The real title of this article is actually “Why Lifting Weights Won’t Increase Punching Power – PART 3”.
Why do I keep revisiting this sensitive topic? It’s not because I want all the sports experts to come on here and hate me. (No, I don’t need that.) It’s simply because I want to change the way people look at punching.
It is of no importance to me whether you lift weights or not. What’s far more important and beneficial for YOUR punching power is how YOU look at punching technique.
What I’m going to share is not NEW. I didn’t invent it. It’s been around forever and now I share it for those with a curiosity to look at things differently. This is the way many of the best boxers I know look at punching technique.
DISCLAIMER: Weights and Punching Power
To save time and prevent unnecessary arguments in the comments section below caused by any misunderstandings, I’m going to establish my basic viewpoints before starting the article.
1. Are you saying lifting weights won’t increase punching power?
Not at all. Lifting weights, along with other resistance training methods, may or may not increase your punching power. I can’t clearly say yes or no because it really depends on how you’re training and for what aspect of your punching power.
2. What is the point of this article?
My main goal is to improve YOUR punching power. The easiest way to do this is to change the way you look at punching technique. And one of the easiest ways to know somebody is looking at punching technique in a flawed way is when you see that they believe so strongly in lifting weights.
3. Why should I listen to you?
You don’t have to. I’m sharing ideas freely. And you don’t have to like them, you can read something else. Being angry or offensive in the comments section is unnecessary. Nobody is forcing these ideas on you.
4. What credibility do you have? Have you ever lifted weights? Who did you train with?
I did powerlifting a long time ago. I’ve trained both with and without weights. (More importantly, I’ve trained using a variety of different methods that cannot simply be categorized as “weights” and “no weights”.) I’ve trained with many amateur and professional boxing champions and spoken with many knowledgeable boxing trainers (young and old). I’ve tested my own results and supervised several other fighters in the gym. My opinions are a result from years of my own boxing training as well as seeing many other different fighters and training regimens.
5. What if weight-lifting actually IMPROVES my punching power?
Good for you! If it works and you like it, keep doing it! In the meanwhile, you might want to consider looking at other things to see if it can help you or improve you. It doesn’t cost you anything to try something new and then switch back to what you were doing if you don’t like it.
6. Are you saying I should stop lifting weights?
Of course not. You should do what works for you. Lifting weights (as with any resistance training) can help with strength, endurance, power, speed, etc, etc in boxing movements overall. If you find it beneficial to your boxing conditioning, keep doing it. This article is purely to explain how much or how little I feel lifting HEAVY weights affects your punching power. What’s important is that you change your training if you feel that it does not benefit you. Always look to change and improve what you have. That’s always a good idea.
The biggest thing is to learn how to use your body (which means understanding punch technique). Even if you gave up lifting weights but still tried to punch using the old technique (as if you had your weightlifting muscles), it won’t help you much either.
7. What if I’m angry about what you’re saying and think you’re an idiot?
I can understand you being emotional/offended because it’s different from how you think. However, I will delete your comments below if you can’t be respectful of my opinions (as well as those of others). If anything, I prefer you to complain about me on your blog so all your readers can find my website.
Let’s analyze punching technique
There are many different ways to analyze punching technique but here is the breakdown I use for this breakdown for these specific topics that I’ll address today.
The 3 phases of a punch
- FIRST PHASE – the power generation (creating power)
- SECOND PHASE – the power delivery (release of the hand)
- THIRD PHASE – the power transfer (impact integrity)
Here’s quick breakdown that I’ll use to explain the different ways of looking at punching technique. First, there’s the generation of power in your body created to cause damage. Then comes the release of your hand which you’ll use to connect the power to your opponent. Finally, there’s the transfer of power from your body, down your arm, to your opponent.
The first phase of punching is only the FORM, not the technique
Beginners are usually focused on the FIRST PHASE of the punch. This is the initial body movement where the entire body activates, turns, pivots, rotates, and extends into the punch. This is the actual punching motion that you learn.
Remember that time your trainer taught you how to throw a punch? The hips turn and the feet pivot, and arm extends, and the hand turns over. Remember all those little tiny technical details? Those are only the first phase of the punch.
All those details are only the MOVEMENT of the punch. They aren’t completely responsible for the entire feeling and the power of the punch. The common mistake would be to learn the proper form to punching and thinking that’s all there was to punching technique. And for this reason…you have many guys thinking they have great punching technique when all they really have is only great punching form, and they can’t figure out why their punching power sucks.
There’s so much more you have to do INTERNALLY and then there’s timing and several other things. Extending your fist into your opponent is not the only technical detail there is to punching power.
Punching TECHNIQUE is much more
than punching FORM.
The most important parts of punching power are the 2nd & 3rd phases
The second phase of punching technique is the RELEASE of the hand. Not only the release of the hand but the entire arm. And perhaps if you can, it’s even better to release the entire body. Now of course, it’s hard to explain the “release” of the entire body. It’s not like you’re letting go when you lay down on the couch. It’s more like letting your body harden into a rock. Basically, it’s a relaxed but very CONTROLLED release. This is hard to explain because it’s hard to grasp the concept of controlling something as you release it. (It’s even harder to do…but hey, that’s why we train these difficult techniques.)
The second phase is so hard for beginners because they don’t know how to create power through a release. The common problem is requiring tension to move the hand rather than relaxation.
The third phase of punching technique is the IMPACT INTEGRITY. This is your ability to give a firm support during the moment of impact. Your whole body should be hardened and structured perfectly to pass all that power down your arm into your opponent. There’s stiffness and tension (for only a split-second) and you don’t want to over-do it because ultimately, you’ll have to move again for offensive/defensive purposes.
The third phase is so hard for beginners because they don’t know when to time the impact. The common problem is creating the tension too early or holding it for too long afterwards. The more skilled you become, the more exact your timing will be and the less tension you will need.
Now the reason why I say the most important parts of punching power are the 2nd and 3rd phases is because punching is very much a SKILL movement. If you were a karate guy breaking bricks and boards well then yes, power generation is of utmost importance as your only focus is to generate enough power to break the object.
But here in boxing, you have a moving opponent and one that resists getting punched. Your delivery is extremely important because you have to come at the right angles and with enough speed that you can hit the target before it’s gone. Likewise, you need to impact the opponent in a way that transfers power BUT also allows you to remain fluid and move again for throwing more punches are evading counters.
The conflictions in punching technique
So here we are with 3 phases of punching technique that need to work in harmony with each other to give you the best possible punch.
- power generation
- power delivery
- power transfer
The problem is that techniques that improve one area can work against another area. Even worse are techniques that may impact your defense or ability to throw other punches.
Examples of technical conflicts in punching technique:
- techniques that take too long to generate power can slow down your power delivery
- techniques that speed up power delivery can decrease power generation
- techniques that increase power transfer can impact power deliver on follow-up punches
- some methods of power generation can leave you in a weak position to transfer the power
- some punching techniques are not fast enough in a live fight
- some punching techniques may leave you unnecessarily vulnerable to counters
- some punching techniques are not realistic of fighting conditions
So it’s like first you have to generate tremendous amounts of power BUT you have to quickly release it so that the body and hand sends out the power faster BUT then you have to quickly tense up again so that your body hits with the solidity of a rock at the moment of impact BUT you have to release again so you can throw more punches.
How is it possible to be powerful and fast and relaxed and tensed and controlled all at the same time? It’s hard!
We can argue all day about which punching techniques are the best but at least you can see that it’s hard to find a well-balanced punching technique. There are so many more things to consider when you’re punching a live opponent versus punching an object.
It’s not so much about GENERATING punching power
as it is about DELIVERING punching power.
Beginner Fighters vs Advanced Fighters
Beginner fighters focus on power GENERATION,
Advanced fighters focus on power DELIVERY & TRANSFER.
Beginners are also so focused on the power generation. They see Mike Tyson knockouts on Youtube and all they can dream of is power. They see a punching bag in the gym and the first thing they want to do is smash it with all their might. Then they get in the ring and get beat up because they can’t land any of their punches. But guess what…they walk out thinking they need even MORE POWER!
And so they go back to phase 1 again, focusing on the “perfect punching technique” and form for more power. They’ll even argue about which punching technique is the most powerful. And then what…it still doesn’t take them anywhere. So they start trying to come up with new conditioning methods and training methods to supplement their punching “technique”. And while they FEEL STRONGER and hit the bag stronger, they’re still nowhere close to hitting as hard as the advanced guys.
Now what about the advanced guys? They’re hitting hard as hell. The advanced guys sometimes look like they don’t care for technique, they just kinda relax and move around the ring and BAM! They hit so much harder. The advanced guys come back from vacation out of shape and STILL, they hit so much harder. The advanced guys are breaking all sorts of rules, throwing punches from odd angles and positions and STILL, they hit so much harder.
It’s because the advanced guys aren’t so worried about power generation. The don’t care so much about initial movement of the body and the perfect form and technique, and where the shoulder’s gotta be, where the foot’s gotta be, etc. They’re just moving around, flowing, and they hit when they feel like it. Nothing forced, nothing rushed, everything relaxed but MAN, what a punch! They understand how power REALLY works and they’re able to be powerful from seemingly any position or technique.
Watch a young Marco Antonio Barrera on the heavy bag.
- Where do you see him making effort?
- Is it in the power generation?
- Or the power delivery and transfer?
It’s obvious to me he has little focus on the power generation because he’s moving around and relaxing. You don’t see him tensing and loading for every punch. His arms look more like they’re releasing rather than loading up. When he pauses to think, it looks more like he’s pausing to think about strategy rather than power generation technique.
The most important parts of punching technique,
are the power DELIVERY & TRANSFER, not generation.
Our bodies are already powerful
Why is the power generation phase the least critical in terms of punching power? It’s not because it isn’t important but rather because it is the most natural. It doesn’t take much to be powerful and IT SHOULDN’T take much to be powerful. You only have a split second to generate that power and land it. The less effort it takes you to be powerful, the better.
Think of it like this. Our bodies are ALREADY powerful. We don’t need more power. We only need to learn how to apply the power in our body into functional boxing moves. The fastest way to improve a beginner’s power (someone with 5 years training or less) is to adjust his technique. I could make him 50% more powerful simply by adjusting how he uses his body. I wouldn’t need him to bench-press 50% more weight (as there’s no guarantee this would translate into functional power).
Learning how to be powerful is basically learning how to move your body (muscles & joints) in a way that creates the most force from your body weight (using the help of gravity). We already have natural leverage for power in our body, using our body weight and gravity. Once you know how to use your body, all movements become more powerful.
What takes time and training is the ability to make all parts of your body simultaneously powerful within a split second and then relax again in order to remain fluid, save energy, make other movements, etc.
Learn how to use your body!
So yes, you can lift all the weights you want in the world but that doesn’t mean you know how to use your body. I like to think that everyone, if they knew how to use their body, would see how unnecessary it was to lift weights. If you know how to use your body, you will ALWAYS be powerful. You don’t have to be in shape and STILL you can knock somebody out. You could be sick with a fever, 50 lbs overweight, and STILL throw a mean punch. Stand your ground, turn your whole body, and BOOM—you’ve got power. It’s not that hard.
Let’s pretend we weren’t even talking about punching technique; let’s pretend we were talking about how to do a back-flip. You could pick the strongest guy in the gym, the one with the strongest back and there’s no guarantee he would be able to do it. Not even a back handspring. I suppose you could lift weights for all the muscles but you’d still be missing out on the coordination and skill aspect of the movement which makes the biggest difference. Now YES, of course, you could lift weights AFTER you learn how to do a good back flip, but by then…how much of that back-flip ability was contributed by your weight lifting versus your technique?
Generating power is the EASIEST part of punching technique.
Anybody can generate power. Watch all the beginners on the heavy bag. They’re all throwing hard enough punches. Then put them in the ring and oh look at what happens. Nothing lands, nothing’s fast enough. They get tired, they get countered, they get beat. And did they really get beat because they weren’t POWERFUL enough? Or did they get beat because they couldn’t land any punches?
Lifting weights doesn’t help your punch DELIVERY & TRANSFER
I would actually argue that lifting weights doesn’t help any of the punching phases but just for fun, I’m going to let people argue that lifting weights helps the first phase. Although I totally don’t believe it, I’m going to pretend that lifting weights actually helps your power generation. But now what?
You still have a few problems:
- Lifting weights doesn’t help you deliver the punch. Lifting weights trains you to contract your muscle, not release it. And real hand speed comes from the RELEASING the hand, not pushing it.
- Lifting weights doesn’t help you transfer the power. At the moment of impact, all you need to do is momentarily harden your body. You’re simply becoming more still, you’re not actually moving anymore. It’s more of an isometric exercise (apply force without moving) rather than a dynamic exercise where you’re applying force as you move a part of your body. Besides the moment of impact is only a split-second of force, nothing more.
Of course we could argue that maybe I’m looking at punching technique incorrectly…and that you ARE supposed to PUSH your hand at the release point and PUSH your hand at the point of impact. But then that would make it a PUSHING PUNCH technique which is something I (along with many other fighters/trainers) have said was completely inferior punching technique.
I’ve had a few people argue with me on the internet that lifting weights CAN make you faster. And to that I have to ask, “Are you loading with your punches?” Lifting weights can improve your “pushing handspeed”, which I mean by your ability to be fast WHILE CARRYING A WEIGHT. But I don’t see how lifting weights can improve your “releasing handspeed”, which I mean by your ability to be fast WHILE CARRYING NO WEIGHT. So it really all goes back to…how do you punch? What is your punching technique? This ultimately determines how much lifting weights can help you.
Lifting weights can negatively affect your entire punching power
Dare I say it, not only would I feel that lifting weights doesn’t help your power DELIVERY & TRANSFER, it can actually hurt your DELIVER & TRANSFER.
As I’ve already said before, the DELIVERY & TRANSFER are the most important aspects of punching power. And the biggest problems with beginners is that the way they generate power makes it harder for them to deliver and transfer this power.
Generating power the wrong way can hurt your power delivery by making you tense, telegraphing your shots, slowing your punches, slowing your combinations, and wasting energy. If your power generation technique relies so much on muscle contraction, it will be much harder for you to RELEASE the arm out for faster hand speed. It’s hard to move quickly when you’re busy squeezing your muscles.
Generating power the wrong way can take you out of position, raising your center of gravity or tilting you off balance, and make it harder for you to transfer power at the moment of impact. You need to be grounded at the moment of impact…which means you cannot use punching technique that makes you pop your hips off the ground or tilt off axis. (These jumping or tilting motions can add power but they take away from your power TRANSFER.)
It’s important that your power GENERATION technique,
does not take away from your power DELIVERY & TRANSFER.
It’s not so much that lifting weights makes you weaker. It’s more that lifting weights does not give you the proper way to look at punching technique and the muscle coordination to make full use of your NATURAL body weight. The worst mistake of all is to think of lifting weights and throwing punches as similar movements and using similar techniques. Throwing a fast and powerful punch is far more SKILLED than simply pushing a weight with all your effort.
The worst way to think of punching technique is to imagine it as a lift or as a push. The better way is to think of punching technique as a RELEASE. Try to release more and you will hit much harder with more speed and using much less effort.
Think about how much “weight” you’re pushing when you’re lifting weights…now think about how much “weight” you’re pushing when you throw a punch. Throwing a punch should be pushing nothing! Look at the pros…their hands come out so fast because they are not pushing any weights. The less effort you create for yourself during the punching motion, the faster and more powerful your punch can be. At best, the only “pushing” moment you might have is at the very end during the impact and even then, that’s only the last 1% of the punching movement.
Think of punching technique as a RELEASE,
not a push.
And again…”punching technique” is MUCH MUCH MORE than “punching form”. Just because you move your limbs to the right positions doesn’t mean you have good punching technique. Punching technique also has to do with timing and precision and understanding of internal movements in your body. Great punching technique is so much more than “pivot the feet, rotate the hips, and turn your hands over.”
Can you still lift weights for boxing training?
Of course. If you do it for general conditioning and your body responds well to it, why not? But to lift weights with the intention of increasing punching power and hand speed, I would be concerned about that. Another one to watch out for is to lift weights with the mindset that weight-lifting is a similar movement to a punch.
Wouldn’t it be the most perfect idea to have good technique AND LIFT WEIGHTS?
Well…good punching technique doesn’t need weights to be powerful. And even then if you lifted weights, what aspect of the punching technique would you be helping? At best you’d be increasing the power generation but lifting weights wouldn’t help you for the most important aspects of punching power such as the release/relax movement for power DELIVERY or help you hold your form for that tiny fraction of a second during the power TRANSFER.
I have to be honest and tell you that I’m genuinely paranoid about lifting HEAVY weights (light weights are OK). I actually feel slower and perhaps even more tired when I lift heavy weights. I do feel a bit stronger but the strength doesn’t make me more powerful in punching. If anything, I would spend the extra time on the focus mitts or more sparring rather than lifting weights.
But you know what?
If you don’t have any great trainers around you, that you trust, then you basically have no choice but try it and see. Try it and see! Train with weights and train without. One condition I have is that you have to train in a real boxing gym and alongside other boxers. Your technique and training has to be compared against others, not only yourself.