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How to Punch Harder and Faster: What You Need to Understand

You learn how to punch correctly in Boxing, most likely in your first class. Of course, compared to your more experienced peers, your execution is probably sloppy at best. It’s normal to feel off-kilter in the first few sessions. But as you go at it consistently, the moves become muscle memory. Eventually, responding to your coaches’ cues will become second nature.

There are many variations and combinations of punches you’ll learn. The basic ones are the Cross, the Jab, the Hook, and the Uppercut. As you progress, your coach will likely teach you the Overhand too. Knowing how to do these punches and doing them correctly brings a sense of satisfaction. At first, that is. However, the time will come when you’ll want something more.

a man uppercuts a focus pad

After all, the explosive bang-bang-bang of your gloves against the pads is a very addicting thing. It’s normal to want more. You want to hear more of it, and louder against your ears.

Don’t worry, we feel you. These sounds are indicators of good progress. It means you’re getting stronger. And if you keep working at it, you’ll get stronger still.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking to do more. More strength, more speed, and more power. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll tell you how to punch harder and faster, as well as which muscles you need to train to do that.

  • Different types of punches

    There are many types of punches. Different styles use varying types of punching techniques to execute them. The four standard punches are the Cross, Jab, Hook, and Uppercut, and they exist among many disciplines. There is a diversity of schools that practise them. And yet, the basic mechanics and structure of execution are pretty uniform across these schools.

    The Cross and the Jab are both straight punches. Their difference lies in the arm used to execute them. The Jab is a blow using the lead arm, while the Cross is a straight punch delivered with the rear hand.

    (In most cases, your dominant hand is your rear hand.)

    The Hook and the Uppercut both involve shifting the fist. The hook turns to aim towards the side of the body or head. On the other hand, the uppercut rises vertically towards the head or the upper body.

    Another popular and widespread punch is the Overhand, also called the drop punch. It is similar to the hook, except it travels a semi-circular, downward vertical trajectory. Basically, it travels in the opposite direction of the uppercut.

    It’s important to realize that despite being arm strikes, punching engages the rest of the body too. There is a moving, powered link between the fist and the ground, making a kinetic chain. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

  • The Kinetic Chain

    The kinetic chain is a concept that says interlocking joints and segments create a system where the movement of one affects the rest. If we apply that to anatomy, it means that body segments, joints, and muscles affect each other during movement.

    Let’s apply that to something we’re more familiar with. Boxing may emphasise upper body use, but it is a full-body effort in reality. The calves, quads, glutes, and hips twist the body. As a result, the twisting motion generates torque or rotational force. The shoulder, chest, back, and arm muscles extend the arm in a punch, passing the force onto the target upon contact.

    the muscles you have to optimize to punch faster and harder

    Even with all the muscles involved, a fighter’s punching power comes mostly in optimising the body movement. That is, to say, the technique matters a lot. That’s why knowing how to punch correctly, in Boxing or elsewhere, is vital to becoming stronger.

    We use a lot of muscles for punching, but there are no secrets to punching power. It’s all about the proper form and execution. (Click here for a comprehensive breakdown on different punches.)

    The following muscles are at work when you punch:

    • The muscles in front of your thighs (quads) may tighten or loosen depending on the punch.
    • Your butt (glutes) tighten and extend your hips forward.
    • The force travels across your torso as your obliques work to rotate it.
    • The shoulders (deltoids) raise or hold the arm in position.
    • Your serratus anterior muscles (right under the armpits) move your arm towards the direction of the punch. The pectoralis minor and major (chest) support this movement.
    • The upper arm (biceps and triceps) extends your arm.
    • Forearms tighten to stabilise the wrist, and
    • Finally, the fist makes contact with the target.

    Why is this important?

    Sure, knowing how to punch correctly benefits the power of your punch. But it’s not just that. It also keeps you safe and injury-free as a result. 

    The muscles involved in the movement of power also support the structural integrity behind your punch. That is to say, incorrect execution or form can lead to different injuries. Here are a few examples of injuries caused by bad form:

    • The wrist and elbow can collapse, possibly leading to dislocation or ligament tears. 
    • Similarly, shoulders can overload from the force of impact. 
    • Since, bad form produces less force, you may overexert to compensate. The large muscle groups in the back and legs are the likely victims of muscle strain. 

    The support and stability muscles provide directly relate to their strength. That’s why it is very important to understand the mechanics of the punch. 

    (Also, knowing what muscles help you punch lets you identify exercises that target them. Win-win!)

  • Try out these exercises

    Duck lunge to punch as kinetic chain exercise

    This exercise is an excellent way to visualize the kinetic chain. Start with a deep squat and step forward into a lunge with the rear leg of your fighting stance. Follow this with another step to lunge with your lead leg. If you stand up from this position, you will find yourself in your fighting stance.

    Add a little twist by punching with a bit of force as you come up. Depending on the arm you plan to use, you will lift yourself into position with your rear or lead leg.

    This exercise works great for your leg and core muscles. It also helps develop your sense of balance by shifting your centre of gravity.

  • Jab and cross

    The jab and the cross work primarily the same muscle groups. The kinetic chain originates from the leg adjacent to the punching hand. It pushes the hip forward, turns the non-punching shoulder back, and pushes the punching arm straight upfront. 

    The pushing force of the cross comes from the back muscles. (Specifically, the posterior thoracic muscles, if you’re curious.) The jab’s quick and explosive movement, on the other hand, is well-executed with the involvement of the triceps. 

    Here are some exercises that work these muscles:

    Split-stance isometric wall punch

    Aside from engaging muscles active in both the jab and cross, this also exercises the chest and back. Notably, the muscles of the pectoral girdle and the erector spinae. Those are muscles involved in posture. So this exercise can improve your posture and add power to your punches at the same time.

    This exercise is quite simple. Get in your fighting stance, facing the wall. Put your hands on it, with your “punching” hand in a fist. Push the wall for with the fist ten seconds, then relax. Repeat for a few times, then switch to the other hand.

    Tricep dips

    The triceps are responsible for the swift movement of the jab, so it only makes sense that tricep dips make this list. It only requires a bit of modification in how you execute it. Take your time going down, then push yourself all the way up with a burst of movement. This exercise contracts the triceps against resistance. As a result, you add more force and explosiveness to your punch when the resistance is gone.

    Narrow push-ups

    Narrow push-ups also work your triceps. In addition to that, it works the muscles called serratus anterior. (Those are the muscles that pull the shoulder blade forward.) The narrow push ups’ movement and range of motion of the narrow are similar to how the arms move when throwing a jab and a cross, adding to its usefulness.

     

  • Uppercut

    The kinetic chain of the uppercut follows a similar path to the jab and cross. It follows a transfer from the leg adjacent to the executing fist. Similarly, the force travels along the torso and pushes the arm up front, but there are some differences. With the uppercut, the spine muscles contract and core muscles extend simultaneously. 

    Depending on the type of uppercut, the biceps may either hold the arm’s structure or provide more pushing power.

    Here are some exercises to power up your uppercut:

    Kettlebell overhead press

    The kettlebell overhead press works the same muscles involved in uppercuts. And, even without the weight, the movement engages the muscles regardless. In fact, if executed properly, it should activate most of the muscles in the body. It’s great for conditioning your upper body as well, which definitely doesn’t hurt if you’re looking to power up your punches.

    Archer push-ups 

    Archer Push-ups work great as calisthenic exercises for the biceps. Don’t limit yourself to a single type of push up, though. Try your way through different variations of push-ups. Similar to boxing, the number of muscles push-ups engage is vastly underestimated. It may look like it’s only the upper body you’re working with push-ups, but the truth is it hits nearly all muscle groups as well.

    Glute bridge with alternating overhead reach

    We know this item on the list boggled your mind a little bit. After all, what’s the glute bridge got to do with uppercuts? Well, uppercuts are most powerful when you squat into them before you release them upwards. With a tightening of the glutes, core, and back, the upward release of force adds more power to your uppercut. 

  • Hook and overhand

    The hook and overhand have also a kinetic chain that makes the torso turn like throwing a straight punch. But this turning motion is magnified and redirected by the leg adjacent to the punching fist. 

    As the force from the adjacent leg pushes the hips forward, the opposite leg’s glutes extend to increase the rotation. That provides a small upwards boost that travels along the back, similar to the uppercut. 

    The obliques (or the v-line) control this boosted rotation. It directs the force across the back muscles to the shoulders and arms. Aside from the muscles surrounding the shoulder blade and the ribs, there are also supporting structures. For the hook, the pectoral muscles provide support. On the other hand, it’s the trapezius for the overhand. 

    Here are some exercises that engage these muscles:

    Threading the needle

    Threading-the-needle is less for strengthening and more for loosening the muscles you use for the hook. Endless repetitions of punches can tighten muscles. As a result, it affects mobility and the overall force they generate. This exercise helps with activating and stretching the muscles for the hook. Aside from that, it also benefits the muscles for straight punches. 

    Band pull apart

    An easy exercise to work the back muscles for both of these punches is the band pull apart. (You can do it even without a resistance band.) It works to strengthen your shoulders and weak back muscles. If you prefer something more challenging, pull-up progressions will also serve the same benefit. 

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