Once you step in the ring, no matter how hard you’ve trained, you’re going to get hit. Knowing how to take a punch can make the difference between being knocked out or winning a fight.

Getting hit is normally believed to be a bad thing – but absorbing a punch successfully will give you an opening you can take advantage of, and can turn the match in your favor.

How to take a punch

Always keep a tight defense

Sacrificing offense for defense is always better than the opposite. Some fighters adopt this strategy instinctively, others get hit until they learn it the hard way. Either way, you should always keep a tight defense.

Keep your elbows close to your body, and your hands up at all times. After you throw a punch, don’t create unnecessary openings by letting your arms fall down or hang in the air – immediately retreat your fists to a defensive stance.

Keep your jaw closed and your eyes open

I see a lot of fighters yelling when they throw punches to keep their blood flowing and confuse their opponents. While this is a great way to keep your breathing explosive and pump yourself up, getting hit while your mouth is open can result in severe injury, and will almost always end in a knockout. Keep your mouth shut tight and never leave your jaw loose or wide open.

Your chin should be tucked in, and your eyes up and open at all times – the heaviest hits tend to land when you’re distracted or looking away. Don’t flinch or close your eyes – while these are reflex reactions, you’re setting yourself up for more punches.

Roll with the punch

If you’ve failed to block or dodge an attack, and you’re being caught by your opponents fist, just roll with the punch. Move your head away in the direction that the hit is coming from – this will take away a lot of momentum from the impact.

Strengthen your neck

Once a knockout punch lands, the head begins accelerating away from the source of the impact. The neck and shoulder muscles will bring this acceleration to a sudden stop – but the brain, floating in the skull, keeps moving until it crashes into the skull.

A well-developed neck and strong shoulders are a definite asset when it comes to taking punches, as they will reduce acceleration caused by powerful blows. In our neck exercises for boxers article, we’ve laid out the best neck workouts to help you absorb heavy punches.

How to take a body shot

Keep your elbows next to your hips, protecting your liver, and your hands up with your forearms close to your body. Rotate your hips in a quick, powerful motion to absorb and block incoming body shots with your forearms. Don’t make the mistake of moving your hands down to block a body shot, as this will create an opening by leaving your chin unguarded.

Tighten your entire core, and move with the punch as it lands, and rotate your whole body in it’s direction. This will take some of the momentum away from the punch, and you can use this rotation to get more force behind your counterattack.

Strengthen your abdominal muscles

Strong and well-conditioned abdominal muscles can serve as a shield from incoming body shots. Core exercises and conditioning exercises are a great way to develop more resistance and minimize the damage from a body punch. Leg raises, crunches, and basic core workouts work well. Conditioning workouts – like getting hit in the abs by a sparring partner, at 30% power, are also a common way to increase overall resistance.