Punches come in a variety of forms, fired from all different ranges and at all different targets. We’re going to look at the basics (plus a couple of more advanced techniques). We’ll go through how to generate power and how to throw each one, and in a later article we will look at strategy, when to use, and against what targets.
Punching Power and Safety
First, we look at the general concepts of power. Power for all punches comes from your feet. The more you turn the foot in question, the more power you will be able to generate. It’s about forming an effective kinetic chain from your connection to the floor, to your hips, which rotates your torso and brings your power into your hands. Boxers will train for more power by strengthening their legs and core primarily. Remember that ‘arm punches’ are weak, and to generate power you will use your whole body.
Punches are not pushes (and as an aside, shoves are illegal in boxing, though I rarely see them get punished). Make sure that you are hitting the target hard and fast, with impact. A common cue is to punch through the target to make sure you hit it. Ensure you deliver the impact quickly, as continuing to push through the target will do little to damage it.
In terms of safety, ensure you keep your chin down, your guard up, and your eyes on your opponent. Whatever punch you are throwing, use your secondary hand to protect your chin and maintain your guard. An offensive move that leaves you wide open is little more than a shootout with your opponent. As a note, for the rest of this article, I’m going to be referring to your punching arm as your primary, and the other as a secondary.
In terms of weight displacement, a lot of beginners make key errors and throw their bodies out of alignment. They might keep their feet in the same place, but with their body flying so far forwards or to the side they need to step quickly to catch themselves. This can be seen in MMA quite often, where the level of boxing is (naturally) not as high as in professional boxing leagues, and aggressively rushing your opponent is much more effective. People over-committing to techniques leaves them exposed, and when clipped can cause them to fall heavily and out of position. Just see Anderson Silva’s knockout of Forest Griffin for what happens when your weight is thrown out of position.
This is by a long, long way, the most utilised punch in boxing. From your stance, you will be using the lead hand to perform the punch. Simply extend your lead arm to your opponent, turn on the ball of your lead foot, and rotate your shoulders to increase the range. You will end up in a bladed, side-on position, and should use your lead shoulder to protect the side of your jawline from a counter cross. At the end of your punch, your palm should be facing the floor.
They are not the most powerful of punches. The name jab indicates how they are used – as a quick attack, not generating the most power, but also not committing too much, Jabs come in a couple of forms, whether for setting up other punches, measuring distance, or delivering a rapid, stinging blow. The more power you choose to put in, the more you need to turn into the lead foot.
The right straight (or cross) is the second most utilised punch in boxing. You will instead be driving off the rear foot for this one, and likely sinking a little lower on the lead leg as you turn. Punch with your rear arm outstretched at the end. You will end up in a much more square-on stance, leaning forwards slightly and protected on either side of your head by your primary shoulder and your secondary hand, but with little in the way of your chin. Again, as this is a straight, at the end of your punch your palm should be facing the floor.
The cross is so-called because it has frequently been used to counter the jab i.e. to ‘cross the jab’. The stickler in me would like to call this section the right straight, and only refer to countering the jab with a cross, however, the term ‘cross’ has become so widely known and used nowadays it is impossible to avoid.
Straight Body Punches
Converting these to body punches is fairly simple, however, a common error is to punch downwards. Instead, you will want to sink into your legs to drop levels, and often move off to the secondary arm side. See the diagrams above – the arms and shoulders are still in alignment. The more you break the alignment of the arms and shoulders, the less powerful the technique will be.
Hooks can be delivered from the front or the rear hand. In either case, your arm will be held at shoulder height, the upper arm in line with your shoulders and the forearm perpendicular to this. It is the twist of the whole body that gives power here. For the lead hook you may well end up almost perpendicular to your opponent, but for the rear hook – as it is delivered at a much shorter range – you may be facing closer to 45 degrees from your opponent when it lands. In either case, you will be pushing into the floor with the foot on the same side as you are punching.
Though your punch should ideally be in alignment with your shoulders, the hook often comes a little further forwards to actually hit your opponent. This is not a problem, just don’t exaggerate the movement too much.
The further away your punch is landing, the more the palm will turn out. For the closest hooks, your palm will face towards you at the end, but the further you have to reach and the more out of perpendicular your forearm becomes, the more your palm will rotate to face your opponent. It would be a ridiculous punch to throw, but were your palm facing directly away from you that would hypothetically be the longest range hook possible.
I think the reason for the name is quite obvious here – your arm forms a large hook-like structure. This is so much so that if your opponent should step inside the range of your punch then they would be caught and pulled in close.
Uppercuts are one of the more risky punches in boxing. The reason being that you cannot simply launch the punch from your guard. You need to dip down to a lower level, then as you rise up you can look to deliver the punch. The issue is that as you do launch the punch, your primary arm isn’t really able to protect your jawline in the same way as other punches, and your shoulder is going to be slightly further away.
In terms of the punch, it is much like the hook but turned vertical (although your arm will not be able to form a perfect line with your shoulders). Your secondary shoulder will be moving down while your primary shoulder will be moving up – this is the reason for the dip. It is also the first punch in this article which does not have so much of a twist of the feet to deliver power. Instead, you will be looking to push off the floor and drive your punch upwards into the opponent’s jaw. At the end of your punch, your palm will be facing towards you.
The Body Hooks
Unlike the body straights, it is a hard task to drop down low enough to keep the integrity of your shoulders and arms and to stay as safe behind your shoulder, while using body hooks. You will instead need to blend the hook and a little bit of the uppercut technique together.
Consider the lead body hook (sometimes known as the shovel hook). This punch will want to be driven up into the liver of your opponent, under the floating ribs. Nonetheless, it comes from the side. You will therefore need to twist your body to get power, while also pushing upwards with the primary leg. They are hybrid punches and need to be powered as such. Twist laterally and drive upwards with all of them.
Important points for these – you will be less safe. These punches can only be delivered at short range, and as you cannot level change far enough to keep your defence perfect you will be exposed while throwing. Set them up carefully, and do not launch them recklessly.
Body Uppecuts or Body Rips
A body ‘rip’ is very similar to the body hook in a lot of ways, but is usually fired from an even shorter range. It carries a lot of the same benefits and risks as the body hook, but is used to attack an opponent straight on rather than from the side. Here you are blending an uppercut with a bit of a hook, pushing upwards mostly but also turning to the side a little to generate power. You may struggle to use the primary shoulder to protect the jawline when throwing this punch, so ensure that you get your guard back as quick as you can.
How to do a corkscrew jab?
To look at another hybrid punch, we will see the corkscrew jab. As a jab, this is naturally launched with the lead hand. You will want to dip forwards slightly when preparing to throw it, and to power it, you will both twist into it and drive upwards with the lead leg. The punch itself, however, is a combination of the uppercut and the jab. It comes from the jabbing position, but rather than twisting your fist to go palm down, you will end up with your palm facing towards you (but at something like 45 degrees to the ground – it should be pointing over your head). The punch, therefore, comes out at an angle, upwards from the jabbing position and in theory underneath your opponent’s guard. You will once again end up quite bladed, but in this instance, you may also be slightly leaned back and to the primary hand’s side – don’t go too far though, and ensure that you regain your balance after.
How to throw an overhand punch?
For our final punch, we will be looking at the overhand. The overhand is a cousin of the right straight but is more frequently used in MMA than boxing (though it is still a legitimate technique). Here, you will actually be leaning forwards quite far, so be careful to keep your balance. As you step in with your lead foot and bring your weight forwards, and cast your rear (primary) hand in an ark, straight forwards. As a result, your palm may be facing away from you at the end of the punch, your arm in a slightly curved position (hopefully over your opponent’s guard) and your head low, framed by your primary shoulder and your secondary hand.
The reason for the naming is quite obvious – your hand is coming over the top of their guard. It is a risky punch, exposed more to the uppercut than the right straight, and more off-balance and therefore more cumbersome to move out of, but set up and delivered properly it can be the most powerful punch in your arsenal.
There are just 3 different punches in boxing: straights, hooks and uppercuts. All of these can be thrown to the head or to the body with both hands. There are also a few not so common hybrid-punches.
1 – jab, 2 – cross, 3 – lead hook, 4 – rear hook, 5 – lead uppercut, 6 – rear uppercut. If you add the letter “B” to the number, it means a body punch. So, 1B is body jab and 4B is rear body hook.
Mike Tyson’s trainer Cus D’Amato developed his own numbering system. 1 – lead hook, 2 – cross or rear hook, 3 – lead uppercut, 4 – rear uppercut, 5 – lead body hook, 6 – rear body hook, 7 – jab, 8 – body jab.
Every punch in boxing should involve the whole body – it starts from the foot, moves to the hip, to the shoulder and then to the fist. If you just use your arm, your punch will be weak.
With the hook your body weight should move from the punching side to the opposite side, body rotating around your axis, forearm parallel to the ground, elbow at an 90 ° angle.
The uppercut starts from the feet. You should lower your fist just a little bitt o get some momentum. Don’t swing your hand, rather lift your whole body up along wth the punch.
Both are correct, it’s sup to the fighter what to use. But the general rule is that in a close position the thumb up version works better, whereas in distance the thumb towards you is more effective.
It depends. Mostly the palm towards you is used. But in some cases the thumb towards you can slip through the opponent’s guard more easily, especially in a long distance.
In an ideal world yes 😊 But if you are in a close distance, and want to throw a straight punch, you just can’t turn your fist. Also, sometimes a jab without a rotation can slip through the guard in long distance too.