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Does Punching Your Abs Make Them Stronger? 

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 3, 2022

If you’ve ever seen a guy hanging on the bar keeping his abs tight and at the same time receiving punches in the stomach, you’ve probably wondered if that’s harmful or even effective.

I've never used this method in all of my years as a fitness trainer, but I know some colleagues regularly do. So I decided to do a thorough analysis of this phenomenon as I wanted to determine for myself whether hitting abdominal muscles provides any benefits at all.

After reading all relevant articles I could find on this topic, as well as talking to a few MMA coaches I know, I came up with these insights.

Quick Summary

  • Hitting your stomach might contribute more to your abs toughness than strengthening the abdominal muscles.
  • The well-built abdomen may support good posture and improve sports performance and body stabilization.
  • Martial artists practice stomach punching because it accustoms them to abdomen kicks, making them tougher and less sensible.

Does Hitting Your Stomach Make Abs Stronger?

A man with perfect abs

Hitting your stomach doesn't make abs stronger but tighter. Strength is the capability of muscles to contract under load.

Getting hit repeatedly will make the body respond by creating scar tissue. And the scar tissue is more rigid than the muscle tissue.

If hitting a partner's stomach in the gym makes abs stronger, you would probably be seeing people hitting each other's muscles all over.

However, a catch that might impact developing stronger muscle fibers may be the force to perform isometric contraction when receiving an external hit.

That way, it may mimic exercises like a vacuum stomach or plank.

The other thing that may directly strengthen abdominal muscles is a repeated movement of bending forward, sideways, and diagonally while trying to go through punches.

So performing these movements while getting punched in the abs is what may create stronger muscle fibers.

Light punches to the belly may also help improve the body's quick reactions, leading to fast-twitch ab muscles growth.

"It teaches people to better engage in ab exercises and use the core muscles throughout." 

- Tom Holland, personal trainer and exercise physiologist

Why Are Strong Abs Important?

Strong abs are important because they are the fundament of core strength. Core muscles may be our body's most important muscle group, possibly more important than leg muscles.

Muscular abs have numerous benefits:

  • Good posture - may prevent unnecessary pressure on the spine
  • Body stabilization - decreased risk of falling [1]
  • Supported spine - lessen the risk of low back injury [2]
  • Improve sports performance - may affect complex athletic movements execution [3]
  • Protect internal organs - could prevent inner tissue traumas

With all these perks, six-pack abs (rectus abdominis) should always be a priority in workouts. Unfortunately, most people often neglect them and do abs training only as an extra.

Related Article: Best Workout For Abs

Why Do Martial Artists Do It?

Boxers sparring inside the ring

The whole idea about getting punched in the abs came from martial arts. It's a part of their conditioning training.

Most boxers and kick-boxers perform this ab exercise during every training session.

There are several reasons why those athletes keep voluntarily taking punches in the stomach.

Stomach punches are dreadful, but it's part of their job to encounter punches.

Receiving body punches might prepare their abdominal muscles for what's inevitable. By becoming tougher, abs get accustomed to external hits.

A feature that follows that routine is also desensitization. Repeatedly punching one area might make nerves less sensitive, which increases pain tolerance.

Effects on the Mind

Stomach punching is also an essential factor in developing mental strength.

The mind gets 'used to' experiencing hits and becomes less anxious about it in a real fight. It will also develop specific behavior so that fighters won't look surprised after a stomach punch in a fight.

Stomach punches train an MMA fighter the breathing, the timing, and the coordination of contracting the abs as the fighter is catching a punch using abdominal bracing.

Abdominal bracing is muscle contraction around the spine that creates a rigid midsection, and according to some studies, abdominal bracing improves spinal mobility [4].

Does It Have Any Downsides?

Hitting a boxer on his stomach

Hitting your abs might have some downsides, especially if you have an underdeveloped six-pack or perform the exercise improperly.

Punching the abs with full force straight away must be avoided because you should gradually increase punch power so you can adapt.

With time, you will learn how to act (breath and contract) when receiving a body punch.

You firstly need to build strength in the midsection and then comes the light strikes, then harder ones with boxing gloves, and in the end, you may use a medicine ball.

 

FAQs

Is Hitting Abs Every Day Good?

Hitting abs every day is not good. Even pro fighters avoid doing ab punches every day because it might weaken their constitution.

Does Punching Your Abs Burn Fat?

Punching your abs doesn't burn fat. Burning fat primarily depends on a calories-in, calories-out game. If you monitor your calorie intake and nutrition and combine it with cardio and strength workouts, it might trigger fat cells meltdown.

Is It Ok to Do Abs Five Times a Week?

Doing abs five times a week is OK if rest days are evenly arranged. Abs, like other muscles, need time for recovery. By hitting them five days in a row, you won't give them appropriate rest, even though they are one of the fastest recovering muscles in the body.

Should You Practice Abs Punches?

This ultimately depends on your preferences. If you are just a gym-goer concerned about his six-pack abs look, you may want to avoid unnecessary pain. The better option for building strong abs might be to take a more traditional route.

I believe exercises such as crunches, planks, sit-ups, and leg lifts with the aid of the best pre-workout could bring you the results you’re after.

This approach has given me solid results with my clients for years, so give it a try to see what it can do for your fitness goals.


References

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6614774/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3109894/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1050641106000848

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