Punch like a jackhammer
Pete Sisco explains how boxing and martial arts athletes can improve their punching power.
Do you know where real punching power is generated and released? It is in the final inch or two of motion. Legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee, was known for demonstrating this fact with his famous "one-inch punch." Lee would position his fist just one inch in front of the abdomen of a subject and without moving his hand backward whatsoever would unleash a punch that would lift the subject off his feet and launch him into a waiting chair several feet behind him.
Many boxing and martial arts techniques involve intercepting or redirecting an opponent's punch or kick before it reaches full extension. These techniques are only possible because of the reduced power contained in a punch or kick before it reaches full extension.
Neuromuscular Efficiency vs Muscle Building
Any serious boxer or martial artist will throw thousands of punches over his training career. A pro will throw millions. These repetitions build efficiency into the neuromuscular pathways between the brain and muscles. It is these many repetitions that make throwing a fast, accurate, and effective punch second nature. However, all those repetitions do nothing to develop strength in the muscles. If you want big power you are going to have to pump some iron - heavy iron. Think of that "one-inch punch"; it is not merely hand speed or delivery technique that launches the opponent into the air. It is muscle power anchored on the ground by leg muscles and transmitted through the muscles of the shoulders and arms. Here is how to train those muscles to deliver maximum power.
Power Puncher's Arm Workout
This workout includes leg exercises for two reasons. First, as mentioned above, punching power is delivered from the ground up, and powerful legs are indispensable. Try to imagine how weak your punches would be if you were suspended above the floor by a cable and could not anchor your feet. Every punch would set you swinging and barely impact your opponent. The second reason to train your legs is they contain the largest muscles in the body and trigger the biggest anabolic effect in your central nervous system. That anabolic effect carries over into every other muscle group. So heavy leg training builds stronger arms! For the next two months do your normal weight lifting routine, except substitute these three exercises for whatever you are using now for these muscles. Do these exercises no more than twice per week, and when any one of them does not increase by at least 3% add at least two extra days off between all your weightlifting workouts.
Legs - Toe Press
This will build power in your calves. Move the sled on the leg press to the top position. Place 150% to 250% more weight on the leg press than you usually use. Place the balls of your feet on the bottom of the sled with your heels just off the sled. Use your calf muscles to press your toes forward and move the sled one inch. Do not remove the safety stops on the machine! That way, the sled cannot descend into your weak range. Hold that static position for 5 to 10 seconds. If you can hold it longer, the weight is too light. In the next workout increase the weight by 25% and shoot for a 10-15% increase each workout for the next two months.
Use the same setup and procedure as above but plant your feet squarely on the sled. Use the power in your quadriceps to press the sled up one inch and hold it there. Again, do not remove the safety stops on the sled! Hold that static position for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not lock out. If you can hold it longer, the weight is too light. In the next workout increase the weight by 25% and shoot for a 10-15% increase each workout for the next two months.
Shoulders - Seated Shoulder Press
This builds power in the entire shoulder girdle. Use a shoulder press machine that allows you to limit the range of motion. (You can also set a barbell inside a power rack or use a Smith machine.) Position the bar two inches below your locked-out reach. Place 50% to 150% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Using a shoulder-width grip, press the bar up one inch. Hold that static position for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not lock out. If you can hold it longer, the weight is too light. In the next workout increase the weight by 15% and shoot for a 5-15% increase each workout for the next two months.
Triceps - Close-Grip Bench Press
Your triceps extend your arm during a punch. This is a fantastic exercise for building massive power into the triceps. Position the bar in a power rack or Smith machine, so it rests two inches from your farthest reach. Place 50% to 150% more weight on the bar than you normally use. Using a narrow grip with your hands, about 6 inches or less apart, press the bar up one inch. Hold that static position for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not lock out. If you can hold it longer, the weight is too light. In the next workout increase the weight by 15% and shoot for a 5-15% increase each workout for the next two months.
This routine will skyrocket the strength in the essential muscles used to deliver power punches. It will give you massive punching power in the exact range of motion you need it. Use this routine for two months, and you will hit like a jackhammer!
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About the Author
Peter Sisco is the author of Train Smart, co-author of Power Factor Training, Static Contraction Training and other books. He is also the editor of the five-book `Ironman`s Ultimate Bodybuilding` series.