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How To Increase Punching Power For All Combat Sports

Increase in punching power shows man with MMA glove.

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Some have it, while others do not, at least that is the general consensus. Time and time again we see fighters move through the ranks who become known for their stopping power. But for the rest of us, how do we increase our punching power for combat sports?

There are a host of different exercises you can do to increase your punching power. These range from correct posture and mindset to building your upper body and working on explosiveness. Combine all of these and you will see some big improvements.

And while natural knockout power is a very real thing. There is a multitude of tried and trusted ways in which the average fighter can and does improve how hard they can hit.

What You Need To Improve

So let’s take a run through what you can do to help things along. As there is a range of easy-to-perform exercises and drills you can do. That will in the long term benefit your overall punching ability, no matter how it currently stands.

Try To Stay Relaxed

Staying relaxed while punching is key to correctly executing your technique. As you will have seen on so many occasions, a relaxed fighter is a dangerous fighter.

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind the closer he is to strength.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Take Anderson Silva or Roy Jones, who sometimes looked like they were playing around during a fight. But they were in fact enjoying the moment and allowing their bodies to move more freely.

And a body free of tension allows power to travel through and onto the target. Like any coach will tell you, don’t tense your arms while throwing a punch. But wait until the moment of impact to tighten up your fist for the maximum snap.

Use Fist Conditioning

Your fists are your weapon and so it would make sense that your main weapon is in the best shape possible. While the majority of the focus will be put on the rest of the body to achieve more punching power.

You also have to have fists that are strong and able to land with as much force as possible without getting hurt. And if you know anyone who works with their hands, like say a farmer or mechanic. You know just how strong their hands can be.

Conditioning fists is common across many martial arts, but for some reason not so much in boxing. So with that in mind, you should strengthen and condition your hands. And using some pretty basic methods you can do almost anywhere like;

  1. When doing push-ups, do them on your fists or also on the tips of your fingers as opposed to palm down
  2. Punch dry sand on the beach by kneeling on the sand and punching down between your legs.
  3. Simulate sand by using a bucket filled with rice, and punching down into it.

Always Plant Your Feet

Planting your feet on the ground is key to generating power up through your legs, into your body, then your arms and onto your fists.

And so making sure you have a solid base, with your two feet firmly on terra firma is where you need to be. But you may have noticed not all fighters follow this golden rule and often to great effect.

Take someone like Naseem Hamed, who would often fly through the air as he followed through on his punches. So while that can and does work for some exceptional fighters.

You should start with the fundamentals by planting your feet in the correct position. Then using this posture to fire off those knockout blows.

Build Up Those Leg Muscles

Punching power comes from your base and that means it is transferring up through your legs and into your upper body. So it’s key that you have a solid base from which to throw a punch.

A man running up steps working on building his leg muscles.
An athlete running steps building his leg muscles

Doing exercises to strengthen your legs is key to making the most of the power generated from that kinetic energy. And so here are some pretty simple ones to set you on your way;

  1. Lunges, squats burpees are all great exercises
  2. Running that includes stairs and hill running will help bulk out those calf muscles and thighs
  3. Cycling is also great, so choose the bicycle instead of the bus to work!

Make Sure To Bend Your Knees

It’s important not to be too upright when throwing a punch. As I spoke about when planting your feet, part of this is also about bending your knees. Or as it is called in boxing circles, sitting down on your punches.

As when you are too upright, you cannot carry through the power from your feet and into your upper body. Just try to throw some punches while standing up straight. Then plant your feet, bend your knees slightly and do it again.

Comparing the two, there is an obvious difference in the power you can generate. So with that in mind here are some exercises to help you attain and maintain that bent knee position.

  1. Wall sits are great, where you sit with your back against the wall and your knees at a 90-degree angle. You can also put your hands stretched directly out in front and hold for as long as possible
  2. Squats, burpees and exercise helps to build the lower half of your body and add that expçlosiveness.

Train The Upper Body

In order for you to deliver that power as a punch. You are going to have to work on that upper body rotation. As the upper body will need to be conditioned to carry through the torque to land that knockout blow.

As you can see due to fatigue later in a match, a fighter is unable to throw shots using their upper body. And as a result, there is no force behind them.

These punches are known as arm punches and happen as the fighters get more and more tired. So here are some ways to help prevent this which include;

  1. Using a medicine ball or disk weight, hold out in front and do full 180-degree rotations
  2. Tie off some resistance bands to a fixed object at about chest height. Holding the handles, keep a good tension and again rotate the upper body using explosive motions.

Do Not Over Extend

Like most things in life, you should try not to overreach. As when you extend you tend to lose much of the power in your punches. Overextending also leaves you open to counterstrikes and you are also easier to knock down.

So try to keep your target within range and don’t chase them around the ring. Keep it tight, compact and when in position unload with your combinations at range.

Learn To Pick Your Shots

As human beings, we have a finite amount of energy and no matter how well-conditioned we might be, we will eventually run out of steam. And so you need to pick your shots and make them count.

And a way to do this is to avoid wasting precious resources and be on target. Now whether that is a crushing liver shot, a hook to the chin or an uppercut.

Two boxers going toe to toe in the boxing ring.
Two boxers face-off inside the boxing ring.

Whatever the fight-winning blow is, you have to make sure it lands, as otherwise, it counts for nothing. So here are some drills you can do to work on fine-tuning your punches;

  1. Using a boxing ball with a headband is a way to fine-tune your reflexes and accuracy. Keeping the ball out in front of you while using a range of combinations
  2. Using a double-ended bag which almost all gyms have. Great for working timing and head movement as well as accuracy. Both of these recommendations are quite difficult to get right but well worth it.

Work on Your Hand Speed

Speed kills, whether in the boxing ring or on the road. The velocity of a punch plays a huge role in its knockout power. So if you can manage to improve that speed, you will see corresponding results inside the ring or cage.

And when you have speed, it’s those milliseconds that can be the difference between a win and a loss. Because a punch that a fighter doesn’t see coming can be the winning punch of the fight. So here are some quick pointers on how to improve that overall hand speed;

  1. Using resistance bands helps build muscle in the arms and upper body. Then when you stop using them, you find it easier to throw those hands
  2. Use a double-ended bag to improve both speed and reaction time
  3. Speed bags look cool and are cool, but can be difficult to master. Give it a go and try to get your timing and hand speed down.

Some Additional Exercises

Here is some other exercise you can do in conjunction with what we have already discussed. And if done with the aforementioned recommendations. You will see a marked improvement in your overall performance.

Try Plyometric Push-Ups

Plyometric exercises are all about creating explosive movements over a short time. And these push-ups are all about building the upper body arms, shoulders and back. So that you can deliver those knockout punches in rapid succession.

So the way you do them is by first getting into the regular push-up position. Lowering yourself down to the ground, until you are just a couple of inches off. Then explode back up enough so that your body lifts off the ground.

Keep your core tight and don’t have your butt in the air, remaining almost parallel with the floor. And if it’s too much, to begin with, simply try this with your knees on the ground and build up from there.

  1. 5 – 10 repetitions
  2. Performing 3 – 5 sets.

Landmine Punch Throws

The landmine punch allows you to train the explosive element of the punch. With one end on the ground, bring a barbell to your shoulder with your palm facing out.

From here you push off from the shoulder as though you are throwing a punch. Allowing your arm to fully extend as it would naturally. You can have someone who catches the bar as you let go at the end of the movement.

A Landmine Punch Throw Demonstration

Or you can do it where you hold on, bringing the bar safely back to the shoulder position. Repeating the process on opposite sides.

  1. 3 – 5 repetitions on each arm
  2. Perform 3 – 5 sets of each.

Hitting The Heavy Bag

The must-do part of any boxing workout is hitting the heavy bag. Great for working on your footwork as you circle around. But also perfect for working on head and body combinations including your straights, uppercuts and hooks.

The great thing about the heavy bag is it allows you to throw with full power, absorbing all the force of the punch. So use this time to work on your technique, drilling those combinations over and over again.

  1. Three one-minute rounds with one-minute breaks
  2. 10-second burst followed by 10 – 15 seconds rest time.

Try Banded Shadow Boxing

There is shadow boxing and then there is shadowboxing with resistance bands. Going back to using them to build upper body strength in the arms and shoulders.

The bands can also be used on the lower half by placing them around the knee area. They will cause you to focus on your foot movement, as well as activate the glute muscles.

So complete your shadowboxing drills as normal. But this time you will use the bands to add the extra element which helps focus the mind.

  1. 30 seconds on 30 seconds off
  2. Perform 3 reps before and after your main workout.

Some Final Words

There is a multitude of ways in which you can improve your punching power. Using a combination of exercises and drills, you will be able to work on what you need to do to get the most out of your body.

Simply hitting pads won’t do it, so you have to go above and beyond to find out the tried and trusted methods. As well as the lesser-known techniques professionals use when they prepare for a fight.

So I hope this information has been of help and I very much look forward to possibly seeing you compete someday. So if things do get that far, I wouldn’t say no to a shout-out. Cheers and the best of luck.