot speed – like a rocket. You can make a punch harder by generating more momentum – being an elephant or a rocket.

In this sense, Wladimir Klitschko is the elephant using his superior weight to produce momentum, Manny Pacquiao is the rocket with lightening quick hands.

Since momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity, we can improve momentum by increasing mass.

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 improve. However, you can certainly improve hand speed, force production and the snap of the punch.

And since hand speed is an important component in how hard you punch we’re on to a winner.

Not only that but you can also develop what’s known as the ‘snap’ or ‘effective mass’. The ‘snap’ of a punch requires the whole body to stiffen up upon impact.

When you combine this with how quickly you generate force in a punch, you create impulse (the effect of force acting over a period of time). With more impulse you can you change the momentum of another object. That other object being your opponent’s head, arms or torso. And all of this means a harder punch.

How can I punch harder?

Punching technique and skill is the most influential contributor to punching force. That’s easy to say but how easy is it to improve? Well, you’ve got to be careful. Depending on your experience, changing your technique could be detrimental to punching force.

So what’s going to give me the most bang for my buck? Improving punching technique or getting stronger?

We think that improving your ability to produce force using strength training is a more effective way to punch harder.

Training

From our own research at Sheffield Hallam University, 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 (contraction sequencing). And by improving effective mass by developing core muscle strength and punch specific movements.

Conclusion

  • Your punch needs to be hard. 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.

Danny Wilson is a strength and conditioning coach at Sheffield Hallam University and the co-founder of www.boxingscience.co.uk

*For training information and workouts from some of the biggest names in combat sport don’t miss the Fighting Fit: Train like the Stars special*