Horizontal Punches vs Vertical Punches

November 21, 2013 November 21, 2013 by Johnny N Boxing Techniques, Punch Techniques 33 Comments

Vertical punches vs Horizontal punches

Should you punch with a horizontal fist or a vertical fist?

  • Which is more powerful?
  • Which is faster?
  • Which is BETTER?

It depends on who you ask. Some trainers say you should punch with a horizontal fist. Some trainers say you should punch with a vertical fist. Factor in the various punching techniques from martial artists, kickboxers, and other kinds of fighting styles and you’ll hear a dozen more conflicting views.

I’ve heard arguments for all kinds of techniques and actually, everyone has a good point. Both horizontal-fisted punches and vertical-fisted punches can be effective but first you have to know WHY and WHEN to use them.

Read my definitive guide on punching with a HORIZONTAL FIST vs VERTICAL FIST.

 

Punching Technique – HORIZONTAL FIST vs VERTICAL FIST

COMMON THEORIES about punching with a horizontal fist

  • More power because of the corkscrew motion.
  • More support for the wrist because it won’t bend as easily when the fist is sideways.
  • More defense because your shoulders lift to protect your chin.
  • More useful because the horizontal fist can arc over your opponent’s arms.

The common standard in boxing gyms nowadays is to turn the hands over for a horizontal fist. They do allow exceptions but generally the horizontal fist is preferred. The horizontal-fisted punch is the default technique in virtually all major boxing gyms. It is the standard belief of today’s boxer.

Go into any boxing gym today and your coach will most likely tell you to turn the hand over. I’ve found this to be more practical and realistic of boxing conditions.

The common arguments for horizontal-fisted punches
are power and practicality.

 

COMMON THEORIES about punching with a vertical fist

  • More power because your knuckles are better aligned for the straight-arm position
  • More power because of full use of triceps.
  • Faster because of less movement.
  • More support for the fist and wrist because the arm is straighter.
  • A vertical splits through the opponent’s guard easier.
  • Less telegraphic because the elbow and shoulder movement is minimized.
  • Better for bare-knuckle (or less padded) fighting scenarios.

I’ve found only very few boxers and boxing trainers nowadays who recommendvertical-fisted punches as the default technique. Most people who tell me the vertical fist is better are usually martial artists and/or people who don’t box that much. There have been a few great boxers in our time who used vertical-fisted punches but they are the exception, not the norm.

The common arguments for vertical-fisted punches
are power and speed.

 

How Should YOU Throw Your Punches? (HORIZONTAL or VERTICAL?)

The answer to me was obvious:
USE BOTH.

It’s a very easy decision to make after you’ve spent a bit of time in the ring. Different kinds of punching techniques allow you to do different things. And you have to trust that you will always be in a wide variety of situations. Many of these situations will be ones that you drilled in training and on the focus mitts. But many more of these situations will be ones that you only experience in a live fight.

You will not always be in your perfect stance. You will not always have perfect balance. You will not always be in the very position that you need. The opportunity may not come. Your opponent may be too different from what you trained for. And you must be flexible in order to be a good fighter.

Even if you want to limit yourself to only a certain technique, you still have to know that you will be facing opponents who use BOTH kinds of punches. If only for the sake of understanding opponents better, I think it’s worth learning both kinds of punches.

The best fighters use all kinds of punches.

Pick any pro you want, it has to be one that actually fights. You can pick a modern-day great like Mayweather, or you can pick an old school Jack Dempsey. And then watch his footage. You will see him/her throwing all kinds of punches.

It has to be a fighter (as in, someone who actually fights regularly), and to keep things relevant to this website, it has to be a BOXER. I’m not interested in hearing about how JKD said this and karate said that…this is a boxing website. Our focus here is on boxing principles…for boxers. I will not be speaking for other fighting arts because I don’t understand them.

 

*** Watch my video demonstration to see the advantages and disadvantages of both horizontal punches and vertical punches. ***

 

 

Advantages to Punching with a Horizontal Fist

Horizontal-fisted punches are more powerful

This is a general statement which means it’s true MOST of the time but not all of the time. The mains reason are because: 1) a punch is more powerful and better supported when the elbow is behind the fist and 2) a horizontal fist activates more of the chest and back into the punch, whereas a vertical punch focuses more on the shoulders.

The horizontal fist position is more powerful not so much because of the rotation of the fist but rather the rotation of the elbow. With a vertical-fisted punch, the elbow stays down and doesn’t support the wrist until the very end where the arm is extended straight. Whereas with the a horizontal-fist, the elbow rotates and lifts up immediately supporting the wrist much sooner.

Having the elbow come up behind the fist is the key difference here. The wrist has so much more support and delivers more power when the elbow is behind the fist to give your forearm a straighter impact angle. It’s important to know that punches can land with the arm bent at varying angles. Rarely does the punch land when the arm is completely straight. It’s more common to land punches with the arm bent (at the elbow) to some degree, even if only minor.

Because punches are so often landed with a bent elbow, it’s generally more powerful to land with a horizontal fist. When punches are landed at very close range (with a very bent elbow), you’ll notice the power output greatly favors a horizontal fist over a vertical fist. Think of the optimum benchpress position, where you’re more powerful when your elbows point out sideways (using the chest) supporting the wrists better, rather than pointing downwards (using the triceps) towards your feet.

Horizontal-fisted punches are definitely more powerful for uppercuts. The reason is because you can put more of your back muscle into the punch. When trying to throw an uppercut with a vertical fist, you’ll feel like it relies more on the shoulder.

Horizontal punches are more powerful than vertical punches,
because the elbow supports the wrist sooner.

 

Horizontal-fisted punches have more support

As explained by the previous point, the wrist and arm overall has more support because the elbow comes up sooner. This is especially important not only for punching power but also for injury prevention.

I’ve heard many people arguing about which direction gives the fist more support (horizontal vs vertical) and I feel people are far too focused on the hand more-so than the rest of the arm. I’ve heard different arguments for various ways to distribute the impact across the knuckles. Some people say you should land the first two knuckles because they’re bigger. Some people say you should land on the middle knuckle because it’s right in the center of your hand and aims straight down your arm. Some people say you should land on the last 3 knuckles because these are actually more aligned with the arm when the arm is extended straight and the because the last 3 knuckles give a nice flat surface.

In my opinion, the angle of the fist is not the main area of importance. What’s more important to me is the angle of the forearm at impact. If the wrist is straight and the forearm/elbow is behind the wrist and supporting it, the impact will travel easily through the fist and down the arm. HOWEVER, if the wrist is NOT in the right position (because the elbow is not behind it), then you have the problem of the impact being dispersed only across the hand. This isn’t to say that the position of the hand doesn’t matter, it only means that I focus more on the position of my elbow and leave my fist to land in it’s natural state which should be relatively straight and well-positioned for impact.

There is also the opinion that horizontal-fisted punches have more support because you’re stressing the wrist along the long side rather than the short side. The idea here is that most punches are thrown with a bit of a swing. And that if you impact your hand with a vertical fist, the wrist will bend much easier than if you impact your head with a horizontal fist. I do feel there is some truth to this but again, I am more concerned about the position of the elbow than the rotation of the fist itself.

Horizontal-fisted punches give the entire arm more support.

 

Horizontal-fisted punches can counter around opponent’s punches better

Horizontal-fisted punches are especially good at arcing around or over your opponent’s punches. Key punches like the overhand right or high left hooks are far more comfortable when thrown with a horizontal fist. The reason once again being that it’s not so much because of the angle of the fist but rather because of the angle of the elbow.

Having a high elbow makes it easier for you to bend your arm for curving punches that aim sideways or downwards at your opponent. The entire arm is far more anatomically correct and comfortable to arc punches around your opponent’s punches when your fist is horizontal. It’s hard to arc downwards with a vertical fist because the elbow simply doesn’t bend that way. Yes, you COULD theoretically lift your elbow high as you throw with a vertical fist but it will not make sense (try it and see how awkward it feels).

You may have also noticed that throwing with a low elbow might catch your arm on your opponent’s forearm which prevents your fist from reaching your opponent’s head. A higher elbow would help clear obstacles like the opponent’s shoulder and arms.

Regardless of whether or not a vertical fist is more powerful, it simply cannot deliver power at all the same angles a horizontal-fisted punch can. The reverse is also true.

Horizontal-fisted punches are more comfortable
for overhand rights and overhand left hooks.

 

Horizontal-fisted punches protect the chin better

Throwing punches with a horizontal-fist causes a chain reaction in your body, where your entire arm and body is affected by the rotation of the fist, giving you slightly better protection as you punch. The rotation of the fist is connected to the rotation of the elbow, which is then connected to the rotation of your shoulder, and ultimately even a bit of your upper body.

When your shoulder rotates (which allows the arm to rotate), the shoulder lifts a bit giving the chin a little more protection so your head isn’t just sticking straight up out there. Your upper body also tends to turn a little bit more when you throw horizontal-fisted punches, which also helps your defense because your head is slightly moving to one side (making it a slight “shoulder roll” motion from one side while simultaneously being a slight “slipping” motion to the other side).

 

Advantages to Punching with a Vertical Fist

Vertical-fisted punches are easier to throw

Your arms are naturally positioned for vertical-fisted punches, making them easier to throw and requiring less energy and effort than horizontal-fisted punches. Look at the way your arms are positioned when you’re standing. When your hands are down by your side, the wrists are naturally positioned inwards in a “vertical position”. It isn’t until your lift your arms up that your wrists start to turn into a “horizontal position” by some form of habit and/or anatomical comfort.

Vertical-fisted punches require less technique because it doesn’t take much training to lift your arm up like you’re going to slap someone (vertical fist). A simple lift of your fist and you’re ready to go. You may have noticed that fighters will turn their punches over less and less as they get tired.

Vertical-fisted punches are easier to throw,
and require less energy and effort.

 

Vertical-fisted punches are faster

Naturally, vertical-fisted punches are faster because they’re easier to throw. You may have noticed many fighters using vertical-fisted punches for a quick potshots or shoeshine combinations. While vertical-fisted punches are not as powerful (as horizontal-fisted punches), they can be much quicker especially when thrown in combinations. It’s easy to see how it’s much less work because you don’t have to lift the elbows as high and you don’t need to coordinate as much rotation in your arms. All you have to do is lift the hands and that’s it. If you need the fastest combinations possible to surprise an opponent, try a whipping out vertical-fisted punches and “slapping” him with your fists.

I have heard before that vertical fist are supposedly less telegraphic because there is less movement made in your shoulders and elbows. And that the elbows staying down makes it harder to detect arm movement. While this makes logical sense, I don’t think it matters so much at the highest levels of boxing. The reason being that skilled boxers are paying more attention to the commitment of energy rather than the commitment of movement. Skilled fighters are paying more attention to the feeling when you are going to strike rather than the actual movements in your body. In a high skilled fight, both are fighters are usually always moving and always very fast so the difference in technique between a horizontal vs vertical fist doesn’t matter so much.

Vertical-fisted punches are faster,
making them great for potshots or shoeshine combinations.

 

Vertical-fisted punches can penetrate an opponent’s guard better

Vertical-fisted punches are typically better at squeezing in between your opponent’s guard or curving around the sides for hooking punches. The thinner profile makes it easier for a vertical-fisted jab to cut straight up the middle between your opponent’s gloves. The extra sideways mobility can mm You can also use a vertical fist to hook around your opponent’s gloves (to the head) or his elbows (to the body).

It’s also less painful get your punched blocked if your opponent impacts the long fleshy side of your wrist (vertical fist) rather than the thin boney side of your wrist (horizontal fist). There have been many times when I felt pain because my opponent cut into my wrists with his elbows and forearms when he blocked my punches.

Vertical-fisted punches can slip through the middle
or hook around your opponent’s guard.

 

Vertical-fisted punches are more comfortable for throwing low punches

This principle could apply to all punches aimed at targets below your shoulder (not only body shots). For example, when your opponent is ducking under you.

Generally speaking, anytime you throw a punch that aims at a target lower than your shoulder AND/OR has a curve to it (hook), it’s more comfortable to throw it with a vertical fist. And in some cases, it may even be more comfortable to rotate the fist even more so that you have an upside-down horizontal fist (uppercut).

You COULD throw a straight punch downwards to the body with a horizontal-fist but there is a slight chance your wrist may bend and cause you pain because of the angle of impact. Or what some people will do is bend the knees so that the punch is more level to the shoulders and feels like a regular high punch. What you definitely DON’T want to do is throw any hooking type punches to the body with a horizontal-fist.

Once again, this is has to do with putting the arm in a more anatomically correct position. If you use a vertical fist for low punches, the elbow stays lower to support the wrist. If you use a horizontal fist for low punches, the elbow stays higher and impacts the wrist at an angle.

Vertical-fisted punches are better for body shots.

 

 

It’s all about punching STRATEGY (not technique)

Other random things I’ve heard

Time to address the random things I’ve heard in regards to punching with a horizontal fist vs a vertical fist. There’s truth in all these beliefs and I’ll do my best to explain why I think it does or does not matter so much.

 

“Vertical-fisted punches keep the elbows low to protect the body.”

I’ve heard random people (never a coach or actual boxer, though) say using a vertical fist keeps the elbow down to protect your body better while punching. And while this makes some sense from a technical standpoint, it makes zero sense from a strategic standpoint.

First off, what are you committing to? The defensive act of protecting your body? Or the offensive act of striking your opponent? Either your arms are protecting you, or they’re used for attacking. I don’t see how you can fully commit to extending your fist for a punch while holding your elbows down to protect your body.

From a boxer’s standpoint, we have many skills and strategies to deal with this. For example, we have special skills that allow us to punch freely without having to rely on the arms for defense. We know how to time our counters, use slipping or rolling motions to defend our body so we don’t have to block all the time.

I’ve actually heard theories that lifting the elbow is considered MORE defensive than keeping them down. Rotating the fists for horizontal fists lift your arms and elbows up, making it harder for opponents to throw counter punches over them. The shoulders are also lifted to give the chin more protection. I’ve heard people say it’s a good idea to throw hooks with high elbows so that if your punch misses, your elbow might land. Mike Tyson was known for doing this.

Most importantly of all, you have to factor strategy into the equation. What is going on? Is your opponent a shorter guy throwing many hooks at your ribs? Or is he a taller guy trying to land long counters over the top? What about your strategy? Are you standing tall or crouching down? Are you trying to bring your counters over the top, or are you trying to fire under and through his guard? Nobody should fight with a default technique without first understanding the strategic implications of using specific techniques.

 

“Horizontal fist takes the shoulder out of position.”

By “out of position”, we are talking about the shoulder being lifted and further separated from the upper torso. It does make some sense. The shoulder does feel more engaged and perhaps more powerful for energy transfer when the shoulder is locked in tight against your upper body. There is truth to this as I feel similar differences in strength when I change my shoulder position while doing a bench press. Having the shoulders down and locked in allows me to use more of the stronger chest and lat muscles, whereas having the shoulders out seems to isolate and rely more on the weaker shoulder muscles.

I have two important technical theories on addressing this concern:

  1. You should be activating the LAT MUSCLE during all punches. It’s very easy to curve your body forward or lean forward to the point where your punching power seems to spill out over the top of your shoulder. This is especially common when fighters are trying to reach in during jabs or crosses. If anything, try to imagine your power spilling out from UNDER your shoulder (imagine the power coming from your armpit and inside of your arm, rather than from the top of your shoulder and outside of your arm). This lat muscle activation is a slight sharp contraction that is timed with the punch. It’s not a tense squeezing contraction.
  2. Your punching technique must RELEASE the arm. This goes back to the argument about snapping punches vs pushing punches. If you’re throwing PUSHING PUNCHES, then yes, it’s perhaps better to keep the shoulder in so you can push harder. On the other hand, if you’re a SNAPPING PUNCHER, then you need to release the shoulder along with the arm so it can snap out more powerfully.

If you don’t already know by now, I support snapping punches as being far superior to pushing punches. I’m not alone in this as many other trained fighters, pro boxers, and trainers, etc all feel the same way. If you talk to a pro boxer, you may have heard him say, “You have to pop the shoulder when you throw the right hand.” This “popping” of the shoulder refers to the release of the shoulder. In other words, you are releasing your shoulder from its socket the same way you release your fist from your shoulder. The snapping punch would now become more powerful because you’re releasing your entire arm as a projectile. The shoulder is snapping forwards with the fist. This makes punches like the right cross FARRRRR more powerful and also faster.

So again, the decision to lock or release your shoulder depends on whether you want to throw snapping punches or pushing punches. Pushing punches hold the entire arm in to form a strong beam to push into the opponent. Snapping punches release the entire arm to whip out and smack the opponent. Regardless of what you do with your arm, it’s important not to forget that your punching power comes mainly from your core! And you’ll find that if you use your core correctly, you can do almost anything with your arm and your punch will still be powerful.

 

“Vertical punches are straighter than horizontal punches.”

Are vertical-fisted punches really straighter? And does it matter so much? Are you always throwing straight punches? (Not me, many of my punches have some curve or bend in the elbows.) What about when an opponent is right in front of you and you’re doing inside fighting?

And even when you do throw straight punches, are you really extending ALL the way out? I could imagine a jab coming all the way out but not so much with a right hand. You have to ask, are you hitting with the arm or with the body? If you’re generating and hitting with the force of the body, it doesn’t really matter how the arm is bent. This is actually a very advanced concept that beginners sometimes do not and cannot understand. If you’re using technique that relies on arm position to generate force, then you’ll definitely experience a decrease in power when the arm changes shape. If your technique relies primarily on the core, well then you’ll be free to bend and twist your arm anyway you like.

 

“Old school boxers, Jack Dempsey, whoever, said to use vertical fist.”

I’ve heard it, too. That old school boxers came from the era of bare-knuckled fighting and that they didn’t have the benefit of modern gloves with all the extra padding and support. And that the vertical fist protected their hands better. That the vertical fist aligns the knuckles better so the hands don’t break during impact. Or that vertical-fisted punches may be better for the hand when impacting against hard surfaces such as an opponent’s head.

While I do agree that perhaps the old school boxers did throw more vertical-fisted punches, they also still used horizontal-fisted punches. You can watch any old school footage you like and see for yourself. There are moments where you can clearly see the glove in a horizontal position. At high-speed moments where you can’t see the gloves, the giveaway can be seen in the elbows. As I’ve said above, a higher elbow will usually be linked to a horizontal fist.

 

“Bruce Lee, JKD, Kung-fu, martial arts guys say to use a vertical fist.”

I have yet to see any ANY martial arts fighter, in film OR in person, using a vertical-fisted punch, and throwing as hard as today’s knockout boxers.

Take a look at Julian Jackson, Mike Tyson, Tommy Hearns, Roy Jones Jr, Prince Naseem, Manny Pacquiao. The list goes on and on. Find any martial artist who can throw VERTICAL fisted punches with anywhere near the power of these boxers. I’ve seen martial artists breaking boards and landing knockout punches but none with the amount of power as a boxer.

I’ve personally felt the power of many martial artists in person several times. Some of them have been practicing their disciplines for 5, 10, 20 years…came into our gym to spar with boxers and didn’t punch anywhere near as hard as even a 3-year amateur boxer. Not only were they deficient in power, but also lacked the speed, fluidity, coordination, and versatility of angles and combination punches. They threw maybe 2 or 3 different punches over and over and were exhausted within a few rounds.

Perhaps it IS possible to throw devastating punches with a vertical fist, I have yet to see it done with regularity outside of the boxing setting. And the vertical-fisted punches that boxers throw are quite different in technique and application from the ones thrown by martial arts practitioners. Regardless of the punching technique being used, I would still rate the boxer’s punching technique over that of a martial artist.

 

What is the GOAL of your punch?

What are you trying to do?

Saying, “I want to turn my fist because it’s more powerful.” won’t do anything for you. It doesn’t make sense to pick your technique before picking your goal.

  • What are you aiming for? (HEAD or BODY?)
  • What distance is between you and your opponent? (NEAR or FAR?)
  • What angle are you trying to punch at? (STRAIGHT or AROUND?)
  • What angle are you trying to punch from? (TALL or CROUCHED or ANGLED?)
  • What effect do you want? (Fast setup shot or Powerful damage shot?)

It’s not always about which punch has more power or more speed. Depending on the situation, either one could be the more powerful or more fitting weapon. Ultimately…the most anatomically correct and natural position in the moment, will be your best option.

You’ll find it’s not really about the rotation of the fist but more-so, the movement of the entire body. If anything, I don’t even pick my punching technique. I don’t actually DECIDE during the fight whether I want a horizontal fist or a vertical fist. I simply let it happen. I put my body into the position I want and then let my hands go in the most natural way possible. In that moment, the fist rotates naturally, organically, because that’s the way it feels most comfortable. (It goes without saying, that I have trained and become natural with many techniques so my body relies on well-trained muscle memory during a fight. An untrained fighter has no muscle memory and will only have AWKWARD reflexes while fighting.)

Fighting is something that takes time and experience. After years of doing something, you start to be more in tune and able to listen to your body and find newer and easier ways to do things. You become more able to let your body move the way it wants to move. No more wasting energy to force an awkward movement. The ONLY way to generate maximum force is through natural body movement. You have to be natural! Let your body move within its natural limits, the way it was SUPPOSED to move!

Let your body move naturally
if you want maximum power.

 

The goal of the arm is to deliver the power, NOT generate the power.

Remember, it is your core and legs that generate the power. The arm is only there to deliver the power, nothing else. The best thing the arm can do is position itself to offer the most support during the impact. And the ultimate goal of rotating your fist is to support your hand and wrist with your forearm and elbow. You want to land your punches with a straight line formed from your fist to your elbow. And then of course, the elbow can bend at whatever degree it needs to give you the punching angle you need.

To find out which fist rotation is better. Try holding your fist at the height and angle of the punch you want to throw, and rotate your elbow and fist back and forth to see which position gives you the best forearm support. You can also move your fist back and forth to see which hand/elbow position gets the forearm support there faster.

 

What does it MEAN to be HORIZONTAL vs VERTICAL?

This is a trick question. What is the point of reference? Are we talking about the fist being horizontal-vs-vertical IN REFERENCE TO THE GROUND?

  • For me, the POINT OF REFERENCE IS THE TORSO, and NOT the ground. This means that if your fist is parallel to your spine, it is “VERTICAL”. And if your fist is parallel to your shoulders, it is “HORIZONTAL”.

This distinction is so incredibly important to make because the anatomical ranges of the fist and arm relate to the body, and not the ground. And the differences in technique caused by the rotation of the fist affect your body, not the ground.

So how does knowing this change the way you look at fist positions?

  • JABS – If you stand straight up and throw a typical jab (with the palm facing down at impact), that’s a horizontal fist, right? Now what if you bend over and throw a jab to the body? You’ll notice that this might actually be considered a vertical fist because your spine is bent over.
  • RIGHT HANDS – If you keep your weight at center and throw a right hand landing with the palm down, that’s a horizontal fist, right? But what if you’re leaning forward and coming in with an overhand right? Is that a horizontal fist or a vertical fist? This could be considered a vertical fist without you realizing it. You may notice that have a true horizontal fist from this position would require the fist rotating almost upside-down, which is what some fighters will do.
  • LEFT HOOKS – Try throwing a left hook while shifting your weight to your back foot. Then try throwing a left hook while keeping your weight on your front foot. Now try throwing a left hook to the body while leaning your weight a bit beyond the front foot. You will notice that the more forward you place your body, the more your fist rotates comfortably towards a vertical fist position. And the further back you place your body, the more your fist rotates comfortably towards a horizontal fist position.
  • UPPERCUTS – Try throwing an uppercut with your body right at the center. Then try throwing uppercuts with KEEPING your body to one side (tilt left for left uppercuts, tilt right for right uppercuts). You will notice that uppercuts where your body is at center feel more horizontal-fisted. And that uppercuts where your body leans to one side feel more vertical-fisted. Now try both again but keep your elbows tight to your body…it should feel more horizontal again. I won’t tell you which is better because you’ll need both depending on where your opponent is exposed.

 

vertical punches

Is my right hand horizontal or vertical?

  • If the point of reference is the ground, the fist looks horizontal.
  • If the point of reference is my body, the fist actually looks more vertical.
  • Do you see what I mean?

As you explore more with different body positions, you will discover better and more comfortable positions for your arm. The tilt or your body and where you place your weight at the moment of impact has a great impact on how should you place your arm for maximum comfort AND power.

My grand point is…your fist might actually be in a vertical-fisted position even though it is horizontal to the ground. And that it’s not always so clear to define a horizontal-fisted punch from a vertical-fisted punch. Either way, I don’t care. Use what fits in your situation and gives you the best comfort and most power!

The ultimate goal of choosing horizontal vs vertical
is comfort and power.

 

It’s about strategy, NOT technique.

In the end, talking about horizontal-fist vs vertical-fist is really talking about strategy. And it’s helpful to have different strategies to win fights. The more ways you can adapt to your opponent, the better. Horizontal punches and vertical punches allow you to do different things. And to blindly follow one way would limit you from the strategic advantages of the other.

It’s so much less about the fist and much more about allowing your body to take advantage of different angles of attack. You are not always in one position and not always attacking in the same manner. For whatever reason, one technique will be more effective than the other simply because of the way the situation unfolds itself. And it makes no sense to pick the less effective technique simply because of some predisposed bias.

Watch all the greatest fighters and you will see that they utilize a wide variety of positions, techniques, and strategies!

HORIZONTAL PUNCHES vs VERTICAL PUNCHES
is really a discussion about strategy, NOT technique.
A good fighter can use both.

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33 Comments

Malik November 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Yeah this makes sense. So to tie in with your art of light punches guide, It would make sense to use vertical fists as quick/annoying setups for your power punches…which would be the horizontal fist

Reply

Johnny N November 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

Yes, that’s one way to think about it. I typically use horizontal jabs more often. I find they’re easier at slicing over my opponent’s arms.

Reply

Martin November 22, 2013 at 5:55 am

Gennady Golovkin operates well with both.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNjxPrYCiA0
those body shots from 0:14. So damn precise.

Reply

Johnny N November 26, 2013 at 9:18 am

Beautiful punching technique. Great fighter.

Reply

NPW November 22, 2013 at 6:50 am

I like vertical punches for jabs straignt to the nose, because some people with a high guard can’t move or block fast enough. I use more of a pushing type of punch for body shots, and I don’t really rotate the wrist much there either. I’m usually low, close, and driving into the other guy at a 45 degree angle.

Out in the open when I’m moving around, I mostly turn the wrist over, though I still occasionally use a vertical punch when I’m working against someone faster. I use a vertical to get space, and then throw the harder turned punches at the arms to slow them down.

Most of the guys are taller and longer than me, so I have to hit what I can reach. I hit the arms and shoulders with whatever lands, and then move. If there is a option to close and hit the body great, if not, I just keep moving.

For what it’s worth, so far this strategy of using hortizontal and vertical punches has been an improvement over just hortizontal. I definitely feel that my jab is faster vertically, and that people react slower. I will admit that I violate the standard boxing rules and throw pure arm jabs with vertical fists to throw them off their game. Not every punch, just enough to get some space and time, to get some hard body shots in before I jab and move back out.

I have two questions. First, do you have any recommendations for changes to my approach? Second, sometimes I let my arms move out farther from my chin than some (most, ok, all) coaches seem to like. I’ll use my arms at range to get in the way of incoming shots. Again, this isn’t a stance held for the entire round, just enough to be annoying to the other guy. When I’m there I’ll use a shoulder drop punch with a vertical fist to pop the other guy’s head back on a jab. I like it cause it can be thrown with decent snap with the arms almost half way extended. Everyone seems to be convinced that I’m going to get clipped because the shoulder isn’t protecting the jawline. But so far, even though everyone knows I do it, no one has been able to exploit the “obvious” hole. Is it just cause I’m only fighting the other beginners, or can I keep doing this? When I fight people way better than me, it doesn’t really matter what I do.

I’ve lost confidence in my coach and looking for another. As I’ve learned more about boxing, I’ve noticed how much his star pupils suck. They are all jab, cross, hook, uppercut. No motion, no defense other than turtleing up in high guard, no foot work, no strategy other than flurry, rest, flurry, rest.

So I’m trying to get an accurate assessment of what I’m doing by sparring other coach’s guys, but they are all far better than me (and taller, bigger, and faster).

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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Johnny N November 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

I’ve got no problem with your approach. Use it while it works and then improve or leave it for something better when your game improves. As long as your game is constantly changing, you’re doing the right thing by letting improvements happen.

And yes, I would definitely recommend checking out other coaches especially if you feel yours is not as good.

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Hassan November 22, 2013 at 9:45 pm

This question doesn’t relate much to this but. I stand at orthodox and I’m right handed. But when i go south paw, my left cross is a lot quicker (maybe due to use of jabs) but it’s also more powerful. I also have a bad right shoulder and i throw a much better overhand left then right, my right hook also doesn’t feel comfortable. I don’t want to switch to south paw, but do you have any exercises that help with my right shoulder it isn’t as smooth and fluid as my left, feels too stiff. I feel no pain, but it just isn’t right, or does it simply require more training? Should i start training south paw more to jab with right and train right hook? This probably sounds confusing lol, but i hope you can help.

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Johnny N November 26, 2013 at 10:26 am

Is your bad right shoulder something you felt from a previous injury? Or simply that it feels awkward when you throw punches with it?

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Hassan November 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Defo awkwardness i don’t feel it with my left..show i just simply practice throwing more overhand and right hooks??

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Johnny N December 4, 2013 at 9:55 am

Well…first you need a trainer to adjust your technique. That technique needs to be fixed up before you practice. You need some feedback.

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Amit November 27, 2013 at 1:29 am

Hey Johnny,

Though my question is bit different from above topic, however I need to ask should I go for long distance run (Like: 2 miles/3 miles) or 100M/200M sprints, which will be much beneficial for boxing or fighting perspective?
Or
I though it to do like, first 1-2 mile run then 5-8 of 100 M sprints. What would you like to suggest?
I need your guidance again, as you have been helpful for a long.

Thanks
Amit

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Johnny N December 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

Do both, distance and sprints. You can mix it up on different days.

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dar December 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Yet another great tutorial by Johnny. Thank You. The emphasis of the importance of alignment hit home. As an old mechanic, it’s easy for me to figure out that if the shoulder,arm,hips etc, have been traumatized, then there will be many misalignments in a boxer’s body that all add up to subpar performance, despite max dedication&will. You can’t win a race with a car that’s ain’t running true. The Fix is Structural Integration,aka, Rolfing & Osteopathy. Prepare to be amazed. i was. cheers

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Johnny N December 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

Rolfing, now that’s a word I didn’t expect to see on a boxing website! :)

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Lee Paxton December 3, 2013 at 7:52 am

With excellent boxing gloves I don’t think it matters too much, but if you’re talking bareknuckles where you might get caught in a streetfight, then it’s hands down, vertical & the three knuckle landing, something that an expert, Jack Dempsey, knew a lot about. Wrists probably play a lot into this as well, and I guess if you have 9″ wrists like Dempsey; who does? well than doesn’t matter so much.

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Johnny N January 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm

And here I will say it again…PURPOSE. It doesn’t matter what fist position you think is best, they won’t work for all situations. Some overhand rights can only be thrown with a horizontal fist. Uppercuts also work better with a horizontal fist.

It all comes down to purpose. And using a permanently-fixed fist alignment will not allow the arm to bend comfortably in all ways.

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Michael Rami December 16, 2013 at 3:35 am

Great article!

But shouldn’t we use the corkscrew motion so far that the fist is nearly vertical again? This a) lifts the shoulder up and protects the chin and b) makes it easier for the fist to slip through the opponent’s gloves.

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Johnny N January 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I find that theory is not practical and also unnecessary in many situations.

A) Rotating the fist all the way backwards vertical doesn’t raise the shoulder that much higher than the horizontal fist.

B) If you really needed your glove to slip through, you would simply have thrown a vertical fist in the first place instead of throwing a spinning punch that would be far less likely to slip in. Part of slipping in a punch also has to do with speed and throwing a punch that rotates ALL the way until it’s vertical again takes much more time.

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Kevin December 18, 2013 at 1:30 am

I am in a habit of throwing horizontal straight punches and a mixture of horizontal and vertical hooks. When I remember to, I will throw vertical straights. Which is why I agree with this article. Just wished the “Other random thing’s I’ve heard” section wasn’t there because everything appeared to be almost unbiased until that point.

Vertical punching will lose power depending on how your lower body is when executing the punch. When throwing vertical straights and lead straights, you may not be able to see its effectiveness if your lower body is executing the punch the same as horizontal straights (although not entirely true depending on your perspective). Also, look at Mayweather’s continuous lead vertical straights to Canelo’s face. Untelegraphed, fast, and powerful.

Depending on how you throw the vertical punch and the horizontal punch, either can be the more powerful punch for you. I’d say stick with what your gym teaches you, the horizontal punch, unless you’ve tried the vertical punch and think it’s better. This way you know that you practice 95% of the time horizontal but still prefer vertical in certain positions or when your weight is distributed in a certain way. Of course, it’s better if you’re actually instructed on how to properly throw an effective vertical punch, how not to throw one, and know when and for what purpose a vertical punch is good for, because it’s not just which leg your weight is on and which direction you are moving in when throwing the punch. E.g., if your weight is on the left leg, it does not mean that a left vertical or horizontal punch is always better. the angle and location of your target changes which punch is better. Someone with good coordinate and athleticism, however, could naturally feel how it’s done. For me, I needed instructions before I got the hang of it.

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Johnny N January 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Hi Kevin,

I’m sorry if you felt offending about the “other random things” section. I used the word “random” because those opinions typically came from guys with very limited fighting experience, or did not have a boxing trainer, or never trained in a boxing gym. Those type of opinions are easily answered (and very quickly) the moment you start fighting. If it came of bias, I hope you can understand it comes from the bias of my own personal experiences and not out of resent for other people’s ideas.

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Nate December 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’ve seen many JKD practitioners use the vertical fist technique, however Bruce Lee actually believed that the horizontal fist was more powerful. He primarily used the vertical fist for the reasons you’ve covered above. A lot of people don’t realize this, but Bruce Lee believed that boxing was one of the best striking arts, and he learned a lot of techniques by watching footage of Muhammad Ali train in the mirror (most notably; the lead hand down at the hip).

Anyway, I found it very interesting when I learned this. Thought some of you might too. Also thought it might bring some insight to any stubborn martial artists who wish to learn how to box, haha.

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maX January 18, 2014 at 2:23 am

Landing with two knuckles of index and middle fingers?

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Johnny N January 24, 2014 at 11:16 pm

That’s what I would recommend, yes.

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HAL Williams March 1, 2014 at 2:55 pm

HI Johnny love you information,my son plays baseball for one of the top organizations in the country he plays SS which requires lots of foot work and hand eye coordination he bats in the top of the order …he is a hitter what program do you suggest for us i was even thinking about hiring a boxing trainer..Thx!

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Johnny N March 5, 2014 at 10:32 am

Hi HAL, I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking for. Are you looking for a baseball training routine? I don’t have one.

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Mark Magee March 3, 2014 at 5:48 am

H johnny this is my first post on this fantastic website even though ive followed it for years. Over the past couple years ive picked up boxing but have travelled so much that ive only spent a couple of those months in a gym and so dont have alot of real experience in the ring and the rest of the time just practicing at home base, i litterally cannot go a single day without shadowboxing, some people think its weird but i just think it shows how fun boxing is to me. I was practicing the vertical vs horizontal puch and came up with a possible third option and would be grateful for you opinion. If you throw the punch out vertically so that your thumb and inside elbow are pointing skyward but your shoulder is still not extended( like a short punch) and then at the time of impact roate your shoulder into it then your hand rotates horizontally anyways. For reference ill call it a quarter punch. I think this is the reason most people over rotate in their punches because they are told to rotate the fist, but if you throw the fist out horizontally and then put the shoulder in it, it over rotates and your thumb is pointing downwards. In truth your fist/ wrist doesnt need to roate at all and that doing so may lose power. The advantage of the quarter punch is that it flies out straight, then has both reach and power upon impact and comes back straighter than normal, whatcha fink?

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Johnny N March 5, 2014 at 10:34 am

Hi Mark, I’m not sure I understand the visual you’re trying to describe. It sounds like a usual corkscrew punch to me. Do you have a video?

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mark magee March 14, 2014 at 11:06 am
mark magee March 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

Sorry, here is the real link. Enjoy,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paj8JLmWxAk

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Johnny N March 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Ok yes…you’re definitely talking about the corkscrew punch technique and variations of the corkscrew punch technique. Well you are correct in that it isn’t the fist that needs to rotate so much as it is the forearm that needs to rotate. So I would say, leave the fist alone and think about rotating the forearm (or rotate the forearm and fist together as one unit). But either way…the power is generated from your core…so the arm position doesn’t generate power…more-so, it only prevents the loss of power. And the position of the arm has more to do with strategy and power efficiency rather than power generation.

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David October 1, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Great website! Ive done some BJJ,MMA and Karate training. Now i do Judo. Im old and always have to stop when i get injured!LOL Im fascinated by the info I’ve read about Old bare knuckle boxing. Ive read that the BKB guys used a vertical fist landing with the three lower knuckles . I like that you say use all angles. Leaving it up to the boxer to choose. Id like to stick to vertical so I’m ready to lay out the young punks who cut me off on my motorcycle every day!LOL! Great article!

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Alex S. October 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Hey Johnny,
I`m 18 and recently started boxing in a gym in germany.

My trainer doesn`t allow me to have my hands vertical when throwing hooks, because that would be an illegal punch according to him, but it feels way stronger and safer to punch like that!
I`m pretty sure that he`s wrong, since everyone on the internet says its up to you to choose if its vertical or horizontal.

What should I do?

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Randy October 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

Hey Johnny just two quick questions on a straight shot to the body I usually get low but I’m tall and wanted to add a vertical fist variation so I telegraph the shot so any idea on how to set that up and how to throw it hard also any tips on throw a overhand on shooter guys cause of my reach it feel really awkward sometimes and losses a bit of power thanks for your time and any answer

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