Knockouts are the holy grail of boxing. Fans LOVE ‘EM. A punch that connects with venomous and deadly accuracy has crowds gasping in shock and awe, and then erupting as the unfortunate sod hits the deck.
We dream of one-punch victories and there’s a part of us that believes we’ve got the firepower to end the fight early.
If you’re a big fella blessed with bolder-like hands, you may be naturally gifted with punches that roll through like a wrecking ball.
Yet, for most of us, the strength of our strikes is something we need to work on. It does improve with practice and as you learn sound technique.
However, if you’re reading this, my guess is that you’re a little impatient, and you want to know how to punch harder right now. Am I right? 😉
Okay, no more holding back, here are 12 top tips to increase punching power.
1. You Can’t Punch Hard If You Don’t Know How to Punch
Well, you don’t say. It’s a fairly obvious tip, but it’s worthwhile reiterating.
Proper technique will win out over brute force.
Ali throws the cross with his bodyweight behind it.
We’ve covered the ins and outs of punching before, so I’m not going to go over it again now. However, there is one thing you should bear in mind that if mastered, instantly increases punching power.
Punching is a whole-body movement. It is not just an arm movement.
Think about the mechanics of a punch; you pivot on your toes, push through your legs, tighten your stomach, twist your hips and shoulders, extend your arm, and tuck your head in behind your shoulder. It involves everything from head to toe.
You have to utilize your entire body if you want maximum force. Focus on mastering correct technique and using your whole body, and I guarantee you will instantly hit harder.
2. See-saw Your Hips and Shoulders
Power punches require you to rotate your hips and shoulders with every single punch.
When you throw four straight punches (jab-cross- jab-cross), your hips and shoulders should be seesawing back and forth.
You don’t spin on the ball of your foot as you do with the hook, but there needs to be significant hip-shoulder rotation if you are to generate the torque necessary for quick and powerful punches.
Think about swinging a baseball bat to see why this is so effective. If you were batting but someone was to hold your shoulders preventing you from turning, it would be a miracle if you managed to tap the ball further than five meters.
However, when you combine swinging the bat with swift and powerful core rotation, the torque generated at the end of the bat is enough to knock the ball out the park.
It’s the same deal with punching. Your arm is the bat, and the fat end of the bat is your fist. To generate force, you have to swing your “bat”.
However, the motion is different; wildly coming in from the side or over the top with a haymaker is easy to see coming. To be fast and effective, you instead have to swing your hips and shoulders.
Mastery of this motion will lead to rock-solid punches.
3. Relaxation is the Key to Strength
To generate power, you’ve got to relax.
I know this tip is difficult to get your head around. When you’re boxing, you’re usually fired up and full of energy and excitement. You may not notice it, but there’s usually a slight (or sometimes severe) tension in your muscles. This is due to you being prepared to hit or get hit.
But tight muscles are less efficient than loose, relaxed muscles, and you’re not going to be able to hit as hard when you’re tense.
Punching is a snapping motion, and you only clench your fists the split-second before impact. It’s not like weightlifting, where you’re under tension the entire movement.
You’re therefore wasting energy by constantly being in a state of tension. And wasting needless energy will drain your strength in a few short rounds.
When you’re in the on guard stance, you want to keep a tight guard, but at the same time, you want to be loose and flowing. That way, you’re going to be less easy to read, and your opponent will be caught off guard when you throw out a quick punch that has a wicked pop at the end of it.
It is the calmer and more composed fighter who will come out on top.
If you want to become more relaxed comfortable in the ring, you’ve got to spar more often.
4. Pack Some Muscle Onto Those Chicken Legs
“What??? This ain’t kickboxing. Why the hell would I train my legs?”
Well, remember tip one about punching being a whole body movement? Last time I checked, your body included your legs.
Building leg muscle leads to increased punching power
Some boxers won’t do any strength training, and the ones that do, often neglect leg exercises in favor of sculpting the upper body.
I’m not advising that you start squatting double your body weight. That would build useless, bulky muscle that only slows you down while requiring more oxygen to feed.
But I do think that leg strength is an important element in your punching game.
When you throw the uppercut, you push off the ground and drive the punch up with your legs. If you relied solely on arm strength, your uppercut would be nothing more than a tippy-tap.
My advice would be to work on increasing leg strength in proportion to whole body strength.
Develop explosive leg strength through kettlebell training, CrossFit, and plyometrics. Or, create a simple circuit that includes exercise like resistance band squats, barbell lunges, and box jumps.
Incorporating leg exercise into your training will translate into harder punches.
5. Knees Slightly Bent
Having your knees slightly bent is the foundation of almost every athletic position – and for good reason…
If your knees are locked, you’re much more likely to injure yourself if you suddenly put load on the knee joint.
With your knees slightly bent, your joints are loose, and your muscles have room to expand and contract. It leaves you poised and ready to launch an attack or make a hasty retreat.
And when it comes to strength, bent knees can transfer the energy you create from pushing off the ground to the upper body.
By keeping your knees bent, you’re more mobile, and you’re geared up for strength and speed.
6. Don’t Lift Your Feet
Being a nimble fighter that moves in and out of range is how I like to fight. I like to keep busy on my feet during the round.
That being said, when I’m throwing, my feet are firmly planted on the ground.
At no point should either foot be off the ground. The Superman Punch is the exception to this rule, but as it’s illegal in boxing, the rule still stands.
Keeping both feet planted is important for three reasons.
- Much of the power is generated from your legs when you push off or twist and turn on the ground.
- If your foot leaves the floor, the momentum of the punch will pull you off-balance.
- Not having a stable base leaves you exposed to a counter punch.
7. Are You Overextending?
Have you found your range sweet spot or are you overextending? (Image: Flickr / U.S. Army)
Range is a tricky thing to get right in the beginning. Sometimes you’re way too close, and your arm is bent as you connect and you can’t offload your power. Other times, your punches are falling short of their target, and you’re overextending to the point of straining your arm muscles.
The trouble with overextending is that you’ve lost most of the power the punch started with. Even if you connect, your punch will do little damage.
Overextending will also leave you off-balance and is potentially damaging to your elbow joint.
You need to figure out the sweet spot for your range where you’re far enough away from your target to have time to react to attacks, but close enough that your punches have considerable force upon impact.
To give your punches that added oomph, try to punch through your target.
8. Punch Through Your Opponent
When you tackle in contact sports like football and rugby, you go through the player if you want to wipe him out. Devastating punches in boxing are achieved in much the same way.
Stopping just at the point of contact will lessen the force being transferred.
The solution is to set your target just a couple of inches further back from the surface.
I like to imagine that the person I’m fighting has a target painted on the back of their head. My fist is aiming for that target, not stopping at their face.
The punch is still a whipping motion and delivered quickly. You’re not trying to push the punch through the body, but you want to make sure all your power is transferred.
Keep your punches quick and snappy, but set your aim just that little bit deeper if you want to make sure your punches are really felt.
9. Put Your Weight Behind the Punch
For your punches to be effective, they’ve got to be backed by your body weight.
The force of your punch is determined by how fast you can accelerate your mass at the target. Or put in other terms:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
Both speed and mass are vitally important to generate force and one does little without the other. That’s why a fighter that is quick as a whippet but hasn’t learned to put his weight behind his punch is feeble, and why big bruisers can’t punch for shit until they learn how to shift that mass quickly.
Think of the jab. It’s certainly quick, but most jabs are weak because they only have the weight of the arm behind it. But when you step forward with the jab, or rotate and really put your shoulder behind the punch, the power is increased tenfold.
If you want to throw harder punches, you have to be able to transfer your weight efficiently and engage your entire body.
10. Work On Your Speed
Get busy on the speed bag (Image: Flickr / Peter Amador)
Now for the second part of the equation. Once you’ve worked out how to rotate your shoulders so that your weight is behind your punch, it’s time to start speeding up the process.
The faster you can propel your fist to the target, the harder your punch.
That’s right, the faster you punch, the harder you hit… as long as your weight is behind the punch.
Weight and speed go hand in hand, and you need both to be powerful.
If you want to work on your speed, get busy on the speed bag or double-end bag. Punch training with a resistance band or bench pressing with resistance bands will also make your strikes faster.
11. Deadly Precision
You can have the strongest punch in the world, but it’s useless unless it connects with its target.
Even being off target by a couple of inches will result in wasting your power and energy. Plus, glancing blows can leave you off-balance and exposed.
But if you’re able to deliver a loaded punch right on the chin of your opponent, then it’s pretty much good night.
To work on your accuracy, try hitting the double end bag with combinations and focus on connecting with your shots when you’re sparring.
12. Develop Iron Fists
Your fist is the hammer head which delivers the blow, and as such, it has to be able to withstand the impact load.
Knuckle toughness and wrist strength are the two components that make for powerful, sledgehammer fists.
Wrist strength can be developed by forearm curls and by holding a dumbbell in each hand and rotating them in a circular motion.
Increasing the durability of your knuckles is a little bit more creative. Some people will hit the heavy bag with knuckles exposed – my preferred option. Every so often I’ll have a couple of rounds on the heavy bag with just my hand wraps on.
I’ve also heard of fighters laying into a bag of rice or a sandbag. It’s a little bit makeshift for me, but each to their own I guess.
Muay Thai fighters hit with their shins so they condition their shins
Now, some people reading this will be completely opposed to knuckle conditioning – most boxers and trainers are. However, I come from a Muay Thai background where this type of conditioning is normal. To condition their shins, Muay Thai fighters will kick sandbags, banana trees, and roll them with rolling pins.
Crazy? Possibly. But Thai boxers connect with their shins, and they need to have solid shins that feel no pain.
Whatever methods of knuckle strengthening you decide on (if any at all), make sure you follow proper punching technique and keep your wrists aligned to avoid an injury.
How awesome would it be if your attacker just crumbled when you punched him? Every boxer dreams of having knockout strength and destroying their opponents with a single punch.
Some fighters have a God-given talent for knocking people out, but the vast majority of us will have to work on our power. And just like every other part of boxing training, developing knockout strength takes time and practice.
Now you know how to make your punches harder, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and put it into action. Knock ‘em out, Champ.