Strength Training



Your Last Defense From the Knockout Punch

What’s happening in the brain when you’re hit on the chin reveals a solution.

UFC 217 (Madison Square Garden): MMA fans were treated to a rare feat this weekend, as three title fights resulted in three new champions. While all three fights were expected to go at least three rounds (out of five), none made it to the end of the second round. In a sport where you can impose loss of consciousness on your opponent, the fate of a fight can change in a split second, regardless of what has happened leading up to that point.

Three Chins. Three Falls.
All three title fights had a similar end: Rose Namajunes connected flush with Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s chin with a left hook, TJ Dillashaw caught Cody Garbrandt with a right hook to the chin and Georges St-Pierre landed a left hook to Michael Bisping’s chin. For Joanna, Cody and Michael, their knees gave out, eyes rolled back, and they fell to the ground before their competitors jumped on top to close out the fight.

What is Happening Here?
What you’re seeing is the result of rotational acceleration on the brain stem. When a blow is delivered to the tip of the chin, the twisting on the brain causes “Diffuse Axonal Injury” (DAI), or sheer strain on axons in the brain.

University of Rochester researchers, Brian Blyth MD and Jeff Bazarian MD, focus on sports related concussion. Their research states:
Sudden rotational forces cause shearing strains and stresses that result in…post-traumatic amnesia, dazed states and loss of consciousness. Shear strain is most prominent after rotational injury, and brain tissue is particularly sensitive to this type of strain.(1)


It’s Not the Chin… It’s the NECK!

In a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, TJ Dillashaw said, “You can’t condition your chin.”

The reason the chin is the place to hit is because it causes the most rotational acceleration on the brain stem. The only way to mitigate rotational acceleration is by developing rotational neck strength that can more efficiently absorb these forces.           

Athletes generally focus exclusively on flexion and extension (working the back and front of the neck). But, how effective is this when the forces are primarily rotational? Rotational neck strength isn’t something most people work on – primarily because it is not easy to do – especially without a training partner. At DeFranco’s, we’ve recently started implementing the Iron Neck with our combat athletes. Mike Jolly, inventor of the Iron Neck (a revolutionary neck-strengthening piece of equipment), figured out a way to strengthen the musculature of the neck “three-dimensionally”. This “three-dimensional” approach includes rotation. Rotational neck training has lots of health benefits but the knockout punch to the chin is a clear example of how it helps.


TJ Dillashaw was right about not being able to condition your chin. But if you want a strong chin – try shifting your focus just below – and start training your NECK, rotationally.

– Joe D. 





  1. prepare as much as you need, getting that neck to where you need it is crucial. The only realistic way to approach this is practicing wearing helmets, conditioning with them on, etc.

  2. the jaw portion of the skull, and specifically the point of the chin, is the area most vulnerable to a knock-out blow and therefore having an exceptional tolerance to punishment in this area is a great advantage to a fighter.

  3. Very informative! Thanks. If one specifically wishes to train the neck for hypertrophy only, is it necessary to go beyond flexion and extension? Obviously, I understand training the neck laterally will be beneficial to a combat athlete but what about a recreational lifter? Thanks in advance.

  4. Absolutely! There are a few factors that affect a persons ability to take a punch. The strength of the jaw, sternocleod mastoid + trapezius strength, and leg strength.

  5. Definitely not impossible to condition your chin but it would better to condition your body as your face is more likely to be protected.

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  7. Those Iron Neck things seem great.
    Doing neck ups (Like a sit up for your neck) I have found is great way of conditioning

  8. In boxing, having a strong neck helps absorb the impact of blows to the face and better handles direct impact. It also enables quicker head movements, so you can see what’s coming and dodge blows, and it doesn’t tire as easily so you can maintain proper body positioning.

  9. @Ryan Kephalas

    No sir Ryan Kephalas genuine information premium yes sir!

  10. @Sandeep

    Erm… thank you. I appreciate the response but, with due respect, something tells me this is a sock account. I think I may wait for Joe to respond. Lol


    Ryan Kephalas

  11. @Ryan Kephalas

    No sir Ryan Kephalas in recommendation of my experience the recreational trainee would not require laterl training yes thank you.

    Great content by the way sir!

  12. Hi Joe,

    If one specifically wishes to train the neck for hypertrophy only, is it necessary to go beyond flexion and extension? Obviously, I understand training the neck laterally will be beneficial to a combat athlete but what about a recreational lifter? Thanks in advance.

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