7 Exercises to Increase Punching Power

There are a few things I really love doing.

They are (in no particular order):

  • Playing with my Boys
  • Playing with my Dog
  • Playing with my wife
  • Seeing my clients reap the rewards of their training
  • Lifting heavy things lots of times
  • Hitting stuff, really hard.

Lets talk about that last one.

I like hitting stuff really hard. I’ve been around the martial arts my whole life, starting Karate at the age of 11 and studied a variety of arts in the 25 years since that day.
I also spent a good bit of time working on Doors and did the odd Private Security job.

These days I co-own Wild Geese Martial Arts and have a fair amount of scrappers come to WG-Fit to get their physical attributes built up in order to become more efficient at their chosen means of hurting people.

So for strikers, those that prefer to punch their opponents into submission, here are a few of my top training drills to get maximum power into every strike.


The squat may be lauded as the king of all exercises, but for real full body strength, the deadlift trumps it.
All strikes come from the ground via a powerful hip extension and tight core. What does the deadlift train?
Oh yeah, tight core and powerful hip extension.
Load that bar and lift it off the floor. Stick to sets of 1-5 reps, around 3 is ideal and do several sets.



Power Clean

This is the deadlifts little brother.
Power that bar from the floor and catch it on the shoulders. This is a little technical, so get someone to take you through it (remember I said “Power Clean”, don’t let some Oly lifting purist convince you to do anything else!”
We’re training the same things as the deadlift with this, but with the addition of some serious speed and explosion.
Again, around 3reps for a few sets is good.

The Power Clean just before the catch

The Power Clean just before the catch

One Arm Push Up

While many talk about sports specific training and try to replicate a punch with dumbbells and bands, I prefer this. Personally I’m not a fan of replicating skills in a gym environment, but I do believe we can replicate force vectors and the OAP is as close as you get from a strength perspective.
I tend to work these to technical failure, ie when stop when form starts to break down. But if reps start clocking up, try elevating the feet or adding a weight vest.

A "do anywhere" drill for striking power

A “do anywhere” drill for striking power

Standing Russian Twist

All strikes, and for that matter all combative techniques involve a huge amount of rotary strength from the spine. There are few exercises that trump this beauty for strengthening this pattern.

Also called the "Twisty on your belly" by one of my black belt members!

Also called the “Twisty on your belly” by one of my black belt members!

Circular Cleans

This is a little known kettlebell exercise that can also be performed with clubbells or sledgehammers.
Again we are looking at the rotation but also building a lot of stability through the shoulder.
High reps on this will leave you exhausted for days.

oooh look, a video!

One Arm Clean & Jerk

Again, we’re talking force vectors, and the One arm long cycle pretty much hits it all. High reps with a heavy weight feel just like you’re slogging it out in a scrap. This is one of the most effective drills for building that power endurance to get you through those later rounds.

Sledgehammer Slams

Pure combat conditioning. Get a big old tyre and beat the crap out of it with a sledge hammer. Go for time with this and use it either as part of a circuit or a finisher.
In fact, a great conditioner for any fighter to end their workouts with is a combination of Kettlebell swings and Sledgehammer slams, occasionally I set the two stations apart and have the poor bugger sprint (often dragging a sled) between the two.
Yeah, they always love me after that one.

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

This is far from a comprehensive list, but if you do nothing but the exercises listed, then you’ll notice your striking power and endurance will skyrocket.

Here’s a wee power circuit combining a few of the above exercises:

Have fun.

For more on how to arrange these into circuits and power circuits, check out the WMD manual, written specifically for Martial Artists and hard charging folk.

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete


Dave Hedges


Workshops for 2013:

Bodyweight Training
Wild Geese, Dublin
Sun 18th August, 1000 – 1600

Kettlebell Training – The Basics (Levels 1 & 2)
Wild Geese, Dublin
September 8th, 1000 – 1600
This workshop is a prerequsite for those attending:

Kettlebell Instructor Certification (yes, the inaugral certification!)
September/October. Details TBA

One more workshop to be added in November and possibly one in December (I’m thinking a two day self defence course in December due to the seasonal increase in alcohol related violence.)

And that’s it!

If you want me to come to your place to run an event, you can book me for Nov/Dec or it’s a wait till next year.

Don’t lift weights, it’ll slow you down

If I hear one more martial arts or self defence instructor tell their students, or even if I it repeated by hear their students, that strength is not important in martial arts, I might just lose the plot.
For years I’ve been told (not by my original coach, Jack Parker, I must add but by many since) that lifting weight slows you down, you can never be the strongest person and other such bollocks.

Lets get this straight, right from the off:

Lifting heavy weights will not slow your strikes down.

Yes, we know that there is always someone bigger and stronger than you, but that does NOT negate the need for strength training.

Getting stronger will not necessarily bulk you up and put you in a higher weight category.

Got it?


I’ve heard it too many times that strength is unnecessary in martial arts. Maybe it’s because most martial artists have never and will never get into a violent altercation out on the street. And you know what? Thats a good thing.
It’s also indicative of the instructors lack of strength and conditioning knowledge, which is not a good thing.

So here and now I want to fix that.
Lets start with some history.

People have fought other people since day dot. And we aren’t about to stop anytime soon.
Somewhere along the line someone noticed that fighting stronger guys was harder than fighting weaker guys. No one in the village wanted a punch from the blacksmith, but they wouldn’t blink if the town scribe had a go.
It’s the reason weight classes were introduced into the combat sports, so the big guys wouldn’t simply dominate over the smaller guys.

It didn’t take much for the smaller guys to think, well if was stronger, maybe I’d fight better. The Generals of armies thought, “if my lads are in better shape than my enemy’s lads, well we’ve a better chance of winning.”

So in the combat world, strength and conditioning became a staple. Since then the training of professional fighters has influenced the development of today’s fitness world. Even the very first Olympic Games revolved around the trials of a warrior.

So at what point the “strength is not important” attitude came about, I’ve no idea.

But lets now look at other athletes.

Sprinters lift.

Are they slow?

Shot putters lift.

You wouldn’t say they’re slow when they launch that putt.

Professional Rugby Players lift, yet they can still run, jump, hit and get hit and do it for the duration of a match.

Strength is the foundation upon which all other attributes are built. If you desire power, you first need strength. If you are looking for endurance, well being strong means less effort needed to move your bodyweight around.

Watch this presentation from Eric Cressey on the Strength to Speed Continuum.
Eric works mostly with baseball players, but his presentation is applicable to all sports:

Now have think about you as a fighter. You throw punches, not baseballs, but the principles are much the same. I bet a guy who throws a ball at 90mph is generating more than enough force to knock you clean out!

So are so many in the martial arts world still resistant?
I’m baffled.

Here’s another video, this time from Bret Contreras, and believe me when I say that this dude is smart:

In all the years I’ve been training people, especially martial artists, I’ve yet to have anyone come to me and complain that I made them worse. Every single one of them have improved their game, be it fighting pro MMA, BJJ, full contact kick boxing or the mean streets and nightclub doors, have found that they move faster, with more power. They recover faster, both in fight and after the occasion.

Why and how?
Well that’s a massive article, so I’ll give you the abridged version.

All movement comes about as a result of muscle contraction. Muscle contraction comes about due to the central nervous system firing.

So while training your specific skills is of the utmost importance, your nervous system needs to learn these moves and make them reflexive. We also need to train the nervous system to fire as fast, as completely and aggressively as possible.
We need that signal to reach muscle fibres that are going to fire in a powerful coordinated fashion. You need the connective tissue around the muscle fibres, that forms the tendons and ligaments to be elastic and tough enough to uphold the structural integrity to transfer the power efficiently through the body and into you target.

This is best trained through specific strength & conditioning practices.

We’re talking about heavy squats, deadlifts and presses.
We’re talking about powerful movements such as jumps, plyos and the ballistic kettlebell lifts.
We’re talking big movements recruiting a massive amount of motor units, much in the manner you’ll be using them in combat.

Is strength important for martial arts?


It’s vital.

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete



1 Day Self Defence Skills Workshop

It’s been a while since I ran a workshop in our own gym.
This year I’ve been to the far flung corners of Ireland teaching, but other than my regular classes and sessions, I’ve done nothing special in WG.

So it’s about time this changed.

On the 5th May, which is a Sunday, I’ll be running a workshop from 10 am to 4pm.

Over the last week or so since deciding this, I’ve been asking people, both in person and on Facebook, what information they would like to receive over these 6 hours.

The answer is an almost unanimous vote for Self Defence.

So for one day only, I swap my hat from the white hat of the conditioning coach, helping other develop their bodies, to the black hat of Self Defence instructor teaching how to destroy a body.

When I grow up, I want to be this cool!

When I grow up, I want to be this cool!

Am I qualified to teach Self Defence?

Well here’s a very brief resume:

1995 – Achieved Black Belt in Wado Ryu Karate and trained in Goshin Jitsu
2001 – Acheived Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, and learned eskrima
2005 – Got the 2nd dan in kenpo, but trained mostly in eskrima
In between those certifications I travelled a fair bit and trained with some top guys in a number of other arts, I also spent a lot of time working on doors, where I got the opportunity to test out certain ideas and principles.
I’ve consulted for ESTS, run by former Royal Marine Special Forces member, Steve.
And more recently trained with possibly the worlds top self defence instructors, Mick Coup.
Oh, and I’m one of three people in the world registered to teach the Rapid Response Knife Defence course to instructor level.

Me getting hurt in the pursuit of knowledge

Me getting hurt in the pursuit of knowledge

So there!

So what can we learn in just 6 hours?

Well, here’s an outline:

  • Situational Awareness
  • The Avoid/Evade/Confront continuum
  • Don’t be THAT Zebra
  • Essentials of Power Generation
  • The 3 Basic hand/arm strikes

That doesn’t sound like much, but I promise, you won’t leave disappointed as we dig deep into each topic.
I can’t abide those courses that teach a million things and by the end of the day, you’ve already forgotten half of them. I’d much rather teach a few things well.
There will be a lot of practical work and I expect questions.

All in, it’ll be a grand day out.

Now the sales bit:

Date: Sunday 5th May
Time: 1000 – 1600 (there will be a couple of breaks)
Location: Wild Geese
Cost: €50 – Booking deposit (non refundable) of 15% or so is needed to secure your place
Max Attendance: 18 people, so get yourself booked!
Experience needed: None
Equipment Needed: Notepad & Pen, Open Mind, Enthusiasm, Water, Groin Protector, Gum Shield (optional)

Get in touch



How To Get Your Head Right For An Epic Performance

Mental preparationA common question that comes up at WG-Fit is about mindset and mental focus.
This isn’t really surprising given the amount of guys that train with me with the specific intention of improving athletic performance, be it in their chosen martial art, GAA or Rugby.
All events where getting hurt is a very real danger, a danger which is significantly increased if the head isn’t in the game.

Coming from a traditional martial arts background myself, I’ve always been taught that mental focus is the primary attribute for a martial artist to achieve. Only when this is accomplished will martial skill really begin to flourish.

And if you think about it, it makes sense.

Most martial arts are designed for life or death encounters or high level sporting encounters where you will get hurt. Mental focus is of absolute importance and self doubt is more dangerous than any enemy.
It’s small wonder then that meditative practices are integral to the martial arts training and lifestyle.

As is visualisation.


This isn’t just limited to the traditional arts either. Visualisation in particular is becoming more commonly used in the MMA circles and in other high level sporting events.

A great example is that of the bob sled in the winter Olympics.
If you haven;t seen it, you must have seen the movie Cool Runnings.

Checkout the bath scene at 55seconds into the trailer.
Derice, as the driver is constantly going over the track in his head, in another scene he’s studying photo’s of each turn and mimicking the movement through it. End result, in his mind he has completed hundreds of successful runs in the sled, which results in and actual physical performance that matches it.

Bobsled kata

Bobsled kata

This isn’t just movie hokum.
It’s a common tactic used by all the bob sled / luge athletes as to run the track over and over is time consuming, dangerous and costly. The drivers train in their heads, much like a martial artists performs a kata or a golfer does a few mock putts before actually lining up on the ball.

Visualisation is a very powerful tool in your tool box.
This is how Jack Parker used to tell us when we were young, up coming Karate-Ka:

“Any time your not doing anything, think about your karate, run the kata through in your head. It doesn’t matter where, do it on the bus, do it on the toilet, any time you have a few minutes to yourself.”

And that’s the key. Frequent repetition. The mind won’t fatigue like the body will, so we can practice a lift or a spot kick or an osoto gari over and over without tiring, like we would if we were doing it for real. Yet we are still activating the neural pathways, we are still feeling the emotion, we are still getting a positive training result.

But what about the nerves?

Breath Control

How do way stay calm enough to carry out the mental and physical training?

This is where breath control comes into play.

Breath Control is a central feature in many martial arts

Breath Control is a central feature in many martial arts

The Asian Martial arts put forward the following theory:

As the breath falls under both conscious AND unconscious control, we can use it as a bridge or a gateway to consciously control our unconscious functions.

What does that mean?


We breath unconsciously most of the time, it is a reflexive action. We continue to breath while we sleep at night, we even continue to breath when our opponent lands a successful knockout punch.

Yet we also have conscious control over our breath. We can choose to speed it up, slow it down and even stop it (for a short while).

The Martial Artists realised that through breath control we could also alter our state of mind, which scientists have measured with CAT scanners of a Buddhist monk, and even our heart rate. Yes, competent meditators have consciously stopped and restarted their heartbeat.

I don’t recommend you try that, but it shows what is potentially possible.

I use a few breathing/meditative practices that are extremely simple and very effective. I also use a few that are far more in depth than can be explained in a mere blog post, techniques that fall under the banner of Chi Gung as taught to me by Mark Rasmus.

Of the simple methods there are two I recommend.
The first is the 100 method and is a common night time ritual for me and one I recommend to many of my athletes, especially on the run up to a major event.

It goes like this:

Every time you exhale, count. Simple eh?
The aim is to count to 100. However, a more realistic aim is to repeatedly count to ten.
Count each exhale in your head until you reach your target number, then repeat.

You will get distracted. Your mind will fire thoughts at you, very often your nervous demons will rear up at you in an attempt to drag you into a cycle of self doubt and adrenaline, potentially ruining your sleep patterns and reinforcing any doubts.
As soon as you realise this is happening, stop and restart your counting at number 1. Do this every time you become attached to a thought.

I liken this brain activity to a TV that is left on in the background. You may be sat reading your book or writing something, but the flashing screen and incessant noise seems to draw you in and before you know it your sat watching some nonsense rather than dealing with the task at hand.
The random thought flashing across your minds eye are just like this TV.
Over time, you’ll learn to ignore the thoughts and simple count your breaths. With enough practice, the thoughts seem to stop coming, as if the TV had been switched off.

This will allow you to relax yourself and hopefully get a good nights rest. It’s also a helpful tool to employ prior to your warm up, or even on the journey to the big event.

The second method is the 4-4-8 method commonly used in Yoga.
I like this for several reasons, one of which is that it has a positive training effect on your lungs and breathing mechanisms.
As a teenager I remember a younger member of the Karate class, a lad who struggled with his asthma.
Jack taught us all the 4-4-8 method and often practised it with us at the end of a class. This one lad recognised the value of it and ran with it.
A few months later Jack related a story to me after talking to the boys father.
They had recently been to the Doc to have his regular check up done and to monitor the asthma. During this check up the Doc takes a lung capacity test. The boys lung capacity had increased by around 33% or one third since his last check up several months earlier.
It turned out, the lad had implemented a daily practice of the 4-4-8 since first learning it and had never had an asthma attack since.

That alone is enough to lend worth to this method, never mind the calming effect it has on the mind.

Here’s how it goes:

inhale for the count of 4, hold it for the same count, exhale for the count of 8.
The numbers are arbitrary, but the pattern is important (dunno why, it just is), the pattern is always 1-1-2, the exhale is double the inhale and the hold.

As you progress, you can increase the numbers or simply count more slowly. Try it with a metronome to keep the count steady. Or if you’re out for a stroll, maybe walking the dog, count your steps (don’t do this near traffic or if it’s your first time experimenting)

Silly poses - optional

Silly poses – optional

Do you need to sit in a certain pose? No. just get comfortable
Do you need to omm and chant? No.
Do you need scented candles? No.
Does it have to be dark? No.
All you need is a period of time where no one will disturb you. Everything else is window dressing and/or mumbo jumbo.

So there you have it, a complete guide to mental fortitude and focus.

The roots of all this, as I’ve mentioned, come though the martial arts systems I’ve been exposed to, but they can be and should be applied to whatever your sport or training practice may be. I even used some of it to keep focused while writing this article!

I talk about breath control for performance during my bodyweight workshops, the next one of which will be in Galway in February, details can be found here


The last thing I like to add is routine, something familiar on the day.

We’ve all heard about players going through specific routines prior to an event, our own Worlds Strongest Man competitor, James Fennelly never leaves for an event without his lucky green socks.

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

With my guys I like them to use the same warm up routine every time they train. This routine then becomes a switch, a little island of familiarity before going out to perform. If we go through the routine of getting changed, then going through our standard warm up prior to anything new, it gives us a trigger to switch from day to day you to animal you.
Setting up triggers and “anchors” is big in NLP circles, having a prematch routine that is the same is you normal pretraining routine can be your anchor, your switch.



Power Generation for Martial Arts Strikes

On the eve of Core Combatives founder Mick Coup’s visit to Wild Geese HQ, another world renowned self defence instructor has found himself being banned from entry to the UK.

Tim Larkin of Target Focused Training was due to fly in from LA to present in the UK. Unfortunately it seems the current government over there feel he’s bad influence and will insight violence and vigilantism.
Perhaps the ministers have been watching too many superhero movies. Perhaps they’re genuinely scared of the message Tim carries.
Tim talks openly and bluntly about violence, about causing damage and even of causing death. In short, while he knows his stuff, he is now a victim of his own marketing. You can read more about it here

How long before the less “shocking” amongst us become targeted?
I practice the Filipino Martial Arts predominantly, that means I’m well versed in the use of bladed and impact weapons. Does this mean I should be banned from visiting my old mum in England?

I’d better moderate my commentary. The following video is me talking about the core principle behind my own current martial arts practice. As a lifelong student of martial arts I’ve always tried find the common thread that links the various styles I’ve been exposed to. These days as a father, husband, business owner and coach, I’ve less time than ever to dedicate to martial arts practice. A few years ago I’d spend up to 20 hours per week immersed in the arts, these days I’m lucky to get 20 minutes per day.
So I’ve tried to find the simplest link, the lowest common denominator that runs through all my training.

This clip reveals what that is:

In this next clip I show how the same principle is used with an impact weapon, in this case an eskrima stick, but applicable to anyone who operates in the fields of security and Law Enforcement.

Hope you find these useful and a bit of a break away from the usual fitness info I offer in this site.
I have more martial arts/self defence knowledge to share, so please let me know if you’d like me to continue.



Upper Body Mobility and The Art of Applied Laziness

I’m lazy.

It’s one of the reasons I train the way I do.

My background is in the martial arts, specifically Karate. My instructor was forever trying to instil the idea of efficiency into us, economy of motion and maximum return for minimum effort.
This kind of thinking is absolutely vital to a martial artist, or anyone involved in a fight / high risk scenario.

I liked this idea of maximum return for minimal effort, it suited my lazy streak. So I’ve tried to implement the same thinking into everything else I do, including my fitness training.

In the gym I can’t be bothered doing a dozen exercises when a few will do. Why train for an hour if I can get it done in 30 mins.
Isolation drills always sounded silly to me. Work the biceps, ok. With curls? No thanks, I’ll do chin ups thanks. 6 exercises for the pecs? Why? I can increase the intensity of this one exercise and get the same result.

This thought process eventually led me to Kettlebell lifting, where if you want you can strip all training down to just four movements:

  1. Clean
  2. Jerk
  3. Snatch
  4. Squat

How’s that for efficient?

The next thing that got me was stretching. I hate it, but I need it. How to make that more efficient?
Thankfully the martial arts held many clues. You won’t meet many good martial artists who can’t move fluidly and exhibit catlike mobility in everything they do. I know many who spend hours stretching, but there are many other’s who don’t, they simply move. When they move it’s in all directions, exploring and extending the ranges of movement in all planes. 5-10 minutes of this usually exceeds the results of an hour stretching.
The masters of this type of movement are the Chinese kung fu guys, the Yoga guys and wrestlers. Each of these three have amazing drills for opening the the body ready for action.

A drill I’d like to highlight today comes from the Kung Fu guys. I learned it from Steve Cotter on his last visit here (he’ll be back in June, click here for info)
I’m talking about this drill today as it has significant importance to me personally and a few of my regulars, but for different reasons, which perfectly highlights it’s efficiency and  it’s place in the lazy mans training program.

It’s called the Tea Cup Drill.
For me it’s fantastic for loosening the waist. I have a history of low back injuries which leaves me tight through the right oblique. My Quadratis Lumborum on that side gets like a violin string if left alone, which causes discomfort and also hikes my hip up and creates a scoliosis effect. I’ve tried all the QL stretching, even asking other coaches for opinions which I’ve also tried out. Nothing hits the waist just right, except the Tea Cup.
The waist is flexible and designed to move in all directions, 1 dimensional static stretches have to be repeated at so many different angles to have any effect And that aint efficient! The Tea Cup performed one arm at a time (there is also a bilateral version) takes the waist through a full range of motion on every rep. I get more improvement from one set of 10 reps than I do from 15 minutes static stretching.

The Tea Cup is also a great shoulder mobility drill, which is where most of my guys get the benefit. The upper back, scapular and AC joint (actual shoulder) are taken smoothly through a huge range of motion, after just a few reps this range will start to gently increase, the movement will become ever more fluid and the entire upper body will become loose and agile.

Now that’s efficient!

To describe the movement in writing would fill book so here’s a video. In it I reiterate some of the points above, especially the benefits for the waist.

Here it is:

And don’t forget, Steve Cotter, the man I learned this and much more from, will be at Wild Geese in June to run his CKT 1 and 2 courses.

Chat soon


Injury Proofing the Wrist

Wrist injuries are very common amongst the martial arts community.
The wrist is a complex joint that is designed for mobility, yet when we strike with a closed fist we ask it to become stable and solid.
Often it fails.

A bent wrist is the very foundation of the Aikido/Aiki-jutsu arts, where wrist locks are used to control and disarm opponents with crippling pain. In fact, over the 10 year period where I worked as a Doorman it was the humble wrist lock that got me out of more scrapes than I’d like to count.

Since I’m retired from Door work and now train fighters, I’m happy to share this video. In it I show how to keep the wrist safe from harm, strong enough and stable enough to deliver a powerful punch without loosing the mobility needed for fully functioning hands.

As always, all techniques shown here must be treated with caution and common sense.



  1. Steve Cotter, two day training seminar, 16/17th July. Book a place ASAP as we already have a lot of interest. Steve will teach Bodyweight conditioning on day one and Kettlebells on day two.
    €399 per day or book both days for €299. Contact me on info@wildgeesma.com for more
  2. Next Bootcamp starts June 27th, get your place booked.
  3. Pregnancy update – nothing yet, but keep an eye on the facebook badge (on the right) for up to the minute changes.