Punching Back: "Contributors of Punching Forces in Combat Sport Athletes"

           In the recent Journal put out by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, there was an article written that peaked my interest dealing with combat sport athletes “Assessment and Contributors of Punching Forces in Combat Sport Athletes: Implications for Strength and Conditioning.”[1]  I am an avid fan of combat sports and having worked with many combat sport athletes, I am always interested in learning how to make them better.
            The goal of the journal article was to look at research that assessed contributions to punching force, and give practical examples of how strength and conditioning coaches could develop strategies to develop greater punching force based on their research. 
The authors sited literature that measured punching forces and ground reaction forces (GRF), with these studies focused mainly on the “straight right hand.”  One of the studies sited found that with the higher level / more experienced boxers, contributed the majority of their force from there legs (38.5%), as compared to intermediate boxers (32.2%) and novice boxers. (16.5%) 
            In a contrast study noted in the article, it was found that a greater relationship to punching forces was found in pre-impact hand velocity rather from the forces generated by the legs.  The authors state that a “comparison of pre-impact hand velocity and leg drive may not be appropriate; leg drive most likely affects and develops pre-impact hand velocity.”  A comparison was then made between a baseball’s velocities pre-impact with a pitchers lower body contribution during a windup. 
            Through it all, the authors concluded that there is conflicting research regarding the importance of leg drive on punching power, but investigations into other sports that follow similar movement patterns show how important the lower body is in contributing to force.

           The authors make note of how the lower body contribution of punching is similar to other rotational sports such as baseball, tennis and throwing a Javelin, but fail to explain what is similar, how this helps generating punching force, and what this means for physical preparation coaches.  The fact that the lower body is the main contributor of force isn’t a new idea, as coaches have been known this for decades.  What this article does not do however is explain how force is generated from the lower body and transferred into the punch; what muscles are involved, how they are involved, what joint actions occur, and the sequencing of there actions.  I believe that having an understanding the muscles involved, how they are involved, the joint actions that occur and their sequencing will allow “strength and conditioning coaches” to better select exercises and program their training in order to improve punching force.

            In part two of my rebuttal, I will give a brief explanation of the lower body & torso mechanics used in throwing a punch, as well as some practical examples of how a physical preparation coach may implement them.  

[1] Lenetsky.  Harris.  Brughelli. “Assessment and Contributors of Punching Forces in Combat Sports Athletes: Implications for Strength and Conditioning."  NSCA- Strength and Conditioning Journal.  Vol. 35 #2