Last updated on February 22nd, 2023 at 04:57 pm
If you’re wondering whether punching your abs makes them stronger you’ve probably seen many boxers and fighters do this.
In fact, it seems to be an integral part of their training.
So, I’m sure you’re trying to figure out if punching your own abs will increase strength and muscularity in your midsection.
Here’s what you need to know.
Punching your abs will not make them stronger. However, you are forced to perform an isometric contraction when being punched in the stomach, which is what can increase strength. The main reason that boxers and martial artists get punched in the abs is to condition themselves for getting hit. The aim is to increase pain tolerance, while learning how to position themselves and which muscles to tighten.
You Won’t Build Muscle & Strength By Punching Your Abs
Let me immediately get one thing clear – punching your abs will not make them stronger.
So, if you’re someone who has weak ab muscles, or is just starting out training abs, please do go around punching yourself.
If you think about it, if punching muscles made them stronger, then we’d all be walking around constantly punching our biceps, pecs, glutes, etc.
With that being said, you are typically forced to perform an isometric contraction when being punched in the stomach.
This is the human fight or flight mode kicking in, as you try to protect yourself from potential pain.
And performing isometric contractions is certainly one way to strengthen your abs.
In fact, this is exactly what you’re doing during ab and core exercises such as planks, stomach vacuums, etc.
So, by tightening your core muscles, and holding this contraction for a set amount of time will help to strengthen your midsection.
Additionally, bracing your abs and core also improves spinal stability.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should also punch yourself to increase strength in this area.
In fact, there is a specific reason why you generally see athletes punch their abs (or have someone else do it) and I’ll explain this now.
Why Do Boxers Punch Their Abs?
I guess we’re most used to seeing boxers punch their abs.
Then again, if you’ve ever performed any fighting-specific martial art, then you’ve probably had your abs punched too as part of your training.
This includes kickboxing, judo, karate, MMA, BJJ, etc.
However, this mid-section punching isn’t specifically done to improve strength in the abs, but rather to condition the fighter.
Basically, as a fighter, your aim is obviously not to get hit, but this rarely happens during a bout.
Plus, for anyone who has been hit in the stomach, you’ll know that it completely winds you, and it can take a few moments to recover.
But, as a fighter, you don’t have the luxury of taking your time to recover, you have to be ready for whatever is being thrown at you (literally).
So, part-and-parcel of a fighter’s training is preparing themselves for every possible outcome, and this includes getting hit.
In effect, by getting punched in the stomach, a fighter is learning how to position themselves, which specific muscles to tighten, while hopefully increasing their pain tolerance.
This is also why you’ll often see fighters having medicine balls dropped on their abs, or even getting hit in the abs with sticks.
Plus, depending on your specific fighting sport of your choice, the same principle can be applied to other body parts.
Martial artists will often do the same to condition their feet, heels, shins, hands, forearms, etc.
One of the most iconic scenes from the movie Kickboxer (the 1989 original) sees Jean Claude Van Damme repeatedly kicking a tree in order to condition his shins.
Once again, it’s not so much that the punching, kicking, and hitting increases strength, but rather it conditions various areas of the body to tolerate pain.
How to Strengthen Your Abs & Core
Now that we’ve established that punching your abs won’t make them stronger, let’s look at what actually will.
Firstly, it’s important for you to know that you should actually train your core as a whole, rather than simply training the abs.
In fact, specific core training can actually produce the coveted six-pack abs, although this will also depend on your body fat levels.
Unfortunately, when most people want to either strengthen their abs, or reveal their six-pack, they often simply train one specific ab muscle.
This is the rectus abdominis, which is the actual six-pack muscle that runs down the front of the body.
However, if you want to strengthen your abs, and your core as a whole, then there are so many more muscles involved.
In fact, your core can be defined as every single midsection muscle (front, back, and sides) that run from your diaphragm to your pelvic floor muscles.
So, these include:
- Rectus Abdominis
- Transverse Abdominis
- Quadratus Lumborum
- Internal Obliques
- External Obliques
- Spinae Erector
I also typically include the glutes as a “core muscle”, as I believe that it is so important to train your glutes.
Now, when it comes to training your core muscles for strength and hypertrophy you should actually go about it differently from the other muscles in the body.
What I mean by this is that often hypertrophy is best achieved through isolation and training muscles individually.
However, when it comes to core training and strengthening your abs, it actually makes much more sense to train these muscles all together.
Here’s a fantastic video from Jeremy Ethier which explains the structure of your core muscles, plus how you should train them for thicker and stronger abs.
So, I hope you understand that punching your abs will not make them stronger.
In fact, if this were true you could simply punch all the various muscles in the body in the hope of making them stronger.
Realistically, the reasons that boxers and other fighters will punch themselves, or get punched, in the abs is to condition the abdominal area.
In effect, this helps them to become accustomed to getting punched in the abs, which is part-and-parcel of fighting.
With that being said, you will typically perform an isometric contraction, much like a plank, whenever you’re about to get punched in the abs.
And you can strengthen your abs through isometric contraction, although as someone who isn’t a fighter there is little need to punch yourself as well.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.