When someone refers to your chin, beard or jaw in combat sports, they're probably not talking about your profile image. Fighters who exhibit a good chin generally possess a perceived advantage in the toughness department. They are difficult to knock down and even harder to knock out. The components that make up a good chin are endlessly debated, but you may be able to improve your ability to absorb punches through a rigorous neck-strengthening routine. There are a host of simple neck-strengthening exercises you can include in your training routine to increase your ability to absorb damage.
Building neck strength takes time and patience. It can't be done overnight. Incorporating exercises such as neck bridges and reverse neck bridges can allow you to build important stabilizing muscles in your neck and upper back that may translate to an improved chin in the ring. To perform a neck bridge, simply lay down on your back, press your weight onto the back of your head and lift your hips off the ground, then rock back and forth for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. A reverse neck bridge is done by balancing on your forehead. Bridges are best performed by breaking them down into three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Boxers also supplement bodyweight exercises with neck curls using a weightlifting neck harness that is fastened around the back of your head. Use light weight -- 5 or 10 pounds -- when you start off, assume a squatting position and pull your head back using your neck extensors. Again, do three sets of 10 to 15 reps. There are also various neck-strengthening machines to be found at your local gym that allow you to work against resistance by pressing your head back, forward or side-to-side against a padded surface.
Tuck That Chin
Strength training is important, but you can have a strong neck and still be susceptible to being knocked out or dazed if you don't develop good habits in the ring. Coaches will often drill young fighters to keep their chins down, tucked into their chest. This will make your chin a harder target while keeping your neck stable and rigid. Additionally, sparring with a tennis ball clenched between your chin and chest will work out your neck muscles and encourage you to keep your chin down simultaneously.
Fans and media members have a tendency to be a little hyperbolic when it comes to praising or denouncing a fighter's chin, but at the highest levels of the sport, trends do emerge. Fighters known for their impeccable chins include Marvin Hagler, Evander Holyfield and Arturo Gatti. Amir Khan, on the other hand, was known as an otherwise impressive boxer who exhibited a "glass jaw" due to repeated knockout defeats.
Components of a Good Chin
At the end of the day, the difference between a granite chin and a glass jaw may come down to genetics. Ross Enamait, a boxing expert who runs a highly successful informational site at RossBoxing.com, believes that developing a strong neck is paramount to avoiding quick knockouts in the ring. The faster your head whips back upon receiving a solid punch, the more likely it is for you to lose consciousness. Increasing strength in the neck and trapezius muscles may allow for greater KO resistance.
No matter how strong your neck and upper back muscles are, you're never going to be impervious to the knockout punch, which is why functional training is the most important aspect of your game. Keep your hands up and your eyes locked on your opponent at all times when you spar or fight in the ring. Of course, the absolute best way to protect your chin is to ensure that it's not where your opponent punches.