Punching Back - Part 3: Practical Exercises

In part two of this three part series, I gave a brief explanation of throwing a straight right hand punch by explaining the joint actions involved, the sequencing of their actions, the muscles involved and how they are involved with the lower body and torso.  From the studies sited in part two, it was shown that the majority of punching force is developed from the lower body, and then transferred into the torso, and then into the shoulders and hand.  I believe that it is important to understand how and why these actions occur in order to recognize how punching forces can be generated and it will allow the physical preparation coach the ability to use exercises that better transfer to improving the combat athletes punching forces.
* I would like to note that there are many factors go into throwing a powerful punch: Timing, footwork, and style of fighter being a few.  The explanation that I had given was director explained the idealistic mechanics for a straight right hand punch by an orthodox fighter.  The same mechanics & exercises apply for a southpaw throwing a straight left hand

The first action that occurs in throwing a punch is getting the hips in motion, shifting the weight from the back leg onto the front.  As noted in the studies done by Filmonov[1] [2], the weight shift  (“push-off leg extension”) is the main source of force production.  A general-specific exercise to strengthen this joint action is performing hip ab-duction. 

            Once the weight has been shifted, hip rotation occurs around the front leg while keeping the shoulders side facing.  This separation is important in order to create a powerful “rubber band” affect with stretching of the oblique’s.  The more separation there is between the hips and shoulders, the stronger the contraction of the oblique’s wiping the shoulders around.   Reverse Trunk Twists [3]are a great exercise to create flexibility between the hips and shoulders as well as strength in a full range of motion.

            The Russian Twist is an exercise that often times gets overlooked for development of the oblique muscles.  Performed properly on a Glute-Ham-Back machine allows for a full range of motion of the oblique’s and is done against the direct pull of gravity.  Russian Twists have been modified throughout the years to be preformed in a seated position to make it easier.  Executing the exercise this way shortens up the ROM, and can allow for spine flexion, which combined with rotation can lead to injury. 

Rotational med-ball throws are a great way to develop rotational speed, power, and strength.  There are many different variants of med ball throws that can be used in the programming for a combat sport athletes ranging from general to specialized.  The use of specialized exercises is to improve the athlete’s physical abilities as it relates to technique.  Specialized exercises can be single joint as well as multi-joint exercises.  In order to make med-ball throw specialized, the lower-body and torso must duplicate how it is used in throwing a punch.  The overload of the med ball must be such that it does not allow for mechanics over the lower body and torso to change.
Most often rotational med-ball throws are performed with a simultaneous weight shift, rotation of the hips and shoulders.  In order to make it more specialized there must be a sequencing of the joint actions.  Otherwise it is best to use these general med-ball throws with lower level athletes, and or in the general phase of training. 

-       Figure 1 shows a side facing athlete to his target
-       Figure 2 shows the athlete shifting his weight onto his front leg by hip joint abduction
-       Figure 3 shows the athlete performing hip joint rotation. 
o   The axis of his rotation is in his left hip
o   His shoulders remain side facing as his hips reach full rotation
-       Figure 4 shows the athlete then coming around with his shoulders as he releases the ball

The goal of this series was to point out the short comings of  the original article published by the NSCA, give an explanation of the lower-body and torso’s role in throwing a punch, as well as give general and specialized exercise examples for physical preparation coaches.  There are many more exercises that can and should be used both general and specialized for the combat athlete.
When something registers high on my BS meter, I try and figure out why that is and how to better come up with a solution.  Articles like the one that I examined[4] leave a bad taste in my mouth for they are often times are too vague, give science that is irrelevant, and any of the practical examples given are all general exercises in nature, meaning they won’t have as high of a transference to improving sport performance.  I am not a scientist; I am a practitioner.  Having an understanding of the science is important, don’t get me wrong, but knowing what exercises have a high transference to sport, there timing and dosage is what is most important to me.  I just want results…

[1] Filimonov. Means of Increasing Strength of the Punch.  NSCA Journal. Vol 7, #6
[2] Verkhoshansky. Filimonov. The Dynamics of Punching Technique and Speed-Strength in Young Boxers.  Soviet Sports Review. Vol. 26, #4
[3] Yessis.  Biomechanics and Kinesiology of Exercise 2nd Edition.  Ultimate Athlete Concepts 2013.
[4] 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