Almost all training montage scenes in boxing movies involve some sort of heavy bag workout. There's even a scene in one of the iconic Rocky movies where Sylvester Stallone uses a frozen cow because he's so desperate for the training.
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If you don't have access to a heavy bag — or a butcher's shop — you can still improve your punching power with proper training.
Heavy Bag Drawbacks
The heavy bag helps develop power because it gives a lot of resistance to punches. Unlike training with mitts or a speed bag, you can use all of your power on a heavy bag and it won't move very much. However, if you want to fight in a boxing match, limiting your training to the punching bag can leave you with a lot of missing skills.
To translate your power to a boxing scenario, your punch training should be very active. In addition to throwing punches, mix in defensive maneuvers as though you were fighting a real opponent. Making your boxing drills as realistic as possible will help you reinforce technique as you develop power.
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Boxers don't lift weights in the same way that bodybuilders do. The ideal physique for boxing is fairly slim and lean. Carrying excess muscle makes you fatigue faster and can even slow down your punches.
To increase punching power with weights, start by training your legs. Leg exercises help because the power behind your punches is generated at first by your legs, then it travels up through your body, into your arms and out through your fists.
Single-leg exercises, like weighted lunges and step-ups, are helpful because they work each leg individually. Boxers should use single-leg exercises to develop power because they are constantly moving around the ring and often have their weight on one leg. They generally generate the power for a punch by driving with the leg on the same side of their body as the hand that punches.
Weighted lunges held to develop the quads, hamstrings and glutes of both legs.
HOW TO DO IT: Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Start with at least 10 pounds in each hand. With your torso upright, take a large step forward and drop your back knee close to the ground. Push off your back foot and bring your feet together so that you're standing upright. If you have enough room, take ten steps with each leg.
The core is also important because it helps twist your shoulders into the punch. The cable crossover helps build rotational strength.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet wide, facing perpendicular to a cable machine. Grip the handle of the cable, or use a resistance band if you don't have a cable machine. Twist and pull the handle across your body, then slowly return to the start position.
Lifting weights for your core and legs helps build power, but your arms do the actual punching motion, so it's important to take care of them as well. You can increase your speed using plyometric exercises, which improve explosive strength.
Medicine Ball Punch
This explosive drill mimics a punch but adds weight to the movement. Use a medicine ball that weighs 10 pounds or less for this drill.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in your boxing stance with the medicine ball in your front hand. Your hand should be on the side of the ball facing you. The other hand should be underneath the ball, holding it up. Pull that hand away and push the ball forward as fast as you can with your front hand. It helps to do this drill standing a few feet away from a wall so that the ball bounces back to you.
Switch hands and do the same drill with the other arm. Perform three sets of 10 reps on each hand.
Read more: Exercises to Make You Punch Harder
Improving your boxing technique can improve your punching power significantly. When you want to throw powerful punches, you have to put your whole body behind it. Focus on using your legs during each punch.
The jab, which is when you punch straight forward with your non-dominant hand, doesn't involve much twisting of the body. However, you can still put power behind the punch by leaning forward as you throw.
The cross, which is the straight punch performed with your dominant hand, is naturally more powerful because you turn into it. To maximize your power, make sure you turn your back foot towards your target as you throw.
When throwing a hook, be sure to move your hips in the direction you're punching. Remember that power comes from the legs, so try to keep your center of gravity low. Both feet should be on the ground when you punch to maximize leg drive.