Hey AngryMuscles, Defranco article on improving punch power



Are you a fighter with solid technique searching for strength/flexibility exercises so that you can throw faster straight punches, faster hook punches, and faster round kicks? Want a quicker shot for takedowns? Many fighters ask me how to improve their speed and strength in their punches and kicks. So…

For starters, let’s examine how to throw a more powerful punch. Below is a sample training split that only requires two strength training days per week. This is the best bet for fighters because they’re usually kicking the crap out of each other 5–6 days a week. Remember that if you can’t recover, you can’t get better.

This two-day split is also pretty simple. Too many so-called “experts” in this field design ridiculous workouts that look cool on paper, but they aren’t practical or sometimes even possible in the real world. Check out the workout below.

Day 1

Maximal strength complex training*

A1. 14-inch barbell bench press with chains, six sets of three reps

A2. Heavy bag straight punches, six sets of 15 seconds: Throw straight punches (alternating between the right and left hand) for 15 seconds. Do three sets from a right-handed stance and three sets from a left-handed stance. Rest three minutes after each superset.

*Rest 10 seconds between A1 and A2.

Supplemental upper back/external rotator work*

B1. Chest supported rows or bent-over dumbbell rows, three sets of 12 reps

B2. Seated external rotation, elbow on knee, three sets of 15 reps

Rest 90 seconds between supersets.

*Rest 10 seconds between B1 and B2.

Supplemental posterior chain work*

C. Reverse hyperextensions, four sets of ten reps

*Rest 60 seconds between sets.

I suggest throwing in abs 2–3 times a week after “fighting” workouts. Always perform standing, weighted ab work at least once a week.

Notice that I chose a maximal strength superset to start the workout. Remember that maximal strength builds the foundation for all other forms of strength, including explosive power. You can’t throw a powerful punch if you don’t possess a base level of maximal strength. The best way to get maximally strong is to lift heavy weights and do lots of sets.

Most fighters spend the majority of their time in the weight room doing strength endurance work. Strength endurance and lactic acid tolerance training must be incorporated into the training plan but not at the expense of maximal strength. Remember that fighting in and of itself is the best way to get into “fighting” condition. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that most fights either last a couple of seconds because someone gets knocked out or they end up going the distance. So both maximal strength and muscular endurance are important. Just remember that if you want to put the fear into your opponent that you can knock his ass out at any given moment, you must get strong!

Notice that I chose a flat barbell bench press whereas most coaches say that an incline bench is more beneficial for increasing punching power. My philosophy is that unless you’re a midget fighting someone two feet taller than you, a flat bench is just as beneficial. (Benching on a 10 percent incline would probably be the most “specific.”) Always use bands or chains attached to the bar when trying to increase punching power. They help to eliminate the deceleration phase of the barbell when pressing.

After your heavy pressing movement, always rest ten seconds before going into your punching drills. Ten seconds is just enough time to recover slightly from the heavy lifting, but it’s also short enough that the motor units are still activated from the lifting. Throwing the punches while the motor units are still in a heightened state will help to “synchronize” them. This will help your strength from the lifting to become “specific” to the movement you’re trying to improve upon (in this case, punching).

Some people say shadow boxing is just as good as hitting the heavy bag after the strength-training movement. IT’S NOT! Shadow boxing will do jack to increase your punching power. When you don’t actually hit something, you spend half of the punch decelerating. You’ll be training the upper back and external rotators with higher reps because they’re not the prime movers in throwing a punch. The main goal is to put some muscle on your upper back and rotators to prevent any imbalances and shoulder problems from punching. Also, by increasing the strength of your external rotators, you’ll be more likely to throw an explosive punch without any inhibitory response from your golgi tendon organ. This is called the “tension effect.”

You’ll also be doing extra reverse hypers on this “upper body” day because I feel you can’t get enough posterior chain work. We all know that it’s the hips that initiate the power when punching so we will do some extra work in that area.

If you wanted to increase the power of your hook punches, you could perform the same workout but substitute the 14-inch grip bench press with heavy dumbbell flies. I would do six sets of 4–5 reps with the flies and superset them with hook punches into the heavy bag. (I don’t like doing flies in the 1–3 rep range. Four to five reps are still heavy enough to get a maximal strength benefit.)

Day 2 (2–3 days after day 1)

A. Power snatch, six sets of two reps, rest 2–3 min between sets


A. Box squats with bands (parallel), 6–8 sets of two reps, rest 30–45seconds between sets

B. Barbell reverse lunges, three sets of 10 reps each leg, rest ten seconds between legs and two minutes between sets

C. Incline, weighted glute-ham raises, three sets of eight reps

D. Standing cable external rotation, elbow at side, three sets of 12 reps each arm, rest ten seconds between arms and 30 seconds rest between sets

In this sample workout, you can either do the power snatches or the box squats. I feel that both work. If you’re not skilled in Olympic lifting, I strongly encourage you to box squat. It’s not worth the time to learn the Olympic lifts with all of the other aspects of training you have to perform. Learning to box squat is much faster and easier. If done correctly, it’s also a great exercise! (In my opinion, it’s even better than the Olympic lifts.)

If you choose to box squat, I recommend going with a wider stance and really focusing on “spreading the floor” with your feet. This really activates the hips, and the strength gains are almost immediate.

When performing the barbell reverse lunge, make sure that you incline your upper body forward as you step back with your leg. You actually want the knee of the stationary leg to pass your toe (while keeping your foot flat on the ground). Your back should be arched, and your chest should be over the stationary thigh in the bottom position. This works the shit out of your hip flexors, adductors, and VMOs. There’s a great picture of Dhani Jones in the perfect bottom position of this exercise in the training pictures section on my site. Performing this exercise in this specific manner makes a world of difference!

Hopefully, you have access to a glute ham bench. Prop the back of the bench on a 4-inch step or box. This will force you to oppose gravity for a longer period of time while performing this exercise. Also, hold a weight plate over your chest. Anyone who can’t perform this exercise on an incline with added weight probably can’t punch themselves out of a wet paper bag. This will give you something to work for on this exercise. It will also get your posterior chain strong as hell!

To finish day two of this workout, you should do extra external rotator work. This time you will keep your upper arm at your side. For full development of the external rotators, you must vary your upper arm positions. I strongly believe that increasing your external rotator strength will carryover to more explosive punches. Again, by getting the posterior shoulder musculature strong, you’ll greatly reduce the inhibitory effect of the golgi tendon organ when blasting someone in the face!

Obviously training is important for adding strength and speed to your technique, but nutrition is important as well. Here are some practical guidelines for pre-workout, during the workout, and post-workout nutrition.

Pre-workout meal: This meal depends on when the athlete works out during the course of the day. Most meals that I prescribe are “Zone diet” based, and I’m currently investigating the validity behind the “Eat right for your blood type” diet. On a personal note, the following is my pre-workout “cocktail,” and it works like a charm for me. I usually have a whole-food breakfast in the morning and this “cocktail” 2–3 hours later. (It may be a little “advanced” for high school kids, but for the more advanced trainee, I think it’s great.)

Twenty to thirty minutes prior to workout, have:

16 oz water

one fudge graham Zone bar

3–4 grams L-Tyrosine

one Vivarin (200mg)*

*If you’re sensitive to caffeine, omit the Vivarin.

During the workout: I have my guys drinking anywhere from 10–30 grams of glutamine in diluted Gatorade during their workout. The amount depends on the athlete’s body weight, training level, goal, and sport. This drink worked incredibly well for my football players who were training twice a day over the summer and didn’t want to lose weight. If you’re concerned with gaining weight, mix the glutamine in water. This gets rid of the extra calories and sugar in the Gatorade.

Post-workout: I still favor “liquid nutrition” immediately after your workout. I used to load up on carbs with a moderate amount of fast-acting protein (whey). I feel that there are three main factors that determine how many carbs you should consume post-workout. Many people overlook these factors.

How much carbs did you consume in your meals previous to the workout? If you had pancakes, fruit, and orange juice before your workout, you don’t need as many carbs in your post-workout drink.
Did you consume glutamine during your workout? When consuming glutamine during your workout, you don’t need as many carbs post-workout to replenish your glycogen levels.
What kind of workout did you perform? You don’t need as many carbs in your post-workout shake after performing a max strength workout. On the other hand, if you performed a tremendous amount of sets, reps, and exercises, you need more carbs in your shake.
If you decide to give my pre-workout and during-the-workout “cocktails,” I recommend the new formula of Myoplex Deluxe for your post-workout shake. I’ve had great success with this shake and my athletes have as well. It contains 340 calories, 53 grams of protein, 28 grams of carbs, 4.5 grams of fat, over 12 grams of a blend of glutamine, glutamine peptides, and glutamic acid, and a boatload of quality amino acids. Ever since I’ve gone away from the high-carb post-workout shake, I don’t feel like passing out and taking a nap after I drink it. This is a nice treat considering I have to go to work after I workout. I think many people with jobs will appreciate that there is now a way to have a quality post-workout shake without it “knocking you out” after consuming it. Again, I’m a big fan of things that actually work “in the real world,” not just bodybuilding fantasy land!