The lead hook is an extremely useful and practical tool in a fighter's arsenal and should be included as one of your go-to techniques. While your straight punches give you distance and are the most practical for reaching your target along the fastest means (a straight line), the lead hook targets the outside line.
The lead hook punch is incredibly important and necessary to train, drill, and equip in your tool box. It is the primary means for attacking around your opponent's guard. Yes, you can side step and attack with a straight punch, but moving your feet into position is much slower than throwing a punch around his guard. The lead hook is devastating in that it can be executed from so many different angles, speeds, and distances. It can also be used in so many combinations. First let's discuss the mechanics of the lead hook.
The lead hook uses rotational energy to generate power and speed. From a classic boxing stance, it begins with the lead foot pushing your weight around your centerline. Essentially, your lead foot pushed up and back from the ball which turns the hips and grounds your rear foot. The lead foot should pivot around slightly on the ball. This allows you to turn your hips with greater ease while the rear foot is planted. The body weight generally shifts back providing an anchor for the swing of your lead arm and allowing the lead foot to lift on to the ball. An important point in the lead hook is that your hand should not drastically move position prior to initiating the punch. Many beginners move their hand away from their face to create the hooking angle, but this in unnecessary. Instead, as you turn your hips and shoulders, your face will naturally move away from your lead hand guarding it. At this point whip your hand and elbow out to throw the hook.
Like all punches, it is important to minimize any perceived steps or sequences in throwing the punch. As the lead foot pushes the hips over, your lead hand should come out just enough to align with your target on the curved outside hooking line. Avoid bringing your hand out more than necessary to land the punch. This will only telegraph your punch. The bend in your elbow will need to be proportionate to where your target will be upon impact. Obviously, for a longer distance hook, you'll need to extend your elbow wider. For maximum transfer of power into your opponent, it is best if you can land the hook with your elbow at a 90 degree angle or less. The closer your punch is to your body, the more power it'll possess to a degree. Obviously, if it is too close then you won't be able to create enough arch or distance between your punch and your opponent, effectively jamming up your punch.
Now, your hook can be narrow or wide. Wide hooks generate the most power, but also are slower because they travel over a greater distance building up speed and power. However, there maybe times when a wide lead hook is preferable. These types of hooks typically work best with a slip or duck at the same time. As the punch is slower, your head will be exposed for a greater length of time. Successful fighters utilize a wide lead hook by slipping to the opposite side as they throw the punch. This gets your head off the line of attack and your punch can often counter nicely. Sometimes the wild nature of the wide hook or overhand can throw off the natural tendencies of your opponent who may be used to a crisper or cleaner style. Marcos Maidana is such a fighter who has worked the wide overhands with pretty good success. Obviously, the lead hook can be thrown with a slip, duck, or other head movement regardless of the width of the arch.
Another point to make here is generally, your hooking arm should be parallel to the floor to maximize power. However, your hook can take on any number of angles. It can be a smooth arch, or it can come out and then straight like straight line with an outward bend in the middle. The angle can be up, down, or perfectly lateral. You can connect with a vertical fist or a horizontal fist. The key to making the hook work is your whole body must move together simultaneously as one cohesive unit. You can not turn your hips, and then throw your hook out a few seconds later because then it will lack power and simply be an arm punch. Neither can you throw your hook, then after a second or two, turn the rest of your body. No, everything must move as one unit. As your hips are turning, your punch is already out turning also toward your target. Practice this frequently on the heavy bag. With all punches, learn to use your body purposefully as one unit.
It should go without saying, but remember to keep your rear hand up guarding your face. Maybe even bring it to the lead side of your face to protect against any counters. When throwing the hook, your rear hand won't do much on the rear side of your face which is now facing away from your opponent. It may serve you better to bring your rear hand to cover the front of your face.
With regards to footwork, a useful tool is to use your rear foot as a falling step. Almost like throwing a lead punch from the rear foot and using the lead foot as the falling step. When throwing the lead hook, as you push off your lead foot, step with your rear leg toward the inside. So, if you're southpaw, push off your right lead foot, and falling step your rear left leg also to the left. This will move your head off the line of attack, but also add that falling power to your punch. Practice this for a bit on the bag. This is effective when you want to move to your left for any follow up or you're slipping to the left and need additional structure. The disadvantage to this is that it widens your base, thus decreasing your mobility if you need to get out of the way fast. It also narrows the angle of your hook because as you move your rear leg to the left, your body and punch go in the same direction.
Another point here is you can manipulate your body weight as necessary. So, typically, the push off the lead foot will shift much of your body weight back, but you can also throw this punch with much of your body weight forward and use your rear foot to push your hips over. This provides less of an anchor for you upon contact and slightly decreases the power, but it increases the range of the punch which may be needed especially when punching to the body.
The lead hook, however, works great with all side stepping foot work. It works extremely well with the curve push step, the slide shuffle curve step, step and pivot, or the short step. Just a brief description, the curve step is a push off from the rear foot and curving both feet to the outside. So, as a southpaw, it's a push off from the left foot with both feet ending right of where they started, but curved or positioned to engage the opponent. A slide shuffle curve is similar, but instead of pushing off the left foot, the left foot moves up and back almost behind the right foot and the right foot circles out and forward on the outside line. Again, both feet end right of where they started facing the opponent except end at an angle. There maybe another name for both types of footwork, but the idea is the same.
The advantage to the curving foot work is it allows you quickly to assume a position where the opponent has to adjust to you. This type of footwork puts you at an angle to him which enhances the angle of the hook by adding the angling of your physical position making it harder for him to see it coming. The step and pivot should be self explanatory. It's just a step to the outside and swinging the rear foot back to face your opponent. The short step is just a quick side step to the inside rather than a curve to the outside. Of course, the lead hook can also be thrown with straight line stepping.
Practice this one often and especially to the body. There is little difference other than you may lean more weight on your lead leg as the body shot is a longer target than the head. If you can hit the body, then the head will be a lot easier. Everyone trains to hit the head, but by training to hit the body, you open up the head. And most of all, believe in yourself always and say no to anything that is not in line with your truth.
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