Hard-Hitting Advice

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In the realm of the fighting sports, nothing is as dramatic and pulse-pounding as a devastating knockout punch. Sometimes it’s a quick yet dangerous jab that slips through the defense, surprising the recipient (and the crowd). In other moments, an athlete cocks back, twists from the core and delivers a haymaker so intense that the victim drops in a heap as the whole room shudders.

Owning such raw power isn’t necessarily just limited to the dreams of pugilists and martial artists. Really, anyone who’s gone a round or two with a speed bag can appreciate the desire. If you’re ready to hit harder, consider training to become more explosive — by strengthening your moves and mastering body-position basics, you’ll be able to pack more into your punch.

Your Power Source.

Hitting harder has little to do with your biceps girth or shoulder size. Boxers with a better punch learn to transfer strength from their feet to their fists, explains exercise-science and strength-and-conditioning expert David Sandler. “All force and power in punching comes from the ground up. The transfer of energy is created by pressing your feet into the ground as it comes up through your legs and hips,” says Sandler, author of Sports Power (Human Kinetics, 2005) and science adviser to the National Geographic’s TV shows Fight Science and Super Strength.

A punch makes a stronger impact when a boxer loads bodyweight into it. “The upper body rotates, bringing the arm around, and as the arm is coming around, it begins its extension toward the bag, the person or whatever the target may be,” he says.

Medicine-ball handoffs with a partner will mimic this movement. While maintaining an upright stance, rotate from the abdomen to the right and hand off the ball to your partner. Twist to your left and receive the handoff from your partner. Repeat quickly 10 to 12 times and then reverse.

Explode!

The kinetic link happens quickly. “Boxing training is a good method of learning how to be more powerful, explosive and faster,” Sandler adds. So if you train your body to be more explosive, the whole process will come together to make an impact, whether you’re working toward self-defense or simply improving your fitness boxing moves.

John Spencer Ellis, Ed.D., CEO and founder of the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association and the Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Association, suggests that athletes focus on training their fast-twitch muscle fibers. “If you are a traditionalist when it comes to fitness, stop it for a while and intelligently make a switch to faster and more explosive movements that are more specific to punching and fast responses,” he says. Whether it’s lifting weights, running stairs or skipping rope, go flat out. Short bursts of 10 to 20 seconds at a very high intensity will help you develop that explosive power.

Don’t forget your breath work. “Remember that the power starts in the feet and travels up the body like a whip: A good stance, power in the core, and a good exhale on the strike will increase power,” Ellis says. “Boxers should relax. A tight muscle is not fast, and anything slow reduces power.”

Fuel Up.

Sandler emphasizes recovery nutrition for stronger performance. “If you recover quicker, you will be better prepared for your next workout,” he says. A liquid beverage with a carbohydrate and protein combination digests quickly, Sandler says. Drink it 30 minutes before and after your workout. Recognizing your strength as it moves along the kinetic chain and developing explosive power will help you improve your hits. It will also give you the confidence to prepare for your power punch, whether it happens in a ring, an octagon or alone with a bag in the dusty corner of your favorite gym.