Spinning Back Fist / Spinning Hammer Fist

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The spinning back fist and the spinning hammer fist are hand techniques seen commonly in kickboxing sports and mixed martial arts competition. They are arguably the most powerful punch techniques you can throw and will often catch the opponent by surprise. These two techniques are especially effective when used as counters or when chained with other techniques. Spinning punches can be thrown from both a side stance and a squared stance, but the mechanics of the technique will change depending on which you use.

Look over your shoulder to spot your target, using your peripheral vision, before executing the punch

How to Spinning Back Fist

The spinning back fist is the more common spinning punch variation. While not as powerful as the spinning hammer fist, it is often safer for beginners to use due to the downward placement of the elbow during the strike. This makes the user much less likely to catch his/her sparring partner with an accidental elbow strike if the technique gets jammed (or catching an opponent during a match where elbows aren’t permitted). For now, we’ll start with the advancing variation of the spinning back frist from a neutral stance with a middle guard.

While in a neutral (squared) stance make sure your chin is lowered, your shoulders are raised to cover your chin level, your elbows are mostly in at your sides, and your fists (your guard) are raised to at least cheekbone level. Your rear fist should cover your chin, and your lead fist should be just slightly more forward than your rear fist. Your palms should be facing each other for this variation.

First, step to the inside (past the center line) with your lead foot. You must step past your center line (not onto it) in order to fully spin through the technique. As you do this, keep your lead fist and lead elbow tight against your face and body, and rotate your torso all the way around until you can spot your target over your punching shoulder. Your punching elbow should be pointing downward, and your punching arm should be coiled around the outside of your guard. Your fist should be vertical, with the thumb toward the sky.

Next, spin around by stepping toward the opponent with your rear foot (from behind you). You must pass the center line once again or the range of motion in your strike will be cut short.

Finally, lead your punching elbow past your center line, then extend your fist to the target. When your fist makes contact, pull your strike all the way through its target and immediately return it to your guard. You should now be in the opposite stance than you started from. (For example, if you started the technique in orthodox stance, you should now be in southpaw).

When striking a target with your back fist, you should be making contact with the back of your two largest knuckles. A slight outward bend of the wrist will help expose the back of your knuckles during a spinning back fist.

How to Spinning Hammer Fist

The spinning hammer fist is the more powerful variation of the two. And in sports where elbows are allowed, getting your spinning hammer fist jammed by the opponent and hitting them with your elbow instead of your fist can be just as devastating. The primary differences between the advancing variations of the spinning hammer fist and spinning back fist are the positions of the fist and elbow during the strike. The spinning hammer fist uses a horizontal elbow and fist, creating the additional ability (the extension of the elbow on a horizontal plane) to drive your strike through the target after contact.

While in a neutral (squared) stance make sure your chin is lowered, your shoulders are raised to cover your chin level, your elbows are mostly in at your sides, and your fists (your guard) are raised to at least cheekbone level. Your rear fist should cover your chin, and your lead fist should be just slightly more forward than your rear fist. Your palms should be facing each other for this variation.

First, step to the inside (past the center line) with your lead foot. You must step past your center line (not onto it) in order to fully spin through the technique. As you do this, keep your lead fist and lead elbow tight against your face and body, and rotate your torso all the way around until you can spot your target over your punching shoulder. Your punching elbow should be horizontal, and your punching arm should be coiled around the outside of your guard. Your  punching fist should be horizontal, with the back of the hand toward the sky.

Next, spin around by stepping toward the opponent with your rear foot (from behind you). You must pass the center line once again or the range of motion in your strike will be cut short.

Finally, lead your punching elbow past your center line, then extend your fist to the target. There should still be some bend left in your elbow when your fist reaches the target. When your fist makes contact, pull your strike all the way through its target and immediately return it to your guard. You should now be in the opposite stance than you started from. (For example, if you started the technique in orthodox stance, you should now be in southpaw).

When striking a target with your hammer fist, you should be striking with the pad on the outside edge of your fist. Be sure to clinch your fist tightly just before impact.

Common Spinning Back Fist / Spinning Hammer Fist Mistakes

Failure to properly spot the target before extending your arm to strike. This will result in a wild and ineffective strike, and could also result in a hyperextended elbow if you get jammed by the opponent during a blind spinning back fist or spinning hammer fist.

Failture to pull the strike through the target. This happens when your foot work is off.  Be sure to spin far enough around so there’s still room to pull your strike through the target. Otherwise, your strike may be cut short by your shoulder joint.

Extending the punching arm in the wrong direction. Your strike should travel parallel with the ground in the same direction as your spin. Try not to extend your strike in a downward motion. Doing so with give you much less benefit from the horizontal rotation of your body.

Drills and Exercises for Spinning Back Fist / Spinning Hammer Fist

Dumbbell tricep extensions

Footwork drills (Spin Steps)

Slow-motion repitition drills in the air (punch the air slowly while carefully concentrating on technique)

Heavy bag work.  Practice alternating between orthodox and southpaw.

There are a more advanced variations of the spinning back fist and hammer fist, but the ones mentioned in this article are a great place for beginners to start.

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