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The difference between landing a punch and landing a knockout punch is the power behind it. Whether you are delivering a jab, a right or a one-two combination, it requires skill, practice and training to develop power behind a punch. Both pushups and bench press exercises help develop the strength needed for powerful swings.
Though punches are delivered using the arm and the fist, the true power of a punch originates at the feet. A jab begins by the transfer of weight from the back foot to the front foot. A straight right starts with a pivot on the rear foot that unleashes the coiled torque from the feet, through the core and out through the extended arm. The muscles of the chest come into play at the end of the motion where the final pop of power propels the arm straight.
Pushups are an effective exercise for developing overall strength in the chest. Placing the hands shoulder-width apart or wider focuses the majority of the work on the muscles of the chest as opposed to the triceps. Pushups work by forcing you to move your own body weight against the force of gravity. Resistance can be added through the use of elastic bands, weight plates or instability tools - half-round balls, wobble discs or exercise balls - but pushups stay limited in the variation of weight, as your body weight remains the base line of resistance.
Bench press targets the chest with the movement of dumbbells or a barbell away from the body against the force of gravity. The movement closerly emulates the physics of a punch, since the arms are moving away from the body. However, when using the bench press to develop punching power, your goal should be strength gain as opposed to mass gain. Keep the weights lighter and increase the repetition range between eight to 12 repetitions or higher. Developing significant chest mass will only impede strength and speed in your punches and can cause potential injury as the bulk starts to get in the way of your punches. Dumbbell presses can be invaluable, since the arms are forced to work independently of each other ,making sure the weak side develops to match the strong side. The instability of the dumbbells also further challenges strength gain in the chest and recruits additional muscle fibers and assisting muscles to keep control of the weights through the range of motion.
Both pushups and bench press exercises contribute to a more powerful punch. A combination of the two is ideal. Though bench presses may seem closer to the movement of punching, pushups are invaluable for developing overall chest strength which only enhances bench press strength gains. Explosive plyometrics can be applied to both exercises to better adapt the chest muscles to the motion of punching. Using light dumbbells and alternating punches from the bench press position, or transitioning from a pushup immediately to a side plank forcing one hand to leave the ground, both help develop the explosive pop at the end of a punch. Both exercises and their variations will help you connect with your target with that much more power.