Dan Henderson's KO of Michael Bisping at UFC 100 is a fine example of a solid punch.
So how do you train for heavy hands?
A recent article yet to be published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal has looked at coming up with a way of training for heavy hands, particularly when performing the Cross (the punch with your hand at the back). The same principles may be applied to other punches as it is transferable and punches should all be generated in the same format.
So here's a brief explanation of the biomechanics of any punch. Movement is initiated from the hips and force is transferred for the tripe extension of the hip, knee and ankle through the core into the shoulder and onto the arms. If it's a jab or cross, the force is more horizontal while if it's a hook or uppercut, the force is transmitted in a slightly rotational (transverse) or vertical direction.
So, the experts in this review came up with five principles to help increase the power of the punch. The principles are:
- Increasing the force output from the push-off leg
- Increasing stability in the supporting leg
- Increasing the use of elastic energy in the core
- Increasing the amount of force produced upon impact
- Increasing the speed of movement of the punch
Increasing Force Output from The Push-Off Leg
The power of the punch actually begins from this movement of pushing off with the back foot to generate the punch. Research have also shown that in elite strikers, their force is actually generated more from the legs and hips than the arms and shoulders. The triple extension of the leg as mentioned earlier is pivotal to creating a very powerful punch.
To train for this, movements involving the triple extension motion should be considered. To build the strength, focus on squats and deadlifts and to translate that to power, practice the Olympic lifts such as snatches and cleans.
Increasing Stability In The Support Leg
By having a more stable support leg, you are able to transfer the force generated by the other leg (push-off leg performing a triple extension) into your shoulder and subsequently your arm and fist for a stronger impact. If the support leg is unstable, you lose the energy you are trying to transfer through your core and end up losing power in your punch.
This can be trained by lower limb plyometrics to increase the stiffness of the muscles in your legs. Plyometric exercises not only increase stiffness in the muscles and tendons, but such exercises also increase the ability to utilise the stretch-shortening cycle of your muscles and tendons to produce force. This means that, when your muscles and tendons get stretched, the elastic energy created is better utilised in a subsequent contraction of the same muscle, allowing more force to be generated. In terms of your support leg, by having it as stable as possible, more force can be transmitted into your punch and you better utilise the force you produce from the beginning instead of losing it which could increase the risk of injury. Drop jumps and box jumps are good for training this.
Increasing the use of elastic energy in the core
As mentioned earlier, the punch is first generated from the legs and hips and gets transferred to the core before the power is transferred into the shoulder and punching arm. The same mechanism of plyometric exercises enhancing the stretch-shortening cycle of muscles can be applied to the core when trying to increase punching power.
As the core is required to perform a rotational movement to transmit the force generated from the legs to the arms, the muscles of the core get stretched first and subsequently contract again to allow the summation of forces to carry over to the shoulder and arm. So again, this can be trained through plyometric exercises for the core. This includes rotational ball throws/slams or even resistance-band throws.
Increasing the amount of force produced upon impact
This simply means just punching hard. But how do you ensure you are training the right way to punch harder? The first thing you need to understand is that upon impact of a punch, the muscles naturally relax, known as the relaxation phase of a punch which allows more force to be transmitted onto the contact surface. It is also a technique which helps prevent injury from the impact forces of a punch. Hence, to make a punch more efficient, increasing the force at point of impact before the relaxation phase occurs is important. However, during situations involving sparring, the impact of the punches are reduced to prevent injury to both fighters.
So in order to train for a heavier punch and increasing the force you produce at the point of impact, you need to do more pad/bag work as there would not be a deceleration of your punch before the point of impact. It allows you to punch harder as you would not be afraid of hurting one of your training partners. In simple words, to punch harder, you just gotta train by punching hard.
Increasing the speed of movement of the punch
The speed of the punch is what determines the effectiveness of the punch. Power is the product of force x time. The shorter time you take to produce the same amount of force, the amount of power you produce is increased. In terms of punching, the mass you are training to move is your fist. The faster you can move your fist over the same distance, you are going to produce more power in your punch.
To train for this, you want to try to increase the speed of moving your fist fast. This can be done with medicine ball throws in your power arm (the arm at the back in your boxing stance). The load used here is critical as you do not want to overload the arm which defeats the purpose of training for speed. Keep the load light-moderate and focus on the speed of arm extension.
The guys who came up with this review have put together a sound training method for increasing your punching power through scientific interpretations of theory. Give them a try in your training program and soon, your punches will be like freight trains going through your opponents!
Stay Strong and Keep Punching,
The Training Geek.