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You are watching: How hard can a human punch


In the movie Rocky IV , Ivan Drago registers a 2,150-psi punch. That appears unrealistic come me, and yet ns hearing web rumors around mixed martial arts fighters and also boxers comes close to that number. Is it possible to throw a punch that hard? What would that kind of power do to someone’s face? —Dave

The Rocky movies are fiction, Dave. That tells friend pretty much all you must know. However let me add some details.

First we have to clear increase the difference in between force and pressure. Pressure is what reasons something to accelerate, e.g., a fighter’s head in the direction the a thrown punch. In the U.S., pressure is usually measured in pounds. Push is force per unit of contact area, typically expressed in pounds per square inch (psi). When researchers research punching capability they usually emphasis on pressure rather 보다 pressure, because the press varies as the contact area broadens on impact.


With the in mind, stop look at the research:

• A examine of 7 Olympic boxers in load classes ranging from flyweight come super heavyweight proved a selection of 447 to 1,066 pounds of top punching force. Power transferred from beat to target varied widely relying on how heavy the boxers’ hands and gloves were, how rapid they punched, and how rigidly they organized their wrists. The three flyweights, interestingly, delivered much more oomph than all however the 2 super heavyweights.

• A examine of 70 boxers found elite-level fighters might punch through an average of 776 pounds of force. One more study the 23 boxers confirmed elite fighters were able to punch more than twice as hard as novices, the hardest hitter generating almost 1,300 pounds of force.

• one oft-cited 1985 examine of frank Bruno, who’d go on to be civilization Boxing board of directors heavyweight champ, verified he can punch through a force of 920 pounds in the lab. Researchers extrapolated that to a real-life blow of 1,420 pounds, enough to advice his opponent’s head in ~ a price of 53 g—that is, 53 times the force of gravity.


• Martial arts punches normally involve much less force than those in boxing. A study of 12 karate black belts showed so-called turning back punches ceded an average force of 325 pounds, through the strongest measuring 412 pounds. Short-range power punches averaged 178 pounds. One more study found martial artists essential 687 pounds of pressure to break a concrete slab 1.5 customs thick. One at an early stage researcher estimated karate strikes can reach 1,500 pounds, but that figure was an outlier.

If a beat thrown by Rocky IV rogue Ivan Drago is an alleged to measure 2,150 psi and also his glove’s influence area is miscellaneous like 4 square inches, he’d be exerting a force of 8,600 pounds, or much more than 4 tons. Based on the expert literature, no boxer in actual life comes all over close to that. I did discover a 2007 news account about World Boxing organization cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, who punches supposedly packed a wallop of around 3.85 tons. However, the researchers making this insurance claim have however to publish your findings in a clinical journal.

Even there is no Drago in the ring, boxing is a punishing sport, specifically where the head is involved. Damage originates from three things: (1) the affect itself, which might be manifested in, say, a broken jaw; (2) acceleration to the mind leading come abrupt contact with the skull, possibly causing concussion; and also (3) the rotational force that twisted the brain within the skull, boosting the severity of injury and the likelihood of a knockout.

One metric for gauging the risk and also seriousness of a brain injury is the Wayne State yongin Curve, which looks in ~ both the g-force imparted come the head and the expectations of time involved. Generally speaking friend don’t desire to take it a shooting of much more than 50 g, although you deserve to stand much more if the affect is really brief—say, a pair thousandths that a second. If you on the receiving end of a Bruno-class impact, my guess is you i will not ~ soon acquire up.


Head punches can reason detached retinas, mind hemorrhage, broken bones, and also permanent neurological disorders. As I’ve stated before, something like a fifth of boxers experience from dementia pugilistica, the an effect of repeated blows come the skull. Worse deserve to happen. Follow to one estimate, boxing eliminated at least 650 battle aircraft from 1918 v 1997.

Besides maybe acquiring killed, cumulative brain damage is the scariest component of boxing, as many fighters currently recognize. To quote terry Marsh, the undefeated irradiate welterweight champion, “I don’t require the British medical Association to tell me gaining hit ~ above the head can’t do me any kind of good.” Muhammad Ali would surely concur. —Cecil Adams

Is there something you need to obtain straight? take it it up through Cecil at straightdope.com.


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