When it comes to self-defence or combat sports, learning how to punch is one of the most important lessons you can take.
The ability to punch hard will help you to protect yourself and your loved ones, or help you to achieve victory in the combat arena.
And in this article, we have created a complete guide to learning how to punch harder than you ever thought possible.
For that reason, we asked former professional boxing coach Neil Holland to co-author this explosive guide on how to punch harder.
Ready…let’s do this.
The Science of Punching Hard
When we start to break down how to punch we actually see that there is a science behind striking.
In fact, the scientific equation for punching with force is:
MASS X ACCELERATION = FORCE
And this is the first part of our article that requires investigation.
Because if we are talking about hitting harder we need to know the difference between force and power because these play an important part in any sporting or self-defence situation.
Most people will describe someone as hitting with ‘power’ such as “he hits with serious power” rather than “he has some serious force behind his punches”.
In fact, power and force are different things.
The difference between force and power can be described as follows:
Force = A push or a pull resulting from an interaction between objects.
Power = Power is the rate at which work is done, or energy is transmitted.
To sum it up nicely, force is the result of an interaction between two objects such as your fist and the opponents head.
Power, however, is the rate at which work is done, or energy is transmitted.
The equation for power is:
WORK/ (DIVIDED) BY TIME = POWER
These equations are essential to understand if you want to increase your punching ability because you can focus on training your muscles to increase your power and thus delivering more force.
If we were to give more analogies, we could say this: Person A walks up the stairs to the office on Monday morning. On Tuesday morning he runs up the stairs, the same work is being done (going up the stairs) but because the time is being reduced he generates more power on Tuesday.
And as such we know that speed makes a difference in the delivery of powerful strikes.
Think about it, stand in your fighting stance and throw a strike at a punch bag at super slow motion speed.
The bag doesn’t move.
Throw the same punch at speed and boom the bag moves.
But that is only half of the story because we have the issue of force.
We know that force = mass x acceleration and by understanding this you will learn how a knockout occurs.
Our brains sit inside our skull within a cerebral fluid.
When we have been punched hard the brain shifts inside the fluid and as the skull cannot move fast enough the brain knocks against the side of the skull causing a knockout.
So when we talk about punching harder we need to balance the need for powerful striking and also landing on target.
We know that striking on the chin is called ‘the sweet spot’ by many because it causes the knockout faster or in even simpler terms ‘it rattles the brain more violently’
So when punching harder we also need to balance the need for accuracy as well.
The Basic Stance For Power Punching
In order to punch with power, you need to stand in a stance that will allow you a combination of defence and power generation.
To do this I strongly suggest that you stand in the traditional boxer’s stance which is with your strong side/ hand at the rear and your weaker hand forward.
The reason for this is that you will use your front hand as a jab which will help to keep attackers at bay and also help you to bridge the distance between you and an attacker.
In addition the stronger rear hand will gain greater power as it moves along a greater distance towards the target.
The big mistake is that you think the arms will generate the power, when infact the power comes from the hips and feet.
To get into your stance you should:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Bring back your strongest sides foot, about half a step.
3. Bend your knees slightly
4. Keep your hands by the side of your face.
5. Raise the heel of your rear foot slightly off the ground to aid rottaion of the hips (you will raise the other heel when you strike with the lead hand).
How To Punch Hard With A Left Hook
The left hook is one of the most powerful strikes you can land.
Why? Because it comes out of the field of vision of the opponent.
In essence, it is the punch they never see coming.
The keys to developing power with the left hook is a rapid rotation of the hip, using the knee and turning the ankle of the lead foot.
Your arm and shoulder should be loose until the moment of impact and your aim should be to whip the hooking punch around into the opponent.
- To throw the left hook start off in your stance.
- From there raise the heel of your lead foot slightly off the ground.
- Twist your heel inwards quickly and at the same time tunr your knee inward as well.
- Also in tandom, you must violently twist your hips in this direction before raising your elbow and punching through the target.
This is a super powerful strike and with practise is a great addition to your skillset.
How To Throw A Hard Straight Right Punch
The straight right is perhaps the most powerful punch in any boxers or self-defence practioners arsenal (straight left if you are left handed).
The reason is that your stronger hand is travelling over greater distance and as a result gains more acceleration (mass x acceleration = power).
There are a lot of people who believe that you should stand with the strongest side to the opponent, however this is wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of sound reasons for this advice and when I am in close to the opponent in grappling range I do stand with my strongest side forward.
But when at a distance you should always stand with the strongest side at the rear.
To give a very quick reason why, take the test yourself.
Try and stand with your strongest side forward and punch straight with the rear, weaker side.
It feels terrible.
It feels weaker.
You lack power, drive and control.
What happens is that you end up recucing the ability of your lead hand and giving yourself a weaker rear hand.
Now, sometime you can train really hard and be what we call a converted orthodox to southpaw, but this is not worth the time or effort to do.
Ok, back to power striking.
To punch hard with the straight lead you need to follow these steps.
- Your right heel should be slightly raised.
- You will twist that heel outward slightly
- Violently twist the hips
- Ensure the punching arm is driven straight through the target.
- You should be stepping towards the target as you strike to land with your body weight behind the punch.
How To Punch With A Right Hook
The right hook is in essence the same as the left but in reverse.
It also works well because it is a shorter punch that can be thrown in close and it comes outside of the field of vision of the opponent.
The process for throwing the strike is the same as the straight right.
Your rear heel needs to be off the floor and you need to trun this along with your hips and shoulder to maximise power.
Using Body Mechanics To Generate Power
These punches have been shown in their purest form, that is they are shown in isolation and in a static position.
In reality you are likely to be moving and as such need to consider the use of body movement and mechanics to aid in your power.
This is far beyond the scope of an article to teach, but the best way is to start to experiment yourself, find a good coach and start learning to strike on the move.
How To Hit Hard On The Ground
We know that fights go to the ground both in the cage and the street and what follows are my tips for those situations.
Ok, the first port of call is that when you are on the ground the risk to your hands is far higher.
In vertical striking, the risk of damage comes to your hands from the impact with the skull.
When on the ground you have the floor behind the target (if you land on top).
Therefore accuracy becomes the number one tool for anyone on the ground. You want your strikes to count.
If you try and lie on your back and place your shoulders on the floor you will see you have no power so when on the ground you need to realise that your hips are also out of the equation, so the torso rotation is largely down to the chest and shoulders.
While it is difficult to explain in writing you need to study how MMA fighter strikes on the ground.
First, a lot of referencing is done by placing a hand near the opponents head to turn it sideways. This opens up the skull for striking and as such allows for a shot to land.
Other tricks and techniques include trapping hands and of course the use of elbows and hammer strikes.
One my top tips for power on the ground is to get your shoulders either off the floor if you are on the bottom or to pull your shoulders slightly back if you are on top.
But above all else, accuracy is the key.
How To Hit Hard In Self Defence
One of the major issues in self-defence is the debate as to using your open hand (slaps) or a closed fist. I have no issues with saying that if you start using open hand strikes you might get lucky but more often than not you will lose.
The fist is like attaching a brick to the end of your arms.
The open hand is like having a ping-pong paddle on your arm, sure a ping pong paddle will sting but at the end of the day, it ain’t no brick!
But in self-defence you do not have a huge glove protecting your hands, it is bone on bone when you strike and for that reason, accuracy is again essential.
Hammer strikes and also elbows are equally powerful when close up but if we stick to punches you need to make sure that your strikes land below the eye line.
Any higher up and you will risk breaking your own hand on the thicker parts of the skull.
I use a simple checklist before any physical altercation.
Balance: Am I on balance?
Distance: Am I close enough or should I bridge the distance with footwork?
Opportunity to take a shot: Can they hit me back equally hard, if they can I need to reposition.
Bonus: Pro Boxing Coaches Ten Tips For Powerful Punches
As a bonus to this article I have asked a pro boxing coach to provide me with 10 tips.
Although these tips are designed for boxers you can see their use in self-defence training and also other combat sports.
1. Improve and work on defence.
This will give you more opportunities and better positions.
2. Improve your footwork
This will compliment your defence and improve your striking positions.
3. Use weights to train for speed not muscle. (Less weight, more reps, in shorter times)
Muscle strength dissipates with muscle fatigue. Correct whole-body mechanics delivers power more through technique than strength and is still there during fatigue.
4. Practise punching that involves rotation of the body.
This generates good technique that feeds off good speed and footwork.
5. Concentrate on fitness and conditioning.
Believe me, everything in performance comes off the back of this.
6. Learn the difference between pulled punches and driven punches.
Pulled punches follow the commitment of the body direction. The body weight pulls the punch through and accelerates it like a hammer thrower does. The driven punch uses the body weight to push the punch into the opponent. Both are much more powerful than arm punching alone.
7. Learn the difference between weight balanced evenly on both legs and weight transferred over the front leg or the back leg.
This is a crucial sensation to master because it leads to small, fast and powerful shifts of body weight that enhance the punch. It seems an obvious skill but this subtle mastery is crucial to control of power involving timing.
8. Master timing. Learn to punch as the target moves towards you or onto any favoured shot. It will amplify the power you already have.
It’s the car crash principle, the combining of the mass of two bodies plus their acceleration.
9. Lie on your back with shoulders flat on the floor and punch upwards.
This will show you how power punching relies on body mechanics and is the best way to remind anyone that simply jumping on the weights does not deliver the best power.
You will feel useless and robbed of nearly all power. Try it!
10. Get a good coach with a good analytical ability regarding technique.
The sculptor Michelangelo was once asked how he carved such beautiful sculptures.
He said that he didn’t, he merely chipped away at the block of marble until the sculpture revealed itself……..You already have what God has given you.
Find a good coach who can help you to blossom! It will not come in a weekend, but it WILL come if you work at it.
So, there you have it.
Our guide to punching.
Punching hard is a skill and science but you can get better if you work hard at it.
Only through regular training will you be able to increase your punching ability.
Thanks for reading.