Lead and Rear Hooks


This article is about a punch that most rookies throw incorrectly: hooks. Most people who don’t know anything about fighting throw wide hooks intending to knock someone out. (I should say right now that a proper, typical hook is tight and close to your face when thrown.) These guys have the right idea about the knockout potential of a hook, but hooks can leave them disappointed if each hook is thrown with incorrect form or not combined with other punches and maneuvers. Hooks are the first “looping” punches that you’d learn after the jab and the straight, which are the straight punches. Unlike the straight punches, both hooks are power punches and both are close-range punches. Like the straight punches (and all punches for that matter), you still want your hooks to snap.

What are Hooks:

Hooks are power punches thrown with an emphasis on rotation. Ideally, they land on your opponents jaw, where the torque from your hook’s rotation spins your opponent’s head and causes a concussion. Hooks have their pros, and they also have their cons.

The pros of hooks are that they are thrown around your opponent’s guard and land with power that comes from rotation instead of momentum. A punch thrown around your opponent’s guard is much harder for them to see than a punch thrown straight at the guard. In theory, a punch thrown around the guard has a higher chance of landing. And a punch that relies more on the rotation of your body has more of an ability to concuss your opponent.

The cons of hooks are that they are slower than straight punches and may leave you with more openings if you aren’t fast enough. Even rookies know that a slow punch cannot generally beat a fast punch. Hooks are slower than straight punches because they have more distance to travel before they land. While hooks have to travel in a loop to their target, straight punches only have to travel directly to their target. As with having openings during a hook, your ribs are certainly exposed when the hook is thrown. As you will see with how to throw the hooks, they require that your elbows expose your ribs.

How to Throw the Lead Hand Hook

  1. Assuming you are in your stance, start the punch from your normal stance and guard. Do not wind it up or drop your fist. Raise your lead arm’s elbow so that your whole arm is parallel to the ground (and your ribs are exposed for possible, nasty returning hooks from your opponent).
  2. At the same time, bend your elbow so that it is around 90 degrees. Your fist should be relatively close to your face and your knuckles should now be directly facing the opposite side, e.g. the knuckles are facing the left side at the start of a right hook. If your arm is too low or your elbow is not bent enough, you risk injury to your shoulder and elbow.
  3. Your fist can be horizontal or vertical. This depends mostly on your preference.
  4. Soon after this is done, pivot your lead foot, twist your hips and torso, and let your lead arm rotate with your body, while still keeping that 90 degree bent in your elbow. Note that most of the work for the hook is done with your body’s rotation.
  5. Snap the punch when it hits the target and rotate back to a ready position.

Note: Hooks to the body are done differently than hooks to the head. Here’s the article about body hooks.

How to Throw the Rear Hand Hook

Throwing the rear hook is done in mostly the same way as the lead hand hook, except for the punch being done with the rear hand. But there are some notes I would like to make about it. Because the rear hook starts from the rear side, it is far from your target and slower than the lead hook, but it delivers more power. Many people have a tendency to lean to their lead side too much when throwing the rear hook. Other than leaving you off-balance, leaning over to one side means that the punch is probably going to push through its target rather than snapping. And pushing is undesirable because the punch will not be as sharp.

When to Use a Hook

As mentioned, hooks are close-range punches. They are meant for when you are infighting or when your target is close to you. This is because the hook’s power, which comes from its rotation, is softened when your arm is extended out rather than your arm being tight and close. An extended arm does not let the fist produce much torque on your opponent’s head since it is harder for your shoulder to handle the transfer of the torque. (Just imagine what happens when you hold a dumbbell away from you rather than close to you.) Since hooks are meant for close-range boxing, its slower speed would be less of a factor in successfully landing on its target. Its slower speed also means that the hook is not meant to be the first punch of a combination in the mid-range or long-range. Hooks should be set up with jabs and straights, which when thrown, allow you to move in and land your hooks. Without setting up your hooks, they have a low chance of landing and an even lower chance of being effective.


Hooks are specialized punches. They are meant for close-range boxing and have more power than other punches at the cost of being slow. They should be used with care, because if they are done incorrectly, they may just waste your energy or leave you with openings.

Author: Loc Ho

Loc Ho was assistant coach, team captain, and boxed at 139 lbs, 132 lbs, and 125 lbs for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s boxing team from 2016-2019. He has trained hundreds of novices and seasoned athletes and created the program’s year-long training curriculum that has taken complete beginners to elite collegiate competitors. With Loc as assistant coach for three years, the program placed six athletes regionally and nationally, including the program’s first men’s national champion at 119 lbs and a national runner-up at 195 lbs. Loc is currently studying law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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