Whether it’s self-defense or trying to win in the ring, powerful punches are the best tool in a fighter’s arsenal. So it only makes sense to develop these strokes as much as possible and there are several ways to do it.
Before making any stroke-specific moves, however, make sure you are building a strong foundation first by using the large base lifts. There’s a reason the squats and deadlifts are part of almost every sport’s training regimen.
Also, before doing rotational force training, make sure your core can handle the stresses caused by the major lifting operations by doing regular anti-rotation exercises like the Pallof press or the reverse one-armed row.
The main goal of our core muscles is to protect the spine from violent rotational movements. Since punching involves violent turning movements, you must be able to properly control and stop these forces without harming yourself.
With that said, here are some exercises to include in your program to take your punches to the next level.
. The floor press
The reason the floor press is such a good exercise is because it strengthens the front delts and triceps, which play a key role in delivering a punch while protecting the shoulders and pecs from injury (since the range of motion doesn’t allow that they overextend).
Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight and wide apart so that your torso is completely isolated. Grab the bar. The width of your handle should be narrower than that of the bench press. Lower the weight slowly and in a controlled manner.
At the bottom, your elbows should be touching the floor at a 45-degree angle. Then explode and repeat.
Keep reps between 2 and 5. To develop performance, the load should be about 70 percent of your current reps. So if you do 3 reps you are using 70 percent of your max. 3 repetitions. Do 3 to 4 sets.
2. The land mine strike
Another great exercise that mimics the straight punch is land mine strike. Place the bar in the landmine / angular position, assume your fighting stance, and grab it with your guide hand. Explosively slide the bar away, following its path at about 45 degrees, and slowly lowering the weight back.
Always remember to hold up your other hand and protect your face like you would in a fight. When you are done with the pile, switch hands and work the regular lay. In this case, the body turns more.
The load should be about 70 percent of your current repetitions. Do 3 to 4 sets of 2 to 5 repetitions.
3. Med Ball rotation throw
Developing rotational force is what striking is all about, and the med-ball rotational throw is a great exercise for doing just that.
Grab a med / slam ball and get into a fighting stance while standing on the side of the wall. Keep your elbows and the ball at chin level. While maintaining a rigid core, twist your hips and toss the ball against the wall as hard as you can, pulling through with your trailing hand.
Pull the hand back into the protective position just as you would after a blow. The goal here is to use the oblique and transverse abdominal muscles to transfer the force to the outer extremities. When changing sides, change your fighting stance so that you always throw the ball with your trailing hand.
Do 3 sets of 5 reps on each side.
4. One-legged side binding
The hips play an important role in generating knockout hits, and the one-legged side binding is a great way to learn how to create torque.
Start from a normal standing position and take one step back with one leg. Lower your body and put weight on your front leg, but make sure to sit back on your hips and not lean forward on your knee. Just before the execution, lift your back leg off the floor, shoot your hips through, and jump.
Rotate in the air and land with both feet at a 90-degree angle perpendicular to your starting position. Make sure you are holding the landing in a stable position and properly absorbing the force.
This movement again forces you to work the muscles on the transverse side, but you’re also working on the side chain because you’re pushing off the hip.
Do 2 sets of 8 repetitions on each side.
5. What NOT to do: shadow boxing with dumbbells
Not only is shadow boxing with dumbbells useless for developing punching power, it also damages your technique and can likely lead to injury in the long run.
First, the biomechanics of the exercise are completely wrong. Gravity always pulls the weight perpendicular to the ground, while punching is of course a horizontal movement.
Since you are not pushing against resistance, not only is it worthless to develop strength, but your punching technique will suffer badly.
The nervous system changes the way the blow is delivered to overcome the added resistance. Typically, this creates a habit of dropping your hands as you withdraw, all as you get used to beating slowly.
Some will argue that you can use very light dumbbells to simulate wearing gloves, but if so, why not just train wearing gloves?
Another variation that many use is punching while stretching a ribbon around the back so that the resistance is actually horizontal. That doesn’t make much sense either. The belt exerts its maximum resistance precisely in the end area of the punch, the point at which you have to generate maximum acceleration.
The final argument that weighted shadow boxing supporters offer is that many champions use it. This is true but does not prove anything. It is still an outdated method of training, and although they used it, these people became masters, not because of it.
Last but not least, the sensitive connective tissue of the shoulder and elbow joints can and will be damaged cumulatively over the years after enough repetitions.
Points to take away
- Build a strong foundation with the great fundamentals. Squat, deadlift, push and pull often.
- Make sure your core is sturdy and can take the loads by using anti-rotation movements before doing the riskier rotational movements.
- Think of the above exercises as a supplement to your main exercise routine.
- If you do shadow dumbbells with dumbbells, please stop.
If you follow these guidelines, provided you also work on the correct hitting technique, you are well on your way to becoming a tough hitter.
Related: How to Train for Fighting
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