Punched Abs Core Workout Benefits and Risks

Is punching abs the secret to a six-pack? A personal trainer weighs in on this potentially painful move.

Crossfit may have just been one-upped as the most intense workout. A trending pain-inducing fitness trend is taking boxing hits straight to the abdomen. So, is taking a punch to the abdomen a good ab workout? Here's what you need to know about the benefits and risks of this gut-punching exercise, according to physiologist and personal trainer Tom Holland.

What Is a Punched Abs Core Workout?

In 2017, Joe Jonas shared an Instagram video of a workout he did while on tour in Tokyo. Jonas does a series of leg lifts, after which the personal trainer in the clip wears boxing gloves and clocks him right in the gut. Ouch, right?

The DNCE frontman isn't the only person getting punched as part of a training tactic. Mia Kang, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, and professional Muay Thai fighter, also posted a video of herself being socked in the stomach. Every time she extends her legs while doing squats, fighters on each side of her kick her in the belly.

The Benefits of Punched Abs

What's the point of voluntarily taking a beating? Here's one payoff: Boxers, MMA fighters, and other martial arts athletes do it during training because getting walloped is part of their job, and they need to practice absorbing the blow, explained Holland.

That explained why Kang was enduring those kicks. But as for Jonas, he might simply be trying to strengthen his abs. While an external hit to a muscle won't make it tighter or firmer, contracting your abs just before a punch or kick hits the stomach can create more powerful muscle fibers.

"If this worked, we'd punch our biceps and our leg muscles," said Holland. "When I used to teach, I would cue clients by telling them to imagine that their child is getting ready to hit them in the stomach. It teaches people to better engage in ab exercises and use the core muscles throughout." 

The internal muscle contraction, not the outer trauma of a punch, helps create an enviable six-pack.

The Risks of Punched Abs

Of course, a blow to this sensitive area can seriously harm average Joes (including Joe Jonas). Since that area of the body contains many vital organs, a punch or kick can result in bruising and internal damage, Holland said. The liver, pancreas, stomach, and intestines could get damaged, and if a punch or kick lands too high, it could break ribs.

Regular gym-goers can safely take advantage of the ab workout by having a partner perform the punch or kick motion and stop short. You'll reflexively tighten your core as you see it coming. 

Or during crunches, start each crunch by visualizing someone about to punch your midsection or drop a medicine ball on your abs, Holland recommended. Your natural reaction will be to pull in your ab muscles as you complete a rep.

Holland also suggested breathing through your ab exercises for the best results. 

"It's a real challenge, but breathing while doing pretty much any ab exercise engages the core even further," added Holland.

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  1. Barrett C, Smith D. Recognition and management of abdominal injuries at athletic eventsInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(4):448-451.

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