Perfect Your Body Hooks With Coach Stephen Whittier
Every fighter should know how to work their opponent’s body. Not only do body shots drain your opponent’s stamina and leave them weak during the later rounds, a well-placed liver shot can end the fight in a matter of seconds—even in the first round.
One of the most devastating body shots a fighter can throw is the body hook. This is the punch that Bernard Hopkins used to drop golden boy Oscar De La Hoya in 2004, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez employed with explosive precision against Liam Smith in 2016 and caused Jorge Linares to take a knee after Vasiliy Lomachenko caught him with one during their 2018 clash.
The problem with throwing punches to the body is it can be hard to land clean and there’s the risk of opening yourself up and catching your opponent’s counterpunch. It’s important for a striker to know how to utilize the body hook properly to help them become a well rounded fighter. Head shots are great, but body shots win fights.
Body Hook Basics
The body hook is a circular style punch much like the uppercut. It requires being in the proper range as well as lightning fast movement so your opponent doesn’t see it coming. Whittier said there are three aspects to consider when throwing the body hook:
- Get in close. The coach said you’ll need to be at the same distance on your opponent’s inside as you would be to throw a head hook or uppercut.
- Change levels. You’ll need to dip your body down slightly while turning to the side you plan to throw the punch. Whittier said to imagine this as if it were the movement as a coiled spring.
- Create the upward angle. To make it effective, you have to twist your body to the side you're throwing the punch with and then throw it at an upward diagonal trajectory that crosses perpendicular to your thigh.
“This is a case where we have our other functional striking structure which is on a tilt-a-whirl. I put the tilt on the technique,” Whittier said. “It’s not just a matter of dipping to the side and staying on the same plane. This time I’m actually creating a tilt on my body and my shoulders are now working in this [diagonal] orientation.
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Throwing The Body Hook
Now that you understand the movement necessary to perform the body hook, it’s time to learn how to throw it. Whittier said once you close the distance between you and your opponent, try to keep your lead foot outside of your opponent’s back foot. This will help you create the proper angle for the punch.
Now slightly dip your body down toward your lead leg while twisting your lead arm away from your opponent. This is how you load up the shot. At this point, spring the punch diagonally upward across your body aiming to strike the opponent’s rib cage or lower. Make sure your head is parallel to your front foot as you spring up and let that body hook rip.
“Once I’ve made the tilt and created my load, I’m in range to throw it [body hook] I’m going to bring everything up through that pivot,” Whittier said. “Head should be over your front toes and generate that power directly anywhere from the floating rib to the old liver punch.”
As soon as you deliver the punch, rebound back to your stance and get your guard back up to your jaw, said the coach.
Who is Stephen Whittier?
Coach Steve Whittier is one of the most well-known martial arts instructors in the nation and the director of Straight Blast Gym International, headquartered in Massachusetts. He holds a 3rd degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, 2nd degree black belt in Eskrima, a black belt in Shotokan Karate, a Red Monkgol in Sityodtong Muay Thai and is a certified instructor of Jeet Kune Do. While the coach has trained several UFC contenders and MMA fighters over the years, he said he enjoys training anyone dedicated to learning martial arts.
If you are looking to perfect your body shots, check out “Fundamentals of Functional Striking by Stephen Whittier” and other superb instructionals available at DynamicStriking.com!