To be able to punch effectively is a key component of any martial art and this article details how to increase punching power at home.
An effective punch, landed on target, at the right time, can end a fight in seconds. It’s therefore a key skill for all fighters to develop. Whilst timing and accuracy is something that can be practised in the gym, developing punching power is something that can be worked on at home.
I’ve outlined a number of methods that can be used which can be incorporated into your training regime. Some involve simple equipment like resistance bands or a barbell. There’s even one that doesn’t involve any equipment.
Experiment to see which training method works for you. There’s nothing stopping you from incorporating all of them into your exercise repertoire.
How to increase punching power at home with isometrics
I’ve spoken about the benefits of isometrics in a previous article here.
The term “isometric” combines the Greek words “Isos” (equal) and “metria” (measuring), thus the muscle contracts without changing in length.
To help visualize this, imagine pushing or pulling against an immovable object with sustained, near maximal effort. The muscle is contracting but without changing its actual length. Pushing against an immovable object in this way is called an ‘overcoming isometric’.
It’s an extremely effective way to get strong in a very short space of time. Indeed, it was the main way that strongman Alexander Zass, known as “The Amazing Samson”, used to train. He performed in the early 20th century and would amaze audiences with his feats of strength.
We can use overcoming isometrics to help develop our punching power.
The first thing to do is find a suitable solid wall that you can push strongly against. Then adopt a fighting stance and get your body into a position as if you had thrown a punch. Your fist should touch the wall at the point at which you would have hit an imaginary opponent. This is illustrated in the picture below:
Once in this position push with your fist into the wall.
What muscles generate punching power?
This is a very good technique for seeing which muscles you are engaging when you throw a punch. You should feel the muscles tensing not only in your hand, triceps and pectorals, but also through the core of your body, into your glutes, your rear leg and heel.
Indeed the power of the punch comes from the foot pushing back on the floor and flows upwards through the body, before being released through the fist and into the opponent. This is often referred to the kinetic chain.
As soon as you start the exercise you should try to engage all the above muscles as quickly as possible and to push as hard as you possibly can.
You will know that your muscles are contracting at the appropriate level when they begin to quiver with the effort. Again, mentally focus to ensure that you can feel all the muscles working throughout the kinetic chain.
You should continue “pushing” for 10 seconds. Once complete, you should shake out your limbs to relieve the tension before repeating the exercise with the other arm.
You’ve now completed the exercise at the full range position: at the point of impact. Now move a little closer to the wall so that your at the mid-way position; your arm is half way between being full retracted and fully extended, with your fist still pressing against the wall. Your torso will also be twisted to be slightly more square on to the wall itself.
Repeat the process by pushing as hard as you can against the wall as you’ve just done previously, ensuring that you can feel all your muscles working.
It’s important to shake off the tension after each position before repeating the exercise using the other arm.
Finally repeat the exercise at a closer range. This will involve moving closer to the wall and repeating the process using both arms.
The reason for working at different ranges is that isometric exercises tend to develop strength in the angle of the joint being worked. There’s a slight overlap to the surrounding angles (about 10 degrees either side). For instance, imagine working your arm doing an isometric bicep curl trying to curl an immovable object If your arm is working at right angles at the elbow joint when doing the isometric hold, that’s where the bulk of the strength will be developed. You may also get some strength development in the elbow joint angle from 80 to 100 .
Q Should I wear boxing gloves during this exercise?
You should wear whatever gloves you usually wear when training and fighting. If you’re an MMA practitioner then you should complete the exercise using MMA gloves. Likewise, if you’re a boxer, then you should wear your boxing gloves when completing the routine.
Conversely, if practise Karate, then you would train with bare fists. However, you may want to press a towel against the wall so that knuckles are not scrapped or damaged.
Q How hard should I push?
You need to push using considerable force in order to generate a physiological stimulus that will tell the muscles to adapt and get stronger. A good indication if you’re pushing hard enough is when the muscle shake and quiver with the exertion. This level of effort needs to be maintained for 6 – 10 seconds.
Mental focus is needed to ensure all the muscles involved in the “punch” are contracted. This includes every muscle in the kinetic chain from the foot on the floor to the fist pushing against the wall. This is an excellent way to develop the “mind muscle” connection.
Q Should I warm up before this exercise?
This is an intense form of exercise and you need to ensure your body is adequately warmed up before you embark on this form of training. It’s also wise to get checked out by your health professional to ensure you don’t have any underlying medical condition that could be aggravated by this form of training.
Q Which part of the fist should I be pushing against the wall with?
You should be pushing with the first two knuckles of the fist (the one of the index finger and middle finger).
It’s also really important to keep forearm and fist in straight alignment. If you push with your wrist bent, you are likely to end up with an injury.
How to increase punching power at home with weights
This next exercise involves a barbell but only weighted at one end. The other end is pushed into the corner of the room; I would recommend wrapping this end with a thick towel, otherwise the movement is likely to damage your walls.
To perform the exercise pick up the weighted end so that your facing the corner and the bar is held in your punching hand so that it is resting vertically at about a 45 degree angle.
You should stand in your fighting stance with your hand holding the bar at around your shoulder area as though you are about to throw a punch.
Push the weight up to the fully extended punching position. It should be noted that you should never fully extend your elbow joint. There should always be a slight bend otherwise you could end up with an injury.
The movement should be explosive and should incorporate all the muscles involved in the kinetic chain, not just your pectoral and tricep muscles. At the fully extended position, slowly ease the weight back to its original position. This is one rep.
Q How much weight should I use?
This is not a powerlifting exercise. The weight should be light enough to allow for you to move explosively, as opposed to having to grind out the reps. At no point should you reach failure; the moment when you can’t perform another repetition.
It’s better to work at a lighter weight rather than a weight that’s too heavy.
Q How many reps?
12 to 15 repetitions is a good guideline. Again you shouldn’t be working to failure. The last rep should feel harder than the first but you’re not powerlifting or bodybuilding here. Once you’ve completed the requisite number of reps, you should swap sides and work with your other arm, swapping stances at the same time.
Q How many sets?
Three sets is about right. Remember there are diminishing returns with each extra set. You get the maximum training effect from the first set. Any additional sets eat into the body’s ability to recover from the exercise. There’s therefore a trade off between the number of sets you perform and the time it takes to recover from the exertion. Too many sets and you’ll be sore for days, barely able to move, when you could have otherwise been training.
This is a similar reason why I don’t believe in performing weighted exercises to muscular failure: it’s just too taxing for the body. Nowhere in the natural world does a muscle ever work to complete failure. Think about the animal kingdom. Have you ever seen any animal working its muscular system so hard that it cannot make another movement? Of course not. It wasn’t designed to be used in this way. Train, don’t strain. Stop two to three reps before muscular failure.
How to increase punching power at home with resistance bands
The beauty of resistance bands is that the further they are stretched, the more effort is required to stretch them further.
This often not the case with free weights. For example, take the standing dumbell curl. The hardest part of the exercise is at the beginning when the arm is moving from the straight position. At the arm moves up to where the elbow joint is at right angles, the exercise becomes easier. As the weight moves up towards the shoulder, very little resistance is involved.
In contrast, with resistance bands, minimal effort is required at the beginning of the movement. As the band is stretched, it becomes more difficult so that by the end of the movement maximum effort is required.
In this exercise, one end of the band is attached to a heavy, stationary object that will not move. It should be attached at a point at around shoulder height. Facing away from this point, in your fighting stance, you then hold the handle at around the shoulder area, as though you’re about to throw a punch. At this point the resistance band should be taut.
I recommend the resistance band set from Undersun Fitness which offers really good value for money – you can complete a full body workout for the fraction of the price of a weights set.
Now perform the punch, remembering to engage muscles from the feet upwards. Twist the body, throw the hips into it and extend the arm, powering the fist forward.
Bring the hand back to the shoulder position. That’s one rep. Like the exercise before you should work to do 12 to 15 reps.
Q What sort of resistance should you use?
You still need to be able to move explosively and at speed. It’s better to use a band that’s too lightweight rather than one that offers too much resistance.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas as to how to increase punching power at home using isometrics, weights and resistance bands.