If there’s one thing you take from this article, let it be that power is a result of the combination of strength and speed (strength + speed = power). When designing a training program to increase the power of your punches, you can’t have a one-dimensional view on things. Your exercise selection and training parameters (reps, contraction speed, rest etc.) should be varied for optimal results.Before I got into martial arts, my chest workouts consisted of the standard decline, flat and incline pressing movements and occasionally, I’d throw in a cable fly exercise to finish off. Now that my priorities have shifted from bodybuilding to performance enhancement, my chest workout is now geared around improving both the speed and power of my punches.
I’ve put together a sample workout for you guys to try. Keep in mind that the purpose of this workout is to develop speed and power. Don’t neglect your endurance training because as you already know, muscular endurance is an extremely important aspect of the fight game.
Without further ado, here’s the workout..
I start things off with the barbell bench press exercise and I’ll go relatively heavy. The purpose of this is to develop maximum strength (recall that punching power is a result of strength and speed). If you can, attach chains or resistance bands to the end of the barbell as doing so will provide additional resistance as you drive the barbell upwards.
- 5 Sets
- Gradually increase the weight
- Repetitions = 10,8,6,4,1-2
- Rest = 2-4 minutes (heavier load = longer rest)
This is a great exercise for hand speed and punching power providing it’s done in an explosive fashion. For this exercise, you would use only around 25% of what you would normally use for your regular sets. As for the execution, you basically toss it up as high as you can, catch it, quickly lower the barbell towards the chest (don’t go beyond a 90 degree angle) and toss the barbell up again. Make quicker the exercise is performed, the more effective it will be.
- 3 Sets
- 6-8 repetitions per set
- Rest = 3 minutes
Yet another great exercise to improve the power of your punches is the plyometric push up. To perform the exercise, you will need to find two of the steps used in aerobics classes and position them between 4-6 feet apart (depending on the length of your arms). You start in a push up position with 1 hand placed atop each bench. When you’re ready, push off and move your hands to a position between the steps. Without hesitation, explode upwards and move your hands back atop the steps.
- 3 sets
- As many reps as possible (to make it harder, increase the height of the steps)
- Rest interval = 3 minutes
This exercise is a great way to not only add power to your punches, but also to increase your core strength since you’ll have to brace your torso throughout the movement. Make sure you grab the barbell BELOW the weight plate and not above it. Holding the barbell too high will force you to drive your arm forward at an upward arc that’s unrealistic to throwing a real punch. Keep a stance identical to the stance you’d use while fighting. This exercise; as with most of the exercises in this workout, should be done in an explosive fashion.
- 3 sets
- 15 reps each
- Do both arms consecutively before resting
- 2 minutes rest
Resistance Band Punches
This is about as functional as it gets. Resistance band punches are excellent for hand speed as you’re simply punching against resistance. To perform the exercise, all you do is wrap a couple resistance bands around the bar on a pulley station (or anything that’s shoulder height). You then grasp the handles and ensure that the bands are positioned under your arms. From there, it’s easy – you shadowbox. If you have a workout partner with you, get him to hold the focus mitts for you. It’s actually pretty fun. As you fatigue, you simply drop one band and continue the exercise (providing your using more than one resistance band).
- 3 rounds
- 1 minute each
- 1 minute rest
This exercise is performed on the freemotion cable machine. Not every gym has one of these. If yours does, then I guess you’re in luck. The resistance band exercise worked on the speed of your straight shots while this exercise is designed to train your hand speed and punching power on your hooks. The freemotion hook exercise is also great for developing rotary power within your core.
- 3 sets (each arm)
- 10 repetitions
- 1 minute rest
So give this program a try and see how you like it. You’ll probably find it to be a refreshing chance of pace. I prefer this workout over my old bodybuilding workouts. I especially like the reaction I get from confused people when they see me doing some of them and shadowboxing in between my sets.
Keep in mind, most of these exercises focus on the chest & shoulder region. Perhaps even more important is developing the rotary strength of your core region. Core development is very important for not only your punching power, but also, about 90% of MMA related movements. There’s a book out that has all kinds of crazy, yet functional core exercises designed specifically for the martial artist. If you’re interested, CLICK HERE to INCREASE YOUR PUNCHING POWER!