How to Develop a Powerful Punch

How to Develop KO Power

*Disclaimer – I punch like a fairy, and you should never punch someone, unless they insult your mum

– Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.

You want punches to be fast and ‘whip-like’.  Keep you upper body as relaxed as possible.

– “Throw your fist last”.  I believe the ‘whip’ effect of a punch comes when the fist moves and comes through last.
Imagine an actual whip, the end half of the whip remains bent, until at the last moment it extends and lands on its target.
With a punch, turn your foot, rotate your hips and finally turn the shoulder and arm into the punch.

– Focus on moving from the waist (and feet).  I found this helped me to relax my shoulders.
When you throw a right cross for example, imagine rotating your right hip as far forwards (anti-clockwise) as possible, and your left hip as far back as possible.
If you watch yourself in a mirror as you throw a right cross – when in the ‘finished-position’, you should only be able to see your right shoulder.
Imagine the power coming from your core, not your arms.

– Punch ‘through’ your target.  

The power is all in the follow through. Don’t stop at the target, stay relaxed until impact and then drive through the target.

– Imagine 2 points of force generation.

Point 1 – initiation, twist your core and rotate your hips whilst keeping your upper body relaxed.
Point 2 – on contact. Drive through as far and as much as possible. Especially on any kind of rotational strike like an uppercut or a hook.

– Use biomechanics 

If you’re not particularly tall then you may struggle to build massive amounts of power with straight punches – your ‘follow through’ and range of motion may be limited.
If you are not massively explosive, you might also struggle to generate big power with hooks and uppercuts.
The overhand right and Russian Hook style punches however, seem to generate power, even if the punch-thrower doesn’t appear to be especially tall, explosive or athletic.

Overhand Right
Roy Nelson V Kongo –

– When throwing a hook, look to maximise elastic recoil by throwing your waist into the punch first, opening up your chest as much as possible, punching with a straight arm, and then finally whipping your fist into the punch:

Johny Hendricks left hook
Arm fully extended to increase the force
Picture Source:Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

– Develop a strong core and fast twitch/explosive muscles.  

Doing bench press, with a heavy weight, slowly, will not develop explosive power.  ‘Shot putting’ or ‘rugby passing’ a medicine ball may help however.

Punching with your hands down actually seems to increase KO power, possibly by increasing rotational force. See animated gif of Mark Hunt for an example:

Mark Hunt ROy Nelson KO Gif


Power Exercises

  • Olympic Lifts
  • Plyometrics
  • Medicine ball slams, shot puts, rugby passes
  • Heavy bag

Core Exercises

  • Yoga – will also help with ability to keep upper body relaxed
  • Pilates
  • Core ball
  • Front squats
  • Kettlebell goblet squats
  • Plank

See the best MMA exercises page for more info

For more tips on punching power, Conor McGregor style, see this post.

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