The sport of boxing is fondly referred to as “the sweet science.” It’s the art of hitting while not getting hit. That has always been the ultimate objective. However, in the heat of battle, getting hit is inevitable. You can’t block and parry every shot, and you certainly can’t dodge and evade every single one of them.
Sooner or later, you’re going to take a hit. It’s how you react to that hit that will dictate the fight the rest of the way.
Whether you’re getting hit in the head or the body, the great thing about boxing is that you can train yourself to be ready to absorb the shot.
This involves strengthening different parts of your body, specifically those concerning boxing’s target points of contact, while fortifying your defensive style with a little technique.
Every serious fighter needs to work on improving this aspect of the game. The ability to take shots, and keep fighting and executing, is what separates the good from the great.
Want to learn how to absorb like a pro? Today, Evolve Daily shares seven ways to train yourself to take hard punches.
1) Neck Strengthening Exercises
Having a strong neck is very important to boxing. When you get hit clean in the face, your neck is what stabilizes your head and helps you take that punch better. Furthermore, it helps absorb shock when you are able to block punches with your glove guard. In this sense, strengthening the neck through exercise is essential to developing your punch resistance.
Some of the greatest defensive fighters routinely strengthen their necks through exercise. Guys like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. all set aside time to perform neck strengthening exercises for boxing.
From doing neck-ups with weights attached to the forehead to using a tennis ball to do neck circles against a wall, there are a plethora of neck strengthening exercises for boxing, and you should incorporate them into your workout if you want to improve your ability to take punches.
2) Jaw Strengthening Exercises
Further to strengthening the neck, there are ways to fortify the muscles surrounding the jaw as well. The jaw, more fondly referred to in boxing as the “chin,” is a major point of contact. Take a solid punch on the jaw, and it usually means lights out for anyone.
A common tactic is biting down on the mouthpiece as you tuck your jaw in between your shoulder. When you bite down on the mouthpiece, this effectively clenches the jaw and makes it tight, which then helps you to absorb impact better. If your jaw is loose when it takes a hit, it sends a stronger shock through the head, resulting in greater damage.
Legendary Mexican-American boxer “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya was known to bite down on his mouthpiece so hard that he would rip through the rubber with his teeth. Nevertheless, it helped him protect against hard shots to the chin.
3) Developing The Explosive Shell
The explosive shell in boxing is something that is not talked about enough, but learn how to harness it, and you can build your body up like a tank. The explosive shell activates in that split second when your body and muscles tighten up just before impact.
Taking body shots is not a fun experience, by any means, especially if you are unprepared for them. However, by training the explosive shell, you’re able to teach your body how to absorb punishing body shots, either by better anticipating them or through muscle memory.
Develop your muscles by fortifying your upper and lower abdomen, your obliques, and your latissimus dorsi, also known as your “wing muscles.” Also, spend time taking actual body shots in sparring with a partner, to train your body on how to deal with them.
The stronger your explosive shell, the better you will be able to take body shots, and the less damage you take because of them.
4) Rolling With The Punches
The ability to roll with the punches is an amazing skill to have, and one that will allow you to minimize any damage you take when receiving punches to the head. It’s an advanced defensive tactic that takes a whole lot of practice to get right.
The trick is to move your head in the direction of the punch, to try to take some steam off the edge. By moving your head in the same direction, you’re minimizing the impact, and thus, decreasing potential damage.
Slick defensive geniuses like “Prince” Naseem Hamed and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have used this tactic to great extent in the past. However, in the modern-day, it’s Canelo who really uses this to amazing effect.
5) Blocking And Parrying
Of course, there’s nothing like improving your overall boxing defense to better handle damage. Blocking and parrying remain the best way to deflect punishment, and the better you get at it, the more elusive you become. After all, not getting hit is still the best when it comes to defense.
As always, you can practice blocking in pad work sessions, foam noodle sessions, and even in sparring. Anticipating where the punch is coming from and which punches come in certain situations is crucial. At the same time, parrying is a great defensive skill that will allow you to set up your counters.
Practice both blocking and parrying for optimum defensive coverage.
6) Slamming the Core
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In the instance that you can’t block or parry those body shots, and in light of strengthening your explosive shell, you just have to work that core.
Having a very strong midsection is important in boxing, so don’t forget to give it some love with engaging core exercises in training.
Crunches are a good place to start. As a boxer, you should be working your abs as often as you can. You can also pair up with a partner and use a medicine ball to slam your core. Develop every muscle in that area to really lay on a thick layer of protection, and keep your internals like your kidneys, liver, and ribs well-defended.
The core encompasses the abdominal muscles, lats, spinal erectors, glute complex, quadratus lumborum, and hip flexors, among others. Great core strength makes you less prone to jarring from external force. The stronger your core, the more stable you will also be in taking shots to the body.
7) Manny Pacquiao Stick Training
Last but not least is the infamous “Manny Pacquiao Stick Training” that the Filipino firecracker loves to incorporate in his ab workouts. This form of training originated in Thailand among Muay Thai fighters.
The stick is usually a practice rod or sword made of bamboo, and is repeatedly smacked into the midsection. In the process, it conditions the nerves to allow the midsection to become impervious or desensitized to pain.
According to Pacquiao’s long-time trainer, legendary coach Freddie Roach, it’s also a form of mind conditioning.
“Some fighters, if they get hit, they panic,” said Roach. “But if you do the stick training, and you get in the ring and get hit, you can still relax and focus on the fight.”
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