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 at our gyms 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 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 heavyweights
- 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 start moving forward. With your jab, the correct technique means throwing it straightforwardly 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.
How To Increase Your Hand Speed – Our Top Tips!
When it comes to fighters who possessed the greatest hand speed, some of the names that spring to mind includes Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Robinson, Roy Jones Jr. and Muhammad Ali.
You don’t have to be aiming for pro level to be concerned with hand speed, even at amateur levels it is essential to hone all of your skills. Improving speed increases your chances of hitting your opponent first and make your movements unpredictable.
It makes your performance look better in front of the judges too, but hand speed doesn’t just make a fighter look impressive, it makes them a deadly opponent in the ring, if your punches are faster then they have more chance of making a cut.
Persistence Brings Perfection
If somebody can jab, hook, uppercut, counter and cross in the blink of an eye and faster than you, then you could be in for a nasty surprise.
Working on your hand speed will also better equip you to defend yourself as quickly as possible after throwing a punch, or when you are in trouble.
If at this point you are thinking it’s not important, let’s appreciate the fact that hand speed doesn’t just come in to play with offensive movement, it’s just as important for defensive movement as we’ve mentioned.
Hand speed is undeniably one of the most essential skills a boxer can work on. To be truly effective, this skill has to be combined with accuracy, power, stamina and various other aspects to having a devastating effect in the ring, it should be given a lot of attention in your training.
The fact that so many successful offensive of defensive boxers relies on their hand speed is a testament to this attribute in itself. Even in the amateur levels, speed is honed first and foremost, a boxer should aim to become as unpredictable as possible.
There are several ways to improve your hand speed, check out our top tips.
Learning The Basics
A quick mind equals quick reflexes and everything in the ring starts with your boxing brain. Your hand speed will suffer if you are too tense, being stiff is counter-productive, if you load up too much on your punches then you have more chance of leaving yourself open.
Being tense will not sharpen your mind or reaction time, instead, you should incorporate exercises that will improve your hand-to-eye co-ordination.
The speed bag should be the bread and butter of your hand speed workouts but not of your overall routine, remember we are talking of developing one skill only here. While you may think it was invented solely to improve hand speed, it actually wasn’t. It goes a step further and improves your motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, timing and to help formulate a habit of keeping your hands up.
When you learn to perfect the striking melody of the speed bag, you will have reached a high level of timing and that is crucial for a successful puncher. It promotes rhythm throughout your whole body, (they don’t call it a dance for nothing.)
Benefits of the speed bag
- Improved neuromuscular connection.
- Improved hand-eye coordination.
- Increases rhythmic movement throughout the body.
- Encourages you to keep your hands up.
The Double End Bag
The double end bag is another great way to improve your reflexes, it allows you to work with a fast-moving target. Doing this requires you to to be alert and focused, bringing your timing and reflexes into the equation.
Don’t try and do what the pros do straight away, instead try and do single punches or one-two-punch combinations. Practising basics until they become second nature is better than setting yourself up for failure with complex patterns that you are not ready for.
You won’t find a contraption quite like this in any other sport, it can be used to experiment with all different types of punches and combinations. Trying to mimic real fight sequences or starting combinations is meat-and-potatoes, but this grants you more of a chance to be creative.
Hand speed is nothing without accuracy but the double-end bag allows you to improve accuracy as well as how to use your power in effective ways. Throwing aimless shots with fast hands is no way to conserve your energy, use the double end bag to learn efficient hand speed and how to use our energy wisely.
Last but certainly not least, Work on throwing fast combinations and breathe accordingly, its possible to adjust the rebound elasticity to give you a myriad of different training punching skill sessions.
When the pros throw their combinations, you may have noticed that they breathe to a certain rhythm and there is a reason for this. It makes sense to exhale as force is exerted with a punch.
Whenever you see a fighter grunt or make noises when they punch, it is usually another select method of exhaling but also allows them to throw some aggression into their punches.
Your breathing is crucial to give the right amount of energy to all of your movements.
What do we mean by this?
Trying to breathe slowly and deep when you are moving fast or rapidly will not provide your body with enough oxygen or nutrients to be able to keep a good pace. You should practice learning to breathe in different ways so you have a well-rounded arsenal for different tactics in the ring.
Breathing in time with your hand speed is just one of the ways you can improve your overall performance under this particular condition. (Try throwing punches with slow breathing and you will notice how you quickly lose air and won’t be able to keep it up for long.) Muscular contractions, heart rate and breathing all work together.
All you need is an imagination to think of somebody in front of you! The goal is to surprise your opponent with a variety of punches that they won’t see coming. The art of shadow boxing can permit you to practise a trade-off, swapping power for speed.
Short hooks and snap jabs are the best way to practise improving hand speed with shadow boxing, any looping shots are going to be seen a mile away, taking too much time and energy plus they leave you open.
To really push the boat out in your hand speed training, you can use small hand weights in the form of dumbbells or weighted wrist straps. Varying between the two will allow your muscles a variety of stimulus.
The extra weight will make your hands feel as light as a feather afterwards, and you will notice a significant increase in speed. Try doing rounds of 3 minutes but give yourself 90 seconds rest in between each set, adding sets or weight when it gets too easy.
Consistent hand speed relies on muscular endurance, which will allow you to throw efficient punches for longer without fatiguing.
Benefits of shadow boxing
- You can do it literally anywhere.
- Allows you to freestyle and become creative.
Resistance Bands are something that is cheap to buy and very versatile, the chances are your gym or coach will have some you can use anyway. They provide resistance in confined spaces of pressure or elasticity.
Resistance training may sound generic but it is a staple required for skill acquisition, it will make your muscles grow and become stronger but also improve your recovery. Adding resistance to your arms will improve your full range of motion when practising your punches, delivering more power and speed.
Resistance bands can easily follow the motion of your natural movement patterns, but you really need to work on the body as a unit from the ground up to fully maximize your hand speed and punching power.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What does it mean to have heavy hands?
- Having heavy hands in boxing may sound like a good thing but it really isn’t, being heavy-handed is a nickname coined for people who have slow hands, sluggish movement and little impact upon hitting their target.
Your hands need to be light and snappy to really have a good punch variety, as very little punching power actually comes from the arms.
Q. How fast can a boxer punch?
- This will vary greatly between weight classes but Ricky Hatton was shown to throw punches at an average speed of 25mph, one of the punches was thrown at an incredible 32mph.
Q. Does punching with weights increase speed?
- Absolutely! Punching with weights works the muscle fibres in your skeletal muscle harder, so they will break down and build back up stronger and more powerful. Try it now, throw a set of punches with small weights in your hands, then try the same punches without a weight to see what we mean.
Before we finish up.. want to see some fast hands? Let us introduce you to Gary Russell Jr.!
A boxer needs the ability to combine so many different things to become a great boxer, you play rugby, you play basketball or tennis, but nobody plays boxing.
It is one of the most complex sports to master but also one of the most rewarding, use our tips and combine them with the other information on our website to become the best you can be.