In this article, I’m going to tell you what you need to do to increase your punching speed whether it’s for boxing, Thai boxing or MMA. One thing to keep in mind is that punching speed is much more than the time it takes for your fist to go from A to B, anyone with experience knows this. To increase your punching speed you have to look at your overall game, there are no quick solutions and the painful truth is that anything gained in the art of combat involves a lot of hard work. Now, hard work doesn’t mean you have to discount being smart, and it is possible that you are currently focusing your efforts in the wrong way. So, read what I have to say, make the adjustments that are required, and I guarantee that you will increase your punching speed.
1) Throw twice the amount of punches you are currently throwing per workout – to punch quickly you need to punch efficiently, and throwing lots of punches is the only way to communicate with the muscle fibres that perform this action. It’s too bad you couldn’t just send them an email telling them to pick things up, but unfortunately, in order to become more efficient you have to throw thousands of punches. In order to punch efficiently, you need the least amount of muscle fibres to activate in order to execute the action, and you need the surrounding muscle fibres to relax so that the necessary fibres can function without restriction. Repetitive sport specific movement is the only way to accomplish this.
I would say that most good amateur boxers throw about 200 punches per 3 minute round, some of the best can crank it up to 300 punches per round. If you’re putting in 6 rounds on the heavybag, some double-end bag work, speed bag, shadowboxing, and focus mitts, then you are probably going to hit somewhere in the 2500 punch range. Now consider that some top pros are throwing 5,000 – 6,000 punches per workout. If you want to punch fast, throw a lot of punches. At the end of the day, efficiency = speed
2) Punch fast when you train – Imagine running four sets of 400m against a few of your friends. Let’s say they consistently run it in 1:15s and even though you could run it in 60 secs, you opt to run each set at 85% and come in under 1:10 secs. You could probably do this all day long and not get tired. Now, throw in a guy who runs it in under 55 secs and watch what happens to your energy levels as you try to catch him. I guarantee you’ll tire out in a couple trials. Everybody has their threshold for speed, and if you consistently train at 85% of your max punch speed then you can expect to punch at 85% of your potential. Too many fighters punch at 85% in the gym, and gas out in the fight when it’s all on the line and speed really counts. Try to constantly push your speed threshold. To be fast, you have to train fast.
3) Work on your footwork – Some people don’t realize this but there is a difference between hand speed in throwing combinations on the inside, and punching speed when closing the distance from the outside. Some fighters are able to rip combinations together with lightning speed, but are at a loss when they are on the outside against an opponent with fast feet. If you are fighting from the outside, your hand speed is limited by the ability of your feet to take you to your target, in other words, if your feet can’t take you there fast enough your punch will be short. Invest in rounds improving your footwork.
4) Increase your total sparring rounds – I recommend 3 sparring sessions a week if you are not already at that level. Sparring is the ultimate in simulating a real fight situation where speed is paramount. As well, all other aspects of punching speed such as timing, distance, reaction, feinting, and set-ups come in to play.
Depending on your level and your sparring partners, it can be a bit rough doing that much sparring, but you don’t have to train like this all the time. Set a period of a few weeks and stick to an enhanced schedule. Needless to say, there are some gyms that advocate sparring 5 days a week up until fight time, I agree with this as long as the fighters are putting in the rest of their work, and not just leaving the gym once sparring is over.
5) Sprints/Tabatas – It’s easy to have speed in the first minute of a fight, but the best fighters are able to maintain their punching speed throughout the rounds as the match goes on. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to just simply be in better shape overall and to have your body conditioned to deliver speed over and over again. The most effective way to do this is to incorporate speed work into your training. Try to perform two speed workouts per week. My recommendation is Tabata sets; this is where you sprint for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. Traditional testing has held this at 8 total sets per Tabata workout, which is already challenging enough, but eventually can try and pick it up to 14-16 total sets and possibly more. If you are just starting out, then 6 sets is a good way to get in the groove.
6) Flexibility – This is the most overlooked aspect of speed. But tight muscles are like tight rubber bands all over your body, they will only slow you down. The more flexible you are in your hips, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, and upper back, the less restriction you will have on your movement. The only thing restricting a flexible body is gravity and the air around you.