5 Simple Steps to Improve Punch Speed

by Fran on June 23, 2010

Generate a Real Improvement in Punch Speed

It is a fact that some people naturally possess greater punch speed than others.  For example, boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones Jr and Floyd Mayweather are known for their natural hand speed, whilst boxers like Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez and Roberto Duran are not particularly considered as blindingly fast punchers.

Now, as I’ve said before on this blog I’m not a physiologist and therefore can’t really begin to talk with any authority about fast twitch muscle fibre, genetic pre-disposition etc etc.  However, what I can say with certainty is that both as a boxer and as a coach, I have witnessed (both in myself and others) a significant improvement in punch speed as a direct result of some simple measures taken in the gym.

In this article I will outline to you 5 things that you can nail to improve your punch speed.  You should feel this improvement after no more than a couple of weeks so do stick with it.
 

The 5 Steps to Improve Punch Speed:

 

1.  Ensure Proper Technique

The objective of improving punch speed is to increase your success rate of landing shots.  You can possess the greatest punch speed on the face of the planet, but if you have poor technique in terms of delivering your punch this cobra-like speed is next to useless.  Poor technique will mean that your opponent will spot your shot coming.  A flaring elbow will give away your jab.  A draw back of the arm will identify when your straight back hand is on it’s way.  Executing an effective feint will give you a split second advantage when going for an opening.

So make sure that your technique is perfect so that improving your punch speed will actually bring benefits.  Check out the end of the article for some prime video guidance on good technique or alternatively you can go to the Top 10 Boxing Training Videos for clean and precise guidance.
 

2.  Speed in the Mind!

As with many aspects of sporting performance, there is psychology at play in making improvements to your punch speed. I have a very neat way of harnessing the power of the mind when building speed. Take a gentle stroll around the gym.  Breath deeply, relax.  As you are gently strolling, think of super-fast objects, such as:

  • A fighter jet
  • An Indy or Formula 1 car blasting across the start/finish line
  • A bolt of lighting.

At a given moment (ideally someone other than yourself shouting ‘Now!’, or providing some other signal), switch to your boxing stance as fast as you can and throw a 4 or 5 punch combination, again at top speed.  Use short, mid and long range shots…don’t restrict yourself!  Recommence your stroll and repeat for a couple of rounds.

By using this simple method, you will build the psyche of a real speed demon!
 

3.  The Joy of Hand Weights

This tip is very interesting, mainly because you can feel an undoubted and instant improvement in your punching speed. Set yourself up for 4 x 2 minute rounds of shadow boxing.  In rounds 1 and 3, use 1 or 2 lb hand weights.  Shadow box normally, ensuring that you mix in a good proportion of mid and long range hooks and uppercuts.  During rounds 2 and 4, dispense with the hand weights and feel the instant improvement in punch speed.

The additional benefit of shadow boxing with weights is that it works wonders in building the kind of shoulder and arm strength that boxers need. It’s well worth building this into your regular training, especially if you’re looking to build punching power as well as punch speed.
 

4.  Speed Focused Gym Session

Complete a full gym session that focuses solely on speed.  Now, if you are a competing boxer, these sessions should be targeted during the final stages of your training cycle (that is in the week prior to your contest).  If you are not competing, then a speed-focused gym session can be undertaken at any time.

  • For shadow boxing, bag work and skipping, complete 6 x 1 minute rounds with just 15 second rest periods.  Aim for maximum speed and multiple variations of punch combinations.  Don’t forget also that you can do the footwork drill in with your session.
  • When completing the groundwork (e.g. the classic ‘ton-up’ of 10 x 10 ground exercises), do so with a focus on maximum speed, with quality of exercise being secondary.
  • Perform short, explosive sprints during running e.g. sprint from one street-light/lamp-post to the next, then jog to the next, then sprint etc.

By the way, this gym session not only enhances overall speed, it also absolutely blasts the cardio-vascular system. The work-rate is so intense that you go anaerobic very quickly. The short duration of rest means that recovery rate is pushed to the max. It’s great stuff!
 

5.  Stay Chilled!

If you are tense, then you will not maximize your punch speed.  A simple way to do this is to ensure that you do not clench your fist until the split second before the shot lands.  Keep you shoulders loose and breath in a controlled manner. Remember Relaxed is fast!
 
Remember, speed kills, so it’s always worth spending time looking to improve your capability.

Cheers

Fran

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

sillu January 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm

its realy great workout for speed…

Reply

Turam raja January 29, 2012 at 9:17 am

I will become world best boxer

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Fran January 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Well, confidence is key Turam

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Mustafa January 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hi :)

I just have a question. Are you guys 100 % sure that shadow fast punching in the air, will help improve my speed? I don’t have the opportunity to punch in a bag, because i don’t have some and don’t worry about my techniques beacuse i have them. The only thing i am worried about is speed and power, but speed is the most important thing on my list to improve, because i feel kind of slow, then comes power (Which i can increase by pushups right?). Please anwser me on that page andcopypaste the answer to my mail mustafax@live.dk if iforgot to check this page. :)

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Fran January 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hey Mustafa

Shadow boxing will help, as long as you are focusing on hand speed. Follow the tips in the article and things will improve. Power comes from many sources, it’s probably an article in itself.

Keep doing what you are doing and more importantly keep enjoying it.

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Jake April 16, 2012 at 1:59 am

With Speed and Technique comes power

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Mustafa February 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Hi/Hey Fran :)

I would thank you many times, for your quick respond :)

But i have a question for you :) Does Shadow boxing with weights help? I mean if i wear weight and focus on punching fast, will it help?

I’ve read many articles which have different opinions, where some think that shadow punching with weights mean slow punches, which make our muscles “remember the speed”, and there for the arm would be slow, when we take those weights off.

Others say, if i punch fast with those weights, it would probably help! Now who should i trust? :)

And do fast pushups help in speed or power?

What about slow pushups? Does it help on speed or power? :)

And do you have more ideas that help building speed? I’ve heard that if i take a dumbbell bar over my head and swing my arms as fast as i could, i would gain speed, is this right? What about clap pushups?

/Mustafa :)

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Fran February 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Mustafa

Thanks for the question. As far as I am concerned, punching with weights in your hands does work, as long as you alternate each round i.e. one round with weights, the next without. A more modern variation is the use of resistance bands rather than hand-weights, but again the important thing to do is alternate the rounds.

I’d say that you are determined to improve your hand speed and that’s great. But, it won’t happen overnight. Keep on working away and slowly but surely improvements will be achieved.

By the way, if you’re using weights (dumb bells etc.), go with fast reps. This too will help.

Hope this helps Mustafa.

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Iamthewalrus June 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Last tip is the most important. Don’t tense til the moment before impact. The tenser your muscles are the slower and less power you’ll inflict. Dont forget your breathing – breathe out when throwing your punch. And imagine a point behind the target which you are punching – and then drive the punch through the target. Don’t stop the punch as soon as you land it… ok guys gd luck.

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Fran June 3, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Nice contribution, really good stuff. Thanks

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J June 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Wow sir i just love how you encourage sports psychology not many athletes do that let alone trainers, beautiful work sir!

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Fran June 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm

It’s a very important aspect of any sport J. Thanks for the comment.

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Kemo December 14, 2012 at 1:51 am

Some of this may help Mustafa and anyone else reading the comments…

When undertaking a task, let’s say a jab, the brain remembers the movement. What happens from here? The bones move, the joints feel the motions and the muscles react based on the proprioceptive responses created from the movement. If we look at traditional bodybuilding exercises, we see this is the case. For example in a Bench Press, the shoulders are retracting under significant amounts of load. The muscles respond by growing to adapt to and deal with THIS SPECIFIC MOVEMENT. Therefore, when looking to improve performance, we shouldn’t think of the muscles that are used in the motion and use movements from bodybuilding to make them bigger. This will indeed sacrifice performance as the proprioceptive responses created will conflict with those that we create in boxing. We should train and optimise the MOVEMENT as this is how the brain works and ultimately how performance is optimised.

Shadow Boxing with hand weights is indeed a great way, perhaps the best way to enhance hand speed!

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Fran December 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Kemo

Fantastic comment. I always welcome comments from experts in a specific field and judging by the work on your website you are certainly that. I have a really detailed understanding of boxing and fighting. I possess only a rudimentary understanding of the specific physiological aspects of the sport. Do you have any thoughts on the use of resistance bands rather than/as well as hand weights? It strikes me that it could be a positive method of speed development but I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

Cheers

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Danxtyson May 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

37 yrs old…am i too old to take up boxing.obviously not looking for world title but do wish to compete.
Still feel i have a bit of life in me and want to try boxing as my last physical stab at life before i turn 40 and just concentrate on becoming a full time couch potatoe :)

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Fran May 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Go for it Dan. Find a gym and ask the question. Amateur boxing has a ‘Masters’ category that allows competitors up to the age of 40. Once you get boxing in your blood you’ll still be hitting the bags at age 70!

There’s also opportunities in white-collar, more and more gyms catering for that seem to pop up. It’s one or the other really though, the amateur boxing establishment in general takes a dim view of white-collar.

Hope this helps Dan.

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SK niazi September 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm

i use heavy dumbell boxing (8kg) as 3mints x 4rounds for speed and clap pushups, im blessed with fastest hand by ALLAH ALMIGHTY , when i m stricking i just think lof bruce lee in my mind that i just hit and bring back the jab in a split second i can hit 4 punches/sec with one hand!

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Fran September 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Sounds like a serious workout SK. Bruce Lee would do it :-)

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Thomas December 10, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I have been in martial arts for years. I have 2 black belts and several brown belts. I find this article and comments superb. The only thing I would like to add to it that has helped me, is to think of a sneeze when your punching. Sneezing is very quick and hard to control. What I mean by this is, loose quick movements. Let the punch react rather than trying to force it. I find that many people I train with are much quicker after they start thinking about their punches as they would sneezing. I hope this helps and thank you for your time.

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Fran December 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm

That’s a great contribution Thomas. The analogy of the sneeze I think is a really effective one. Reaction and speed. Great stuff! :-)

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Wyatt April 7, 2014 at 4:27 am

I don’t agree on the weighted shadow boxing. Everything else seems great, and I really enjoyed the article; but I don’t see any science behind that. Hooks, jabs, and crosses travel on a horizontal plane. The weight of the dumbbells, due to gravity, drives the mass down on a vertical plane. The muscles used to support the weights are not the same used for punching; They are two separate muscle groups.

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Fran April 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Thanks for the opposing view Yyatt, always welcome. All I would say is that you should maybe give it a go. The fact that you have an instant increase in speed is irrefutable. The question is does that instant increase of speed result in a long term increase? I would suggest it can do no harm and will definitely have a positive impact upon muscle endurance.

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