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The 10 Best Gym Exercises to Punch Harder in Boxing, MMA; Pack a Powerful Punch

Do you want to punch harder? Do you compete in a combat sport, but fail to rattle when it comes to landing blows? Well, in this article, we will go over the 10 best exercises to punch harder.

But before we can jump straight in, we need to identify and address the lifting movements required to punch.

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What a Punch Requires

To punch harder, you must incorporate your entire body — not just your upper body.

We must look at exercises that directly carryover to the punching movement itself.

Now, out of the seven foundational lifting movements — press, pull, squat, hinge, lunge, twist, gait — the punch requires elements of 5: press, squat, hinge, lunge, and twist.

Note: Although it hits each lower body pattern to some degree, the hinge pattern movement is the least recruited out of the three.

The 3 lower body movements can be condensed into one principle: triple joint extension.

The triple joint extensions — recruiting ankles, knees, and hips — are fundamental to any athletic performance, and there are a number of exercises which help nurture its development.

The twist comes after the initial triple joint extension from the lower body, followed by the one-armed press in the arm’s extension at the end of the punch.

There are several exercises you can train to punch harder, but, for the sake of brevity, we will cover 10 of these exercises which target the movement.

I’m not a martial artist, so you will have to consult a coach to improve your technique to punch harder.

But in the meantime, you can start to punch harder by improving at these exercises.

The 10 Best Gym Exercises to Punch Harder in Boxing, MMA; Pack a Powerful Punch

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1. Push Press

This is probably one of the best movements an athlete can do let alone punch harder.

The Push Press simply ticks all the boxes.

Beginning with a quarter squat, into a triple joint extension, before a violent Overhead Press, the Push Press is by far the best exercise to punching harder as it contains the entire movement required for punching in one fell swoop, minus the twist.

This one has it all.

The explosive power required to tackle and drive through your opponent, the Push Press is basically punching practice and strengthening out of the ring.

Aside from strengthening every area of a massive punch, it will also instill correct neuromuscular coordination to making a big hit.

Catching the weight between reps will also help teach you how to absorb the blow from hard hits.

I would recommend 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps for best results. As this exercise is demanding, it is advisable to keep the rep ranges low and to avoid attempting reps in a state of fatigue to minimize the risk of injury.

2. Box Squat

5 Reasons You Should Box Squat | Breaking Muscle

The box squat is one of the very best exercises for athletes, period.

Not only will this improve your triple joint extension, but it will add mass to your legs, butt, and entire posterior chain.

Make sure you come to a dead stop before exploding off the bench/box. Use a high bar stance without making your feet width excessively wide.

A high bar stance is more knee-dominant than a low bar squat. A low bar squat recruits the hips more when knee flexion is more desirable for athletes.

Check out our article on the difference between high bar and low bar squat for more information.

Like with the weighted box jump, the box squat improves your ability to deliver a blow through the following.

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It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination
  • knee flexion

You can, of course, add bands and chains to the movement to increase the resistance as you complete the movement. This, in turn, will increase the rate of force development required.

The front squat variation is just as valuable, if not, more, as it mimics athletic movements more closely than a back squat variation. Moreover, the risk of buttwink or your lower back rounding is lower, plus there’s reduced spinal loading if you have concerns about your spine.

Check out our article on spinal decompression to protect your back from injury and to increase athletic longevity.

But for punching, the box squat will strengthen your lower body to give you a strong, solid base to launch any attack.

3. Landmine Press

This particular exercise is effective a single arm press with a twist — in other words, it effectively imitates the upper body’s movement for punching.

If you add a little lower body push, you’re literally going through the punching movement.

Try adding this exercise at the end of your sessions once you’re fatigued from your primary pressing movements.

4. Russian Rows

This exercise is pure twist, but it’s the king of twist exercises.

If you like, you can superset this exercise with Landmine Presses for expediency’s sake.

Nothing will hit your obliques as hard as this movement.

Your punches will be sprinkled with a little more mustard after programming this exercise into your workouts.

5. Incline DB Press

Although the Bench Press is normally numero uno when it comes to upper body development for athletes, the Incline Bench Press has a better carryover for Punching.

It is preferable to use dumbbells for your Incline Bench Press with a view to punch harder. Dumbbells follow a more natural range of motion over a barbell.

Dumbbells are, on the whole, more comfortable and a better choice for those who might suffer from shoulder impingements.

And the Incline Bench Press is a little more front delt taxing than its Flat cousin.

6. Single Arm DB Row

With so much pressing required, muscular imbalances may crop up after training hard.

The general rule of thumb is to do 1.5-2x as many pulling exercises per pressing exercise.

The Dumbbell Row is one of the best upper back developers out there.

Not only will it protect your shoulders from imbalances and injuries, but it will also help stabilize your upper body while punching.

Furthermore, the Single Arm Dumbbell Row is also partly considered a twisting movement to add to the middle component of the punch — the twist.

It will also assist with decelerating the punch after the follow through.

7. Weighted Box Jump

Jumpsole weighted box jumps - YouTube

What better way to vertical jump higher than by jumping with a weight?

Remember, strength is a skill as is jumping high.

A weighted box jump — preferably from a dead stop — will tick all the necessary boxes for a high vertical jump.

It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • a brusque triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination

The ideal rep ranges for this movement are between 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets.

This isn’t Crossfit and box jumps are dangerous — especially when fatigued.

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Adding an extra weight into the equation ups the risk of injury, too.

And you’re not training for endurance or hypertrophy so there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to take this exercise to high rep ranges.

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Start with a light dumbbell or weighted vest, say, a 10-20lb total and increase the weight until you can safely land 5 box jumps.

DO NOT do this exercise with a barbell. If you butcher the execution, it’s harder to bail when you have a barbell on your back and your risk of serious injury skyrockets.

Alternatively, you can perform Quarter Squat Jumps from pins if you have safety concerns about executing weighted box squats.

On the power rack, set pins around 3/4 of the way up on your squat and jump as high as you can with the weight across your back.

This exercise can be overloaded more safely than the Weighted Box Jump and will go a long way to improving your vertical jump.

8. Bulgarian Split Squat

Why the Bulgarian Split Squat is a fairy tale – YPSI - Wolfgang Unsoeld
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This exercise has the most direct carryover to improving your punching power.

Initially included due to its unparalleled ability to improve your first step, we have included it to help ignite your triple joint extension for an explosive launch pad.

Keep the weight light and the intensity high. Descend slowly then explode as quickly as possible, while being cautious not to hyperextend the knee.

Knee flexion is crucially important to improve many athletic movements, and the Bulgarian Split Squat targets just that.

Finding the correct balance can be hard at first.

You can use the Smith Machine if you’re not too confident.

Or, alternatively, you can try our brutal remix of the Bulgarian Split Squat called the “Herc Squat” which is a supramaximal version that I used to great effect in the past to take my numbers into the stratosphere and build a baboonish behind.

I prefer to use dumbbells for this exercise as it follows a more natural range of motion and it is easier to remain balanced throughout the completion of the movement.

Check out our article on the “Herc Squat” to take your punching power to new heights.

9. Explosive Push Up Variations

Explosive Push Up variations are fairly bread and butter when it comes to punching harder.

Not only does it help with extending your arm more explosively, but your core will also receive ample stimulation throughout the movement.

10. Train Your Core!

And finally, hit your core — and hard.

A strong core will stabilize your body as you punch in addition to strengthening your twisting motion.

Much of the power from a triple joint extension to launch a blow can be lost through a shaky, weak core.

A strong core will also add more zest to your punches.

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