Training in heavier gloves has long been thought to improve strength and therefore punching speed – once you return to regular weight gloves. Others swear by shadow boxing with dumbbells and resistance bands also feature highly in the list of exercises used to increase punch speed.
Having been asked about adding resistance to punching practice to increase punch speed, I thought I’d share my thoughts…
General to specific
All strength and conditioning training should follow a progression from general movements, to sport specific movements. When it comes loading up actual Muay Thai techniques themselves, you can’t get much more specific than that. BUT a word of caution, too much load will distort your finely tuned technique and heavy repetitions will anchor wonky form and bad habits!
How much resistance is too much?
I take my lead from research into baseball pitching with various weight balls…
Which I believe, in the absence of punching specific research, the skill of throwing a ball is representative of throwing a punch too.
The optimum weight balls for developing maximum throwing speed was +/- 20% of the weight of the ball used in competition.
So for a fighter competing in 10oz gloves… training in 12oz (+20%) to 8oz (-20%) gloves matches these demands perfectly.
If you fight in 8oz gloves, then 10oz and 6oz gloves will do the trick.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you fight in 12oz gloves then 10oz and 14oz gloves should be your choice.
Heavier than 20% over your competition weight will affect your punching technique – you can’t throw a heavy ball the same way as a lighter ball.
Lighter than 20% under your competition weight will change your punching style too – you can’t throw a screwed up ball of paper in the same way you would a tennis ball.
I’d also make the point that true max speed punch training should be done on the pads and bags, rather than in sparring. Trying to hit your training partners full bore in lighter gloves is NOT cool – there’s less padding protecting your partner from your knuckles.
It’s also worth mentioning at this point that punching with heavy dumbbells, or against resistance bands are likely to do more harm than good to your finely tuned technique.
In fact, resistance bands exert more resistance as you stretch them to punch, slowing your arm as it extends. That’s the opposite of the acceleration you get while throwing a real punch – you’re training to slow-down as you extend your punch!
More on this in the further resources at the end.
Why heavier and lighter gloves than in competition?
The heavier gloves develop greater force production (strength), albeit at a slightly slower rate than needed, whereas the lighter gloves train the muscles to contract at faster rate than possible with a regular weight glove.
The combination of increased force AND increased contractile speed, with highly specific skill rehearsal, makes for the fastest possible hand speed.
And the +/- 20% loading ensures that the force and speed transfers to real punch performance and doesn’t sabotage punching skill.
You can go heavier in more general movements (not punching), because that won’t confuse your punching skill. And then at the other end of the extreme, experiment with +/- 20% weight gloves while punching with the maximum speed possible.
Build the general strength and power needed to boost up your punches, and fine tune that power with UNDER and OVERSPEED skill practice – but get the load right or risk spoiling your technique rather than improving it.
I’m often asked if it’s good training for fighters to throw punches and kicks with resistance bands connected to their arms and legs? You know, like in the Instagram posts?
The short answer is no!
Loading up skilled Muay Thai technique is never a good idea, because it changes how you move. An ill-informed attempt to produce the most sport-specific training method ever, actually creates several major problems.
Check out my video: Why Fighters SHOULDN’T Train With Resistance Bands – They’ll Ruin Your Technique! here.
The truth is, building the foundation for increased striking speed requires loading of strength, power, and speed exercises in the weights room. This brings something to the party that striking alone can’t.