How To Throw A Hook (Complete Guide)

November 21, 2021

The hook is a powerful punch that can be thrown with either hand and is one of the 4 basic punches in boxing (jabs, straights, hooks, and uppercuts). Usually aimed at the side of the head or jaw it has more power than the straight punches, but the arch of the punch makes it a little easier to block.

A hook thrown with the lead hand is naturally called a lead hook and the one thrown with the rear hand is called a rear hook. Read on to learn how to throw a hook, what to avoid when doing it and how to set it up to maximize your chance of landing.

Thumb Position When Throwing A Hook

Thumb Position When Throwing A Hook

The positioning of the thumb when throwing a hook has been hotly debated. The two options are for the thumb to be facing upwards or the palm to be facing down. And the correct answer is that both are proper forms of the hook.

Throwing the hook with the palm facing the floor is the “textbook” way of performing this punch in boxing. In reality, this way is better when throwing a long lead hook, because the rotation of the hand adds a little extra distance to the punch.

A hook with the palm facing down is also better used in amateur boxing because the rules are much stricter about hitting with the inside of the gloves. The rotation also helps with lifting the shoulder up for protection against counterattacks and makes it easier to make contact with the first two knuckles.

Many boxers prefer the thumb to be facing upwards because this way there is less rotation in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder and the punch feels more natural. This also makes the hook quicker and there is less chance of injuring the wrist punching this way. If you watch professional boxers, you will see that the thumb-up variation is much more commonly used.

With that out of the way let's see how exactly to throw the hooks with both hands.

How To Throw A Lead Hook

How To Throw A Lead Hook
  • From a proper stance shift your weight slightly to your back leg with your knees slightly bent.
  • At the same time rotate your body through the hips to load the entire kinetic chain from the ground up to the punch.
  • Bend your arm to a 90° angle and place the elbow directly behind the hand and parallel to the floor. The hand, elbow, and shoulder must be in one line.
  • Pivot on your lead foot simultaneously with the shot to increase its power.
  • Keep your chin tucked and your right hand close to the head for defense.
How To Throw A Check Hook

Just like with all punches the key to a strong hook is learning how to put your weight and power behind the punch effectively. That is why you need to transfer the power from the foot, through the hips, into the elbow and ending in the knuckles. The elbow needs to be in line with the fist because it guarantees maximum power delivery and a hard punch.

How To Throw A Rear Hook

How To Throw A Rear Hook

The mechanics of the rear hook are basically the same as the lead one. The position of the striking hand is the same and the same principles apply. The key difference is that the lead foot must be firmly planted on the ground while the back foot is pivoted simultaneously with the strike. Don’t overdo it though.

It’s best to rotate no further than 45° (your heel is in line with the opponent). The rear hook is very powerful, but it’s also riskier because it leaves you more open to counter strikes, especially if you overcommit and miss.

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How To Throw A Check Hook

The check hook is a lead hook that is used to counter the opponent’s right hand or his aggressive advance forward. As such, the key here is to set it up with the proper timing. This is by no means a beginner's move because it is very high risk for a very high reward.

The check hook is performed by pivoting on the lead foot and swinging the back foot around while throwing the lead hook in the same manner we already showed you above. Ideally, the punch lands on top of the opponent's right hand while also taking you out of danger and putting you at an advantageous angle.

The move is not very difficult to learn, but landing it in the ring is a whole nother story. But master the check hook and you have a very potent KO ace up your sleeve.

How To Throw A Hook On A Heavy Bag

How To Throw A Hook On A Heavy Bag

The heavy bag is the perfect tool to learn how to throw hooks. Experiment with the thumb positioning, try landing the hook from close, mid, and long-range. Pay attention to which knuckles are landing and make sure the elbow and shoulder are behind the shot.

Common Hook Mistakes

Dropping The Guard

The most common mistake when throwing hooks is dropping the guard. Hooks leave your head more open than straight punches and keeping the hand close to your head is crucial.

It's common for two fighters to throw a lead hook at the same time and the rear hand positioning often determines who wins the exchange.

The same goes for the rear hook, your lead hand should not leave your face at any time while punching with the rear hand.

Elbow Is Too Low

Another common mistake is that the elbow is too low. If the elbow is not behind the hand the punch won’t have sufficient support when it lands and will be significantly weaker.

Swinging Wildly

In the heat of the fight often fighters start swinging recklessly and this is a mistake. A good hook starts from the guard and is finished after the hand returns to its starting position. Too often boxers wind up the hook in advance which makes it much easier to read by the opponent.

How To Set Up A Hook

Besides using proper technique, setting up the hooks is the most important thing. After all the main goal is to land it on the opponent and the more powerful strikes usually need to be set up to land. Many possible setups maximize the chance of landing while remaining fairly safe but we'll just take a look at the basic ones.

With The Jab

The jab can be used to set up every other punch in the book. The most basic setup is the jab-right hook. The jab’s purpose is to gauge the distance to the opponent and occupy his attention before the rear hook finds its target. This setup works better if you first throw a few right straights because the opponent starts to expect a straight punch and will be surprised by the hook.

After The 1-2

The 1-2-3 is THE fundamental 3-piece boxing combination as it consists of jab-right straight and a left hook. The jab finds the range, the right straight occupies the opponent's guard in front and rotates your body in a perfect position to load the left hook.

The hook becomes powerful due to the torque and if the opponent blocks the first two straight shots it’s more difficult for him to defend the hook that comes from the side.

Disguised As A Jab

If you've managed to establish a jab a good way to land a lead hook is to pretend to throw a jab and change it to a hook mid-punch. Observe the opponents' reactions to your jab and if you notice your opponent overreaches to parry you can be confident that a hook will find its target if you change it mid-punch.

Summary

The hook is fundamental in boxing and has huge potential. Many great boxers have made their careers based on a strong lead hook that is used both as an attack and a vicious counter strike. With this guide, you now know all the basic information on how to throw a hook and all that is left is to double down on the training. 

About the author 

Plamen Kostov

Plamen has been training for the last 14 years in karate and kickboxing, before settling in for MMA for the last 5 years. He has a few amateur kickboxing fights and currently trains with and helps a stable of professional and amateur MMA fighters.


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