Your joints play a tremendous role in generating and delivering power.
It has come to my attention in the recent years of the tremendous role that your joints play in delivering power. Unfortunately, the importance of the joints is commonly neglected in favor of the more popular focus on muscles.
Typically, most people I know are all about the muscles. How the muscles look, how big they are. How to develop powerful muscles. How to train the right muscles. How to get the right kind of “fighter’s muscles”. Etc and etc.
But very seldom do we ever talk about joints.
How do your joints affect your punching power?
Joints transfer the power, NOT muscles
When you think about it…because it’s the joints that do the hitting. It’s the joints that take the impact and the stress of power punching, not the muscles. Sure, you could say that the muscles are generating the power but it is really your bones (and joints) that transfer the power.
Let’s put it this way: your bones and joints are your body (they are the frame and presence of your body). And your muscles are the engines that move your body. But once your body moves and makes contact, it is your bones and joints that take the impact or rather…MAKE THE IMPACT. It is your bones and joints that are responsible for transferring the energy to your opponent.
You are not hitting your opponent with your muscles,
you are hitting him with your bones.
And to be more precise, it is really your joints that take the most damage. The bones you don’t worry about because they are fixed and cannot be moved. The joints, however, are movable and need to be placed into a stable position in order to handle the impact well.
Technique is really about BONES & JOINTS, not muscles
Movement techniques are about moving your bones,
not about using your muscles.
When you analyze punching technique, it’s really not so much about figuring out the right muscles to use but more-so how to get your joints into position to deliver the most power. Your bones and joints represent points of leverage. And your muscles are simply a means of getting your bones into the best position possible.
For example…notice how your body is most comfortable when you stand straight up. This allows your bones—spine and leg bones—to comfortably stack on top of each other. Of course, you need a little bit of muscle to maintain this straight position but you’ll notice the position puts less stress on not only your muscles but ALSO YOUR BONES.
This theory could also be applied to punching power. Instead of thinking only about how to move your muscles and which muscles, etc, etc…you could also think about how to get your joints into the right position at the moment of the truth—THE IMPACT!
THE REAL PROBLEM WITH JOINTS
The real problem that fighters face when they don’t understand the importance of joints is that they can lose great amounts of power off their movements. I would dare say they lose more than 50% of their maximum power potential simply because their joints are not in place!
Think of a table with 4 legs. Now if you wanted to place heavy objects on top of this table, the legs need to be absolutely straight. If the legs are angled or otherwise bent in some way, the table’s maximum strength would be considerably less. Straighter legs would more easily transfer the stress onto the ground whereas bent or angled legs would place the stress on the joints.
The same ideas applies to your bones. Remember, your bones are your leverage. It is of utmost importance that you put your bones into the perfect position that they need to be in if you want to transfer as much power as possible. Imagine trying to have a friend stand on your shoulders. It would be nearly impossible unless you were standing absolutely straight!
Your power transfer suffers greatly
when your bones (and joints) are not in place.
Position your BONES & JOINTS for maximum power
Goal #1 – put your bones in the right position for maximum power transfer
Your first goal of any body movement needs to be to get your BONES into the right place to transfer power. It is more than simply being balanced, it is more than using the right muscles. It is a matter of effectiveness and efficiency. You need to be in the perfect place if you want to transfer maximum power!
In fact, I would dare say that if you are even a few degrees off, you can possibly lose up to half your power. That’s right, half of the power you generate through your muscle effort will be wasted simply because your bones and joints aren’t in position to take the load!
I see this problem all the time in punching technique, footwork technique, and many other boxing movements. The fighters are not in the right position and their bodies cannot move well, cannot move naturally, and cannot transfer the power well. They spend lots of energy to throw punches and move but their punches are still weak and their footwork is still subpar. They’re getting tired exerting a lot of force because of such low energy efficiency.
Sure, improving your conditioning does make you stronger but it won’t improve your efficiency. Suppose you had a muscle capacity of 100lbs but only had a 30% efficiency in technique, you would only output 30lbs of force. Even if you doubled that muscle capacity to 200lbs but didn’t improve your technique, your 30% efficiency would still only output to 60lbs of force—which is still much less than your original (untrained) capacity!
This is why understanding movement technique is key. The pros and masters of the game know the technique very well. It’s not only about having strong and fast muscles for them. They know exactly the perfect degree to which to move their body to produce maximum force. Knowing the exact details and intricacies of every movement allows them to generate AND DELIVER maximum power without any waste of energy.
Goal #2 – control your joints to maintain position during the power transfer
It’s important to know that your joints are stressed (transferring power) during two positions in every movement:
- 1. THE BEGINNING – your joints are stressed at the beginning of every movement when you make that initial burst of energy through your muscles to generate momentum.
- 2. THE END – your joints are stressed again at the end of every movement when you come to a stop and make impact.
The beginning of every movement is usually very easy to deal with. Everyone is naturally taught how to stand correctly and everyone usually has a crystal clear picture of what their stance should be. The standard boxing stance is typically the same for everyone with only slight variations. You also spend more time in this position and stance so it’s natural for you to quickly find the right position from which to punch or move from.
The greatest difficulty in controlling your joints,
comes at the end of the movement, not the beginning.
The end of the movement is the hardest point for everybody. This is what I like to call “the moment of truth”, it is when your joints are stressed by the sudden impact.
I can think of 2 reasons why the moment of truth is so hard for everyone:
- 1. Fighters do not understand the movement.
- 2. Fighters are not trained to maintain integrity during impact.
What happens to your joints at the moment of impact?
Think of your body as a ball striking a wall. It will bounce back because the amount of energy transferred and returned during the impact.
Now, your body will not respond like a ball because it isn’t structured as one piece (like a plate). It’s more like a unit made of multiple pieces (imagine a building). Instead of “bouncing”, it will try to “collapse” from it’s weakest and most move-able parts…which are the joints.
And if you can successfully keep your joints from collapsing during this moment of impact, you will be able to transfer more energy to your opponent. But of course, this is all very hard to do if you don’t understand the movement and how your joints are stressed during these movements.
Fighters do not understand the movement because there are so many possible movements. When it comes to punching, there are virtually a limitless combination of angles, ranges, distances, and directions to which a punch can be aimed and thrown. Yes, you are taught the standard punches such as the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut…but the reality is that during a fight, there will be many punches that are something in between. And there will be many moments where you have to throw punches you were never taught, at angles you never trained for.
These unlimited ways of throwing a punch means there are unlimited ways for you to position your body to maximize your bone leverage for maximum power. And you have to learn the absolute perfect degree and angle for every type of movement. Yes, it will take forever to learn and even forever to master. This is something that only comes with experience!
Fighters are more focused on training their muscles,
than training their bones and joints.
Fighters are not trained to maintain integrity of impact because training is usually based on the muscle aspect. It’s more common to see fighters practice the MOVEMENT of the punch rather than the IMPACT of the punch. It did take me some time to realize the practicality of why many fighters in boxing, and also martial arts, will do push-ups on their knuckles or do isometric exercises and other kinds of static “position-holding” type of exercises. There is truth and great benefits to these exercises if you understand why!
For a punch, this “moment of truth” is at the very end when your hand hits your opponent. For a footwork type of movement, this “moment of truth” is when your body has moved to a new position and your legs are taking the impact of the ground.
As I’ve said before, being in position to move is easy. Getting in position to take the impact is hard. It’s also harder since your body is MOVING while you’re trying to get to that perfect position.
And it’s imperative that you make it to the perfect position or else you will suffer great energy inefficiency. I’ve seen many fighters generate tremendous power only to have half of it leak at impact. You can lose power off a punch simply because your bones aren’t in place. Your legs can get tired easily while during footwork simply because your feet didn’t land on the ground with your leg bones in the right position.
How do you stabilize the joint during impact?
The first thing you need is awareness.
Do you know if your joints are absorbing the impact rather than transferring the impact? If your joints are hurting, then maybe your joints are out of position and unable to absorb the force.
Are you even aware of your position collapsing? Just because your muscles are still holding the position doesn’t mean your joints are holding the position. Even if your joints “give out” only a tiny bit, that’s a collapse right there. A movement might still look like good technique even when in fact there is a collapse during the most critical moment.
The second thing you need is technique.
Do you know the right technique to apply force from that position? There’s a good chance your body might be in a position that you haven’t learned how to maximize yet. Again, there are limitless positions and types of movements in boxing. It takes time to really feel comfortable and learn how to deliver power through ALL of them.
I don’t go around labeling “good technique” and “bad technique” because they all have their place and function. You either know how and when to you use it or you don’t.
The third thing you need is effort.
Yes, you have to make a conscious effort to maintain joint integrity when your joints are stressed at the moment of impact. While your bones can be disregarded for now because they don’t have moveable parts, your joints must be HELD in place, because it is your joints that allow your bones to move around. If the joints give out, the bones will move, and the power transfer will be lost.
Failing to maintain joint integrity at impact
will allow power leaks through your joints.
WHAT KIND of effort are you making during the impact?
Are you trying to PUSH your punches through? (Like a PUSH PUNCH?)
If so, it’s probably not the right idea. During this movement, you have force coming back so it’s probably better to focus on resisting. And your muscles are MUCH STRONGER by not moving (isometric strength) rather than trying to move (concentric strength).
Are you trying to hold your hand in place?
Well it’s not exactly that either. Maintaining integrity isn’t about “staying still” so much as it is about reversing the stress load. So in other words, you have to be sensitive to the stress coming into your joints and find a way to move AGAINST that. This would be more effective than wasting energy being stiff.
Also…becoming sensitive and learning the direction of which the stress comes in allows you to be more efficient because you’ll know from which angles to maintain your joints at the moment of impact. The hardest part about resisting is figuring out what direction to resist in. This is because the direction of resistance isn’t always in the reverse direction of the movement! (For example: exerting downwards force to resist something that is coming forwards at you. How confusing, I know.)
Are you pulling your hand back too early?
This isn’t good either. If you never maintained any integrity in the first place, then very little energy was transferred to your opponent. Some people will mistakenly reference this problem as the reason why snapping punches are so weak but they fail to understand this isn’t a snapping punch. A snapping punch is when you snap back AFTER the power is transferred.
If anything, it is the power transfer that snaps your hand back…not you contracting your bicep and shoulder muscles.
Are you focused on maintaining a bone position at impact?
Or are you more focused on maintaining a muscle contraction at impact? Try it and see.
How to Increase Your Joint Strength
One thing you may have started to wonder about by now was how to increase your joint strength. Your joints are comprised of bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that support it. There are also fluids in the body that help to lubricate and cushion these joints. Diet, exercise, good technique, as well as genetics all play a role in the health of your joints.
Important nutrients for bones and joints:
- Calcium & Vitamin D – calcium is needed for bone formation. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.
- Fatty acids – Omega-3 and fish oil can reduce inflammation (common joint problem)
- Antioxidants – Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium help in fighting free radicals which can damage joints or contribute to joint discomfort
- Glucosamine supplements – glucosamine is needed for maintaining joint cartilage
Great exercises for improving joint strength:
- Weightlifting and resistance training – to help to strengthen muscle around the joints
- Isometric exercises – are great for developing strong muscles and tendons allowing them to maintain static positions during high stress. You may have heard of rock climbers with incredible grip strength because of all the static positions they hold.
- Stretching and yoga – increase joint flexibility and joint strength. Improve range of motion, strength and power, while decreasing stress on the joints.
- Stretching & foam roller – especially important for relaxing tight muscles and ligaments to relieve strain off your joints
- Cardio & aerobics – great for improving range of motion while increasing your endurance.
- Core exercises – it goes without saying but core exercises help to support your body through a wide range of movement. You’ll find core exercises to be especially helpful with stabilizing the major joints in your body.
Proper technique/habits for joint movements:
- Posture – good posture means efficient posture. Any position that uses your muscle to hold you up will only get you tired and make it harder for you to move. Try to use your bones, this makes it easier to relax.
- Extend the joints – joints are typically stronger when straighter and spread out, not curled or bunched up. Expand your frame when possible.
- Don’t stress a joint – don’t bend or twist or move in a way that hurts your bones.
- don’t go against a joint.
- Warm up – move around and get the blood flowing throw your body before putting force on your joints. And when I say “warm up”, I do mean to literally raise your body temperature…get hot, break a sweat, GET WARM.
Joint genetics and guys with “natural power”
TIGHT JOINTS vs LOOSE JOINTS
There is also the factor of genetics that I learned from an orthopedic specialist—someone who specializes on the health, injury, and disease of the body’s musculo-skeletal system. I came into her office to diagnose what I thought was a problem with my knee. I was worried about having a meniscal tear when I was actually suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome.
She had me lay down as she started feeling around my knee for a moment. Then she exclaims, “Wow! You have really tight joints!” To which I wondered, “Is that a good thing?”
“I bet you’ve never had an injury, or broken bone, or joint pains, or those kind of injuries, have you?” she grinned.
I thought back to my whole life and said, “You know what? Yeah…you’re right.” It was true. Through all the crazy sports I’ve done over the years…soccer, basketball, football, track & field, skateboarding and a million other things…I’ve never really had an injury.
I mean sure, there was this one time I got a sprained ankle, but that was because I jumped off the stairs and landed on a bent ankle. But I was pretty ok, considering how high I fell from. I was still able to walk around and skate just fine—no hospital visit or doctor needed. She explained that I was born lucky as these things are for the most part genetics. I was surprised to learn about this distinction between different types of joints.
Anyways, she continued to explain the difference between “tight joints” and “loose joints”…
TIGHT JOINTS are better for strength & endurance.
LOOSE JOINTS are better for flexibility & range-of-motion.
TIGHT joints are better for strength and endurance.
Tight joints can stay in place better under stress, making them less likely to get out of position, get bent, get twisted, or otherwise stressed to the point of injury.
People with tight joints can handle higher forces on their joints putting them at an advantage in movements that require strength or endurance, which are basically found in many sports. Their tighter joints allow them to take the constant pounding from all the hard training they do over the years.
LOOSE joints are better for flexibility and range of motion.
Although, it is not uncommon for people with loose joints to participate in sports, they are not as durable as the others. Because their joints are more flexible, it’s easier for their joints to get stretched, bent, and twisted out of place and become injured. It’s common for people with loose joints to sprain their ankles, twist their knees, have their shoulders pop out of the socket, or get all sorts of other force-related injuries.
On the flip side, people with loose joints can benefit from greater flexibility and range of motion. These qualities are especially useful for more expressive movements such as dance.
From an athletic standpoint, people with loose joints can benefit from having more agility, speed, and power that comes with the flexibility. As long as they are moving comfortably within their flexibility and not being stressed, they will be fine.
TIGHT joints need stretching, LOOSE joints need strength & conditioning.
Continuing on with this extremely insightful examination, the orthopaedic specialist explained to me that people with different kinds of joints should train differently. She taught me that a person like me, with really tight joints, needed to spend far more time in the day stretching and moving around rather than doing strength-and-conditioning and other types of resistance exercises.
It made a lot of sense because I’ve always had great speed, strength, and power. Those were things that always felt natural to me but flexibility and range of motion were not. It wasn’t until I learned how to do many different types of stretches and also did some yoga that my body really started to balance itself and become more functional.
On the flip side, people with loose joints needed to do more strength and conditioning. Having stronger muscles would help to keep their joints in place and prevent injury. This is especially important for athletes with loose joints because they need to have stronger muscles to help secure the joints during impact.
TIGHT joints need stretching,
LOOSE joints need strength & conditioning.
This difference in training required has to do with how your joints are stressed.
- Tight joints are stressed by muscle movement. An athlete with tight joints would get much of his joint stress from his tighter muscles. And these tight muscles can contribute to injury because they limit him from moving into proper positions during moments of stress.
- Tighter muscles can also contribute to wasted energy because of his joints, muscles and opposing muscles all working against each other. For this reason, a person with tighter joints needs more stretching to maximize his body’s athletic capacity.
- Loose joints are stressed by impact. An athlete with loose joints would get much of his joint stress from handling heavy forces. While he can more easily get into the proper positions because of his flexibility, his joints cannot handle as much force during the impact because they are made for mobility.
- Developing stronger muscles would help the athlete stabilize his loose joints, increasing energy throughput and also preventing injury during moments of stress. For this reason, a person with looser joints needs more strength & conditioning to maximize his body’s athletic capacity.
Fighters with “NATURAL POWER”
Are strong joints the secret link to natural power?
It wasn’t long after my joint examination that I started to wonder about how some fighters simply had that God-given ability to hit hard, even if they didn’t look the part. And I’m starting to feel like it has to do with their natural joint strength.
I mean…think about it.
- bones are for leverage, muscles are for strength
- bones are what actually connect and transfer the power, the muscles can only generate power
- bone structure plays a great role in your body’s ability to generate and transfer power (efficiency)
- if your bones are not built to transfer that power, you will not only have LESS power but also have to use more muscle (energy) to overcome an opponent with a superior (more efficient) bone structure
Bone structure provides leverage (efficiency)
Muscles provide strength (effort)
I can remember many instances of guys in the gym who were strong and had an impressive muscular physique but for some reason, didn’t hit that hard. Sure, they were strong in the sense that they could lift a lot of weights or push very hard but when it came to delivering force in an instantaneous impact, their punches simply didn’t hit as hard. Even the ones with good technique and good speed still lacked the power somehow.
And then there were guys who were the total opposite: relatively skinny, thin build, flabby or otherwise not as muscular but for some reason when they touch you, you feel a STIFF *SMACK!* at the end of their punches. They might not be as strong but their punches hurt so much more.
And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced the missing link had to do with their joint strength.
How to Increase Your Joint Control
1. Find out if you have tight joints or loose joints
I’m no expert but I imagine the obvious indicators would be:
- Flexibility – are you a naturally flexible person? Do your joints hyper-extend? Can your joints bend beyond the normal limit or bend backwards or twist at angles that other people can’t do? Do you feel helpless in yoga classes?
- History of joint injuries – do you have a history of joint problems? Sprained ankle? Sprained wrist? Twisted knee? Torn ligaments?
- Warm-up time – does it take you a long time to get loose and warmed up?
2. Do the right kind of exercise for your joints
As explained earlier. People with tighter joints need more stretching to loosen up the muscle. People with looser joints need more strength and conditioning.
In addition to your specialized joint exercises, I highly recommend for everyone to do more isometric exercises. This was something I neglected in my early years but came to appreciate later on. Being able to apply force in static positions does make you stronger. It feels silly to stand there and push into a wall because there’s no reward of seeing a weight being moved but I do believe it helps a lot!
3. Analyze your movements
Here’s the really hard part. You’ve got to study your own body and become aware of your movements. This goes for ALL movements, whether punching the heavy bag, or slipping, or footwork, or any other kind of body movement.
I would suggest moving around slowly with a relaxed body and trying to discover these 2 important things:
- a) how your body needs to be positioned to effectively apply force through muscle effort and bone leverage (remember: there are endless variations of punch angles and body movements)
- b) which joints in your body are stressed or out of position at impact (when the punch lands, or when your body finishes the movement)
This task can actually be extremely hard for beginners to do because they’re usually taught how to do movements in terms of how it LOOKS rather than how it FEELS. Sure, they know what a good left hook LOOKS like but they probably don’t know what a good left hook FEELS like.
The other problem with beginners is that they’re so focused on power and speed that they don’t take the time to listen to their body to know if the way they’re doing a move is natural or not. They tend to force their way through moves and actually enjoy using as much energy as possible instead of going for efficiency.
Fighters of all levels can improve their joint control.
I would say everyone should do this. If you’re a beginner, you can do this to improve your basic moves. If you’re an advanced fighter, you can do it to improve your power output during more advanced moves.
There are still many fighters out there with incredibly strong muscles but poor joint control. And as powerful as they might be, they have no idea how much power they’re giving up and how much energy is lost through the joints.
Common breaks in joint control (during impact) in typical boxing movements:
Poor hip position/stability
This is a MAJOR PROBLEM for many people and they don’t even realize it. Their hip bends, bulges, tilts, or wobbles when their punch lands. Even a tiny degree of hip instability will significantly affect your punching power. Do not let your hips break at “the moment of truth”! Please pay attention to this!
Poor shoulder position/stability
Tremendous power is lost when the shoulder is too loose or out of position when the punch lands. It’s common for the shoulder to be out of position when fighters throw with poor technique or because they’re simply reaching too far or trying to angle their arm for a punch when the rest of their body is out of position. It’s also common for the shoulder to be too loose when fighters over-exaggerate the “snapping punch technique” and neglect the critical split-second moment of tension required to deliver the power.
Of course, having tense shoulders or trying to “push” your punches through doesn’t help either. That only makes you tired and slows your arm recovery.
Poor wrist position/stability during hooks
Big decrease in power and also causes wrist pain. Poor punching technique and punching from out of position can cause this.
Knees are too bent
There’s nothing wrong with using your knees. But you shouldn’t bend them any more than you need to. If you’re throwing punches or moving from a standing position, it’s better to have your knees closer to straight than bent. The problem with bent knees is that the bones are not in position to transfer power effectively, and so much of the power is absorbed and lost through your leg muscles. This loss of power dramatically affects both your punching power and footwork agility.
Feet are not grounded
This is more of a balance issue than an actual joint position problem. But it helps to see your feet as “joints” between the ground and your body. Your body needs to be powerfully connected to your ground to transfer power.
4. HOLD at the moment of impact!
If you did your job correctly and completely in step 3, you would have become far more aware of your body by now.
You should know all of these:
- what joints are out of position
- what joints are collapsing at the moment of impact
- what joints need more muscle effort applied
- what movements are easier or harder for you to apply force
And the only thing left to do is to HOLD! Watch your balance and watch those hips! Keep the knees straighter (not locked) and put a snap in that shoulder. Right when that punch lands, HOLD YOUR BODY together! Control those joints and you should feel a definite increase in power output!
HOLD AT THE MOMENT OF TRUTH!
Too technical Johnny.
I’m sorry you feel that this article is too technical for your liking , but I think it is a VERY necessary discussion that needs to be heard. If you are wanting to truly learn the art of boxing and how to become a true technician, this subject is a must. It’s the sum of all the small pieces that gives a building it’s size and strength.
No worries, Erwin. Ignore this one and move on.
Johnny N, I would appreciate your input into a discussions everyone has about my size. I fight as a Middleweight and commentator’s for instance continually say I must have Heavy Bones cause I’m ALWAYS the smaller looking fighter. I have my views on my weight v’s power but are interested in yours, if having naturally Heavy Bones what advantages/disadvantages you believe I have ?? I’v had an extremely successful career and totally believe, agree and proved what you say is exactly correct. Your thoughts would be highly valued. Great work mate, unfortunately many great fighters are poor communicators. Thumbs Up.
Hmmm…have you considered maybe other guys are cutting more weight? Strong bones means more power if you ask me. But leverage and other things matter as well.
Johnny excuse my lack of misunderstanding your response but what do you mean by cutting more weight ??
It means that they are actually bigger than you, but weighing in less because they cut weight. This only applies if you’re competing.
I love the technicalities that’s why I’m on https://expertboxing.com
A video will help.
watch Bruce lee movies. Why do u think after each hit he would flex and control his body stiffing joints and say Whuaaaaaaa…
Jonny boy.. Wow your website is golden dig mate. So much info that EVERYONE AT ANY STAGE OF FIGHTING could read over and over again. Great stuff. And Thank you.
hajime no ippo
Good day sir. I liked this artickle so much.
I have been in many sports: fencing, rock climbing and so on. I see engineers are slightly better then other ones . Maybe its about their sense of mechanics. Simply, our bodies are mechanic structures.
Maybe studying basic physics, then more advanced tings like statics and dynamics and some anatomy can improve the way we train and use our bodies.
Before I read this article, just wanted to say, “SWEET!!” lol was just thinking about this recently and u made an article on it. 😉
I would like to applaud you on delving into the deep mechanics of boxing technic that most individuals do not consider. As I write this, I am recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus that I received during a sparing session. I am two weeks post surgery, and given a lot of thought to form and the reasoning behind my injury. It does not even cross your mind that a seemingly simple movement such as moving backwards in a defensive motion would cause so much damage if not done correctly. It also does not help that I am trapped in a 43 year old mans body with a twenty something sense of adventure. I have been boxing off and on for the last fifteen years, and can’t seem to rid my love for the sport, and, the techniques that molds an individual into a master technician. I do believe that the bodies joints are a neglected body part/subject in boxing training. I can’t tell you how many times the day after a heavy training session on heavy bags that I’m sitting holding my elbows, because the soreness that came from pounding the hell out of a 100lb bag was quit painful. At the time, I thought that’s just what boxers go through, so I never put thought, or was advised, that it could be an issue with my form. It was only over time that I had to teach myself that the correct form would eliminate most of my discomfort. So thank you again for your true insight to the ART of boxing and all the knowledge that you share with this tight knit community of boxers. You are a true technician of the sport and much respect…
Thank you, C Irish. You’ve certainly echoed the pains of many boxers. The body can only take so much abuse and it truly is important to have the right technique.
“Joint genetics and guys with ‘natural power’
TIGHT JOINTS vs LOOSE JOINTS”
Regarding this point, what was the verdict in the end? Why do some guys punch so much harder? Does it have to do with the length of their limbs as well?
Is there anything to do with torque? Is torque related to joints?
I’ve put in the article that I felt it has to do with their bone structure. Their bones are built better and have more leverage which makes it so much easier to have more power. I wouldn’t say it has to do with the length so much as it has to do with where and how the bones are connected together. Length does play a part in it, I’m sure, but longer isn’t always better. And yes, I do believe the joints play a big role in determining your ultimate torque strength.
Thanks. So you mean that “tight joints” are better connected together so they have more leverage? Loose joint ppl will be at a disadvantage to tight joints even if they do strength and conditioning?
I would say tight joints stay together better during stress and transfer power better at impact. I don’t see how loose-jointed people would remain at a disadvantage if their strength and conditioning makes up for their loose joints. I wouldn’t know for sure but then again…loose jointed people can also have better speed and power due to flexibility and better range of motion.
This was an intriguing article, I’ve always wondered why some people have ‘natural punching power’. I think I’m in that category but I haven’t had a chance to test myself, I’m thinking about joining a boxing Gym after my exams in the summer.
Could feet alignment have anything to do with it, my knees are not aligned with my feet properly which allows me to fully rotate my hips without lifting my heels off the ground.
I’m sure feet alignment could have a lot to do with it as I’m sure almost anything could affect your punching power somehow. In regards to your theory about being able rotate your hips without lifting your heels, that doesn’t seem like an advantage to me. Because if your hips are spinning freely of the connected leg joints then you would have a disconnect of power somewhere. But hey…if it works, it works.
I think I explained what I meant wrong, my hips rotate with my legs but because my knees aren’t aligned with my feet, I can reach a position where the knee on my back leg is perpendicular to my ankle whilst it is flat. Although this is just the way it is for me naturally when I practise punching and I wanted to know if it should be corrected or not.
Generally, you want to keep your knees and ankles rotating together.
Great article. Many martial arts point this too The importance of the joint in power deliver. Tai Chi is what the most emphasis put in that, i think.
Johnny is there any chance you could show us some good boxing calisthenics. I heard this was a big part of Iron Mike’s training and seeing as he was a master of power and movement it could be a huge help to any boxers game. The article above was spot on as usual Johnny.
For starters…push-ups, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups, crunches. Watch videos of those guys training on the street and using nothing but bars and their own body weight.
NIce article! Sherlock, correct in traditional CMA, less emphasis is on muscles and more on pulsing or contact/ expansion of all the joints in the body. CMA also trains the tendons which are much stronger and durable then muscles especially as one gets older.
Great article, not too many sites out there have the information this one has by now. This is very informative hard to find information in this article!
Opinions on the woodhouse vs hamilton fight??
I haven’t seen that one, John. Was it a good fight?
Hey johnny i havee been learning boxing for more than 10 years and your idas matches mine i am in pro boxing (1year only) but i still like your ideas if you ever need something about boxing you can ask me
Thank you, Zack. I really appreciate the offer. Stay in touch, my friend! I hope you do well.
Another groundbreaking article. I can’t believe you are aware of the “strong-jointed and flexible-jointed” different types of athletes. That was taught to us at my old gym too not by the boxing coach but by the wrestling one. He exclaimed how strong jointed types who were sometimes skinny people, not necessarily large at all, had the definite advantage in that sport which is of course not as fluid as boxing is.
Spot on with this one again Johnny!! =P
Hey Johnny got a question for ya, why is marcos maidana so succesfull in boxing..he’s awkward and slow but knocks people on their asses
he has good power
What can I say? He’s got natural power, an effective style (even if it’s “crude”), a lot of heart, and a great work ethic.
So basically the effort and holding at the moment of truth is what Jack Dempsy was talking about when he says to tighten the fist really hard at the moment of impact?
Well yes, tightening the fist is one way of holding your joints together…but that only applies to your hand. Imagine if you were to apply the same concept elsewhere in your body…such as in the hips, the knees, or the ankles.
firstable, a big THANK YOU to johnny to share all these good stuffs
I have a question for everyone who can help me, I have a ****** pain just above my elbow when I practice the left hook on the heavy bag… Its weird cause it calm down when i stop my workout and it come back as soon as I hit the heavy bag.
Did I hit too hard? it’s the position of the arm? my elbow joint is not strong enough?
Thanks you if you can help me and apologize if I do some mistake, I’m french =)
It’s your technique for sure. Make sure you have a high elbow when you throw a high left hook. And of course a low elbow when you throw a low left hook. Also know that the heavy bag might not be properly shaped for you to land a low left hook. And everyone’s arms are built differently.
thanks for your reply, and thanks for all the time you give to us =)
i ve told this to a doctor and he tells me that it s maybe an old injury… anyway i will work on this! thanks again!
Thanks for this, Johnny. It’s an article made for me 🙂 I have had Problems with my left wrist on and off in the past. It’s my week spot and this article gives me a few more ideas what the reasons could be (from genetics to wrong technique)…I will try improving my Joint strenth with some of the exercises you mentioned and See how that goes. Tanks.
Hey Johnny great article I feel like my ankles are very loose i guess you could say because i dont have much stability in them how do i build stability in them without using a bosu ball or something like that
You can use a Theraband to do exercises for your ankle muscles. You can look up rehab exercises on Youtube. It also helps to work on your technique. Keep your knees and feet pointing in the same direction.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t punching power simply about locking the elbow and letting the body (and maybe shoulders) throw the upper arm and forearm as a single unit.
In other words the body generates the power to move the arms that carry the mass, with the arms playing no role in generating power.
Heavy punchers like Golovkin and Chuck Liddell are classic examples of this.
It’s just body mechanics. My 4 year old is skinny and fragile, but his punch is wicked after teaching him this technique.
Much respect to you Johnny, your knowledge and passion for the science of boxing is a rare find these days.
Well….punching power has to do with a lot of things. Yes, locking certain joints is part of it but definitely not ALL of it. And even if you were to discuss only the matter of locking certain joints…which joints would be the most important? It’s definitely not only the elbow, that’s for sure.
Johnny I have a question somewhat unrelated about this article but I am unsure where to question you regarding matters except for the most recent article you have written.
My question regards the use of resistance bands for boxing. I myself see a use for them when attached to a stationary object and simulated full body punches at controlled pace with good technique. However I noticed you have written elsewhere on your site that they can be a useful tool to develop speed.
I disagree. I can understand that working against a resistance explosively can bring you closer to your “speed limit” but I think pure raw speed training without resistance would produce a superior result here. I also think this exercise performed rapidly and explosively will develop injury very quickly in the joints of the elbow and shoulder and associated muscles.
Do you have any further points to contribute on this topic??
I see Canelo Alvarez uses them among other fighters but I have seen pro boxing men comment on the value of there use but not so much as a tool for speed. Others detract totally.
Personally I think raw handspeed is best developed shadowboxing with those smallest 0.5kg light plastic dumbells which in America is 18 oz, about the weight of a boxing glove for sparring incidentally. This resistance is all one needs to work against and I practice the very rapid punches that MAnny Pacquiao can be seen doing with every punch accompanied by a step with the foot on that side to develop hand and foot speed together as well as core and balance. It is very exhausting and “feels” like the most pure form of speed training possible.
What do you think Johnny??? I respect your opinion of course!!
I’ve seen many pros use elastic bands in their training and I’ve tried it a bit myself.
Whether or not it helps and to what degree that it helps, I don’t really know for sure. I do consider them to be potentially helpful and a great way to give resistance through movement.
I disagree with the idea that they could injure the joints…if anything, they’re far less impacting on your joints than actually carrying a very heavy weight. Besides…if your joints are unstable enough to be damaged by an elastic band (that conforms to your body), you probably shouldn’t be impacting them through fighting in the first place.
High speed shadowboxing with weights is definitely one thing that I’m completely against. Not only myself but many trainers and pros. That for sure can lead to injury. Many people will argue that they’ve seen pros shadowbox with weights but really all they’re doing is slow arm movements to build shoulder and arm endurance. You will not see a pro shadowboxing at fast speed with weights. I’ve never seen it in person or in a video.
Kostya Tszyu had an instruction video where he held 5lb (or less I forgot) weights and told you to punch 1-2’s really fast. Also saw a MMA instruction video saying the same thing. My boxing gym also does that (fast 1-2’s or free shadow box) with 5lb and 3lb weights and then no weights.
As for me, I do them a little differently when I train outside the gym.
Note that I’m not joining the discussion as to whether they are good or bad, just saying who I know does it.
I’m a big fan of Kostya Tszyu and have never seen him do that. If you happen to find the footage, please share it with me. Thanks, Kevin.
Well it actually shows up on YouTube once you search.
from 3:23 to the end of the video
Btw sorry, I didn’t rewatch it before I posted that comment but I did just now. I realized that he didn’t talk about how fast, I just saw it.
Might as well ask about the lift at 1:48. Is it bad for the shoulders or not?
Yeah…that’s common. Many fighters will do slow movements with light handweights. The problem is when you’re trying to shadowbox at FULL SPEED with weights. That one is a big no-no.
As for 1:48, nothing wrong with that at all. He’s moving his arms within the natural range of movement for his shoulders. Just look at all the gymnastics guys who are supporting their entire body weight upside down from these shoulder positions.
OH I have a question. Doesn’t loose joints mean that your body is looser before you punch than tight joints, making your punch more powerful when you lock your joints? If you are already more stiff and tight to begin with, doesn’t it mean the difference between before and during impact is less so there is less power? So tight joints protects the joints, but less power and speed? Unless those with loose joints can never match the tightness of tight jointed ppl upon impact?
I agree with your points and here is my theory and thoughts as to why. Many martial artists’ training are designed to work to improve joint flexibility, more so the case if they are inflexible. Tight joint equals inflexible joint. Striking martial arts only tense at the end. I see tight joint better for grappling and joint manipulation martial arts and loose joints better for striking martial arts. That is because in punching, the joint movement is elbow extension resulting in an increase of angle and extension movements are further improved by flexibility. If you can maintain joint integrity at the end of your punch, just like Johnny’s table example or supporting the human standing on top of you example, even if you have loose joints you can accomplish both feats as long as you tense them at the moment of impact.
Also, loose and relaxed muscles are better because of the difference created by the sudden tension. I suppose a greater difference equals a greater power and speed. Although the discussion here is not whether you purpose tense or relax your joints but rather whether they are tight or loose to begin with, I still see a greater difference if it is loose to begin with, plus there is a greater range of motion which is the point of shadow boxing as a warm up: to increase range of motion and warm up. The important thing is to be solid at the point of impact, not necessarily before. Since boxing is a sport where your opponent doesn’t target your joints, having tight joints by default to prevent injury is less important in my opinion as opposed to lets say football or wrestling.
I also think Bruce Lee who definitely looks like he has loose joints, he also does “strength and conditioning” in his exercises which Johnny says is what loose jointed people should do. His range of motions are just far greater, and more fluid, than any boxer/mma/wrestler/etc. I have seen so my guess is he is loose jointed. He proved his power by holding the side kick record until Chuck Norris finally beat it long after his death (and he had been instructed by Bruce). If he is indeed loose jointed, and he held the record for hardest kick way after his death, I think he is a good example of the potential power loose joints can bring.
Thnx for going more in depth into what I was thinking Tom. Still waiting for the man’s take on this though. Don’t wanna misinterpret what Johnny is talking about as this is a rarely discussed topic. Would’ve been nice if the article was a bit clearer though. Also would’ve been nice to have indluded some tests we can do to see if we have tight joints or loose joints. E.g., if we don’t usually stretch, can we touch both hands behind our back from the triceps stretch, etc.
Btw Tom. Regarding reflexivity, flexion movements like shoulder flexion require reflexivity too.
Well…the advantage of loose joints is that your body can relax and move better. And being able to relax and move better could definitely result in more speed and power generated in the movement. But then comes the moment of impact…the loose joint might not transfer over as much power because it doesn’t hold together as well as tighter joints. And also…there is the matter of tight muscles vs loose muscles. I think a tight-jointed guy can still be very relaxed and fast if he relaxed his muscles.
I think you’re asking too much for a definite answer, and I don’t have one for you.
– Does this mean loose-jointed people can never be as powerful as tight-joined people? I don’t think so.
– Does this mean tight-joined people can never be as fast and relaxed as loose-jointed people? I don’t think so.
– Does this mean you can have both the qualities of loose-jointed and tight-jointed people with training? I don’t see why not. The point of training is to improve yourself and at least now you know more about what kind of training would benefit you more.
I’m not here to say one kind of joint is better than the other but only to bring awareness to the fact that there is a difference and that these differences could affect the way you move and train and fight.
Thanks! That post was just the clarification I needed to know what you meant. Filled up the raised question marks when I was reading the “joint genetics and natural power: tight joints vs loose joints.” Mainly the title was misleading cause it sounded like a versus to see which genetics causes the “natural power.” I’m guessing that you mean the “vs” ends in a draw, since neither type of the joint genetics have an effect on “natural power” that is superior to the other.
When you look at boxers, is it possible to tell from their movements whether they are tight jointed or loose jointed or is it something that you actually need to be diagnosed for, like the orthopedic specialist you saw? E.g., Can you tell if Pacquiao is tight jointed or loose jointed just from watching how he moves in his matches?
I would say right off the bat, with no training, people with tight joints have the advantage. With training over and time and technique and all that, it can be more even. But then again, if the loose-jointed person gets injuries like the shoulder popping out of the socket or other kinds of things, it will also be an advantage for tight-joined people in the long run as well.
I would say it’s pretty easy to tell once you know what to look for but I’d have to see it in person. But yes, seeing a professional is a good idea if you absolutely curious about that.
I wouldn’t be able to tell from watching a pro because pros have full training programs that cover all sorts of movements. And pros are generally very relaxed which makes it harder to tell if they’re tight or loose-jointed.
Hey Johnny, great site.
Just curious, what weigt did you fight at and what is your height?
Good questions but he only spars i think. Johnny how much do u weigh and what weight fighters do u spar with? Are they competing fighters and do u guys go all out? Do u spar with 16oz gloves?
I spar with anybody from 120lbs to 180lbs. Obviously, handicaps will be made when there are differences in size or skill. Some of them compete, some do not. We go all out when we both feel strong and capable. I like to use 16oz gloves but will occasionally spar with 14oz.
Another unbelievably awesome article ! Thanks Johnny ..
I think you may have shown me a problem I’ve been having here. I believe I’ve been pulling my hands back too fast instead of letting the transfer of force “bounce” my hand back to me (is that the idea?). Also sometimes my forearm hurts after a good hook, and I’ve hurt the center of my lead hand before.
Yes…let the impact “bounce” your hand back to you. If your forearm hurts after a hook, it might have to do with your technique. Check out my Youtube videos on left hook technique.
Hi! This site is simply a god send for me.
Im a beginner in boxing, hoping to pick up basic boxing as a form of self defense and exercise.
I agree that we beginners really dunnoe how a good right hook feels like and recently it feels like my shoulders had loosened up in a bad way.
This article is really useful for me!
i have flexible elbows does it mean that i am not a natural puncher coach jhoney
Not at all, Mike!
im digging this one here Johnny, I enjoy reading articles that differ from the “same old same” muscluar balance, affecting your nervous system, inner/outer core activation, etc. although that is all very impoetant as well, I tend to find this quite intriguing. So tendon strengthening is a definite factor as well I’m assuming as it holds like a bridge from bone to bone. But enough with the smart talk, I must respectively ask you an out of ordinary context question, I’m curious to see your answer, here it is.. in a striking only match stand up war, who wins Eric Wong mma’s (Eric Wong vs. Johnny Nguyen) expert boxing? Im going to take you cause you look taller, and I would like to see you win that one as well. but I think it would be a slobberknocker cause you both have the know how.
I have no idea and don’t care for the answer as it always leads to a war of ego rather than an actual fight. I’ll leave my answer for the random moment that we ever share the ring with each other.
well played on your reply my friend. please, think nothing of This question, I was just kinda nodding off and wanted to see if I asked a question if you’d really answer it. Right on, good shit Johnny, this is tight & I do appreciate your work fam, Stay on top with the latest & greatest & I’ll be tuning in homie.. peace
hey bruh got a question. im a southpaw and i hurt my right elbow my lead from blocking punches. after that its either it has to stay there just to block cuz it hurts to extend or to punch or when i really have to punch i cant hold it back up anymore to protect myself. any advice you can offer?
If you’re injured, you have to let the injury heal. Otherwise, you’re going to be fighting at a disadvantage regardless. I suppose you could try moving more or smothering the opponent more.
The bones provides the power and especially hard fists. Think about the Vitaly Klitchko – he called in German Dr. Eisenfaust. That means dr. iron fist. The Klitchko said in person, he has a teriffic fists and makes not boxing, but fisting.
Does impact related stress help stimulate ligament/joint repair for those that have damaged joints? I have damage in the T1 C7 costrovertebral area from olympic lifting years back. Its a chronic problem now. Im pulling for straws. Ive also gone through 4 trials of PRP so far since april.
Yikes….you need to see an expert.
All the points that you make are so valid and make a ton of logical sense. The other day I was training jijitsu and I ended up in an arm bar. I held on a really long time because I didn’t feel pain. I now realize through your article that the reason I didn’t feel pain initially was because I’m a loose jointed person and I’m naturally pretty flexible. But a few days later and I feel this uncomfortable click in my collarbone/shoulder area. I’m sure it’s just like a pinched muscle under a joint in my shoulder or something. But it’s interesting that you say that most of our power comes from our joints because bone leverage is always superior to muscle endurance. Ever since the armbar, my right cross and hook seem to be a lot weaker, and it’s probably because of the stress the armbar put on my joint, and not being able to generate as much power from my bones. But I’m sure with enough rest and some isometric rehab exercises I’ll be back to normal in no time. Anyway I just wanted to say this article is spot on and incredibly helpful. Thanks for writing it and keep em coming!
I’m glad you could relate to this. Your problems seem very to close to one of my friends, flexible but tons of joint injuries.
After re-reading this article, i noticed i’m more inclined to train for impact than how i do the motion. I realised a while ago that my technique varied between shadowing, punchbag and sparring; my best punches seem to be with the punchbag because i naturally adjusted my technique so my bones are better aligned with the bag so i feel less stress on impact. Problem i see though is i have a great difficulty training the same in shadow or in the ring because i seem to fear throwing the same punches without a target to receive it. I guess it’s because the impact feel part of the motion, that i stop my body motion with the target. I have big bones and tight joints, i’m quite confident i can take really big impact without injuring myself (bigger impact than i’m capable of generating as of now) but i’m not doing it in the ring because i have the fear of missing (and losing balance) or being interrupted or countered (i feel that my best motion for impact are easier to read by my opponents).
I have no dedicated trainer to help me on this, i go to a non-profit gym that offer the gears and space to train but no one is paid to really spend time teaching. People here do help each others, and some have trainer’s knowledge and experience but no one here can really help with with my problem.
hey man love all your videos they are incredibly helpful and well explained. I’ve been skateboarding for 16 years and am fairly new to boxing but am training hard almost everyday and have a lot of passion for it. i was wondering what parallels you see between skateboarding and boxing? balance? ability to deal with fear and pain? reflexes?. One other question is that i really want to improve my fluidity in my footwork and movement, i find the smooth movement of a good boxer fascinating. i understand this comes with time but i was wondering what form of dance you think is best to improve this? ballet? jazz? ballroom? i feel that skateboarding for so long would give you a jumpstart on footwork progression. thanks for any and all feedback. Keep killin it
This article is pretty upsetting for me as I have done some damage to my AC joint in my right shoulder falling off my bike. I have done some rehab but ligament damage seems to never go away. I think I need to lay off the heavy bag but it’s a pretty important part of my routine.
Thanks for the article,
I think I’m a tight-joint type….
My left side is tighter than my right and it’s more muscular, and I hit harder with my left arm and leg.
Thank God I’m gifted
Hey Johnny, your advice with isometrics to strengthen joints sounds really useful, what isometric exercises would you recommend for the legs? Not just for punching power, but for footwork. A lot of the greats with fantastic footwork ( Ali, Willie Pep, Ray Robinson ) liked to use their joints to move around, not so much bending of the knees. What isometrics help strengthening the “bounce” of the ankles and knees?
hi johnny, i noticed that when i began doing yoga it was really easy for me to get into the stretches despite the fact that i never stretched in my life, prior to that. does that means i am a person with loose joints
Yes, Sven. I would consider you more loose-jointed.