T Nation

Punching Technique


Let this be a thread to discuss all sorts of commonly known punches, oktoberfest haymakers and newschool superman strikes.

Onto the sambo "casting punch".
What is it? Is it legit?

Here's how I see this:
Fedor has had fast, strong hands that look a bit loopy, similar to I. Vovchanchyn.
Some guys on the Internet called them "russian long hooks".

When throwing the left hook, everyone knows the danger of exposing the thumb to potential self-damage. Big boxing gloves help here a lot. In fact, boxing gloves tend to allow punches that aren't really feasible without them.
Working the heavy bag without gloves quickly exposes weaknesses in the technique.
Especially if your left hook tries to make maximum distance. Then a lot of left hooks with conservative execution become real thumb destroyers.
Try a long range left hook (you might do a little jump here to brisge the last foot)without gloves and full power!
Personally I tend to use a vertical fist for close and medium range here, like many others.
Now Fedor and Igor use vertical fists, but they are inverted so the thumb is looking almost down. The target knuckles are the index, followed by the middle finger knuckle.
You can turn your shoulder a bit better in to protect your chin then using vertical fists, when going for more range.

Another difference betweewn MMA and boxing that led to the use of those peculiar hooks is pacing and distance.
Fedor, like Vovchanchyn, would throw very hard and fast hands at the very start, while stepping forward. If you rely heavily on your shoulder stretch reflex while throwing left AND right hooks in combinations as you close the distance, you WILL look very similar to those two russian heavy hitters.

So there is really no need to imagine some sort of in-built single collar tie apparatus.

And there is no evidence that Fedor, when barely missing a punch, immediately secured a single collar tie and had a dominant clinch.


Anyone got a grip on how to train those kind of punches in the heavy bag? every time i try hitting hard my shoulder sort of pops, so i just stick to the conventional ones.


well, for one, start slow if your shoulders protest.
Train the movement with your shadowboxing first, before slugging out full gonzo mode against the heavy bag.
Perhaps this style is simply not for you?

You should probably turn your hips a bit more then with regular power strikes.

Like with all strikes, you should be able to lean on the fist at the moment the fist connects.
If it hurts or feels uncomfortable, it's probably not the right technique for you.



I cannot assist all that much with the application of the Russian hook, since I am unclear about what it is that makes it distinct. I am definitely no help with the casting punch. However, I think I can take a pass at the mechanics we saw in the majority of the punches on the videos I posted in the other thread.

I hope the following is helpful.

First, for now, we can disregard questions about holding the wrist at a specific angle. I know Fedor talks about keeping his wrist purposely flexed/bent in, but everything in my experience tells me that this is not good advice. I will just say make a fist and hold your wrist as you have been taught. I am going to try to focus on the power generation/not minutia/and definitely not application. This drill is probably going to look and feel goofy, especially at first. Please do not injure yourself by using full power strikes when you know you are off balance. Go slow at first.

Second, Fedor talks about using the index and middle finger knuckles (common to Japanese influenced martial arts) as striking points. Jack Dempsey wrote about using the middle, ring, and small finger knuckles (I have seen this in Chinese systems). Both of these men hit harder, and accomplished more doing it than I have. I am not going to claim either is wrong in the big picture. I will state that maybe looking for the commonality and just making sure the knuckle of the middle finger is driven into the target will go a long way in preventing hand injuries in this drill, and anytime you are punching sans gloves.

Ok, we are going to need a heavy bag/striking pad. Stand about two and a half feet away from the bag. You should be able to easily touch it. Stand facing and square to the bag with your heels touching each other. I know this is goofy. Now put your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly. You are still facing the bag. Stay standing upright and put your hands up in a guard position.

To recap you are not in a position you, as a trained fighter, would ever want to be in. Now, give yourself Imaginary Lat Syndrome and chicken wing your elbows away from your sides. Flex your lats. Drop your hands down to about pec level. Take mental note of everyone who is laughing at you so you can get even later. Now, punch the bag. Just throw straight punches, alternating sides, at a comfortable pace. Increase the power, and do not force the punches to travel straight, allow them to loop a bit.

Try to hit hard.

Keep your feet were they are.

You have probably started doing/noticing the following. Your upper body is leaning into the bag when you punch, probably a lot. You are really twisting your hips and shoulders to generate power. Your punches feel more natural when they start a bit away from your body and to the side, Imaginary lat syndrome, and then head towards the target with a slight inward arc.

Take a quarter step away from the bag, stagger your stance so you now stand either orthodox (left foot forward) or southpaw (right foot forward) according to your preference. Hit the bag emphasizing hip rotation/shoulder movement (Dempsey called it shoulder whirl) for power. Really shove your shoulders into the punches. At this point you should more or less be throwing hard, somewhat sloppy straight punches/swings. Dempsey wrote about not allowing these punches to turn into swings. This is what I see in the majority of the punches Fedor and Igor throw. Really hard shots that are allowed to compromise defense for power. Both fighters generate massive power using shoulder/hip rotation. This naturally makes their punches loop since their whole body is rotating.


Robert A


Nice post Robert A.

I'm not going to put words into Kaiser's mouth, but speaking for myself I know I find when I start to throw like that, and throw really hard, I feel less able to protect my shoulder joint from the torque generated by the hips/core and transfered through the shoulder as it loads up for SSC. I generally have fairly healthy shoulders otherwise.





I am assuming SSC stands for stretch shortening cycle.

Are you referring to the loading of the shoulder girdle muscles into stretch by the initial torque/hip rotation prior to the fist and arm beginning to travel to the target?

Or are you referring to the stretch in the tissues when the blow lands and the shoulder has to absorb the forces.

I have seen the SSC, plyometric, shock method terminology applied to both instances. Basically, when does the pain/feeling happen? I am also going to assume from your post that you can hit hard when punching differently, and that you can do it pain free.

In both cases the first thing that jumped to mind was whether or not you are protracting (moving forward) your shoulder (shoulder blade on ribcage) when you punch. Elevation and protraction of the shoulder blade (shrugging your shoulder up and forward) is not a terribly stable position. Since this is a weight lifting site I will assume that you are familiar with the cautions against bench pressing with the shoulder blades protracted, actually simply benching without strong retraction and a good bit of depression is usually to be avoided.

The rational for this caution being that protraction and elevation of the shoulder blade puts the shoulder joint (glenoid-humeral or humerus/upper arm to scapula/shoulder blade) in a compromised position to handle the stresses of benching heavy. Well, smashing your fist as hard as you can into someone at least your size creates forces at easily as great as benching, and they occur over a shorter period of time. So, shoulder blade down a bit.

More info would help me do more than guess.


Robert A


wow, thanks for the detailed explanation, funny that you mentioned it, because i have read Jack Dempsey book and didn't remember that part. I'll try slowly adding it and gauging how it feels.

Sometimes i get so excited with that violent brawling style from Igor and Fedor that i forget that good aimed straight punches are even deadlier and leave less openings.


Robert A,

Yes, I was referring to the stretch shortening cycle as SSC, and I was referring to it in terms of the initial "load up" phase in the shoulder rather than absorbing the shock of impact. Although, upon closer consideration, the pain generally arises as the punch reaches full extension and my fist is at it's "heaviest", concentrating the momentum of the whole shot at the moment of impact before snapping it back. It is more similar to the issue that a baseball pitcher faces than a bench press, IMO.

Thinking about it further, it is a bigger problem when hitting something like a focus mitt that allows you to hit through more so than a heavy bag. In this situation one must apply more "breaking force" to the shot. I believe that it may be the opposition of these two forces (forward momentum of the blow vs breaking force at full extension) that produces the strain.

I always try to be mindful of scapular retraction and depression whenever I am striking (or lifting), and it had occurred to me that this was a factor here. I can throw most other punches hard, repeatedly and without pain. However perhaps the somewhat more relaxed, "looping" nature of these types of shots makes me more likely to compromise my scapular stability at full extension. The worst culprit is actually a strike that we train for self protection rather than ring applications. It is an extremely hard, overhand shot that is thrown similar to baseball pitch and travels downward from outside to in on a 45 degree angle making contact with the heel of the hand. For the record there is no pain the overwhelming majority of the time, however very occasionally there is severe, acute pain at the juncture that I describe above.

Hope that provides some clarification.




Ok, now I am getting an idea of what we are working with. The pain seems to occur when you need to stop the momentum generated by the punch. Essentially the pain is occurring in the deceleration phase of the strike so breaking forces = braking force=deceleration, correct?

If so, I have a few thoughts:

1.) Shoulder pain with deceleration of the throwing motion is very common in sports. Often the rotator cuff muscles, usually supraspinatus and infraspinatus (the muscles above and below the spine of the scapula, just under the skin. If you stand behind someone and touch their shoulder blade you are touching these) get over worked/strained/injured trying to stop the internal rotation that accompanies end range of the throwing motion. Often damage to these muscles, even long term repetitive stress, can result in a build-up of scar tissue, hypertonicity (increased/too much muscle tension), and a lack of mobility. If the backs of your shoulders/your shoulder blades are tender you may want to get this checked out. If you think this may be happening at least use a foam roller on the muscles. Of course caveat emptor applies here. I am not your doctor. The above does not constitute medical advice.

2.) I am very familiar with strikes such as the 45 degree strike you describe. I have heard them referred to as bear swats. They can be wicked effective. However, I am very much against likening them to a baseball pitch, even though people far more qualified to expound on the subject seem to do so. The reason being, when you throw an object you are not planning on making contact with anything. You are also planning on releasing the object and following through with the throwing motion. So the mass/force that you must decelerate is less because you are minus the object thrown.

What I think you are doing in the strike you describe is swinging your hand through the target as though it was a hammer. If you were holding a cue ball and decided to brain me with it you might very well use the same mechanics as the 45 degree palm strike. You would not try to pitch the ball into my head, and forget to let it go. That would not yield the result you want, my fractured skull. Instead you would swing the ball through my temple.

So, if you miss the pad, or hit the pad, or miss my temple, or hit my temple just let the swing move through. Your arm will probably swing well across your body. You are likely moving forward. This is not the ideal position for defense, but that is the risk of the technique. Trying to abort the swing at its peak/ its heaviest is just setting you up for issues. Both orthopedically, and the fact that you may be in a compromised position longer trying to put the brakes on all that force rather than if you simply accepted the natural swinging motion and let it carry you. If I pull my head back at the last minute let the swing go and step into me. Make me pay for moving backwards.

It is my experience that most people, when they re-categorize a blow like this into a swing rather than a throw, reflexively tighten their muscles just a little, and that seems to make all the difference in the world. Now they donâ??t try to stop the punch short like jab, straight, or hook. Instead they let the swing happen. They also do not let their arm get so loose that the shock of hitting something creates issues.

3.) I consider the strike described in 2 to be a completely different animal than the swing/sloppy straight that I wrote about earlier. In this post we are talking about swinging the end of our arm (fist, palm, hand holding a cue ball,) into and through a target, like pounding a nail or hitting a golf ball. In the previous post the punch was a mechanism where we used the momentum of our body to injure. The distinction is with most punches I work on using mechanics to bleed less energy off/waste less energy in order to hit harder, so hit more correct to hit harder. In the 45 degree strike it is more like swing harder to hit harder.

Hope this helps.


Robert A



Hope it helps.

Also, I think accuracy plays a bigger role in effectiveness than pure horsepower.


Robert A


Robert A,

Good points. I think that I'll need to chew on that for a while, but I'm sure it will help.

Thanks again.



Found this on youtube. It shows the wide straight/long hook mechanics as done by Dempsey. Not quite as wild as Fedor or Igor, but similar enough to my eye. I thought it might give a good visual for kaiser, and also be worth a look in general.

Here is a short clip with Chuck Liddell showing his wide overhand. This is the mechanic I am referring to with the 45 degree palm/bear swat/hammer swing. I am hoping batman730 sees it and can tell me if we are talking about the same type of strike or not, at least on a gross or macro level.

Hopefully some others weigh in on this.


Robert A


Robert A,

Yes, what Liddell is demonstrating is very similar on a on a gross movement level to what I am describing. We also use the "bear swat" terminology that you mention when referring to this strike. The set up and point of contact on the hand are slightly different (heel not knuckles) and for us and the preferred target is the ear/jaw/TMJ region. However the path that the arm follows and the foot/hip/trunk motion are basically identical, very good example.

For me this is a very heavy shot, probably one of my hardest, and although I have never thrown it in an "open mode", force on force setting, I have no doubt it could be quite effective, given the proper opening to deliver it. As you allude to above, it is a VERY committed shot that leaves you vulnerable (compared to a conventional hook or cross) should it fail to land. Swinging through, your hand naturally travels down to your opposite hip before you can recover and, as you said, your weight is traveling forward, although ideally still fairly balanced between the feet. A good counter-puncher could feed you some serious pain here.

I also appreciate the marked difference between this stroke and the aforementioned "swing/sloppy straight". I think that bear swat is rather unlike most punches. One possible exception would be the straight downward hammerfist, which, incidentally, seems to be one of my "go-to" moves when I'm hard pressed and stressed. With my height/levers it seems really natural to me.

Thanks for your thoughtful and considered posts. As I said, I have no chronic shoulder pain/tenderness and my range of motion is decent. It is exceedingly rare that I have a problem with this punch, but when pain happens, it is significant. Any other thoughts are most welcome.

Thanks again.


Sometimes I forget how incredible Jack Dempsey was. That motherfucker could punch man... he only weighed around 190 and he hit like a truck.


What he did to Jess was unspeakable, especially considering what Jack Johnson couldn't.



Expletives were created expressly for the purpose of describing something like that.


Fedor always breaks his hand guys remember that.


So what?

Maybe it's because he has shitty bones, maybe it's because he's punching too hard?
He sure doesn't have the largest mitts. Actually, he has small hands among heavyweights.
And yes, maybe his technique is worse for his wrists? It's possible.
But he sure can generate power with these swinging fists.

Regarding the Liddell vid - it's btw an overhand right, while I'd classify Fedor's wild punch as a hook-
you probably won't learn Chuck's overhand right technique with that vid.
Watch footage of his KOs, there's a bit more detail to the execution.
He relies a lot more on the stretch reflex, and, his upper body angle generates more output to the power vector.

BTW, it's totally common with standup techniques to have missing pieces of the puzzle, or sometimes even flat out WRONG technical tips straight from a champion's mouth.
Curiously enough, this doesn't really happen with submission stuff as much, I think partly because most standup killers just don't realize how many deatils they can omit, after all, THEY are naturals. Not so with BJJ, where often great attention is paid to the smallest of details.
An example here would be a "boxing for MMA video" by Vitor Belfort. He explains how he does his "blitz", demonstrating footwork that's exactly the other way around.
In my opinion, one should always note if a guy demonstrates with full speed and power and/or compare it with factual fight footage.


I somewhat agree. The "russian long hook" looks like either a long and straightish hook, or a straight punch that hooks a hell of a lot. Basically, using rotation to launch a fairly straight line blow. I would say it generates power the same way a hook does (hip/shoulder rotation), but that it is trying for a much different vector. Hence the Dempsey references and video.

The Liddell video was to make sure I was tracking what batman was saying.
I guess you could call it an overhand right, well obviously you did, but when I say/think overhand I think of this

or this

Not this (:11, :14)

I do not think they are the same kind of punch. Maybe this begs the question of where does a right hook stop and an overhand right begin?


Robert A