Quick Hand Speed

Quick Hands punching reaction and hand eye coordination


Last summer I had the opportunity to work with some international karate coaches,  during the weekend I asked where the US competitor lagged behind, he said hand speed. So I thought I would do some research in similar sports to see what they do to increase hand speed. So we will cover classical ideas to more progressive approaches.

Speed-bag: The speed bag is the classic method for increasing boxing hand speed and improving hand-to-eye coordination, readily identifiable from countless boxing movies. Your first step in using the speed bag is to set the speed bag platform and yourself up into proper positions. Adjust the platform so that the wide "belly" of the bag is at chin level. Then place yourself your proper stance for boxing, guard up.

Strike the bag in a circular motion, bringing the outside of your fist down onto the upper slope of the bag's "belly." Then complete the circular motion, returning your fist to guard position. Strike it again after it rebounds off the back of the platform.

During the initial stages of practice, you should work with only one fist at a time, until the movement becomes less awkward. Then start working on alternating your right and left fists. When you feel you have mastered the speed bag, take a step up and make the exercise more difficult by putting straight punches and movement around the bag platform into your drill.

Double-ended Bag, punching bag is attached to ceiling and floor. You may have seen this in some Bruce Lee training videos. If not here is what you do:

The double-end bag is tethered to the ceiling and the floor by bungees. It is designed to react wildly when struck, simulating the reactions and elusiveness of a live opponent. That makes the double-end bag an excellent tool for increasing boxing hand speed, perfecting hand-to-foot coordination, and improving your reflexes. For standard set up the double-end bag, adjust the tethers so the bag is at shoulder height. Because the bag is meant to represent the head of the opponent, if you wish to practice against shorter or taller opponents, adjust the bag height accordingly. Punching up at a "taller" bag is more demanding.

The double-end bag should be worked in the same fashion that a heavy bag would be. Hit the bag, moving around it and paying close attention to proper form. If the bag is moving wildly out of control that means you are not hitting it squarely and more attention needs to be paid to form.

As your hand speed improves, the bag will become easier to track and land multiple punches or more difficult punches (hooks and uppercuts) on. This is what I would call neurological training. Meaning it does not reinforce exact skill pattern development, but it does improve neurological signal development.

Shadowboxing With Hand Weights: This is a sticky area, as I personally do not like to practice movement with an artificial weight, which can change the mechanics of human movement. So do you have the knowledge to know when the weight is too heavy and begins to change your punch? My buddy Tim McClellan the best strength and fitness coach in America told me a story about professional pitchers using a slightly heavier ball to increase arm strength. The problem was that anything more than half of an ounce seemed to change the way they threw.

Here are some alternate points of view:

I've heard recommendations from all sorts of trainers, including Olympic boxing trainers, and the general consensus seems to be to avoid heavy weights for shadowboxing. For one, throwing heavy weights out at full force while shadowboxing is asking for injury to the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. For another, throwing heavy weights is the opposite type of muscle memory the boxer needs. Fighters need to punch explosively, engaging the hips and legs, accelerating the fist as quickly as possible, and telegraphing nothing. Practicing punching slowly with a heavy weight will train you to punch slowly with a heavy weight, to push punches slowly rather than to snap them explosively. Dumbbells and kettle bells can be useful, but in full body exercises like clean and presses or woodchoppers. For shadowboxing, 16-ounce gloves are plenty of weight, if you are going to punch with 16-ounce gloves on your hand.

I am a believer of a different type of drills to improve punching power with comes more from involving your whole body that increasing arm strength.


Empty barbell Throws: This is a great exercise for hand speed and punching power as it's done in an explosive fashion. For this exercise, get your barbell and take off all the weights, just the 30 lb. bar is plenty. Hold the bar on your chest as though you are doing to do a press up. Then push that bar out as quick as you can and yank it back down to your chest.

Do this in quick intervals of about 10 seconds to start working your way up to 25 seconds. Rest 60 seconds between sets and do 3 sets.


Resistance Band Punches: This is about as functional as it gets. Resistance band punches are excellent for hand speed and punching power as you're simply punching against resistance. To perform the exercise, all you do is wrap a couple resistance bands around the bar on a pulley station (or anything that's shoulder height). You then grasp the handles and ensure that the bands are positioned under your arms. From there, it's easy - you shadowbox. If I have a workout partner, I'll get him to hold some pads for me. It's actually pretty fun. As you fatigue, you simply drop one band and continue the exercise (providing your using more than one resistance band).

Hand speed & punching power exercise guidelines

  • 3 rounds
  • 1 minute each
  • 1 minute rest


Having mentioned the traditional approaches I want to suggest neurological training to improve hand speed. Is not your hand speed a function of the signal from the brain? If we increase the speed and frequency of the brain signals our hand speed will proportionally increase. So it makes sense that any highly involved neurological set of drills will drive signals and increase nerve myelination. In other words patty cake drills will make your punches faster. 


Doug Jepperson Park City, Utah

If you want to contact Doug for Seminars or lectures please contact him at:


Park City Karate



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