Punching power is, quite obviously, a very useful tool in the weaponry of a boxer. When you carry the kind of punching power that can hurt an opponent, it acts as a very useful deterrent against them ‘deciding’ to attack you without showing real caution. But what exactly is punching power and how can it be developed? In this article I’m going to describe what I feel are the 5 building blocks of good punching power and give you some tips on how you can crank up the power of your shots.
Just before we get going, I am going to admit something here. I am often quite reluctant to get involved too much in talking specifically about punching power when working with boxers. This is not because I think that punching power is purely a natural phenomenon and that if you don’t have it you can’t do anything to get it. There are of course boxers that are naturally big hitters, with the kind of punching power that can leave opponent after opponent in the Land of Nod.
No, the reason that I am reluctant to have a boxer focus heavily on punching power per se is that often the urge to ‘load up’ on punches will lead to problems with technique. As we will find out, I rank technique as pretty much the most important of the 5 building blocks of punching power. So, while that fortunate few who carry true dynamite in each hand can be assured of terrifying the opposition, there is plenty that the rest of us can do to really improve punching power. As with everything else around boxing, there’s lots of logic at work. We are not splitting atoms here, merely using some physics to our advantage.
What is Punching Power?
Punching power is the ability to hurt an opponent. When I say ‘hurt’, I mean anything from your basic ‘stunning’ to a full on knock out. Bear in mind that in amateur boxing there are relatively few true knock outs with head shots. When a contest does not go the distance it’s usually an accumulation of shots leading to a stoppage. In fact, I reckon that you see more actual count-outs coming as the result of well-placed body shots, so well worth visiting the body punching category on the site!
So, in amateur boxing you are more likely aiming to ‘stun’ an opponent, let them know that you can really hurt them. Getting hit and hurt is not very pleasant at all. I remember once during a spar that I took a head shot that actually made be go blind for a few seconds. Everything went white and initially only my peripheral vision returned, followed shortly after by full vision. Thankfully I took the shot on the way in so was able to stay real close and avoid any follow up shots. Yes, that shot really sticks in the mind, the effect of real punching power.
So, how did that punching power generate my myopia? Not the medical reasons (my brain impacting my skull), but the reasons why that shot was so powerful. There are I believe 5 building blocks of punching power. Each of these building blocks are designed to have dramatic effects on 2 main factors:
- Mass (weight)
- Speed (velocity)
With this in mind we can use a simple equation:
Power = Mass x Velocity
I am no physics mastermind, but even with my rudimentary knowledge I can use this equation to help me understand the ways in which we can develop punching power in a controlled and structured way.
Punching Power – Building Block #1
Technique – Make it the best it can possibly be
Make no mistake, correct technique is far and away the most important aspect of true punching power. Firstly, for punching power to be any use at all your punches have to actually land. A real benefit of great technique is that it reduces the possibility of your opponent effectively defending that incoming punch because there will be no tell-tale signs that the punch is coming. These tell-tale signs could be hand movement before the shot, flaring elbows, steps forward and so on.
The second benefit of great technique in relation to punching power is that boxing technique is designed purely and simply to maximize the mass delivered behind the punch. In every punch that I describe within the videos on this site, all are initiated by explosive thrust not from the upper body, but the lower body and specifically the balls of your feet.
This explosive thrust from your either of your feet provides the basis for the mechanics of achieving ultimate punching power. What’s more, it allows you to deliver this power under total and absolute control. If your shot misses, correct technique guarantees that you don’t lose balance. If your shot lands, correct technique means that you can instantly follow up with a shot that can have even more power than the first.
Let’s look at the short range left hook and the short range right hook, both key power punches for infighting. If you’re a southpaw, then obviously you will want to reverse this, but the principle is exactly the same. The left hook begins with massive thrust from the ball of the front foot. As the shot lands the body weight is firmly on the back foot. This means that you have extra leverage to thrash home that short range right hook by driving off the back foot.
A good video to look at this principle of adding leverage in order to increase the ‘mass’ behind the shot (and therefore punching power) is Boxing How To Guide – Left Hook to the Body.
So technique helps us to add to the mass side of our punching power equation.
Punching Power – Building Block #2
Speed – Become a Speed Demon
Improving the speed at which you punch is the next key building block for improving punching power. This is a no brainer. A car travelling at 60 miles per hour is much more deadly to the unwary pedestrian than the same car travelling at 30 miles per hour. There is no increase in the mass of the car, there is an increase in the speed at which it travels and therefore the power generated by any impact.
The exact same principle is at work with punching power. As long as the technique of your punch is exactly the same, the faster your punch travels the greater the power it delivers. Add to this the fact that an old adage in boxing is “It’s the punch that you don’t see coming that knocks you out”. In simple terms, the faster the shot the more likely it will be to land and the less likely your opponent will be prepared for it.
If you are looking for ideas to improve your punching speed, check out the article 5 Simple Steps to Improve Punch Speed.
Punching Power – Building Block #3
Timing – Let’s Add Even More Mass!
I covered the importance of technique and how have great technique means that you can maximize the mass that you deliver with that punch. Well, once you have maxed out your own mass, the question then is how can we add more mass? This is where timing comes in.
In front of you is an opponent, and he or she is walking around with a similar amount of mass to you. So, why not use your opponent’s mass against them? If you can time your shot to land as your opponent is moving their mass toward you, or more accurately toward your shot, then your punching power can be massively increased.
It is worth noting that this movement does not have to be very significant, in fact it can be barely noticeable. For example, if when your opponent throws a left hook their head moves very slightly from left to right with the shot, then by landing your own left hook to meet the opponent’s head as it moves will result in a very powerful punch. Even if your opponent throws a jab and leans in with it, your jab going back the other way will have a real eye-watering impact on the opposition.
When you hear a boxer being described as showing signs of ‘ring rust’, then much of this relates to problems with the timing of landing shots. Whilst you can begin to master timing on the heavy bag or punch pads, the only way to truly nail timing it is to spar, box, compete. The reason for this is quite simple. A punch bag has predictability; you know it will only swing in a certain way. During fight time that predictability is much more difficult to come by, believe me. A fight situation is extremely dynamic, so spotting the bad habits of the opponent quickly and taking advantage is vital.
So, great timing allows you to add yet more mass to our equation. But I’d like us to throw a little more in so let’s go onto our next power punching building block.
Punching Power – Building Block #4
Strength Training – It’s not about big muscles, it’s about big punches
Boxers are not known for possessing massive muscles, but they are known for having a lean, toned and powerful physique, packing in a massive power-to-weight ratio. There is no conceivable way that a boxer can hope to attain maximum punching power without a structured strength training program.
The strength training program may or may not include the use of weights, but if weights are to be used then they need to be used in a particular way i.e. not to build muscle mass. I like to see boxers use weights, but my preference for the majority of the boxer’s strength work is to use a range of ground exercises covering calisthenics, plyometrics and resistance work.
A boxer’s strength training program should be sport-specific. That is they should develop not only core strength but also the strength in particular muscle groups. These muscle groups are unsurprisingly the ones that work together to throw punches. So, any strength training work that is focused on improving punching power should seek to develop the following broad muscle groups:
- The calves
- The quads (front of the thighs)
- The abdomen (abs and obliques)
- The chest and shoulders
- The lats
- The triceps
- The forearms
On a final note here, very common across boxing now is the use of resistance bands. These can be attached to a belt and handles on the end of each band held in the hand. This allows punches to be thrown whilst coping with the resistance of the bands and for me offers an outstanding aid for developing punching power.
Punching Power – Building Block #5
Flexibility – Improve your range of movement
In any sporting endeavour flexibility is of paramount importance, and boxing is no different. “But” I hear you say, “how does being flexible improve punching power?” It’s all about the additional range of movement you get by being flexible. A greater range of movement equals a greater amount of available leverage. A greater amount of leverage means greater punching power, pure and simple.
In terms of our punching power equation, this final building block is again about increasing mass. But, we can also contribute to our velocity level because a flexible fighter is also likely to see improvements in their punching speed. So in terms of improving punching power, improving your flexibility has to be a key part of your approach.
Every training session should end with a warm-down, and a warm down is the perfect opportunity to undertake a full static stretching program. It’s a nice part of the session. Your hard work is done and you can work through a head-to-toe static stretches to really loosen up those tired muscles. It will be well worth it.
Now Get to Work!
So there you have it, the punching power equation and 5 building blocks to think about how to improve both sides of that equation. If you’re not one of those fortunate enough to be able to rely on natural knockout punching power, get the 5 building blocks right and you will improve, of that there is no doubt.