Here is the second half to the rather large piece on performing the perfect punch. These sections focus on the fitness work and strength training you need to put in to create that punch spot on time and time again. Enjoy! If you are interested in specific sections just use the contents to select them. We have a range of classes that can help improve your fitness and increase the speed and power of your punch – check out our timetable for more info!
Triceps and Biceps (Arms)
Chest and Shoulders
Back and Abs
Quads and Hamstrings + Glutes and Calves (Legs and Bum)
SpeedIt is the speed of the punch that delivers the power you put behind it into its target. If you cannot enable that power to move smoothly and slickly to the target area then power will be lost as the punch loses momentum. Your strongest punches are always when you are feeling the most energetic as your movements are fast and eager. Your slowest punches happen when you are feeling the most tired as your punches become more difficult to execute and lack focus and speed.
If your placement is spot on and you explode with energy then your speed will drive through to create the perfect punch. So, how do you get speed into your punch?
1) First of all your muscle fibres need to be familiar with the movement expected of them. This means lots of drills of the same jabs and crosses day in, day out. The less your brain has to think about what it is doing the quicker the punch will be. Your instincts start to take over the mechanics of what your body is doing. You start to feel the punch rather than think it through.
2) Next you need to constantly aim to be faster and faster. Even if you reach your limit you should always imagine being able to do it quicker. Lots of short 20 second drills of punching as fast as you can until complete fatigue sets in will get your twitch muscles reacting as fast as they can.
3) Use a resistance band to slow your punches down. Put the same level of effort into a punch and do ten on each side by placing the band behind your back and holding each end in your fists. Make sure it is tight enough to deliver a reasonable level of resistance. Once you have done ten, put the band down and do twenty punches against a bag. Repeat this approach and feel your punches speeding up as you take the resistance away each time. Try and do this one every day so you get the full benefits of it.
4) You have to balance the amount of speed work you do each day with the amount of strength training you do in a week. You cannot do too much speed work, whereas you can bulk up and lose speed if you do too much strength training. The more exercises you do that are explosive, the more your muscles will react like triggers and channel the power with immediate effect.
5) Floor to ceiling balls and speed balls are both great for testing how fast your punches are. Start with a jab and cross, move around the floor to ceiling ball and see if what your eye sees is what your fist ends up hitting. Any delay between sight and action will quickly become apparent. Once you get faster with your jab and cross start to make things more interesting by throwing some hooks and linking up combinations. The speed ball is all about technique and the connection between sight and hand movement. It will increase the speed of chemical signals from your brain to your arms, and drill urgency into the way you punch.
Speed is an area that requires a lot of intensive training and it is also the difference between a good punch and an exceptional one.
Try not to just bulk up the major muscles. Train the muscles involved in the whole range of movement for a punch. You can do this by approaching your major muscle groups with a slightly more varied weights programme. Try the following:
The standard chest press is a nice exercise to couple with press ups for the ultimate chest workout. Shoulders are more complex because there are lots of muscles involved that can often benefit from an individually tailored exercise. Shoulder presses are just one variant though people tend to overlook the rest. Shoulder shrugs help develop the neck muscles. Your deltoids can be targeted with a lateral or frontal raise. An upright row will target the lateral deltoid as well as lots of the smaller muscles in the shoulder and of course the trapezius (the one below your neck that stretches the full width of your back from one shoulder to the other). For sport specific exercises do slow punches holding dumbbells. Start with the highest weight you can manage and then reduce them and increase the reps until the muscles are fatigued. You can also use cables for this exercise to feel resistance throughout the punch.
To work the traps you have an upright row and to target that area between the shoulder blades a bend over lateral raise is recommended. Once the upper back is done you then have the lower back. This is best targeted with dead lifts, held static plank or bridge (depending on what you call it in your parts) lateral raise (where you lay on your front, keep your feet and hips on the floor and peel your upper body upwards in a controlled lift). The clean and press works the major muscle groups in the back as well as the shoulders so it is good as part of a circuit training session – you can always add in a bend over row or a dead lift to put three exercises into one flowing movement.
A good combination with back exercises is abdominal exercises. There are loads of ab exercises so whatever you do, keep it varied and never let it get stale or repetitive as this will not enable you to progress. Choose from:
- Full sit ups with a double punch at the top
- Leg raises
- Side plank
- Oblique twists, so elbow to knee – try and keep the shoulders off the floor to keep tension on the abs the whole time
- Flexiball crunches (a more intense sit up with your back on the ball so it rests in the hollow of your back)
- Medicine ball or weighted sit ups – these can include anything from a 5-20kg weight for abs of steel
- Knees together, feet together, twist down each side alternating to touch your heels
- Froggies – sit up in a V shape and push the legs away and relax the back towards the ground – hold an inch off the floor at both ends and return to the central V then repeat
- Oblique twists with a weight while maintaining a V shape. Just turn with the weight to your left and then to the right while keeping a static central position where your knees are bent and your upper body is in a half crunch position
- Holds – holding the legs an inch of the ground and release. Lay on your front and hold the upper body off the ground and then release
The first exercise involves giving someone a piggy back – you can walk and then run around a room and do squats with them on your back. You can also do calf raises against the weight of your partner. Then reverse it – lay on your back with your legs held up. Keep a slight bend in the knee and the legs shoulder width apart. Then have your partner lower themselves onto your legs. You can now perform leg presses against your partner’s weight – keep them slow and controlled. While you are down there roll onto your front and bend your feet towards your bum. Get your partner to pull your feet towards the ground. Tense the hamstrings and fight your partners pull – then relax and repeat.
Of course all of these exercises can be done on machines – the leg press and hamstring curler – but throwing a partner session in once every few weeks keeps the routine fresh. I would always recommend using dumbbells to begin with. You can lunge (lunge forward, side lunges, reverse lunges) and squat (nice and deep with your feet shoulder width apart and just pointing out slightly at an angle).
Then there are my favourite exercises for those that are serious about speed and power. The squat jump and jumping lunges. Squat jump as far forward as you can go and then run it back and repeat. Jumping lunges are harder to master. Build up your balance with alternating lunges and then start adding a few jumping ones – make sure you get nice and low before you jump up so you have enough drive to switch legs and land safely.
- Shuttle runs
- Interval training in a gym, bootcamp class, or outdoors
Start with a 20 minute jog then follow these progressions:
- 10 minute jog and 10 minute run
- 20 minute run
- 20 minute run and 10 minute jog
- 30 minute run
- 30 minute run with sprints between lampposts every 5 mins
- 30 minute run with sprints every 2.5 mins between lampposts
- 30 minute run with sprints every 2 mins between lampposts
- 30 minute run with sprints and 10 minute jog
- 30 minute run with sprints and 10 minute run
Practise single punches; a nice drill is ten jabs, ten crosses, ten hooks on each arm and ten upper cuts on each arm. Do not just do single punches though, as combinations are where the skill enhancement comes.
Try these to get you started:
- Jab – cross – left arm hook
- Jab – cross – left arm and then right arm hook
- Double jab – cross
- Jab – cross – duck to avoid a swinging right from the pad holder – jab as you come back up to standing
- Cross – jab – cross
- Cross – left arm hook to the ribs
- Jab – low right arm upper cut to the ribs
- Jab – cross – left arm hook – right arm hook
- Jab – cross – left arm uppercut to head
- Jab – cross – left arm hook – right arm uppercut – left arm jab as you pull out
In and out. That is the key here. Keep moving, throw some dummy foot movements. The pad holder should never be static as fighters do not stand still and wait for you to pick out your perfect shot. They move about. Make sure the pad holder moves away from you and towards you to simulate passive and aggressive fighters. You will know when you land your punches sweetly because the pads will give off a sharp slap as opposed to a dull thud.
The bag is the perfect place to put into practice what you have learnt through drills during pad work. Imagine the bag is an opponent at all times. This means quick footwork (being able to get in and out smoothly), keeping your guard up and anticipating an opponent’s reactions, and focusing your shots on key areas (like head height, solar plexus, body shots).
Ideally in a single training session you need to be doing between 6 to 12 bag work sessions at two minutes each. The training should be broken up with other exercises, whether they be weights or other cardio stations like skipping, running, or speed drills.
The quality of the bag round is what counts. Any beginners should start with one minute rounds with a focus on building their fitness and stamina. Once your base fitness is good, it can then be built on with longer rounds and a focus on footwork, speed, power, agility and combination training. A bag work session should never be stale and repetitive. It is a way to drill combinations, think up others and refine your skill when executing them.
At the end of each bag round you should need instant recovery – you should have pushed yourself to the max and have nothing more left to give. The more you train the shorter the recovery times will need to be. This level of fitness, and the ability to get in and out fat and cleanly as you deliver combinations, are the difference between winning and losing a fight.
- Another punch in a combination – Jab-cross-low left hook
- A duck and weave in anticipation of the opponents response
- A side step to take you out of the line of a counter attack
- A pull back out to give yourself time as your opponent charges back at you
- A pivot and perhaps a turning kick (roundhouse) or a right hook to the ribs to evade the counter-attack and come straight back with one of your own
Again, try lots of different combinations, keep moving and if you can go longer than two minutes you are not simulating a fighting situation properly. Try and mimic the problems you face when sparring and think of solutions to the weaknesses this style of training has been highlighting.
It is not always going to go well and sometimes you will be completely out classed but this is the learning process. I once got hammered against an opponent that liked to get in and stay in – scoring point after point because I wasn’t fast enough on my feet. I went away and practised over and over different attacks where I got in and out in a flash. I fought him again one week later and engaged my head. Suddenly he looked like a novice. I was in and out in seconds so he didn’t get an opportunity to fight me where his strengths lie. He got fatigued quickly as I was on my feet constantly moving out of his reach. A negative quickly became a positive and I remembered that sparring is a match to be won with the head and not the heart.
Try and spar as much as you can with lots of different opponents so you are used to varied approaches. And enjoy it because this is where you get to put into practice all of your hard work.
Now go out there and keep punching until you achieve perfection…. It can be done and you have the know-how to do it now… Good luck!