In addition to what everyone else has said here, I'm going to try and give another perspective you can try out and maybe find the answer yourself. First off, everything depends on distance. The closer you are, the harder it is to strike, but the easier it can be to push. Likewise, a strike can be more effective than a push if your target is far away. You would have to bring yourself in closer to push. Second is your form. Are you in the correct posture for striking or pushing? For example, most strikes move the body and the hand/arm at the same time. On the other hand, pushing tends to move the body first followed by the hand extending to push. Now try this: Give the padded wall a high-five push (not the slapping type, but the kind where you would lean into it and then push yourself off of their hand lightly). Now, imagine there's a bug on the wall at the same height where you gave the high five. Imagine a napkin in your palm. Now smash it with your palm fast before it gets away! you might notice the body structure I talked about earlier. With the high five, you leaned w/ your body and then pushed with your hands. With the bug squishing, your body essentially moved forward at the same time as the hand on impact. Otherwise, you would fall backward from the force. Hopefully this helps you identify a difference. Of course, it also depends on the kind of punch you are performing.