Boxing Basics Part IV: Punching – Jab & Cross

by A Manly Guest Contributor on July 29, 2010 · 16 comments

in Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse who is doing a series of posts for AoM on the basics of boxing.

Now that we’ve covered wrapping your hands, stance and footwork, and defense, it’s time to get into a little bit of offense.

We’ll start with the most important punch in boxing, the jab, and then get into another extremely important punch, the cross. I’ll cover the basics on each punch for both orthodox and southpaw stances.

Why is the jab the most important punch in boxing?

  1. Because it’s the most used punch.
  2. It sets up your more damaging punches.
  3. It’s used to gauge distance and create angles.

After the video I’ll lay out a list of tips to keep in mind when performing each punch.



Transferring Weight

Effectively transferring weight is extremely important when throwing a jab. If all of your weight starts on your front foot, there won’t be much power to the punch, and it won’t land effectively. There also won’t be adequate speed on the punch either, and you’ll be too off balance to react to any of your opponent’s counters.

The cross, whether it’s a left or right cross, is one of the most powerful punches in your arsenal. Take a look at Rocky Marciano’s stance as the best example. His weight is almost completely on his back leg.

When it comes time to throw his punch, he transfers that weight to his front leg.

Rocky’s going for absolute power and isn’t too worried about speed. If you’re just starting out, having a more centered stance is recommended until you figure out your strengths, weaknesses, and style of fighting.

Remember, power doesn’t come from your arms, no matter what punch you’re throwing. You need to be able to use your lower body effectively to land with speed and power.

Opening Up Your Opposite Shoulder

If you fight in an orthodox stance this means bringing back the left shoulder when throwing the cross. If you’re a southpaw, this means bringing back your right shoulder when throwing the cross.


Maybe the most important tip about punching is to just relax. I see it in the gym a lot; we’ll get a newbie in who’s pretty muscular. He’ll think punching is all about using his muscles to push his fist as fast and as hard as possible. But if your muscles are tense when you throw a punch:

  1. It’s not going to be fast in a fighting situation. You may show speed on the bag, but not when someone’s hitting you back. You’ll be too tense to react effectively.
  2. It won’t be as powerful as it should be.
  3. You’re going to run out of gas real quick unless you find a way to relax.

Don’t Admire Your Work

If you land a solid punch, follow it up with another punch, or a few other punches. Don’t just stand there and admire what you have done; that’s one of the best ways to get caught with something damaging.

Either punch or move after you’ve landed something effective.

A Punch Starts from the Ground Up

Power comes from your legs, hips, and core. If you try and “push” a punch and just use your arms, you won’t have the same power and speed as you would if you got your whole body into it.

Loose Hands Until Contact

Don’t spend a whole round clenching your fists as tightly as possible; your hands will fatigue fast, and you’ll be too tense to react quickly and precisely. Keep your hands open while you block, slip, and parry punches, only making a fist when you’re attempting to land something.
Boxing Basics Part I: How to Wrap Your Hands
Boxing Basics Part II: Stance & Footwork
Boxing Basics Part III: Defense
Boxing Basics Part IV: Punching – Jab & Cross
Boxing Basics Part V: Punching – Hook & Uppercut
Boxing Basics Part VI: Punching Combinations


Chad Howse is a amateur boxer and personal trainer who’s passionate about helping clients achieve satisfying results in a short amount of time, so they can get the most out of life. For fitness tips and inspiration check out his blog, Chad Howse Fitness, sign up to get two free ebooks, and subscribe to his RSS feed.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 alon July 29, 2010 at 12:42 am

Thank’s for the article!
though i dont understand why jabbing with moving the front heel is less good than jabbing with stepping forward with the back leg
if anything shouldnt it be opposite because its easier for the opponent to see you throwing a jab when you move you back foot?

2 Chad July 29, 2010 at 1:39 am

@Alon – I’m not sure if I understand your question, but I’ll give it a go, let me know if I answer it.

You want to push off your back foot when throwing a jab, but as I covered in the footwork article, when you’re moving forward it’s the front foot that will move first.

3 Dan the Man July 29, 2010 at 2:06 am

Just wanted to say that I’ve really been enjoying this series. I’ve just started to get into boxing and you present the basics in an easy to understand way. Thanks and keep em coming!

4 alon July 29, 2010 at 3:20 am

i didnt got it right, ill correct my question
when you say
“If all of your weight starts on your front foot, there won’t be much power to the punch, and it won’t land effectively. There also won’t be adequate speed on the punch either, and you’ll be too off balance to react to any of your opponent’s counters.”

you mean jabbing with only moving the front heel is less good than jabbing with a step?

5 Marshall Middle July 29, 2010 at 6:32 am

Nice article. I was in the Penn State boxing club and learn many similar techniques. There was a lot of physical endurance training as well as footwork. Think about the transfer of weight idea from back foot to front more like you are swinging a baseball bat. A majority of your power comes from your legs and hips while the quickness of the arms and hands deliver the blow. Trust me when I say keeping your footwork in line gets increasing difficult as you get tired.

6 Lando July 29, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Growing up as kid I trained at a local boxing club before moving into martial arts (I love those Jean Claude but one thing I never forget was the intimidating factor of a simple jab. Something that required so little forward movement for contact with a minimum of energy but yet when done correctly was devastating.
I remember when my coach showing demo’s of how easy it was to arrest an opponent forward moment by a quick application of a jab to the chin and how tantamount it was for setting up a 3 puch combo, he always said let the jab be the foundation of your attack.
But like I said nothing instills a healthy fear and respect in an opponent who charges at you attempting haymaker like swift straight jab to the mouth. It will totally put him/her off there game plan and let them think I’m in deep dodoo now.

7 Chad July 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm

@alon – I mean there won’t as much power if you aren’t transferring your weight from the back to front foot. It’s just be a shoulder or arm punch and won’t have the same “mustard” on it.

@Marshall Middle + @Lando – well said!

8 Rob Glenn July 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Again great article. I especailly like the advice to keep punching. I see even the pros hang back after a good landing punch and I think man you could of had him if you just kept going. Keep up the good work.

9 Mike M. July 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Interesting comment about staying relaxed, as we karate students are taught the same thing.

10 alon July 30, 2010 at 6:29 am

thanks again!
this article helped me a bit with my jabs

11 Nick July 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

This is a great article! I look forward to sharing this with my oldest son.

12 Tim July 31, 2010 at 9:30 pm

These articles have been great. Growing up as a wrestler (13 yrs) I always thought it would be interesting to extend my training to boxing as it has the same principles of body control and footwork. Your articles are so perfectly informative that I feel I could start some basic training even without a gym.

Keep ‘em coming!

13 Josh August 2, 2010 at 10:23 am

Nice article. Especially insightful reference to “not admiring your work.” It feels so satisfying to land a good punch it’s easy to want to watch and see what happens. Forget who, but one of the famous analysts calls for “punches in bunches”—I used to remind myself by saying that over and over.

14 Ronan August 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

Excellent series, especially the one on defensive side of boxing, probably the most difficult to master, how by rolling and slipping you are also coiling up for the counter punch.

Thank you finally explaining to the masses what rolling with the punches means.

Great advise that all punches start with the feet, even in boxing good feet beat good hands, because good foot work get you into and out of range (without getting hit), determines the power and angle of attack. When watching a orthodox vs southpaw match the simple feat of keep their lead foot on the outside is dominant.

The difference between stepping with a jab and rotating the front hip is that you have to be in range already to do the later, if your opponent is any good you wont be when your punch lands.

To add to what you said about rotating you arm while punching, this has a number of benefits for attack greater power as you said, by rotating the fist it gives better penetration of the opponents guard, and for defense it also keeps the elbow tighter to the body protecting it at the start of the punch, and automatically lifts the shoulder to protect jaw and the forearm the face while punching.

Looking forward to the future posts on hooking and uppercut, these were taught to me integrating the movement from your defensive video and with the advise that they should be kept as tight as possible and as far as rotating the body with the punch, if you miss and with your fist you should catch with your elbow (not for use in the ring of course) but no farther.

15 Greg Hall August 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Points I always work on with single punches are.
1. Initiation the start of the punch.
2. Delivery. throwing the punch out.
3. Recovery getting the punch back.

When there is a combination of punches transition has to be brought into the equation.
As in what is the best way to transition from punch to punch.

Balance is key.
Defence before during and after the combo/punch is key.
and Timing is paramount.

Smoothness of technique is your speed.
Getting the body mechanics right is your power.

Practise on a heavy bag, focus mitts and with big gloves with a partner building up to isolation sparring then full sparring.

16 David October 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

Where are the basics of ground fighting articles?

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