What are the best training drills to improve hand speed?

Hand speed is a product of impulse. Hand speed is very dependent on technique, but there are a lot of physical characteristics we can develop to improve it. We have used a range of strength and conditioning training methods that improved pound-for-pound punching force by 13%.

It is not just simple “move weights quicker”, you need to approach it from different angles. First of all, we need to train the ability to produce force through maximal strength training. This should be the priority as this will give you more bang for your buck. The more force we can produce, the more impulse we can develop, the higher hand speed we perform.

Initial strength and conditioning practice should aim to improve strength and movement foundations, as well as improving muscle size and strength endurance. This provides a foundation for maximal or near-maximal strength training via lower reps and higher weight loads.

When this has been achieved, the boxer can manipulate training with various methods, such as Olympic lifting, speed lifts and kettlebell exercises to develop the ability to produce force quickly. Our strength and conditioning training have both generic and sport-specific approaches. We overload punching patterns to improve the ability to send force generated at the foot all the way through to the fist.

Footwork, and the importance of it, is often mentioned – outside of skipping, what drills are recommended to best improve agility of the feet?

Great question. In our training, we incorporate various methods to improve speed and agility. We incorporate sprint and acceleration drills as we found that 5m sprint speed highly correlated with punch force.

We use jumping and hopping exercises to promote speed, force production and eccentric control. This can come across as plyometric exercise.

Did you know: Plyometric exercise is a common activity in boxing training. However we are careful with the term as the official definition of plyometric exercise is an utilisation of the stretch-shortening cycle in a ground contact time of under 200-250ms. Struggling to time 200ms? Clap your hands…. that’s a very good estimate.

What percent of training time is best spent on the speedball v double-ended-bag v heavy bag?

There are many elements to developing a boxer, so to put a percentage on all of the activities in a training session or training program would be a tough task.

How much time you spend on an activity is dependent on the needs of the athlete, whether it’s a strength or weakness and how close to a fight they are.

Speed ball is best used for developing hand speed and co-ordination, a double ended bag is good for practising combinations, and the heavy bag is a great conditioning tool for developing endurance and punch force.

How important is leg strength for elite boxers, and what drills/exercises are recommended to build strength as opposed to bulking up. And is the deadlift the daddy of them all?

Love this question. In our testing at Sheffield Hallam University, we assessed leg strength via jump height. Results highlighted the importance of lower limb force production as jump height was strongly related to estimated punch force (medicine ball backhand punch throw distance).

The deadlift is the purest single exercise that is a test of “strength” because it is one of the few lifts of dead weight. Performing a deadlift with good technique requires the co-ordinated activation of the posterior chain muscles. Compound moves such as the deadlift and squat activate the most muscles; therefore more weight can be lifted challenging the nervous system. This improves the contractile properties of a muscle.

Our strength and conditioning programs include a range of exercises, see our video below.


I have always had questions about working heavy weightlifting into boxing training. I have heard many different approaches. My biggest concern is how to build strength and fortitude while maintaining shoulder health?

Please see the answers above for heavy weightlifting.

In terms of maintaining shoulder health, it’s all about making sure you are doing the techniques right, have a well-structured and balances strength and conditioning program, and performing mobility exercises for your shoulder.

There is no point in doing weightlifting with a rounded posture on the deadlift, have a lot of pressing exercises and being too sore for training.

Train smart and you will get results.

Danny Wilson is a strength and conditioning coach at Sheffield Hallam University and the co-founder of www.boxingscience.co.uk

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