In all aspects of boxing, one of the key attributes you can have is speed. While it’s not everything, it is important that the quicker you are the better chance you have of winning a fight. The best fighters have to have a lot of other aspects to their boxing skills, but if you can increase one of those key skills then it gives you a much better chance.
He may call himself ‘The Best Ever’ and it’s a title that many would dispute and many would agree with, but Floyd Mayweather Jr is an example of a fighter who made the most of his speed and with devastating effect. He slightly slowed down as he got older, but even at 40 years old he was one of the quickest fighters around and knew the importance of it.
If you watch his fight with Arturo Gatti back, then you see his devastating speed at its most brutal, Gatti couldn’t see the shots until they hit him in the face and it was frighteningly difficult to watch at times. Of course though, it wasn’t just speed of his punches that won Mayweather that fight, it was the punch selection, ring craft, speed of his body and the many other skills that he possessed.
Mayweather wouldn’t have been as good though without his speed, so is it something you can increase? Well absolutely. Just like with power though, there is a limit on it. You are me will never be able to beat Usain Bolt’s quickest time, but you can learn how to improve your own sprint speed. You can try all the tips you can, but you might never be able to match an Amir Khan. You can though, get better, and training in boxing is all about getting better. Here we look at our top tips for throwing a quicker punch as we look at how to increase punching speed.
Oh, no, not fitness. The first way of how to improve punching speed is with fitness. If there was ever one sport in the world where you can’t take shortcuts, it’s in boxing. Throwing a punch requires a lot of effort, throwing a quick punch takes even more. If you picture yourself on the boozing bag, you probably throw jabs with around 80% of effort and your big punches with 100%.
Those 80% punches aren’t doing much damage and those 100% punches might be thrown with too much wind up so your opponent will see them coming. It’s easy to slip into a complacency with your jab as it feels like it’s not that important at times and you can afford to take a little bit off. If you have the required level of fitness, however, then snapping out that jab time and time again can become a dominant weapon in a fight.
Aside from having the fitness to constantly throw punches with maximum effort, you also want to be able to throw punches late in the rounds with venom as well. Nothing slows you down quite like fatigue. There is no point being able to snap out a fancy jab in training if in Round 2 your lungs can’t give you the oxygen. Speed needs fitness to be able to deliver so make sure you’re doing your high-intensity training.
Naturally a great way to do this is by hitting your bag as quickly as possible. There is no better way of training to have the fitness to throw quick punches by doing them all the time. When you’re in the gym make sure you’re giving it the maximum effort and not slipping into the temptation of throwing those 80% shots as they won’t be of any use in a fight.
- Do high-intensity workouts
- Rapid punching on the bag with short breaks is ideal
- Give it 100% in training
2. Forget About Muscle
It seems so tempting, doesn’t it? You want to get good at boxing so you think it’d be a great idea to grow your muscles so that you can knock everyone out. Also, you may think that the bigger the muscles the more quickly you’ll be able to carry your arm to the punch. Both of these assumptions are wrong and could lead you to be in the wrong weight division and find yourself in trouble.
What most people do know is that muscles weigh a lot, and the more you have on your arm, the slower it will be. Therefore there is a delicate balance as if you had no power then you could simply be walked down and overpowered. It’s not hard though to get an idea of the shape you should be in, look at an elite non-heavyweight boxer and you’ll see that they don’t have the biggest muscles.
Heavyweight boxers can afford to carry an extra bit of muscle as power is more important in that division and due to their size, no-one as lightning quick hands. We’re currently in a time of monster big heavyweight, but you only need to look back at Muhammed Ali to see a devastating boxer who wasn’t muscle-bound, even Deontay Wilder won’t be lifting many big weights.
So avoid the temptation to build muscle. You may not have been expecting Sir Isaac Newton in this post, but it was he who gave us the law that Force = Mass x Acceleration. Simply, the total force is a combination of both speed and mass. If you have less muscle, but can throw that shot a lot quicker then the actual force applied will be greater. If you have big arms, then it’s probably time to stop the bench presses and instead use hand weights and focus on explosive pushups.
It seems counter-intuitive to not have the biggest arms in a boxing match, but you simply have to look at the greatest fighters of all time. They were all quick and none of them had muscles that were too big. There is no point in having the biggest arms in the gym if you also have the slowest punch, you’ll get nowhere in boxing.
- Heavy muscle will slow you down
- Don’t lift heavy weights
- Shed any excess muscle
3. Increase Your Core Strength
Well I just told you to forget about muscles, and now I’m telling you to focus on them, but now I’m referring to the muscles that aren’t on your arms. Throwing a punch requires your whole body to move and there is a transition of movement throughout your legs, through your hips, across your back and then through your shoulders before your arms start even moving.
If your body is slow, your punch will be slow. Increasing the strength of your legs, core and back will build up vital boxing muscles that will carry you through the fight. Just like with your arms, however, you don’t want to be lifting heavy weights slowly and instead will want to develop your muscles with more explosive exercises like sprinting, sit-ups and skipping.
How to increase core strength:
- Remember to workout your legs
- So plenty of abdominal exercises
- Keep your exercises short and sharp
4. Perfect Your Technique
Your punch needs to go from A to B in the shortest possible time and therefore you need to be throwing it with the right technique. If your opponent can see your shots coming then it doesn’t really matter how quickly you are. There are some tell-tale signs that you need to avoid in order to increase your speed.
By speed here, we mean the time it takes from you deciding to throw a punch to it connecting with your opponent. If you take a big wind back with your arm, then your opponent knows you’re going to throw one even before your arms starts moving forward. With your jab the correct technique means throwing it straightforward from your stance. If you point or pull back your elbow before you jab, then your opponent will see it coming.
The same goes for throwing a big dominant hand punch as well, the temptation is to wind this back to throw your most powerful shot, but there is little point in doing this if your opponent knows its coming. They’ll either throw up their gloves to protect it, or counter-punch you. You want to be able to deliver your speed in the right way. Throwing a jab out directly from your stance will get to your opponent a lot quicker than if you find your arm back.
This is where throwing in combinations can be vital too, as you can disguise your real punch with feints and dummies. You could throw a 50% right punch, a 50% left, close the distance to the side and let that lightning speed come over in a hook which will be devastating. It’s not just about having the speed, but it’s about using it in the correct way too.
- Don’t point out your elbow you a jab
- Don’t telegraph your dominant punch
- Throw combinations to deliver your best punch
5. Use Speed Training
There are a number of different ways that you can increase the speed of your body. If you exercise for speed then your body will become quicker. Your muscles adapt to the way that you train so if you’re bench pressing big weights slowly, then that’s the muscles that you have. If you’re benching smaller weight explosively, then they are at muscles that you’ll have. It’s then is very clear which type are better for boxing.
You what you are looking for is a small amount of resistance that your body is going to fight against, and as it’s fighting against a small amount of resistance at speed, your body will then develop muscles that will make you quicker. One of the best ways to do this is by using heavy gloves. This is very much an industry standard things to do and as it’s not just about speed, as having larger gloves will protect your hands while you’re training.
You can use larger gloves, but you can also shadowbox using hand weights as well, this is another great way to speed up your hands and build the required muscle that you need. Ankle weights can also be used and this will help speed up your footwork. Using small weights is perhaps the best way to get fast. After you have been using them, you’ll also feel great when you’re using lighter gloves.
Next we move on to other gym equipment, and it’s called a speed bag for a reason. The speed back teaches you both timing an speed and it’s a great workout. You used to see videos of Floyd Mayweather doing it effortlessly easy with one hand while we wasn’t looking and while it may take you a very long time to get to that level of prowess, using a speed bag is a great idea. Another great piece of gym equipment for speed is the double-end bag which will also help with your timing and hand-eye coordination.
There are also the classic ways that will help you such as using jump rope (check out the best boxing jump ropes here), resistance bands, push-ups and sit-ups. All of these when done explosively will help to increase your speed while you’re in the ring.
Best speed exercises:
- Use heavy gloves and hand weights
- Use speed balls and double-end bags
- Use classic resistance exercises
6. Breathe and Relax
Being relaxed in a boxing ring is a lot easier said than done, but how can being tense affect your punching speed? Well if you’re all tight then you won’t be able to throw punches easily and effectively. You need to make sure you’re loose so you’re able to snap out those punches and do so with all your speed.
Breathing correctly will also affect your timing and fitness too; you want to make sure you’re exhaling on each punch. When you snap out that hand, then make sure that you breathe so that you’re able to throw the next one with the same velocity. Breathing correctly is a crucial part of boxing as if you breathe in the wrong way or at the wrong time when it could be dangerous and leave you exhausted quickly.
- Breathe out with each punch
- Don’t breathe with an open mouth
- Try to breathe through your nose
Putting It All Together
When it comes to boxing, there are multiple aspects to put together when it comes to being a great fighter. Most of these are in the mind as you have to learn the correct technique, ring craft, defence, courage, composure and many other attributes.
When it comes to the physical aspects of power and speed, then there are ways to increase both of them. When it comes to which one is more important though, it would be easy to argue a case for speed. The likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr never had the greatest power, especially in his later years after his hand injuries. He was able to maintain his perfect record though because he never lost his speed.
He didn’t have the power, but he did have the speed. Now if you reverse that and have a boxer that has power with no speed, then you get a fighter that is a lot easier to beat. It’s a lot more tactically difficult to face someone who had blistering hand speed, therefore working on your own is paramount.
You’ll never be able to carry that speed without fitness though so making sure you’re in peak shape is the first step in making sure your punches stay quick. Once you have the fitness then you need to shed any pointless muscle, your body should be lean and you only have to look at a world-class boxer to see what the perfect body shape is,
Once you have the perfect body shape and fitness then you need to make sure that your technique is correct so you can deliver you speed in the right way. That speed can be worked on with gym techniques and short and explosive exercises, they will train your muscles to be perfect for boxing.
Once you have all of that then you don’t want to ruin it all by being too tense and tight in the ring. Remember everything you learned, breathe properly and get ready to unleash that speed on your next opponent.