There is no doubt that most men who make the decision to go to the gym do so to become tougher and harder to beat in a fight. They want to walk around with their big muscles and intimidate the “weaklings” while flirting with the girls.
Since the upper body receives more female attention men spend exclusive amount of time working on it. The reasons for all mentioned phenomenons and misconceptions hide in movie propaganda and mainstream nonsense.
The most popular upper body exercise is the bench press and lot of people put tremendous efforts in attempt to improve their pressing strength and look “gangsta“. That’s because somewhere deep inside people believe that a heavy bench press also equals knockout punch power.
Is this really the case? Are the dudes benching heavy weights in the gym strong punchers too?
Big Dudes Vs. Small Dudes
The bench press is a lift that requires solid muscle mass, if you ever want to move some real weight.
Have you ever seen somebody small who can bench press 405 lbs?
Have you ever seen a guy with 13 inches arms bench press 405 or even 315 lbs ?
It never happens. Big benchers have big muscles – no matter what.
When an average person observes the steroid monsters in the gym benching 405 + lbs, immediate feel of weakness and fear arises. One begins to wonder:
This is the so-called clash between the small dudes and the big dudes. It’s obvious that somebody who is 70 lbs heavier than you and all muscle will easily do some serious damage to your face. This is like an adult against a child.
In that regard the bench press does make you a better puncher but only against guys who are much smaller than you. However, that’s why there are weight classes in most combat sports.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing on the street and quite often bigger animals abuse others. In similar situation we are not really talking about punching but more about bullying.
Dense Muscle Mass Makes You A Better Puncher
Having stronger muscles can only help your fighting attempts. Let’s say that you have two persons from the same weight class. They both weight the same – 200 lbs. However, one is 8% body fat while the other one is 20% BF. The guy with the lower body fat has more muscle mass and that makes him potentially a better fighting material. Muscle generates more power than fat and power is what makes punches hard hitting.
What is power?
Power represents the product of strength and speed of movement expressed in Watts. In simpler terms power is simply speed strength or force applied fast. In that regard powerlifting is not really a power sport. It’s a pure strength sport since there is no speed requirement. You can’t lift super heavy weights fast.
If you can – the weight is not really heavy.
In a punch you are not testing your absolute strength – you’re testing your power. That’s why the fact that you are strong does not mean that you are also a good puncher.
There is no doubt that being stronger can only help your punches but after a certain point there are diminishing returns. If a complete novice starts bench pressing to increase his punching force, it will happen. When you’re a beginner almost everything that you do has a positive impact on your physical effort. When you are an advanced fighter, it becomes much more complicated because the room for improvement becomes smaller and smaller.
With that being said the bench press can help you develop power in the chest, triceps and shoulders but in order to achieve that you will have to also do speed benches.
It’s very important to note that speed benches are one area where the direct correlation between strength and power is revealed. The stronger you are – the more weight you can use for your power speed benches. Usually the speed bench is done with 20-30% of you 1 RM. The higher your 1 RM is – the heavier your speed sets will be.
While this sounds cool and many of the bench press lovers are probably starting to dream of their next session, punching is much more different than benching and this is the main reason why boxers rely on many different elements to improve punching power.
A Punch Begins In The Leg
The path of a punch: Legs > Hips > Torso > Shoulders > Arms > Fist > Target
Real punching power comes from the hips and the legs. They are the motor that generates the power. During the 1980s, Russian researcher V.I. Filiminov discovered the arm accounted for about 24% of the power in a punch. The rest 76% come from the torso (chest, back, abs) and the lower body.
This means that the bench press trains about 30% of the muscles responsible for a power punch. On theory the squat, the power clean, the snatch, heavy rotation work and other lower body drills do more for punching than the barbell bench press.
A person who uses explosive movements who teach you how to aggressively generate hip power will improve his punching much more than an idiot who spends all his time benching, and observing his chest muscles.
In The End Of The Day Punching Is What Counts
A long time ago I was a skateboarder. I trained a lot, especially for someone who wasn’t paid to do it. While I can talk all day and criticize the skateboarding community we got one thing right – practice is the only thing that makes you better.
You will rarely meet a skateboarder who warm-ups with some kind of joint rotations or runs. All the skaters that I once knew were either warming-up with easy to do tricks or simply riding for 10-15 minutes.
The only thing that the best skateboarders do is skating. You will almost never see a skater in the gym lifting weights or jumping. It’s all practice, practice, smoke, practice.
Looking back, squatting and conditioning work on the side would have been helpful but the difference in the final outcome would have been small. With or without squats my level of skateboarding would have been about even.
The same applies to punching. Boxers seem to do better when they specifically train the actual movement instead of praying and hoping that there will be some sort of insane carryover to punching through conditioning drills.
Back in the day guys like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano and many more famous boxers did much less weight work than people’s brainwashed bodybuilding minds can imagine. To this day there are boxers who do almost no weightlifting at all.
Form always follows function and most of time the exercise selection of a boxer is supposed to mimic the actual sport. Many trainers rank the important to punching elements as follows:
1. Genetics, Motivation, Passion, Technique
2. Heavy bag, Mitts, Sparring
3. Sledge hammer work, Kinetic chain work, Heavy weight throws…
99. Bench press