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Build a Power Back to Devastate your Opponents

Today’s post is about power.

Specifically it’s about putting as much shocking, traumatic power as possible into the body of another human being.

In other words we are going to talk about one of my favourite subjects, throwing a punch.

In fact the entire post is inspired by an incredible photograph taken by the awesome Mrs Cecile “Ce’s the Day” Gordon. Here it is (please click on the image to open Ce’s website where you can see more of her excellent fight photography…)

Cian Cowley introduces his fist to his opponents Liver...

Cian Foley introduces his fist to his opponents Liver…

Have a look at that shot. Not only has she caught the punch as it sinks into the body, but she also beautifully illustrates the anatomy of Cians back. He is notorious for his powerful body shots, and this image tells you exactly why. See the Lat? See the Teres Major? See the Lower Traps?

You want to hit hard? These are key players.


Too often fighter (and the “normal” gym goer) focuses on the muscles on the front of the body and neglects the back. Gym goers want to look good in the mirror and fighters think that it’s these muscles that power their punches, as well as looking good in the mirror.

This emphasis on the front side of the body is a false economy. Many an older boxer or weight room enthusiast has banged up shoulders for exactly this reason. If instead you spent more time developing some back, your career may well be far longer and certainly more fruitful.

If we develop the back we are creating:

  1. A better link to the hips. The Lats are the only muscle that connects the arm directly to the hip, and we all know that the hip is where we generate power.

  2. A tighter core unit Have you read THIS POST yet? You should, it’s one of the most shared articles I’ve ever written and is all about what the core is and what it does. Your Lats are a big part of the core unit, they are basically your lower back as they attach to pretty much every lumbar vertebra and the top of the pelvis. So if you want to be able to effectively transfer force from the lower body to the upper body (and vice versa) you need to be able to stiffen the linkage in between, ie, the entire core unit as laid out in the post I linked to above.

  3. Increased Shoulder Stability The Humerus (upper arm bone) sits in a very shallow socket on the body. It’s joint (the Gleno-Humeral Joint) is designed for maximal mobility, which comes at the price of stability. Now, lets say we’ve spotted an opening on our opponent, he’s moved just right and left the corner of his jaw wide open. You are positioned perfectly. You step just a little, throw your weight across, turn the hip, release the torque built up in the waist, your shoulder whips forward catapulting that left hook out to its target. It is the perfect moment. BANG! You make contact, exactly as you saw it in your mind. As you fist impacts into your opponents jaw, you feel a shooting bolt of white hot lightning around your shoulder blade. Luckily, he goes down, because if he didn’t, you’d be continuing the fight with one arm.This is a dramatised version of what actually happened to one of the Thai Boxers I work with while he was in Thailand. He hit his opponent so hard, the shock of the impact tore tendons in his rotator cuff. It’s been a long road getting him back in business.Going back to our anatomy class, the shallow Gleno-Humeral Joint relies on the Scapular (shoulder blade) to give it some stability. The shoulder blade relies on the upper back muscles to hold it steady so it can do it’s job. No upper back, no scapular stability. No scapular stability and you have very little structural integrity with which to take the shock of a heavy impact. And lets face it, we ALL like hittin really hard!

So what should we do?

Simple. Here’s a list of exercises that MUST be in your strength and conditioning arsenal if you are scrapper:

  1. Deadlift – Gets the whole back strong, as well as the hips.

  2. Kettlebell Swings – The deadlifts little brother, same muscles, different training effect.

  3. Rows – Pull ups are great, but horizontal rows are probably more applicable. You can be on the rings doing Inverted Rows, doing bent over rows with a bar or dumbbells, or renegade rows for the counter rotation benefits. It doesn’t matter, do them. Pause at the top of the row to ensure full contraction and work a variety of rep ranges from high & light to low & heavy.

  4. Band Pull Aparts – A light stretchy band can save your life. Hold it out in front of you in straight arms, stretch the band by pulling with straight arms and lifting the chest out to meet it. You’re doing it right when everything between your shoulder blades lights up and feels like it’s on fire! Do lots, change the angle frequently.

  5. Scap ups – Imagine doing a push up without bending the arms, yup, you just shrug the shoulders. This trains the muscles under your armpits known as the Serratus Anterior. It’s a sexy muscle, so well worth developing, but it also stabilises the shoulder. Here’s a video of it being used in conjunction with a couple of other movements: [youtube=]

A big back is a sign of a powerful athlete. Build one and you will strike fear into your opponents because they know it is a launch pad for devastatingly powerful punches.


Dave Hedges

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