Does the Bench Press Increase Punching Power?

The bench press can increase punching power if the correct training program is followed. A combination of heavy lifting at 80 percent of one-rep max (1RM) and lighter explosive training is best to develop punching power.

Having worked as a gym owner and personal trainer for the last 35 years, I’ve gone through the era when boxing trainers cautioned their fighters to avoid heavy benching because it would slow them down. Now, smart boxers are including the bench in their training for exactly the opposite reason. Research shows that the bench press can increase punching velocity leading to greater power. 

In this article, I’ll lay out the latest research on how the bench press affects punching power. I’ll also compare open-chain exercises like the bench to close chain movements for punching power. Then I’ll provide the best recommendations on how to use the bench press to maximize punching power.

Punching Velocity Is the Key to Power
The Bench Press Improves Rear Hand Velocity
Open vs Closed Chain Exercises for Punching Power
The Best Bench Press Variations for Punching Power
So, What Exercises Should You Include in Your Routine?
Day One (Strength Focus)
Day Two (Velocity Focus)
Summary – Does the Bench Press Increase Punching Power?

Punching Velocity Is the Key to Power

Raw power is a component of the impact power of a punch. However, velocity, or speed, is more important in determining whether a punch is going to wind an opponent or lay him on the canvas. 

That means that a stronger man with a slower punching speed will have a less effective punch than a weaker man with a faster punch. 

On March 19th, 2022, two of the strongest men on the planet, Eddie Hall and Hafþór Björnsson, squared off in the ring. In comparison to pro fighters, both men displayed relatively slow velocity punches. Neither man managed to knock out his opponent. 

It is likely that a less powerful boxer who had a much greater punch velocity, like Floyd Mayweather, would have stopped either Hall or Björnsson before the final bell. 

The Bench Press Improves Rear Hand Velocity

The bench press improves raw strength in the upper body. The main muscles worked are the pectorals, triceps, and front deltoids, all three of which are involved in the execution of a punch. 

According to recent research, though, the greatest benefit to punching power from the bench press relates to increased velocity. In one study, loads of between 30 percent and 90 percent of IRM were used. A load of 80 percent of 1RM showed the greatest increase in velocity.

There was a significant difference in velocity improvement between the front lead and the rear lead punch. Because rear lead punches more fully simulate the full bench press movement, they had greater velocity improvement. 

You may recall from your school days that power = force x velocity.

This study, then, shows that going heavy on the bench with a load representing 80 percent of your 1RM will increase your punching power. The greatest benefit will be in your rear lead punch. 

Does the bench press increase punching power image 1

Open vs Closed Chain Exercises for Punching Power

While the standard barbell bench press may not be the ideal exercise to improve front lead punches, other variations may do a better job. 

The bench press is an example of an open-chain kinetic exercise. That is because your hands are free to move through the air. The opposite is a closed chain kinetic exercise where the hands are fixed to the ground or some other surface. 

Both open and closed chain kinetic exercises are beneficial for developing punching power. 

Open chain exercises help to improve joint stabilization. This is an important aspect of punching power. 

Of the different forms of the bench press, the best to enhance joint stability is the dumbbell press. That’s because you have to balance and control each individual dumbbell throughout the movement. 

Closed chain exercises, such as the push-up, will train your body to remain with a tight core while also working in a coordinated, fluid manner. 

You should include both closed chain and open-chain exercises in your bench press training program.

The quality of your bench press workout depends on the reliability of the bench you’re lying on. Check out this thorough review of the best weight benches if you want to see the best ones on the market.

The Best Bench Press Variations for Punching Power

The boxing punch is a very functional athletic movement. As we’ve seen, it will benefit from heavy training on the bench press. However, a combination of power and athletic training will produce the maximum benefit.

To train athletically with resistance exercises, you need to focus on explosive movement. This means that you will be using lighter weights and faster rep speed. 

A program that combines heavy reps at 80% of 1RM and explosive reps at 30-60% of 1RM makes sense to improve boxing power.

So, What Exercises Should You Include in Your Routine?

As we’ve seen, the flat bench press does the best job of improving rear lead punching power. The dumbbell version will provide better joint stability and allow you to train each limb independently. It also allows for a greater range of motion at the end of the pressing movement.

However, the flat barbell bench is still the best exercise for developing raw power. As a result, I recommend using both versions of the exercise and alternating them between workouts.

The single-arm dumbbell press is a great bench press variation for boxers. In this variation, you are lifting one dumbbell at a time. While one arm is doing the movement, the other should hold its dumbbell at full arm extension. 

You can either use the same weight on both arms or go with a heavier weight on your lead arm. Some boxers prefer to do the latter, as it helps to compensate for the greater rear arm velocity improvement of this exercise.

The single-arm dumbbell press, as described, will do a great job of working the core and improving joint stability as it unilaterally builds strength and velocity.

You can switch the focus from the rear to the front lead by performing a standing one-arm cable bench press. With this exercise, you are able to very closely simulate the punching action. You can also do the exercise as a rear lead simulation exercise.

A final exercise to improve your bench press power is the standard push-up. This closed chain exercise will help you develop core strength and full-body stability while ‘burning out’ your pecs, triceps, and front deltoids’ at the end of the routine.

Here is a sample bench press power punching routine. It involves doing two workouts per week, with at least two days between them.

Day One (Strength Focus)

  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 2 + 2 + 2 @ 80 percent of 1RM

This exercise is done in cluster set style. That means that you do two reps, then pause for 30 seconds before doing another two reps. After a final 30-second rest, you pump out your last two reps. 

The short rest every couple of reps allows you to maintain maximum velocity and power output on every rep. Your rest between sets should be 3 minutes.

  • Single Arm Cable Press – 4 x 12 / 10 / 8 / 6 reps

Set up the cable machine with the pulley set at shoulder level. Begin with your lead arm in starting punch position and straighten the arm in simulation of throwing the punch, complete with hip and shoulder rotation. 

Your reps are done in pyramid style. This involves increasing the weight and dropping reps on every set. 

  • Push-Ups – 3 sets of AMRAP

AMRAP stands for as many reps as possible. Keep pumping out reps until you literally cannot perform another one with proper form. 

This exercise is a finisher to eke out the last bit of strength from your pec, tricep, and front deltoid muscles. It will improve your muscular endurance, which will come in handy during the closing rounds of a fight. Not to mention, it’ll help you burn up a lot of calories.

Day Two (Velocity Focus)

  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 15 reps @ 50 percent of 1RM

Perform your reps with a fast, explosive speed, maintaining that cadence as fatigue sets in. Keep your rest between sets down to no more than 30 seconds.

  • Two Arm Cable Press – 4 x 15 reps @ 50 percent of 1RM

Set up the cable machine with the pulley set at shoulder level. Begin with your lead arm in starting punch position and your rear arm at shoulder level and bent at 90 degrees at the elbow. On the first set, straighten the lead arm in simulation of throwing the punch, complete with hip and shoulder rotation. Then follow through with the rear arm.

On the second set, lead with the rear arm. 

As with the first exercise, your reps should be fast and explosive. Put your whole body into each rep in simulation of the actual biomechanics of punching. 

  • Clap Push-Ups – 3 x AMRAP

Perform your reps as fast as possible. From the bottom position of the push-up, explode up to bring your hands off the floor and clap them together. Keep going until you cannot achieve another clap. 

Rest for 60 seconds between sets of clap push-ups.

After a beginner weight lifting routine? Here’s an ideal beginner program for boxers. 

Summary – Does the Bench Press Increase Punching Power?

The bench press can increase your punching power but only if you train it the right way. Perform two workouts each week, with the first one using 80% of 1RM to develop strength. On the second workout drop back to 50% of 1RM to build velocity and explosive power.

Looking for the best outdoor punching bag to develop your punching power? Check out our comprehensive review right here.