February 26, 2021

From Turner et al. 2011- Increasing the Impact Force of the Rear Hand Punch

“ONE OF THE MOST RENOWNED STRIKES WITHIN COMBAT SPORTS  IS THE REAR HAND PUNCH. ITS IMPACT FORCE IS SUBJECT TO 5 TRAINABLE VARIABLES: (A) INCREASE REAR LEG DRIVE, (B) FOLLOWING THE STEP FORWARD, LAND WITH A RIGID LEG TO INCREASE BREAKING AND TRANSMISSION OF FORCES, (C) INCREASE THE STRETCHSHORTENING CYCLE ACTION OF THE TRUNK MUSCULATURE, (D) INCREASE THE VELOCITY OF THE PUNCH, AND (E) INCREASE THE EFFECTIVE MASS. IT IS POSSIBLE, THROUGH APPROPRIATE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING PROGRAMMING, TO TARGET THE DEVELOPMENT OF EACH.”

Key takeaways from paper:

A kinematic analysis reveals variables that may have a positive impact on rear hand punching force

How to increase rear leg drive? Performing the following movements and their derivatives are recommended:  squats, deadlifts, weightlifting movements (e.g., the clean), and shock method /plyometrics* (e.g., box jumps). “Punches are generally delivered within 0.3 seconds (2,38), ballistic training, which increases the rate of force development (RFD), is considered fundamental. However, because strength and power are highly correlated (3)” An emphasis here is on maximal strength training and training to enhance strength-speed and or speed -strength.

*”Plyometrics is a popular method used to enhance reactive strength. When used properly these drills have proven to be effective. The problem is that these movements have been widely misused and misunderstood. Below I have provided an overview of the history and evolution of plyometric training. Plyometric training was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky as a means to enhance speed strength. What is now referred to as plyometrics was originally called the shock method. The original meaning of the word plyometric (originally spelled pliometric) was intended to mean eccentric contraction.

Plyometrics became popular in America in the 70s according to most authorities. Soviet sprinters were displaying very impressive sprint times so U.S. coaches decided to travel to the Soviet Union to figure out what was going on. The Americans saw an athlete step off a box, jump up in the air and the rest, as they say, is history. On their return to the United States, they spread the word of the magic training method. Needless to say they never took into consideration the planning and conditioning that existed in addition to this type of magic training. In the Soviet Union the shock method was used in a cyclic nature which involved varying intensity levels and conditioning methods.

Today every coach and fitness instructor is probably using some type of supposed plyometrics. As an example, a coach might have an athlete jump ten minutes with no regard to times spent on the ground or quality. According to the founder of shock method training, if you spend an excess of 0.2 of a second on the ground after landing this does not constitute true plyometric activity. The ultimate goal in shock method training is to maximize the benefits of the

stretch shortening cycle as discussed earlier. The athlete needs sufficient strength in the musculoskeletal system before adhering to this type of training. A great deal of force is produced in the joints when performing any type of jumping or falling. Concentrate on quality training when using plyometrics. This should not be a fatiguing endeavor; remember, the goal is speed strength. In general, terminate high intensity plyos 7–14 days before competition” (Hale, 2004, pp. 62-63).

After the step forward, land with a rigid leg. To maintain a stiff leg at landing, plyometrics, emphasizing the landing component (e.g., drop jumps) may be beneficial… This may lead to increases in muscle and connective tissue strength.

Increase stretch shortening cycle actions of the trunk. Medicine ball throws can be an effective training tool for  developing rotational power (34). Different size mbs may be used. Medicine ball training can allow a high degree of sport specificity through mimicking range of motion and specifics of velocity. Sledgehammer training is also an excellent mode for enhancing stretch shortening cycles of the trunk. In MaxCondition Training we make use of foot forward diagonal swings on a regular basis.

Increase the velocity of the punch. Increasing the velocity of the punch should involve exercises that target  Rate of Force Development (example:plyometrics including medicine ball throws and weight lifting movements and their derivatives). Movements are needed that ensure maximal acceleration through the entire movement. “Also, by using light to moderate loads, the object can be propelled quicker thus training the velocity component of the power (P) equation (P = f 3 v).”

Increase effective mass: This can be developed through pad/bag work; it is  assumed that system stiffening is consequential to impact. “For example, Netto et al. (28) showed greater activation, and an increase in agonist muscle activity, in the brachioradialis (stabilizing muscle) when comparing contact with noncontact punching.” It is likely that system stiffening would be better developed  with  pad/bag work when compared with sparring- because sparring (at light-moderate intensity) involves some level of deceleration, therefore a reduction in effective mass to soften  impacts.

The information presented above is a brief overview of the paper. The paper provides some useful tables listing exercises that can be used to develop the different components mentioned, and the authors briefly discuss how well these recommendations can be applied to other forms of striking.

Punching power with both hands and with different types of punches is important for success in  fighting. However, there are an array of factors involved with high levels of performance. Punching power alone does not ensure high level performance. The components of punching mentioned by Turner and colleagues are important, but so are other factors that influence punching. I would like to see more research regarding punching power and intent to hit hard. Does the intention of hitting hard lead to harder punches? You have probably heard coaches say “stop trying so hard for the knockout” or “just let it happen.”  Maybe trying too hard creates a negative mechanical process that actually makes hitting hard less likely.

Other things to consider:

How much of a difference is there between punching force or power when comparing hitting the bag with hitting an opponent? How much difference does it make to punching power when one is highly excited, such as increased sympathetic nervous system activity versus  a lower SNS activity? Does intensity of regular sparring have a significant  impact on how hard one punches during comp…?

Those are a few questions I have regarding punching. Mental characteristics are important regarding athletic performance; nowhere is this any more important than combat sports. Outcomes in combat sports, of all sorts, are heavily influenced by mental processes. Recently I asked a couple of colleagues- What are some important mental qualities for success in combat sports?

Two of the most important mental qualities are competitiveness and being Coachable.  In my experience I’ve noticed these two qualities are often in opposition. Many competitive and talented athletes are so competitive they have a hard time listening to coaches and trainers. This isn’t always the case, but  it’s a trend I’ve noticed. If you can get an athlete that’s extremely competitive, and still highly coachable they will likely go far. The coaches role is to provide structure and channel the competitive urges into positive habits, rituals, and effective training regimens.  It is important that these mental qualities are kept in balance.   Matt Smith,  CEO at Halcyon JiuJitsu

Belief in yourself, a positive attitude and reframing bad situations into good situations. Jason Keaton, Jiu-Jitsu Coach and Former MMA Competitor

Reference

Hale, J. 2004. MaxCondition.

Turner et al. 2011. Increasing the Impact Force of the Rear Hand Punch. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(6), 2-9.