SP ARCHIVES: Functional core for punching

connor wrote: I have been trying to fine tune my punch and I have noticed the strain from the explosive thrust of my hip transferring through my core muscles . i am am aware of the significant role the core plays transferring the power from my hips through the core and eventually to my arm .I do a decent core work out three or four times a week knowing this. should i be feeling strain through my core when throwing a punch or vigorous combinations and if so are there any functional exercises that you know of to help my core become explosive thus increasing my punching power and effectiveness?

Steve wrote: Without seeing you perform the work, I couldn’t really comment on why you might be feeling that strain in your core. It would be hard in writing to prescribe exercises that are specific to the development of power transfer appropriate to punching and kicking—I’d need to show you. There are a lot of exercises with medicine balls and Swiss balls that are used to strengthen core muscles, but very few of them as I’ve researched are actually specific to functional standup and ground work. But even if you were to to be able to find such exercises, the problem is that it’s not so much about the exercise but about understanding the interconnectivity of the body. If you haven’t actually got that kinesthetic sense of its interconnectivity, particularly in regards to the transfer of power from the legs through the pelvis to the trunk to the shoulders, then whatever core work you do has no objectivity to it. There’s no internal criteria by which you can sense whether you’re doing the right thing. You’re just doing a move on blind faith.

One of the easiest ways to develop functional power with regard to striking is to get say a small medicine ball, say about a kilo, something you can throw in one hand. See how forcefully you can launch it at a wall. Now begin experimenting to see how you can use the contribution of the head and different parts of your body, including the core, to increase the velocity of the release. You’ll start to sense what’s involved and what needs to be addressed. You’re building a delivery system.

But that delivery system doesn’t include the penetrative follow-through, or what I call the finish. For that, you need to go to the bag and place your hand on the bag in a final punch position. From here, see how violently you can ‘fire’ the bag away from you using a whole-body startle. You can also use this with the ball. Like a shotputter, take the final increment of the move and suddenly and explosively fire the ball away from you.

By adding these two dynamics together, you not only deliver the fist to the target, but you guarantee that it will continue to accelerate on impact, so as to suddenly and dramatically change the conformation of the target.

That’s how I teach guys to punch. Obviously, I can’t put everything about this into words, but that’s the general idea. You need to sense the dynamics that are involved, then you have something that you can measure, perceptually. I.e., the sound of the ball hitting the wall. The effort required to make the release. The sense of the bag exploding away from your fist. Or when you finally come to hit the bag, the fist penetrating into the bag and the bag changing its shape.

Going back to your core problem: if you know what’s involved, specifically and kinesthetically, in delivering the shot, then you can evaluate and adapt your core work to address any weak links in the chain of power delivery. You might be interested in two articles I’m going to put up in Rob Mac’s post about Mike Zambedis and his whip-like movement. I’ll be getting that up as soon as I can and it might shed some light.

James Marshall wrote: Doing some research today that may shed light on training the core specifically for fighting 2 articles may be helpful:

is a study that shows that elite wrestlers (Olympics and World championships) have bigger rectus abdominus and psoas major muscles than less able wrestlers. These muscles may be useful in this art and can be trained.

2 http://nsca.allenpress.com/nscaonline/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1519%2FR-20366.1

shows that squats and deadlift activate the back muscles more than stability exercises- thinking about how we were lifting each other in training- and could be useful.

Neither study mentions obliques, and I can’t find one that looks at this in strikers, although there is a fair bit in golf and baseball- but not sure if Steve thinks those sports have some similarity to what he is teaching and therefore could learn from what works for them?

Tommy wrote: These days there are many new core exercises. “Core” seems to be the latest buzz word, and rightfully so. But it isn’t anything new and what was at one time thought of as midsection strength is IMO an important link in everything we do.

As I mentioned, today there are many good exercises that focus on core strength but here is an example of how I used to handle it. Squats and dead lifts.
While I did do regular deadlifts as well as the sumo version, what I focused on for my core, in conjunction with squats was stiff leg deadlifts. Stiff leg deadlifts would work my lower back and combined with weighted back extensions would strengthen not only the lower back but also the hamstrings. The important thing for me to apply this to fighting was weight rather than building endurance. I wanted a strong midsection able to manhandle any opponent. I also added weighted side bends to the mix as well as weighted situps and incline/decline situps with big weight. Endurance was another matter.

For squats it was “20 rep squats.” This was done by taking a weight that would cause me to fail at rep 11. A weight that I could just make 10 reps with but would get stuck at the bottom on rep 11. I’m talking ass to the ground squats or no less than tops of the thighs parallel to the floor. Take that weight and do 20 reps no matter how long it takes. Pause at the top and breathe like a freight train for 10, 15, 20 seconds or how ever long it takes to get another rep. Do 20 even if it takes you 30 minutes, no matter what. Stand there with the weight on your back for however long it takes to do another rep. Keep a bucket handy for puking. I’m talking about doing 300 lbs for 20 reps! The idea is not to use a belt. For one thing you will be breathing like a mad man and a belt will inhibit this. Good form is imperative so you don’t get hurt. In this way you can build the core muscles to form a natural belt of muscle and not need a belt. Thats where the stiff leg deadlifts come in. This works the lower back. I would do about 10-12 reps with a high weight. I worked up to doing singles with 300 lbs in the stiff leg deadlift. Believe me my lower back was solid. I would throw in some regular deadlifts and do them in a similar manner to the squats, high weight high rep. I was doing 15 reps with about 320 lbs. This was all in my 40’s as far as age.

To work side strength I would do weighted side bends and again with high weight. I did sets of 8 with 140 lbs. I mentioned incline situps and these I would do with my head near the floor and then a full incline situp with a 100 lb dumbell on my chest. I had my own way of doing crunches also and for that I would use a Smith Machine. I would shove a bench under there as in a bench press and set the Smith Machine for a bench press. This can also be done on a regular bench, as in a bench press, but the smith Machine is safer considering the high weight. For this exercise you basically get into a bench press position and then put your feet up on the bench ready for a crunch. Then grab the weight like you were going to bench press but keep the arms locked out above your face or upper chest. Stay locked out but crunch away! I was doing sets of 20 reps with body weight which at the time was 220 lbs.

Anyway, let me just say that my core was as solid as a rock and I felt confident that on top of the stability that if I had to I could just stand up with you on top of me if I needed to. I would be able to do a sit up with you on my chest. Of course the only thing left is to know how to fight …. right? 

Anyway, that was my way of core work. basically building a natural weight belt of muscle. I never used a belt in my workouts. I built my core to be it’s own support.

Simon wrote:

steve morris wrote:
But that delivery system doesn’t include the penetrative follow-through, or what I call the finish. For that, you need to go to the bag and place your hand on the bag in a final punch position. From here, see how violently you can ‘fire’ the bag away from you using a whole-body startle.

interesting drill. ill give it a go. regarding the amount of follow through … i was under the impression that you clawed/clipped the jaw with your punches in order to avoid the opponents entire structure from being displaced, and therefore preventing him from essentially riding the punch. or is it more a question of angle that ensures that?

Steve wrote: Simon, it’s the angle at which you need to shift the body so as to put the weight into the shot that’s important. All shots (that I do, anyway) even though some of them might look linear, contain a cyclonic element. They’re not piston-like. So on that finish, I might be making the finish at an angle, but because it’s so short (it’s a segment of a curve) that last portion might appear to be straight but in the context of the whole movement it’s still cyclonic. Even if it’s a very tight cyclonic movement.

This finish at the end is the way you actually start close-contact shots. If you can release at this range, then you can perform close-contact shots, something that I’m known for. And on the longer shots in which development takes place, there are two components to the impact. There’s the ballistic one, the result of throwing the shot at the target, and the second one where on contact I suddenly and explosively shift the body to give that extra, accelerated follow-through.

Luciano wrote: Maybe this topic also have some relevance with that other about Zambidis and whip crack effect.
In my view, after watch all Morris Method DVDs and test some of yours drills, exercises and coach advices, you always add torsion in movement.

Permit to me explain this statement.

This torsion is related to torque (rotational velocity) in a different direction than horizontal. Torsion is vertical directional rotational velocity rate of change because it is a force in the vertical, and f=ma, and a = rate of change of v.
So, the rate of change of the vertical directional velocity is multiplied by the mass to get torsion. As you move you move not only in the horizontal but also vertical.
Both directions of force horizontal and vertical added together produce a vector force. Which is greater than just one alone.
You said: “movement creates energy, which creates explosion!”
Or in physic terms:
“momentum equals mass times velocity.”

So, more velocity ‘toward’ the target, produces more momentum toward the target, which with yours strikes allows you to remain in contact longer to transfer more of it, and cause less damage to you by keeping less of it, and giving them more, causing more damage.

James Marshall wrote: I was trying the startle on impact yesterday in training, and also using paper balls to throw to get as much velocity as possible- it seemed to convey the message well, so thanks for those tips.

People who literally couldn’t connect their joints together to hit something, after 25 years of karate, really showed progress. The dvds are useful to go back to a few times after trying them out to see what else I have missed; it is beginning to sink in a bit more.

It all broke down in sparring- but that is down to practice again.

Tommy wrote:

melvinfferd wrote:
steve morris wrote: But that delivery system doesn’t include the penetrative follow-through, or what I call the finish. For that, you need to go to the bag and place your hand on the bag in a final punch position. From here, see how violently you can ‘fire’ the bag away from you using a whole-body startle.

And on the longer shots in which development takes place, there are two components to the impact. There’s the ballistic one, the result of throwing the shot at the target, and the second one where on contact I suddenly and explosively shift the body to give that extra, accelerated follow-through.

so you are actually delaying the startle until impact? thats a little piece of gold. thanks very much.

Interesting point. I took it another way…maybe I’m still confused. I’ve played with the startle from the final position but haven’t completed my breakdown of the movement yet. Applying it on the bag or in practice is one thing but applying it in “action” against an opponent trying to take you out is another….I tried this today. Silly of me anyway because something like this isn’t something you read, try a few times and then think you have it!! Lets just say I got hammered today  

Anyway, I tried it quite allot against a shield today while in motion and may be getting somewhere but I have to dissect it a little more. To be honest I’m not sure if I completely understand it…a drawback of not training in person hands on and having to work off of text. I interpreted it as sort of a second stage on a two stage rocket. Launch the punch while driving, make contact and drive some more in a second burst.

The problem to be aware of IMO and what I was trying to be conscious of is to avoid making it a “push” at the end of your punch. Steve, am I wrong in trying to achieve “two explosions?” Launch the ballistic (explosion one) make contact and explode again (?) moving the whole body deeper.

By the way, as far as the cyclonic punching goes, I can verify that that shit hurts! There’s a guy I fight with, who I fought with today, that punches downward. Not cyclonic as you do, or describe but chopping or angled downward. He is a heavy handed guy and punches hard as it is but those downward angled punches of his hit the chest and end up hurting my midsection about 5 inches lower and “inside” my body. If he knew how to actually focus that in the cyclonic manner you explain or with an understanding of what he was doing it would be devastating. And those aren’t even the ‘finishing” blows!

Ken Fortunato wrote:

Tommy_P wrote:
Steve, am I wrong in trying to achieve “two explosions?” Launch the ballistic (explosion one) make contact and explode again (?) moving the whole body deeper.


I’d like some clarification as well.

Personally, I didn’t see it as two distinct stages, but rather, incorporating the startle element into the overall concept of the shot.

Steve wrote:



Before you read this post, take a look at the clips above. Unbefuckinglievable punching. Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest boxer of all time, and Sugar Ray Leonard not far behind.

I was going to elaborate on the biomechanics of the whip, but on second thought there’s something more fundamental to talk about. Obviously, there are laws and principles that govern the interaction of forces acting upon the body as well as forces created by the body, and similarly, these same laws and principles govern the effects of these generated forces. This could be said to be a definition of form. However, there is no such thing as perfect form; in other words, there are no specific rules determining the ideal way of applying these laws and principles in a tactical context.

The only rule is that whatever you do, it has to work. Now, with regards to a fight with the hands and feet, this means you need to be able to knock your opponent out, stun him, or disorient him in some way before he can do the same to you. This is the objective of the fight. When it comes to strikes, that’s how you win it.

There is no one definitive way of achieving a knockout, or a stun/disorientation.

Whatever biomechanics or tactics I may use or teach, they are derived from the need to knock him out and not from the need to justify a particular way of doing so. A fight is an environment of continually changing conditions. Some people approach it in a very specific way. Guys like Marciano or Tyson have a instantly recognizable approach to the problem of the knockout. However, if you look at film footage of Sugar Ray Robinson or Sugar Ray Leonard, their approach is more multidimensional. They can not only whip their shots in and violently jump their shots in, and if necessary use their fists like clubs or pistons, but they can do all of the above whilst standing, moving forward, back, left and right and in a continuous flow of regular and broken rhythm in which they leave no perceptible openings for their opponent. And that’s the ideal I draw on to emulate. I want to have all those options, and that’s not even bringing to bear the use of my elbows, shoulders, head, knees, feet, etc.

Take an example. I might have whipped a right hand at a guy, which in itself could stun or knock him out. And I missed. I could return that shot back to its source and do it again, or use another shot. But what I can also do is suddenly and explosively shift the weight in and add a second shot that starts close to his body where the first shot left off. That now fills in any gap that he might have taken advantage of to counter. Obviously, here the sense of timing (internal and external) is critical.

The important thing is that I know how to throw a shot many different ways, and I can shift instantly from one way to the other, so that the other guy is effectively overwhelmed. He doesn’t get a chance to recover.

About the cyclonic actions: what it really means is that the blow, even when it appears to be straight, is returning to me in a curve, whether it’s a tight curve or a wide one. This not only helps in the generation and regeneration of power, but by experience it saves my fists and produces a longer impact/follow-through time.

When I added the startle, the jump or explosive shift of my body to the whip, it was a way of exponentially increasing the follow-through. Some guys have got necks like bulls. To cause a knockout you need to explosively rotate the head so that the hemispheres of the brain twist on the brainstem. That disrupts consciousness. Or, the blow itself violently shakes the brain and causes a concussion. Or, it jolts the head so as to cause a vestibular overload. If the guy can absorb the force, then you can hit him hard and he’ll just laugh at you. That’s why you need to hit some guys with greater force within the same time period. And the startle reflex that I refer to is that sudden jump you produce when reacting to a sudden stimulus. You can take that reflexive action and exaggerate it and use it to suddenly shift the body at the moment of impact.

But this is a refinement. You don’t just get it overnight. I’m giving you a tip which you can work into your other stuff. You don’t focus on it exclusively, or you’ll lose your objective, and that is to knock him out. When I break down what I do and what I see other successful fighters doing, I’m analyzing it for you to make you aware of what’s actually going on. But I don’t want you to focus on this one aspect exclusively. And of course, it has to be tested within a real environment, in training or wherever.

What you have to remember as well, with the delivery of any blow, cyclonic or otherwise, it’s never going to be perfect. There are always going to be gaps in the delivery. But that’s what your mind is there for, to be attentive to any possible openings that your opponent could exploit. And you can fill the gap in with something other than the blow you’ve just used, whether the ‘filler’ is defensive, counter-offensive or offensive. The thing is, you must strive to be always kinaesthetically connected to the ground and within yourself, and visually or tactilely connected to the opponent. The really great fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson embody this connectivity.