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Jaw Training For Strikers

Updated: May 9

jaw training
Black Belt Plus

News flash: fighters get punched in the jaw! The jaw and its hinges, along with the chin, are common targets for knockout artists. A well-placed punch to the jaw can render an otherwise tremendously conditioned athlete unconscious in a heartbeat. Jaw training for strikers is important!

Boxers of old and more than a few of the modern era believed that a bit of jaw conditioning renders one better able to sustain blows to this vital spot. The science as to the efficacy of this practice is not definitive, but for many, it makes sense to indulge in some insurance training that takes so little time out of your schedule.

In olden days, many boxers would chew pitch in the belief that constantly working the jaw muscles was a good conditioner. Some used a plug of tobacco that they kept moving from side to side for the same reason. Nowadays, many have adopted the practice of chewing large wads of gum with the same end in mind.

Chewing gum is a bit of a low-impact activity for such a high-impact pursuit, so let’s have a look at what some have done to up the resistance ante. We’ll start with a British middleweight fighter of note from the late 1970s: Alan Minter.

I won’t delve too much into Minter’s career. Suffice it to say that he garnered a bronze medal as a light middleweight at the 1972 Olympics and won an undisputed middleweight title in 1980 after having spent time on the British and European middleweight thrones. To train his jaw, Minter would take a neck-training apparatus and bite down on the head-strap portion. The weight was never heavy — photos show what appear to be a couple of 5-pound plates dangling from the chain end — but this is a good jumping- off point.

WARM-UP: The jaw, like all other portions of a fighter’s anatomy, should have its own warm-up and mobility regimen. To start, open your mouth as wide as possible. Hold that position for a moment, then close your mouth and clench your jaw. Hold that, too. Repeat this sequence five times, then shift the jaw from side to side five times. Finally, make small circles five times clockwise and five times counterclockwise.


Even without specialized equipment, you can boost your jaw strength by implementing the following. Place your palm under your chin and then, while applying resistance, open your jaw and close it. Try to apply pressure on both the positive and negative aspects of the exercise. Repeat five times. 

Next, position your jaw a bit forward as if you’re imitating a bulldog. Place your palm against the front of your chin and apply resistance while it moves forward and backward. Repeat five times.

Place your right palm on the right side of your jaw and use the same pressure protocol

while effecting a side-to-side movement. Repeat five times on the right and on the left.

Finally, open your mouth wide and place the fingers of one hand over the teeth of your lower jaw. Against slight resistance, close and then open your mouth five times. By all means, use reasonable pressure on this and the other exercises. You don’t want to loosen any teeth or dislocate anything.


Now it’s time to crib from Minter. Grab a weight strap, which can be the neck strap of a harness or a clean rag connected to the harness. Attach a reasonable weight — recall that Minter used only around 10 pounds — and then bite down.

First up is the “clench and hold.” Bite the rag and simply hold that position for a time. One minute is a good start. Rather than going up in weight, your goal is to extend your time. Work from one minute to three full minutes.

Next is the “pendulum.” Bite the rag and slowly swing your head from side to side, allowing the momentum to add resistance. Work this swing until it just starts to become uncomfortable. (I find that this a good way to finish the “clench and hold.”)

The next exercise is the “head rock.” Bite down on the rag and move your head from looking at the floor to looking up. Go slowly on this or you’ll risk fouling yourself with a 10-pound low blow.

It bears repeating that if you’re aiming to make yourself knockout-proof, the efficacy of jaw training is still up in the air. However, very little time and effort are required to strengthen this portion of your anatomy under the guidance of the notion that “when you may need it, you’ve got it.” In other words, why not?

Mark Hatmaker’s website is

This article originally appeared in a 2021 issue of Black Belt Magazine.

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