Does The Bench Press Increase Punching Power?

September 17, 2020

The bench press is probably the first exercise you ever tried when you first started weight training. Most weight trainers use the bench press to gain upper body mass in the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. Boxers and other striking martial artists may gravitate towards the bench press as it’s a similar motion to a punch.

But myths surrounding weight training are still pervasive within martial arts, especially boxing. Sayings such as “lift heavy and you’ll fight heavy” or “lifting weights will make you slow” are still commonly held beliefs in the martial arts world.

We know that improving the effectiveness of a punch is highly related to the amount of experience you have throwing punches (see my previous article “How To Punch Harder”). But what about the bench press?

The bench press is highly related to maximal punching velocity in the rear hand, especially at loads of 80% 1RM [1]. This means a stronger bench press will yield a faster punch, and therefore improve maximal punch power by increasing the velocity side of the power equation (force x velocity).

According to this recent study in 2020, the bench press is not related to punching velocity in the lead hand. So what can we do to improve punching velocity and power in both rear and lead hands?

The Bench Press And Punching Power

While punching power is important for successful boxing and striking, the velocity side of the power equation is likely the most important. Research has shown that success in boxing is highly dependent on punching velocity [2].

The bench press is highly related to maximal punching velocity at all loads as a percentage of 1RM. That means training with a range of loads will be beneficial for punching performance. However, lifting loads at 80% of 1RM had the strongest relationship to rear hand punching velocity.

Indicating that training the bench press with heavy loads is likely the most beneficial way for improving punching velocity and subsequently, power. At least for the rear hand!

Improving Punching Power For The Jab

bench press to increase punching power

The bench press doesn’t seem to have the same correlation with the lead hand as it does the rear hand. This may come down to how the punches are executed. The cross from the rear hand is more similar to a bench press than a jab from the lead hand.

If we go by similar data, heavier loading in positions and movements similar to the jab may carry over to lead hand punching power. Exercises such as heavy med ball ‘punch throws’ from a boxing stance or single arm cable presses from a boxing stance may provide an adequate stimulus.

Other Considerations For Increasing Punching Power

In my previous article “How To Punch Harder,” I explained how the most powerful punchers were from boxers that used more of their legs, trunk, and arms during the punch. While the bench press covers the arm portion, the trunk and legs need to be developed to produce power from the ground and in rotation.

Training legs through squats, deadlifts, staggered stance movements, and high velocity jumps and plyometrics will develop the necessary qualities to contribute to a powerful punch. Heavy rotational movements for the trunk such as Landmine Rotations can develop the rotational strength needed for powerful punches.

Now, it’s important not to take these in isolation. It could be easy to think you just need to train the legs, trunk, and arms individually and that will lead to better punching power.

However, it’s the sequencing of the legs through to the arms that make a powerful punch.

This means you must train this sequencing. While performing your striking art will do this for you (and this is where most of your training time should be spent), performing some specific power and velocity exercise can carry over to your punches.

For example, various medicine ball throws that mimic the sequencing from the legs through to the hands.

A Bench Press Program For Increasing Punching Power

how to increase punching power

Here is a simple four-week program that can be used to increase punching power based on the research. It only covers the bench press so you’re able to fill the rest of the program in with your current training you are performing. It’s split into two separate days. One day is strength-focused. The second day is velocity focused.

Remember, power is calculated as force x velocity. Improving both the force and velocity side together will improve power to a greater extent than improving only one side.

Week 1

Day 1: Strength Emphasis

1. Bench Press 3×2+2+2 @75% 1RM w/ 30 sec rest between reps and 3-4 mins rest between sets.

This is a cluster set that improves your ability to maintain bar velocity for every rep throughout the set. It also keeps you fresher by causing less fatigue so it won’t interfere with your boxing or striking as much as traditional sets would.

When performing 3×6 @75%, velocity will decrease with each rep. With that, power output will decrease. By having mini breaks within the set, you will be able to maintain velocity and power to a higher standard potentially leading to greater velocity and power gains.

Day 2: Velocity Emphasis

1. Bench Throw 4×3 @30% 1RM OR 10% velocity drop threshold w/ 2-3 mins rest between sets.

If you have the equipment that can track bar velocity, you can use a velocity drop threshold to make sure you’re maintaining velocity on each rep. If any rep after the first drops below 10% of that rep, then the set is terminated. However, performing just three reps there shouldn’t be any problem with that.

If you don’t have a partner to catch the bar during this exercise, you can perform it in the Smith Machine.

Week 2

Day 1: Strength Emphasis

1. Bench Press 4×2+2+2 @75% 1RM w/ 30 sec rest between reps and 3-4 mins rest between sets.

Day 2: Velocity Emphasis

1. Bench Throw 4×2+2 @30% 1RM OR 10% velocity drop threshold w/ 30 sec between reps. 2-3 mins rest between sets.

Week 3

Day 1: Strength Emphasis

1. Bench Press 3×2+2+2 @80% 1RM w/ 30 sec rest between reps and 3-4 mins rest between sets.

Day 2: Velocity Emphasis

1. Bench Throw 4×3 @35% 1RM OR 10% velocity drop threshold w/ 2-3 mins rest between sets.

Week 4

Day 1: Strength Emphasis

1. Bench Press 4×2+2+2 @80% 1RM w/ 30 sec rest between reps and 3-4 mins rest between sets.

Day 2: Velocity Emphasis

1. Bench Throw 4×2+2 @35% 1RM OR 10% velocity drop threshold w/ 30 sec between reps. 2-3 mins rest between sets.

12 Weeks To Knockout Power!

Train like a professional boxer, develop knockout power, and dominate the ring!

References

1. López-Laval, I., Sitko, S., Muñiz-Pardos, B., Cirer-Sastre, R., & Calleja-González, J. (2020). Relationship Between Bench Press Strength and Punch Performance in Male Professional Boxers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research34(2), 308-312.

2. Cepero, D. M. (2014). Influencia de la velocidad de movimiento en press de banca sobre la fuerza de golpeo en boxeo. RED: Revista de entrenamiento deportivo= Journal of Sports Training28(3), 3-14.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


Tags

boxing, mma


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