Knee Stability and Punching Power [Part 1]

Picture for a moment that you’re standing on a tightrope…

As you can probably imagine, it’s pretty wobbly.

You’ve got absolutely no stability and at any moment it might feel as if you’re going to fall off.

Now imagine throwing a punch while you’re standing on this tightrope.

How powerful do you think this punch would be?

Obviously, not very powerful and it definitely wouldn’t knock anybody out.

So how does this all relate to your development of explosive KO power in your hands, you might be asking?


It has to do with the stability you have in your lower body, particularly the lateral stability of your knees.

The first thing you’ve got to understand is the problem.

The proper term is ‘valgus’ knee, which basically means your knee buckles inwards.

It looks like this:

It can either be postural, meaning your knees are buckled in while just standing still, or it can be dynamic, meaning during certain movements, your knees buckle in.

While both are issues, we’re going to address dynamic valgus of the knee, because it’s more important and more common in MMA fighters.


I look at 4 exercises to test for dynamic valgus:

  1. Squat
  2. Reverse Lunge
  3. Squat Jump
  4. Lunge Jump

The tests get more difficult as you go down the list, so  you can see exactly where the problem starts. The jumping exercises show the condition under explosive movements, which most relate to MMA and in this case punching power.

What you’re looking for during these exercises is any buckling inwards of the knees.

It may not be big, but it’ll definitely be noticeable in that your knees will almost tremble and shake at the bottom of the movements.

So check yourself out in the mirror when you do these exercises and if you notice the centre of the kneecap moving inside of the second toe (the one right beside your big toe) during any part of the exercise, you’ve got some work to do.


When you throw a power punch, such as a straight right (or straight left if you’re a southpaw) you should be throwing your whole body into it – starting from the hips, to the core, to the shoulders and finally through to your fist and into your opponent’s jaw.

Here’s a great example from of what it looks like in action (my man Jeff Joslin):

But to give you true KO power, you need to create ‘snap’ in the punch.

The snap comes from your lead leg suddenly stopping this powerful rotation of your hips, core and shoulders, causing the whiplash effect.

If you don’t quite get this, think of when you’re driving and you suddenly hit the brakes.

Your seat belt locks your pelvis down while your torso and head gets whipped forward violently.

In this case, your head is like your hand during the punch and the seat belt is like your lead leg, suddenly stopping the motion and creating the snap.

Now if you tested yourself and you have valgus knee during any of the tests above, you won’t be able to stabilize the rotation of the punch and you’ll lose snap and ultimately power.

Your knee doesn’t lock you down and ground you, so it’s like braking slowly instead of stopping suddenly. Much less violent.

Because this is a very important concept, I’ve made this article as simple as I can while still being correct, but I understand that it may be a little confusing still.

So before I present how to address this problem in Part 2, please ask me any questions you have about this article in the Comments section below.

Oh and don’t forget to hit the ‘Like’ button below if you liked this article. Thanks! 🙂


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MMA Training Routine

interesting, never really thought about the relation between knee strength and punching power. another great article as usual.


Looks good. Had knee problems with basketball on one knee. My knee buckles in still on occassion. Wonder if these will help.?


Yes, definitely perform this series of exercises.


This is a little off topic of the post, but still has to do with the knees. My knee’s are very inflexible, especially my left knee, where it’s difficult to do stretches that require my knees to twist and bend in certain directions. I find this limits my ability to do certain submissions like triangles, omoplatas, use the rubber guard, etc.

Do you have any advice on increase the range of motion of this area? It seems to be more the knee and not necessarily a muscle I can “stretch”, so I’m not sure how to go about improving this range of motion.



appologise for spelling wrong Eric, in a rush at work.


Heh no worries Shane – can’t let your boss see what you’re *actually* doing… 😉


Thankyou so much Eruc for all your information! With your knowledge and know how, you make the body machanics work.


Enjoy your week!!


smaller size


Hey Eric,

I think this may be a problem I have. I hurt my knees while doing squats with someone weighting 80 kgs on my back while training for martial arts in China. Not the smartest idea. Since then, my knee has been quite painful. I’ve had an MRI and apparently I have a softening of the cartilage and the lower part of my knee where the rotula is supposed to move is flatter than most people- i.e. it is even more unstable than most people. Squat movements are painful, but only at a certain angle. It truly feels as if my knees are unstable.
If you have a cure for this, I’ll be eternally in your debt (and I mean it).

Virgil Tanner
Virgil Tanner

Also, I see it most in my reverse lunge, not much at all in squats, and none in the power movements. The inward buckling just appeared in the deadlift, as well. Is this the same thing or something else? Thanks for your great work!


Definitely related to the hip muscles… the solution is coming very soon!

Virgil Tanner
Virgil Tanner

I may have developed a touch of this during a long break in training. We moved to Central Asia and I’ve only just now been able to get a rhythm again. My issue seems to be connected to tightness in my calves and gastrocnemius. How long will we have to wait for the solution?


I think I may have this problem, but I also notice that I cannot go down as far as other people can with squats, even with no weight. I can only squat down about to a 90 degree level. I guess I just don’t have good knee flexibility, for example I can’t comfortably sit on my knees like most people can without feeling alot of pressure on my knees. I feel this really effects my shots as I cannot change levels as quickly and explosively because of my knees. I know this is more about knockout power, which I also have a problem with, but I think it can also effect your shots, unless this is a completely different problem.


Thanks for bringing this up Eric. My knees used to do this, but not anymore since I been really working my lower body much more.

What about if I’m workin on a power snatch and my feet tend to wanna bend outward when I’m in the lowest squatting position? I’m slightly bow legged and I cant yet sit back flat footed, I end up on the balls of my feet?

Also, I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing the hip mobility exorcise U posted a while back, its helped lots with my sumo squats. My knees no longer tend to lean inwards, and I even do it using 2x hanging 72 Lb Kettle bells.


Awesome about the hip mob exercise with 144 lbs!!

If you can’t sit back on your heels, it’s usually either:

a) Ankle immobility
b) Hamstring immobility
c) Glute inhibition

The next vid will address c)… a) requires a visit to a good sports physio/chiro and b) will improve when you fix c).



great! I’ll look forward to the next vid addressing the ankle/hamstring immobility.



Hey Dru,

Often this is a sign of weak/inhibited glutes not inflexible knees – most people have the passive flexibility to get into a deep squat, but insufficient stability/poor muscle activation patterns.

Plus, if you’re really feeling it in the knees then your quads are probably overactive, which is why you feel it so much when they get stretched.

Watch the vid I post and incorporate the exercises I teach.


What do you mean by the quads are ‘overactive’? Also thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, a lot of people would just post the article and leave it at that.


Overactive meaning they’re doing too much work because they have to compensate for lack of glute function… This is very common.


I used to have that problem. My quads were overactive and my lower back was taking all the flack and every time I’d fullbody power circuits like squats, 1 armed snatches, & KBell complexes. My lower back would be killin me so much it would be almost unbearable where I’d have to end up laying over back wards on a swiss ball just to ease the pain. Once I did more workouts that activated my glute and Hamstrings and stretched my hip flexors, the pain went away and I felt way stronger then before.


Yes, yes, yes and yes on all four. I’ve been aware of this problem for a long time; I’m just not sure what to do about it!

It’s definitely gotten worse since I broke my ankle 4 months ago; I think I’m trying to limit my range of motion to protect my ankle. I consciously try to overcome it, but my subconscious won’t let me! (Otherwise known as fear.)


How exactly did you break your ankle?

Dynamic valgus definitely makes ankles more susceptible to inversion sprains and fractures!


I tried to walk on air. Specifically, I was shaking out a rug at the top of a staircase, but I sort of forgot the stairs were there and stepped forward. Clipped the outside of my right ankle along the edge of the next concrete step, then fell right on top of my foot as it twisted under. Got a horizontal break and a chip of bone broke off. Stable break; all I needed was a compression boot. The bone itself was healed in three weeks (nice, clean break), but of course it took longer for all the soft tissues; I was purple from mid-calf down to my toes! My range of motion is great as long as I go nice and slow; I can do a flat-foot “Asian squat” and get up from that position with no problem. But when I add weight or try to move fast, then… Read more »