7 Basic Punching Tips

October 17, 2012 October 17, 2012 by Johnny N Boxing Basics, Boxing Punching 51 Comments

basic punching tips

Many fighters seem to get stuck after learning the basics. You’ve perfected your form months ago and still for some reason can’t hit the intermediate level. If you’re still feeling like a beginner at your gym, then you are most likely failing at a basic skill. Only after you’ve mastered these absolute basic skills will you EVER be able to move on to more advanced techniques successfully.

See my 7 basic punching tips for all beginner fighters:


1. Relax

Being relaxed saves energy and allows you to punch harder. Your muscles must be calm and fluid, allowing the energy to flow throughout your entire body as you throw the punch. Being tense stops the energy from flowing and prevents you from throwing your best punch. Find power through relaxation.

  • Relaxing is the ONLY way to exert powerful force repeatedly without getting tired.


2. Aim

Keep your eyes on your opponent. Don’t look past him, don’t look down. When you throw a punch, make sure you look at the target. You should be careful not to look so intensely at a target before you throw since this telegraphs the punch. Never look at the body when you throw down (this also telegraphs), keep your eyes on your opponent’s head and shoulders.

  • Looking at your opponent gives you better offense (punch accuracy and damage inflicted) as well as better defense (increase awareness of incoming attacks).


3. Exhale on every punch

Always breathe out on every punch. Make a small breath; don’t exhale all of the air in one punch. As you throw combinations, you will let out spurts of air with each punch. The shorter and more explosive the exhalation, the better. Compact explosive breathing will result in compact explosive punches.

  • Exhaling properly creates more powerful punches and saves energy!


4. Timed impact

Hit with the force of your body all at once. When you exhale, your entire body moves and “hits” simultaneously. From head to toe, everything moves all at once. The foot pivots, the hips turn, the shoulders rotate, the arms extend, and the fist tightens.

  • The better you get at making your body hit all at once, the less effort it takes for a more powerful punch!


5. Keep your balance

Always be aware of your balance. Don’t push into your opponents; exert power by finding contact with the ground. Don’t lean your head past your knees. The best way to develop balance is to practice your punches with shadowboxing, not the heavy bag.

  • The better you get at staying balanced, the more advanced offensive and defensive maneuvers you can learn.


6. Cover with the opposite hand

When you punch with one hand, protect yourself with the other hand. The hand that’s not punching should always be defending. Defend with the glove covering the chin and the elbow protecting the body.

  • The non-punching hand should always be defending and/or getting ready to punch.


7. Recover

Recover the punching arm quickly to cover the vulnerability you created while punching. Be careful, however, not to retract too quickly or your punching power will suffer. This mistake is known as “pulling your punches”. Training will help you sense the right time to retract your fist.

  • The faster you pull your hands back, the less vulnerable you are and the sooner you can punch again!



Any other basic punching tips?

Did I miss anything else beginners should know? There are so many out there.

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Tuan October 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

Awesome job!


Josh October 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

Very well said!


nooby October 17, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Yea i have trouble relaxing when i spar i still get jumpy when sparring people who am not used to sparring against (and ive done loads of rounds sparring). i have really good power but i am a bit slow when punching (i tend to leave my hand out their) any advice? thanks in advance.


Johnny N October 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Follow the guide. I also have videos on proper punching form and training.


j October 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Just when you said your done writing for a while you spaz
out thank you Johnny 🙂 I appreciate your work


Stephen C October 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

DAMN BOXERS BODIES ARE SEXY oops caps lock… oh well


Bobby October 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Ive been getting the hang of relaxing but I as if Im not using my hips enough. I feels like my punches start from my fist versus my feet. The transfer of energy isnt flowing properly. any tips??


Johnny N October 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Your punching technique is the problem. Please watch my videos on youtube and read my guides on punching technique.


Jae October 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I read the guides on punching technique (which have helped me tremendously) but are there ever any punches that you initiate with the upper body, and then bring in the hip turn and transfer of weight partway through the punch? I know this might be splitting hairs but it just seems certain boxers just maximize the power of their punches so effectively: its like you just know it was at its utmost optimum power when they hit their opponents.


Johnny N October 21, 2012 at 2:14 am

Moving the hands first and then the hips makes little sense. The moment you move your hips, your hands are already shooting out. If you choose to move the hands and not the hips then you’ll have a very fast punch like a jab or a fast lead right. Or a left slap (instead of left hook).


Keitharino October 17, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Love these tips! Here is my contribution on relaxation:

Learn to relax INTO the punch…Relax your mind. Relax your intentions. Learn to flow with the energy of the fight. Don’t give away your next move. This took me a while to get… When I first started at my gym, I wondered why it seemed like almost everyone could dodge and block my punches at will, yet I would never see their attacks and get clobbered every time I opened my guard. Then one day someone told me, “You’re tensing up before you throw, every time. I can see it from a mile away. You have to hide your intention and relax into the punch.” I have decent speed, and I thought I was relaxed, but I was telegraphing everything by giving away my intention with every move. I didn’t know how to throw a punch without giving it away. This only comes with experience I believe but it is essential to becoming any good at all.


Frank October 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Among these tips, the difficulty to me is the RELAX. I can feel my shoulders sore after shadowboxing for a little while. Can you provide any advice to me. And, thank you very much for all the articles you put on this website, very helpful. Thanks!


Johnny N October 21, 2012 at 2:15 am

Stop trying to be powerful. Get used to just moving your hands as if you’re throwing punches. Move the hands, back and forth, back and forth. And then give it a little power once you get the hang of that. Focusing too much on power or holding a position makes you tense.


curtis c October 18, 2012 at 1:28 am

penertration for one! Hitting 4 to 6 inches behind the target area and penertrating through the target all at oncve. rather then just touching what you want to hit you follow stright through it with your whole arm and fist.

I think this is a vital role to play in the aspect of punching becuase it entails actually moving the object or area that your hitting.


gillbert October 18, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’m always told that my elbows extend outside whenever I punch and that I always knock the power in my shoulders and elbows……can anyone help please?


Johnny N October 21, 2012 at 2:16 am

Watch my youtube videos for proper punching technique.


E. Floyd October 18, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I was about to send Johnny an email on “how do I relax when I’m boxing” and then I see this article and then I see these comments. Glad to know I’m not alone when the trainers say “man . . . you’ve got to relax.”

Thing is – I’m a musician. I know how totally vital it is to be relaxed and what a struggle it can be. When I’ve got a difficult lick or something that I’ve got to get down, I’ll slow down, really focus on using as little energy as possible and concentrate on my breathing (when things get hot and heavy I can start to hold my breath some).

So I guess my question is this: should I try applying the same approach to boxing? Throw combos as releaxed as I can and gradually speed up?

I feel like my stance may be an issue. The trainer said it looked awkward with my knees bent in some (but on the other hand my stance looked similar in baseball when I used to jack homeruns . . . and it may be an anatomical thing).

Johnny – thank you. You truly are a sweet scientist.


Johnny N October 21, 2012 at 2:17 am

Exactly, throw SLOW AND RELAXED and then pick up your power and speed over time when you get the hang of it.


xiaokang October 18, 2012 at 8:05 pm

johnny thanks so much, every guide you put up here is another jewel in the crown.

I find i can punch pretty well from the hips in shadowboxing and on the bag (mostly) when i’m not moving around too much, but when i get into sparring at max speed (which feels like 110% really), i find my handspeed outstrips my hips and body every time — do you have any tips for ironing this out?



Johnny N October 21, 2012 at 2:24 am

Yeah, keep your weight at center. Your hips will feel powerful if you keep your weight over your hips, and hips between the feet (which grounds them better). Naturally, the hands ARE faster than the hips…so at some point, you will have to decide between slower but more powerful punches or faster less powerful punches. That’s why some guys go fast-hard-fast-hard instead of hard-hard-hard. It takes a lot of energy to keep pivoting the entire body especially if you miss. When you get better, you will learn how to pivot your hips up and down instead of left and right. 😉


Mike B October 19, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hi Johnny, my name is Michael Briggs and I have been following your website for over a year now! Pretty much since I’ve been boxing. You are an absolute boxing genius in my eyes! You are very concise and never biased and I love that. I want to thank you for all your help. But also I am posting a link from a smoker I recently fought in. It is only the first round but if you click on my channel you will see the full fight. I ended up getting knocked down in the second round but rallied back and won the match! I also received an award for “Most Outstanding Boxer” at the smoker. PLEASE watch and critique this fight for me. It would be greatly appreciated. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWFNubsA_D8&feature=plcp


Johnny N October 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Hi Mike,

I don’t do free fight reviews anymore because then everyone makes a request but I did get to see some footage and really enjoyed what I saw. You’re a fantastic boxer. Great movement, skills, and intelligent aggression. I like the aggressive use of your left hand (even when you dropped it).

As for the knockdown, you have to be careful about turning your head away like that. Anytime that you turn your head to the right and then turn it back (to face your opponent), you risk getting caught with a nasty counter right. Another way to look at it is not to swing your right shoulder too much (which swings the head). Instead, give a little focus to pulling the left shoulder back…which gives you a nice rotation without dangerously swinging your head towards your opponent. (I ought to do a guide on this later.)

Now that you know this..maybe you can do the same to your future opponents–watch their head and throw a counter right when they turn it sideways and try to turn back. 😉


Jacob J. February 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Out of curiosity, how much would one have to pay for a review?


Steve February 17, 2013 at 12:02 am

check out the EB shop (red tab at the top), you can purchase fight reviews there


Mike B October 19, 2012 at 10:04 am

Sorry the link malfunctioned! Here’s the correct one. Thanks for your time…


Mike B October 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

Btw I’m the tall one in the blue and white!


jamie October 19, 2012 at 11:46 am

im considering the point that Jae makes above if anyone or Johnny could help me on this. im just breaking the surface of the techniques and feel that target distance is a factor here. eg a short punch the rotations are with the strike. a long punch needs to travel before the roatatons or it will all be used up before it reaches?


Johnny N October 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Too much analysis here. Try to rotate your spine. The shoulder rotation or arm extension makes far less of a difference than the power generated in your spine rotation.


mac October 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Two things Johnny:

1) I notice southpaws (manny, valero, calzaghe) punch a bit differently to orthodox fighters. They punch as if their forearm and fists are a single unit, such that on impact, their elbows/wrists/knuckles are aligned and are all travelling directly to the target (like a nail into a wall). When I try this on the heavybag, the punch feels very strong and effortless, as there are less shock absorbers. Any thoughts on this?

2) Most beginners seem to tense up their shoulders, resulting in a less fluid and less powerful punch. Are there any downsides to relaxed shoulders?

Thanks in advance mate.


Johnny N October 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

1) That’s not a secret. It’s the basis of typical punching technique–having the forearm support the fist (maintaining a straight wrist upon impact). It’s the reason why curved punches are essential at close range; because it’s difficult to throw a STRAIGHT “supported punch” when the arm does not have room to straighten behind the fist.

2) Relaxed shoulders are always necessary…but this doesn’t mean “down”. You can still have lifted but relaxed shoulders (which is necessary for defensive purposes at times).


Eluvvv April 3, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Having a hard time with the ‘relaxing’ part myself.. How do you have lifted but relaxed shoulders?? Don’t you, by definition, have to tense in order to lift the shoulders?


bl October 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm

johnny , what sort of training can i do at home with a partner and focus mitts to improve my boxing?


Johnny N November 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Well, there are many drills to work offense/defense/movement/etc. Too many to list. I would watch some videos on youtube to get some ideas. I’ll have to make a guide later if I was to attempt to explain any of these possibilities.


su shao November 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm

hello,i am chinese i want to be a Occupation boxer,but what should i do?


Johnny N November 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I don’t understand where your difficulty lies.


Abaas January 5, 2013 at 8:53 am

i have a question it that right all punch that i make starts with the fist `?
because some trainers sayit starts with the shoulder?


Johnny N January 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Please watch my punching technique videos on Youtube for a general explanation. A punch is generally a movement combined with a force. The force starts from the ground. The movement can start from anywhere you want. I would say the fist and shoulder move simultaneously ORRR the shoulder starts just a split-microsecond before the fist.


Jacob J. February 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Hi, I’m 17, a southpaw, but I’m blind in my left eye. Are there any tips you could give to compensate for being blind in one eye?


Johnny N February 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I honestly don’t know what I could tell you except to keep your right eye open.


Nick September 7, 2015 at 3:19 pm


Great tips Johnny. Especially this one ;D


ILYAS KHAN June 29, 2013 at 6:23 am

Thanks a lot once again sir.i am vry vry thankful


Ripon patgiri July 23, 2013 at 2:30 am

Mr.johnny thank you very much ….. it was very much helpful to me.. I started learning boxing just 3 months ago and learned a lot till now …….. only sir I wanted to know about exactly where to punch the opponent…… I would be glad if you could answer me. ..


Johnny N July 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I’ll make an article on the best places to target the body soon!


Michael Mann October 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Hey Johnny, I was wondering what to do with my fist when I hit. Do I have to make it rock solid by tighting it up? I did a heavy bag session and the top of my hand ( on top of my pinky and the finger beside it) has so pain in it when I close my fist hard. Do you know whats up? thanks


Samuel April 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

What’s a good rate to focus on working on technique for each type of punch as a beginner (how many weeks)


Johnny N April 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Generally, you work on things FOREVER if you want to keep improving. And for beginners, not only do you work on it forever but you work on it A LOT!


Samuel April 8, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I meant as learning the basics for each punch


Johnny N July 13, 2014 at 5:54 pm

You keep improving forever. Nothing is ever good enough.


Philippe R February 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Not sure why, but i do struggle with learning to exhale while punching. Seem i can’t do it as fast as i can punch (and i’m not punching that fast). Well, that might be tied to why i have troubles improving my cardio, my breating lag behind the effort. Any tips about this would be welcome.


Nima October 31, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Johnny when I pivot my foot for my punch is that what causes my hips to rotate? and also you mentioned timed impact and pivoting and punching all at same time but if a punch travels in a wave doesn’t it have a domino effect? meaning that my foot pivots causing my hips to rotate which causes my torso to rotate one after the other. I would really appreciate if you can explain this to me! Thank you!


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