If you're looking for some up-close and personal instruction, T&D sessions at the UFC Fan Expo August 27th and 28th will give you the chance to train with stars like Tito, Forrest, Clay and Urijah
Also on the roster to lead a T&D session: heralded striking coach Shawn Tompkins. "The Coach" trains at Tapout Training Center in Las Vegas, where he keeps Sam Stout's hands made of stone and Vitor Belfort's fists moving rapid-fire.
But even if you can't make it to Vegas, you can still learn from the best. We got Tompkins to share a few trade secrets about everyone's favorite move: the knockout punch.
Fact 1: Strong Punches Start at the Bottom
Hamhock-size hands don't hurt, but the real meat of a KO is in the quads. "When you talk about knockouts, you look first and foremost at the fighter having a good base: the legs," says Tompkins. "You look at big punchers in history, Evander Holyfield or Mike Tyson, and look at the size of their legs." MMA knockout artists tend to have similar frames -- think Wanderlei, Rampage and Vitor.
Prep your lower body
Tompkins prescribes simple but effective body-weight bearing exercises -- like running stairs and hills and jump squats -- to his fighters to tone their legs. He also advises using a medicine ball and workout your way up to three or four sets of 16. "Jump squats with the medicine ball, hugging the medicine ball -- the medicine ball requires you to use your core for balance." A strong core and powerful legs equal a solid base for some serious haymaking.
Fact 2: KOs Demand the Domino Effect
You can't just bench-press your way to a beatdown body - there are multiple muscle sets that go off in a chain reaction to create a KO. "The legs start the punch, but after that, the shoulders throw the punch and the tricep puts the snap into it," explains Tompkins. "There are punches that move people and there are punches that sit people down. The ones you see that snaps the opponent's head back and sits him down -- that has to do with the shoulders and triceps."
Tone your shoulders and triceps
Tompkins uses body-tonight rubber bands to build more power in his punchers. "You put them around a post or a pole in the cage or a ring and have the fighter hold onto them and throw punches in combinations or just single punches in numerous sets," he says. "It develops the exact range of motion and the muscle groups that you're going to need."
He also recommends clap push-ups to simultaneously develop strength and snap speed. A medicine ball exercise that's also helpful: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the medicine ball in hand. Lift the ball straight above your head, then slam it to the mat as hard as you can. Catch it off the mat and repeat that motion 12 to 16 times for three to four sets. "It's great for that core KO strength," says Tompkins.
Fact 3: Size Matters
Body type plays a role in how you effectively bowl someone over. A shorter, compact fighter -- think Matt Serra or Joseph Benavidez -- relies on core power and hard, thudding blows. A taller, lankier fighter like Anderson Silva or Junior Dos Santos can use the snap to precisely land a punch in that spot behind the ear or the temple. His punches probably won't hit as hard, but controlling where they land can make him more devastating. "The bigger and the stronger you are doesn't mean you are going to knock someone out," says Tompkins. "That's the misconception that guys that go to the weight room and lift all day think."
Know your strengths
A successful fighter trains to maximize his body type, says Tompkins. Compact guys should work to develop leg and core power to throw big punches; lankier fighters benefit from more agility and precision training.
Click here to see the full schedule of events for the Boston UFC Fan Expo.