How To Develop An Iron Chin That Can Take A Hard Punch

“Develop my chin? What do you mean, Larsen?” Just to clarify, I’m not talking about giving you that sculpted lantern jaw that all men want but most men can’t obtain. That’s mostly a combination of losing fat and genetics—although my colleague Jon Anthony recommends chewing mastic gum. You can try that if you want, but that’s not really what we’re here to discuss today.

No, I’m using “chin” in the boxing/martial arts sense—the ability to take a punch without going down. Anybody who follows combat sports will have heard terms related to this phenomenon: “good chin”, “hard chin”, “iron jaw”, “glass jaw”, and so forth. Many will also assume that this, much like having a defined jawline, is something that you either have or you don’t.



The first misconception people have about developing the chin is the name. The ability to take a punch, in fact, does not have anything to do with the structure of your jawline at all!

A knockout or concussion occurs when the head is hit and the brain literally slams into the inside of the skull. Thus, we can surmise that the more the head moves from the blow striking it, the more susceptible the person is to a knockout.

Thus, to enhance your toughness and lessen your susceptibility to knockouts from blows to the head, you have to keep your head from moving when it’s struck. And to do that, you will have to strengthen not your jaw, or any of the muscles of your face, but your neck.

Think of the head resting on the neck similarly to a lever resting on a fulcrum. The wider and bigger the fulcrum is, the less the lever can move, and thus the less the lever can affect movement upon an external object.

Bearing in mind that I was much better at biology then I was at physics, we can thus surmise that the neck is the fulcrum, the head is the lever, and the brain is the object placed on the end of the lever that will be moved by the lever.

Thus, if we make the neck bigger and stronger, the head will move less when it is struck, and thus you will be more difficult to knock out.

The Proof

The simplest way to prove the veracity of what I’m claiming is the simple fact that many martial artists—of all stripes, whether they be strikers, grapplers, or mixed martial artists—extensively train their necks to be stronger and more durable, for this exact purpose.

Anyone who has wrestled will remember doing extensive training in bridging, as well as neck bridging. The reasons for doing this are two fold: not only does the flexibility facilitate various types of throws and pin escapes, training the neck will, in essence, make you more durable and more resistant to being dropped on your head. Similarly, any judoka or jujitsu practitioner worth his salt will train his neck extensively as well.

And let’s not forget that strikers themselves train their necks extensively. In his tome Championship Fighting, Jack Dempsey specifically refers to this as a must-do exercise. Dempsey was only knocked out once in his career. Need I say more?

The Exercises

The good thing here is that there are only two exercises you need to make yourself tougher. These are the neck bridge and the hands-free headstand.

If you have read my articles previously such as this, you will already have some background in bridging—it’s an exercise that I have repeatedly advocated, and for good reason. And to do the neck bridge is very simple:

Lay down flat on the floor in the bridge starting position. Then, rather than doing a standard bridge, push off the back of your head and roll onto your forehead. Then, cross your arms across your chest. From here, you can do one of two things. You can either hold the neck bridge for time, or do repetitions, slowly rolling all the way back and then again.

If you want to make it even harder, you can hold a weight in your unoccupied hands, although I usually do not recommend doing any exercise that puts weight directly upon the spine.

The other exercise, the hands-free headstand (or neckstand), is the other exercise. Unlike the neck bridge, this one is only one in holds for time. Go to a wall and kick into a headstand.

Then remove your hands and hold. In addition to strengthening the muscles and connective tissues of the neck, both of these exercises will also train your willpower by forcing you to endure pain.


What more evidence do you need? If you want to make yourself tougher and less susceptible to knock out—and why wouldn’t you?—start doing these exercises now.

Read MoreA Primer On The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

57 thoughts on “How To Develop An Iron Chin That Can Take A Hard Punch”

  1. I always had a great jaw.
    I could really take a punch. Really.
    I had several long long fights just because I wouldn’t go dowm
    Until one night I started a fight with this guy (I was drunk & this was 20+ years ago, nothing too bad but I started it) and he turned out to be a Boxer.
    Mate, this guy showed me what getting beat up is meant to be all about.
    Thing was, I had my great chin.
    ‘Iron chin’?
    Take it from me, it’s highly overrated.

    1. It’s still something worth developing, if only because someday it might help you out. A real fighter can flatten just about any man, but most people are just idiots swinging without much skill or power.
      Who knows? Some day a drunk nothing of a punk might start swinging out of nowhere. It’s good to be able to laugh those blows off if you must.

      1. Realistically speaking, life’s not a movie. You should never underestimate your opponent, thick neck or not, people get KO’d all the time with well placed shots.

    2. LOL! Why did you start a fight with him?
      Actually that is the classic learning moment isn’t it? Get drunk, pick fight with boxer, never pick fight with anyone ever again.
      You got off easy though. One of my friends picked a fight with one of the world’s best martial artists. He put my friend in hospital with permanent damage. After he recovered, my friend went back and hired him as a teacher.

      1. Hi mate.
        ‘LOL! Why did you start a fight with him?’
        Good question…..
        We had the best,coolest place to have a flat in the whole damn city.
        Right on High Street, near the best nightclub in the city etc etc
        Trouble was though, when you had a party, a lot of passers by would try to get in.
        1) It was my turn to be ‘on the door’ and I was pissed off because I was about to ‘get somewhere’ with this bird I was chatting up.
        2) A couple of the lads with him were old ‘enemies’ of mine and that didn’t help.
        3) Too many ‘Red Stripes’.
        ‘Actually that is the classic learning moment isn’t it? Get drunk, pick fight with boxer, never pick fight with anyone ever again.’
        ‘You got off easy though. One of my friends picked a fight with one of the world’s best martial artists. He put my friend in hospital with permanent damage. After he recovered, my friend went back and hired him as a teacher.’
        Bloody hell.
        Anyway, (I was pretty socially ‘powerful’ in that was a popular DJ with loads of mates inc bouncers etc etc) that Boxer came into ‘my bar’ to see if everything was cool.
        He wasn’t stupid and he could have been ‘in trouble’ over all this s**t.
        I said, ‘No way mate. I was an utter twat. Don’t worry about it. You’re not barred from ‘Helsinki’, ‘Vin Quatre’ or even ‘The Bear Cage’….s’cool dude.’
        He was an ordinary lad, not really a bully.
        We were mates for years.
        I fully deserved my kicking.
        Everyone should lose at least one fight imo.
        Winning fights is easy.
        You don’t know who you are until you’ve lost a fight.
        Regs Bob.

  2. A bigger, stronger neck will help in the event of a car accident. Like your forearms, it’s a body part that is almost always visible. I have yet to see a soy boy with a big neck. Oh, and it’ll also make buying dress shirts impossible.

  3. I’ve always been able to take big time head shots.
    Yeah, I’ve had a few concussions, but they’ve never kept me down.
    Growing up as an omega with a target on the back of my head helped — lots of practice. Having a thick skull (at least I think it must be) helped even more.

        1. You can ask me. The only time I have been knocked out is from body blows and I have taken a lot of head shots in my time.

  4. I used to train with an older guy (he was mid 30’s while I was in my mid-late 20’s) from Mexico who would often train his neck at the gym. Our training group always used to joke around, “never skip neck day”.
    He would lay down on the hamstring curl and use it to curl his neck. He would put Velcro straps around his head and attach himself to the pulley machines. He used to do some crazy shit.

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  5. This reminds me- when I was about 11-12 some friends of mine (two brothers) got some boxing gloves for Christmas. They had a concrete driveway going from the road up to the carport with a walkway coming off it going to the front door which left about a 15×15 grassed in area that we used for a ring. All the neighborhood kids would get out there and brawl it out.
    One day myself and the younger of the brothers who was about 3-4 years older than me were going at it. We had both gotten a little tired and had slowed down and backed off a little for a few seconds. About that time, his girlfriend who lived about 150 yards down the road walked out her front door and when she saw us she called his name, when she did he made the mistake of looking in that direction. When he did, BAM! KNOCKOUT!. I mean knocked cold, eyes rolled up in his head, I thought I killed him for a few seconds until he started coming to. He wasn’t right the rest of the day.

        1. Huuuuum…….
          Well, I suppose there might be some historical justification for a ‘confederate’ hit and run strategy.
          I suppose.
          Still, the done thing would be to apologise as soon as he comes around.
          I draw the line at no apology!!

        2. Well it’s been probably 35 years ago and we are still friends I don’t recall if I apologized or not but it’s all good. Next time he will know better than looking away 😵

        3. …we’ve only got your word for that…
          Maybe…maybe not…
          The only manly way to settle this controversy is a re-match!
          If a re-match is (going to be) good enough for McGregor and Mayweather, it’s good enough for you….and the man you sucker pinched as he tried to protect his innocent girlfriend (…sort of).
          Say I.

        4. THAT’S the spirit!!
          …..I never really liked him anyway to be honest with you ‘Unr-Con.’..

  6. It is curious that the neck is not evaluated in bodybuilding competitions. Perhaps it’s too dangerous or plain unfeasible to train it progressively and I don’t count those acrobatic exercises as progressive because I think you would stagnate quite quickly. It’s certainly a body part you do not want to mess up. The other one is sometimes trained by those kung-fu freaks who take kicks or pull airplanes with their junk. That one is not ranked in bodybuilding either but then again it’s not even skeletal muscle to begin with. When I go really heavy in the upright rows with supramaximal weight where I cannot even pull the weight to sternum level the contraction is so intense that I can feel it all the way in the back of my neck. I don’t know if the neck muscles are activated or if it’s just the traps’ contraction jarring the neck.

    1. Careful with the upright row. The combination of raised elbow and internal rotation of the arm it forces you to adopt, is a recipe for shoulder impingement. For that read: wrecking your rotator cuff tendons. There are better and safer movements for strengthening your traps and shoulder girdle.

      1. That’s true. You can use a wide grip and not raise the bar too high as bob said. It’s still better to wreck your shoulders than to wreck your back with deadlifts and squats.

  7. Training the neck is undoubtedly a great way to improve your ability to take a punch. In addition there are tactical options as well. Keeping your chin down. You can have the strongest neck in the world but if your chin is up when you get hit you’re going down. Its much easier to absorb the impact of a punch when your chin is down.
    Also, make sure you are bracing for impact. Move your head down and away from the incoming punch. This is vital. Take the punch on the skull and not in the face or on the temple. Holyfield was the master of this.

  8. I upgraded from bridges a few years ago, I have a plate-loaded machine to work the neck in all directions.

  9. I just noticed that the new comment policy prohibits personal attacks. That’s a majority of the comments we make gone now.

    1. There’s a bloke on ‘Takimag’ whose become a teensy weensy bit obsessed with me.
      He’s constantly making personal attacks, including racial insults whenever he can (most of the time).
      I’ve not reported him because I wouldn’t do that sort of thing. Not unless he became truly onerous.
      Thing is though, people like that really contribute nothing whatsoever.
      Debate and discourse is better off without them.
      What is it about racists that they just seem to be dedicated to hatred? Ditto half the anti-Semites you read.
      I mean, don’t we all ‘hate’ violent burglars for example; but how many years do you want to spend going on and on and on about it?
      …and on and ON and on and….

      1. I’ve found the best way to deal with those people is ignore them. They thrive on attention. That’s why they are so dedicated to “hate”. If they say something vile, somebody is bound to respond to them. And so they go on. They are basically sad individuals who are failures in life and measure success by how many people they can upset.

        1. ‘They thrive on attention.’
          Oh, yes.
          He would try to ‘insult you into a discussion’ it really, actually is sad.
          Despite his slightly ‘bulgy eyed racism’ I can’t help feeling a tad sorry for him.
          Y’know how we reveal ourselves without always knowing it?
          Like you say, life didn’t turn out how he imagined. A failure.
          Point being, I’m undecided about the whole ‘banning’ or reporting debate.
          I’ve never done it (once on Bretbart someone wrote ‘S/He is a c**t’ about a politician & I reported it.) but it’s like this.
          I regard going online to debate as like going into a bar. You choose where you go and if racism or whatever ‘offends you’ go somewhere else.
          Trouble is, the unemployed racists then get to decide the level of discourse.
          What’s needed is a sort of door policy…ideally self selecting…door policy…that reminds me of when I ran a ‘door policy’ all of my own….it hurts….my head hurts….iron chin…no…goo….ooood…….

    2. That has always been the rule, I just didn’t spell it out. There’s a big difference between locker room jabs (okay) and deep-seated personal “Your mom is a whore” insult (not okay).

      1. Okay, but what if someone’s mom is a whore, we can prove it and it has significance in the conversation. Just looking for the exception to the rule.

  10. As someone who has had jaw surgery to correct both an overbite and a crossbite as well as very expensive implants in my lower jaw for my front teeth I definitely do not want to get hit in the jaw.

  11. OK , so, I’m 37. Been in one fight my entire life. ( fist fight). He swung and I knocked him out with mostly the force of his body moving forward from the miss. Those of you who know me on here, I’m the same in person. I don’t back down from anything unless I discover I’m wrong at some point. Just no one has really engaged me and I don’t pick fights, if you want some, lets go, that’s my general philosophy.. been pushed or the famous “friends holding the other guy back” type of thing. My son thinks its because I look intimidating but I know many much more intimidating folks that get into fights all the time and I have a terrible temper. what gives?. maybe I need to go seek out action.. lol.. Chin untested.

  12. I see you referenced the late Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion of the world from 1919 to 1926. At 6′ 187 pounds he became the champion at age 24 by thrashing the 6’6 245 pound Jess Willard.

  13. Most important thing involved with being able to take a punch or beating in a fight is spirit. Remind others that we are still all apes and there is one inside of you to be unleashed.

  14. Personally, I believe more in head movement. Don’t take the damage to begin with. Shift, dodge or block and counter. Its always worked out well for me.

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