The Chin, The Beard, The Knockout

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2003

Each athlete is born with a certain degree of natural ability. Although we are all capable of improvement, there are those athletes who possess abilities which are impossible to teach. Consider the Olympic track and field athlete who sprints 100 meters in 10 seconds or less. No matter how hard I train, I will never run this fast. In boxing, one of the oldest debates is whether certain fighters have a natural ability to take a punch. Many believe that a fighter is born with his chin. We have all seen a would be champion who was rich in talent but had a glass jaw. A fighter who can sustain a powerful punch is said to have a good chin or beard. A fighter who cannot withstand the punishment is said to have no chin or a glass jaw.

Why are certain fighters knocked out, while others trade leather for 12 rounds? Consider the action packed bout between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. These two warriors traded punches from start to finish. How do these fighters withstand such a barrage of punishment, while others crumble? We have all seen well-known fighters dominate a bout until they suddenly fall to a knockout blow. Boxing is unique from other sports. You can be losing every round and land one punch that suddenly catapults you to victory. It only takes a split second to land the knockout punch.

What actually causes a knockout? Is there anything that a fighter can do to prevent a knockout? These questions are constantly debated. Although the debate remains open, we do know what causes the knockout. When a punch is landed to the head, the circulation to the brain is compressed. The impact to the brain depends on the acceleration and snapping motion of the head. When forcefully struck, the head accelerates backwards or sideways. The force of this acceleration determines whether the knockout occurs. The impact to the brain is dependent on the rapid turning of the head following impact. The carotid arteries in the neck may also compress.

Although difficult to prove, it appears that a strong neck will help absorb the impact of the incoming punch. A strong neck will prevent the rapid acceleration of the brain following impact. We have all seen a bout where one boxer’s head is violently snapped back following impact. By strengthening the muscles of the neck, a fighter can prevent this occurrence. A strong and balanced musculature has always been one of the best ways to prevent injury.

Unfortunately, the neck is often neglected in most training routines. I have rarely seen fighters take the time to strengthen their neck. When pondering whether a strong neck prevents a knockout, I ask you to consider Evander Holyfield. Evander has always been considered a small Heavyweight. He began his career as a Cruiserweight after fighting in the Olympics at 178 pounds. Despite his size, Evander Holyfield has been able to withstand the punishment inflicted from men much larger in size. If you observe the neck of Evander Holyfield, you will realize why he can sustain such punishment. Evander’s neck is rippled with muscle.

All fighters should train the muscles of the neck. Fighters must do everything in their power to improve. If strengthening the neck can prevent a knockout, there is no excuse to overlook this objective.

Below, I have illustrated a few common neck exercises.


Neck Bridges: I perform the traditional neck bridge with a weight across my chest. I place a towel underneath my head for comfort. I rock back and forth on my head. You should roll back to the forehead and down again. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.


Reverse Neck Bridges: The reverse neck bridge is similar only this time you will turn around so that your stomach faces the ground. Roll back and forth on the head as you would for the traditional neck bridge. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions


Neck Curls: Neck curls require a neck strap and weight. As you can see, the neck strap wraps around my head with the weight hanging below. You will curl the weight upward with the muscles in your neck. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

The neck can also be trained with isometrics. For example, apply tension with your hand by pushing the head back. You will resist this tension with the muscles from the neck. Isometrics can be used to train front to back (ex. push the forehead), back to front (ex. push the back of the head), and side to side (ex. push from one side). During each exercise, you will resist the tension applied from the hand by pushing back with the muscles of the neck.

These are just a few of many possible neck training options. More are included in the Infinite Intensity training manual. I recommend training the neck on an every other day schedule. The few minutes required is clearly beneficial, particularly if you can prevent a future knockout...

About the Author - Ross Enamait is an innovative athlete and trainer, whose training style is among the most intense that you will find. Ross is committed to excellence and advancements in high performance conditioning and functional strength development. He has a sincere interest in helping today's athlete in their quest for greatness.

Ross has authored several comprehensive training manuals, designed for athletes participating in combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, and MMA.

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