As a boxer, you likely have a regular strength training program that targets the punching muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest. However, strengthening the muscles that support your jaw is just as important.
According to a study published in 2011 by the Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, strengthening muscles in the neck that support your jaw can decrease risk of injury in reality fighting sports.
You don't have to spend more time in the gym to strengthen your jaw. These exercises can be performed using your own hands, a soft ball and an exercise band.
Isometric exercises strengthen muscles without your joints actually moving. Jaw isometrics strengthen muscles that help brace your chin while boxing. As an added benefit, isometrics don't require any fancy exercise equipment.
As your jaw strength improves, you can increase the amount of pressure applied during these exercises. Hold each position for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat each movement 10 times.
HOW TO DO IT: Place your thumb under your jaw. Hold your thumb against your jaw as you attempt to open your mouth, without allowing your jaw to move. Place two fingers on the front of your lower jaw and push your jaw forward against the resistance of your fingers. Next, place your fingers on the right side of your lower jaw and push your jaw to the right, without allowing it to move. Repeat on the left side.
Neck isometrics can be performed using your hand as resistance or by pressing your head against a soft ball on the wall. Hold each position for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Do not allow your head to move during these exercises.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit up straight and place one palm against your forehead, or both palms if you need more resistance. Push your head down as if you are bringing your chin to your chest while meeting the resistance with your hands. Move your hands to the back of your head and push your head backward as if you are looking up toward the ceiling. Place your right hand against the right side of your head and push your head down to the side as if you are trying to bring your right ear to your right shoulder. Repeat this on the left side of your head.
Extension with Exercise Band
Exercise bands are available in many resistance levels so you can easily progress this exercise as your strength improves.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on a firm surface with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart. Loop the band around your feet and firmly plant your feet on the ground. Bend forward and loop the opposite end of the band around the back of your head, just above your ears. Grip the band in the middle, with one side in each hand. This is the starting position.
Lift your head up against the resistance of the band until you come to an upright position. Pull your chin backward until your neck is as straight as possible. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
- Dr. W. Bryon Satterfield, D.D.S., M.A.G.D.: Isometric Jaw Exercise
- Performance University: Hybrid Strength Training & Conditioning: Top 3 Neck Strength Exercises for Boxing, Wrestling and MMA
- Strength Sensei: Critical Neck Training for Boxers
- National Medical Sciences Information Center, Ministry of Public Health: Isometric Exercises for Strengthening Your Neck Muscles