How Hard Can an Average Person Punch?


From the boxing ring all the way down to a street brawl, throwing a punch is a natural movement of the human body when in combat. However, not every punch or every person throwing one is created equal. There are various factors that go into a person’s efficacy at this martial skill, but where does the average person fall on this scale?

Without the training and conditioning that boxers and martial artists go through to strengthen their punches, the average person has a much lower PSI. Most individuals’ average punching power falls between 60-170 PSI, with outliers on both ends of that range.

There is significant debate around how much training can contribute to a person’s punching capability vs. their genetic predisposition. Read on to learn more about the elements that make up a punch and elevate the aspects that can be improved.

What Is The Average Person’s Punching Power?

Determining the average person’s punching power is a challenging equation as many elements go into determining the answer. Additionally, while PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) is a commonly used way to measure punching power, it is only part of the overall equation. 

Technically speaking, the use of PSI to determine punching power works by dividing the force of the punch by the surface area of the striking point, the part of the fist or glove making contact with the measuring device. However, this means that smaller, harder objects will generate the same PSI even if the force behind the strike is different. 

Physics states that ‘punch force’ is based on how much mass your punch has (the weight of your body that can be directed into a strike) and how quickly you move that mass (generating momentum) to hit a target. 

The most optimal unit of measurement to measure punching force is the Newton, named after Sir Issac Newton, generally abbreviated as N. For context, a person weighing 176.37 lbs (80 kg) exerts approximately 800 N of force on the ground beneath their feet by simply standing still. The average punching force of amateur boxers is around 2500 N

Do Boxers Hit Harder Than MMA Fighters?

While there is significant contention surrounding the idea of what punching harder means, it is generally accepted that boxers hit harder than MMA fighters on average. The primary reason for this disparity is the concept of specialization compared to generalization. The average MMA fighter likely specializes in one or multiple martial arts and then also learns aspects from the rest of the martial arts that are likely to be used against them.

Conversely, boxers train exclusively in throwing punches and conditioning their body to make those strikes more effective. Boxers also practice attacking from different angles, which gives them the ability to deliver incredible force by applying it to the correct location at the right time. This technique involves using their opponent’s momentum to generate even more energy at the point of impact.

A punch delivered to a target like your opponent’s chin will be even more potent if that opponent is turning their head in the opposite direction by committing to their own attack. Part of the training that boxers undergo involves learning how to time a punch to land where the opponent’s momentum contributes to the overall impact and damage, with explosive results.

Since MMA fighters need to be able to fight opponents with a wide variety of skill sets and techniques, there is less focus given to the many angles that boxers need to consider, resulting in less powerful punches. It is important to note that MMA fighters will still possess a more powerful punch than an everyday person with no combat training. Still, because they have a significantly wider range of options and obstacles, they fall slightly lower than boxers in terms of punching specifically.

Are Punchers Born or Made?

There are excellent arguments on both sides of how much genetics factors into a person’s punching capability. Most experts agree that some of the strongest punchers of all time, such as George Foreman, Mike Tyson, and Earnie Shavers, have a genetic predisposition towards throwing a punch that gives them a degree of advantage in the ring. 

The genetic benefits that these fighters and many others possess are not always the same. Included below are some of the different genetic advantages that indicate a greater likelihood of being a powerful puncher. 

Muscle Fibers

Some people, especially athletes of various disciplines, have a higher percentage of either slow-twitch or fast-twitch muscle fibers. Both of these specialized fibers are advantageous for physical competitors, but they differ in how they provide that benefit. 

Fast-twitch muscle fibers correlate to the instantaneous explosive power of those muscles, which is related to activities like jumping, sprinting, and punching. These fibers generate enormous energy for short periods but fatigue quickly. Conversely, slow-twitch fibers can maintain strength for more extended periods but without the ‘burst’ potential. 

So if a person naturally possesses fast-twitch muscle fiber, they are more likely to be able to punch harder if given the appropriate training and technique.

Big Hands

It’s worth noting that having larger than average hands and wrists will not generate more force behind your punches, but they will allow you to transfer the power that you generate more effectively. Mike Tyson is an example of a boxer who had large hands, which was one of the many reasons for his strength in the ring.

Hand Speed

Some of the most effective boxers were not massive fighters in the heavyweight category but were combatants that could throw fast punches that relied on their hand speed, such as Manny Pacquiao. Even if your body has less mass than your opponent, it will translate into powerful punches if you can move that mass with significant speed. 

Back Muscles

Certain kinds of punches, especially overhands and hooks, get most of their strength from your upper back muscles. These muscles can be improved by weight training, pull-ups, push-ups, and other exercises, but if you have a naturally robust and broad back, it will be an advantage when throwing punches.

Leg Muscles

Proper punching technique dictates that a correct punch begins from the feet and legs as you rotate your body to generate as much force as possible. This concept is another example where Mike Tyson, whose punches were renowned for their power, possessed thick legs that contributed to his prowess. It is worth noting that powerful leg muscles only translate into punching power when the proper technique is involved.

There are many more genetic factors, both significant and otherwise, that contribute to punching power. However, it is worth noting that no matter how many natural advantages a person has when it comes to throwing a punch, they will not surpass an average person who has trained in a martial discipline.

As such, genetic advantages only come into play when combatants are evenly matched in terms of experience and technique. At that point, those slight differences begin to play a much larger part as the playing field is level.

What Was The Hardest Punch Ever?

Determining the hardest punch ever is a challenging prospect as many older boxers were renowned for having potent strikes. However, modern measurement techniques have made the anecdotal evidence from the decades previously largely irrelevant. 

In terms of modern individuals, the strongest recorded punch is by Francis Ngannou, according to the UFC Performance Institute. The Cameroon-born UFC fighter recorded a punch that measured 129,161 units that broke the previous record held by Tyrone Spong, a kickboxer.

According to Dana White, the president of the UFC, Ngannou’s punch reaches the equivalent of 96 horsepower, which he describes as “being hit by a Ford Escort at top speed. It’s also the equivalent of being hit by a sledgehammer being swung full force from overhead.”

Who Has The World’s Fastest Punch?

As mentioned above, the strength of a punch and the speed of a punch is not the same thing, but they both contribute to overall punching efficacy. According to Guinness World Records, the record for the fastest punch is held by Keith Liddel, an author, mathematician, and boxer. The punch in question registered at 45 mph

For comparison, most boxers commonly register punches between 30-35 mph. It is worth noting that while Liddel is an outlier in the speed of his record-holding punch, it is difficult to take advantage of the techniques required for an effective punch at top speed. He and other fighters do not punch at that speed in a fight as it would be less effective than slower punches with greater force behind them.

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What Exercises Increase Punching Power?

It is vital at this moment to create a distinction between improving punching power and improving punching efficacy. Training and learning the elements that make up a martial discipline such as boxing will result in a more effective punch, one that will be more likely to incapacitate an opponent. A more powerful punch will be a strike that has more significant force behind it. 

The following exercises will increase your body’s capacity to deliver a more powerful punch but must be used in combination with technique to become a more effective fighter.

Plyometric Push-Up

Plyometric push-ups differ from standard push-ups by having an explosive burst of energy involving the arm, shoulder, and pectoral muscles. These muscles all influence an individual’s punching power and are a primary reason for this exercise. A brief description of a plyometric push-up is as follows.

  • Begin with a standard push-up, and dip your body downward as per the traditional method, but push high and fast enough that your hands lift off the ground, then catch yourself, drop, and repeat.
  • Ensure that you keep your core and gluteal muscles tight throughout the exercise to get the best possible results.
  • To ensure you’re achieving the proper height, try clapping your hands together or against your chest in mid-air as you lift off the ground.

Throwing a Medicine Ball

Just as the plyometric push-up trains your central muscles, use a medicine ball to increase the power of your arms. Use the following explanation as a guideline for this exercise.

  • Lie flat on the floor on your back and throw a heavily weighted medicine ball as high as you can by pushing it forward and outward from the chest. At the ball falls, catch it with both hands and repeat the exercise until you are too tired to continue.
  • Stand upright in your standard boxing stance, and throw a medium-weight medicine ball against a wall or to a partner. When you throw the ball, keep it in the palm of your hand and push it forward as hard as possible as if you are throwing a punch.

Heavy Bag Training

A staple of training, using the heavy bag in either a boxing or an MMA style will increase your punching power enormously. Ensure you wear bag gloves to protect your hands, and begin practicing.

  • Start by hitting the bag in any combination of hooks, uppercuts, and straight punches in ten-second intervals. Follow that by resting for ten to fifteen seconds with footwork and light jabs, then repeat. The exercise should last for about three minutes total, with approximately one-minute rests between each set.

Your access to these training methods may depend on gym accessibility, so work with what you have to develop your strength, and you will see an increase in your punching power as time goes on.

How to Punch Faster?

As discussed throughout this article, the essential elements that go into a punch are speed, force, and technique. While the above section will go over exercises to increase the strength behind your punches, and a boxing or MMA coach will teach technique, it is crucial to train your speed as well. 

Some of the best boxers of all time, like Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather Jr., are famous for their speed and striking the opponent before getting hit themselves. Review some of the following exercises for training your punching speed to improve your overall ability.

Fast Push-Ups

Push-ups are such an effective means of strengthening muscles used when throwing punches, and doing these exercises quickly will allow your muscles to fire faster and result in more rapid punches.

  • Ensure that you do not sacrifice the form of your push-ups for speed. Your exercises are only as effective as the form involved, and poor form can result in injury as well.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is another effective workout that is used extensively in boxing training. Like push-ups, jumping rope can help develop the fast-twitch muscles in your shoulders and upper back responsible for delivering fast punches.

  • Once you develop a rhythm, periodically increase the speed, and introduce variation into your footwork. This exercise will increase your speed and endurance by providing high-intensity moments coupled with longer-lasting endurance training.

Shadowboxing With Weights

Shadowboxing is a vital part of boxing for many reasons. It conditions your body to handle the rigors of combat movement and is the best way to practice the techniques required to be a skilled boxer. You can enhance this workout by adding light weights to your hands as you go through your regular shadowboxing routine.

  • Begin with weights ranging from 2-5 lbs, depending on your current fitness level, but begin with lower weights and build from there.
  • As you stimulate the muscles involved in punching while following the proper technique and movement, you will notice an increase in speed as you repeat this exercise when you drop the weights.

The most effective puncher, whether through boxing, MMA, or other disciplines, will be the person who combines strength, speed, and technique. As you develop your skills inside the ring, ensure that you train your body to keep up with your practice to ensure that you become the most capable version of yourself.


Plyometric Push-UpsMedicine Ball ThrowHeavy Bag TrainingFast Push-UpsJumping RopeShadow boxing (w)
Muscle BenefitsArms, Pecs, ShouldersArms, HandsFull BodyArms, Pecs, ShouldersCardioFull Body
Speed BenefitsN/AN/AFootworkArms, Pecs, CoreFull Body, ArmsFull Body

Conclusion

On the surface, throwing a punch may seem like the most straightforward movement in the world, but there are many layers of depth and complexity that scale with understanding. The difference between a person throwing a punch with no knowledge of the mechanics involved and a person with years of training and expertise behind them is astronomical. 

However, there are many levels between those two extremes, and a fundamental understanding of how to improve your strength, speed, and self-awareness will go a long way to delivering an above-average punch.

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Clay E

Clay E is a MMA/Muay Thai practitioner who was a collegiate wrestler at James Madison University.

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