Up Your Power Punching Potential with Mike Winkeljohn
No matter how much time spent on the heavy bag or in the ring, everyone wishes they could add more power to their punches. There is an idea out there that punching power is a birthright: you have it or you don’t. People point to things like “the magic touch” or fast-twitch muscle fiber to explain why some people have that extra pop that can put an early end to a fight.
Physical gifts play a large part in determining how hard we hit, but everyone can hit harder with better technique. Learning to trim the fat out of our strikes and to use your whole body in unison can add some serious force to each blow. Check out some tips from legendary trainer Mike Winkeljohn in the clip below, taken from his Dynamic Striking instructional, “Power Punching”:
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Winkeljohn Tip #1: Get Some Twist In Your Body
The Problem: Punching With Only One Arm
As Winkeljohn points out near the beginning of the clip above, many people throw punches primarily with the force of their punching arm. He mocks this motion to demonstrate that throwing straight punches this way puts you off balance and limits the power of your punches severely. In order to get some power on straight strikes, using your whole body is essential.
The Solution: Get some Twist in your Body
In order to solve this problem, you need to twist your body to gain momentum as you punch. The common theme between this tip and the next one is that you’re maximizing your body’s ability to generate momentum in service of amping up your power. In this case, you want to use your blocking arm to pull, or rather yank, back towards your chin as you throw your other hand to punch. Winkeljohn mentions that you should yank your hand back so hard that both hands are generating a twist in your upper body. Each punch, he says, should incorporate both sides of the body to efficiently create that twisting motion.
Winkeljohn Tip #2: “Turn Over” Your Punches
The Problem: Standing Too Square
Another issue that takes away many fighter’s true power punching potential is their tendency to overcommit to a square stance. Winkeljohn demonstrates this motion by planting his feet squarely and showing how a punch can land short. In fact, he argues that many UFC fighters have missed knockouts simply because they stayed too square to extend their punch for it’s maximum reach. Extending to the maximum distance is key for generating the right momentum.
The Solution: “Turn Over” Your Punches
To overcome the habit of standing too squarely to reach our opponent with our punches, it’s important to get into the habit of fading off slightly towards the blocking hand as you turn over your shoulder and arm to extend your punch. This should result in your punching shoulder leading the rest of your body into a low, off-center position. This makes your punch reach further, thus generating more momentum. It also has the added benefit of moving your centerline so that you are naturally more evasive to straight punches returning in your direction. If you want to maximize the power that your size and strength can generate, it’s crucial to develop these punching mechanics.
Putting It All Together
In the last part of this clip, Mike Winkeljohn discusses the importance of combining all of the tips talked about above into one fluid motion. Just twisting your upper body without rolling your shoulder over will make your punch come out harder but throw off your balance significantly, making you vulnerable to counterstrikes. Rolling over your shoulder without pulling back on your blocking hand will extend your punch further but take out all the pop, leaving you reaching. A proper straight punch requires both in unison. When done properly, your elbow will hit your hip at the same time as your blocking hand hits your chin, sealing off the majority of your body from attack. Check out the summary below for some tips on what to do and what to avoid:
Habits To Avoid
- Resist the urge to create your twist by pulling your elbow back and dropping your hand to your hip. It creates more twist, but leaves your face completely exposed.
- Avoid pulling your elbow back high, like starting a lawnmower, as it leaves your body uncovered for the opponent to attack
Steps To A Powerful Straight Punch
- Release your punching hand
- Yank your blocking hand back to your chin to create upper body twist
- Roll over your lead shoulder to extend your punch
- If done correctly, the twisting and rolling will place your elbow in your hip and your hand blocking your chin.
Who Is Mike Winkeljohn?
Mike Winkeljohn is one of the most prominent striking coaches in all of Mixed Martial Arts. He has a varied competition background including world titles in Muay Thai and point-fighting Karate. His professional kickboxing record is an impressive 25-7-2. Now retired, Winkeljohn has teamed up with another mastermind of Mixed Martial Arts, Greg Jackson, to train top flight UFC athletes. His list of clients is long and varied, but includes such names as Jon Jones, Amanda Nunes, and Holly Holm.
If you enjoyed his breakdown of straight punching technique, check out his complete instructional, “Power Punching”, available on DynamicStriking.com.