Strength Training Your Jaw Is the Latest, Dumbest Craze in Men’s Fitness

What do 4chan, TikTok and Instagram all have in common? Men obsessed with mighty jawlines.

December 22, 2021 11:35 am
Strength Training Your Jaw Is the Latest, Dumbest Craze in Men’s Fitness
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I feel bad, because you’ve probably never heard of the GigaChad, and that’s a better way to go through one’s life, and I’m about to ruin everything.

It sounds like some sort of discount gaming console, but it actually refers to a man, a Russian model/trainer named Ernest Khalimov, who looks like this. The guy could rear naked choke a sequoia. In 2015, Khalimov’s physique was the subject of a project called “SLEEK’N’TEARS” by photographer Krista Sudmalis. That normally would’ve been the end of that — jacked Slav shot in moody black and white — until the photos made their way to two very specific corners of the internet.

First, an anonymous Redditor posted the series in a subreddit about bodybuilding. From there, Khalimov’s visage and entire Gaston-ian frame became the inspiration for a meme on 4chan, the controversial online platform that started innocently enough (it invented Rickrolling), but has morphed into a not-so-subtle subculture for a motley crew of hackers, outsiders, conspiracy theorists and alt-right activists.

The site is also home to a large number of “involuntary celibates” (commonly known as incels), a network of misogynistic, misanthropic — and we’d be remiss not to point out, increasingly violent — men who rue the women who won’t look their way, and all the men who get in their way. These men have two archetypal enemies: attractive and unattainable Stacy, and Chad, the guy who tends to get with Stacy.

Chad is a chiseled, rippling, uber-masculine Casanova. If he’s going to the bar, he’s going home with a girl. Reddit and 4chan have coined variations on the name and premise (if Chad’s the alpha, who’s the alpha to all the Chads?), which resulted in the creation of Chad Thundercock, and eventually, the GigaChad:

The avatar for GigaChad is Khalimov. When his pictures made it to 4chan, commenters wrote: “Spawned of the Emperor’s geneseed … when in his presence, Chadlets naturally look down to avoid eye contact and stutter when addressed directly … has no fear in his heart … is a born leader of men … struggles to fit through doors due to shoulder width … chin you could forge a sword on … jaw so square it can be used to accurately measure right angles.”

Part of the reason Khalimov became a 4chan diety is that he has no online presence. The photos were sketchy at best, seemingly 3D-rendered, and they didn’t link back to some thirsty Instagram account with 13,000 Russian followers. Until Khalimov finally responded to all the memes — “Thanks for your kind words. Yours faithfully, Average person.” — there was no confirmation that  he actually existed. GigaChad seemed to have emerged fully formed, destined to aggravate lesser men for the rest of time.

This would all be a lot funnier if the incel community wasn’t perpetuating extremist male entitlement. That said, there is one lighter takeaway to be had here. It has to do with the otherworldly cut of GigaChad’s face. No matter how much they may hate him, men can’t get enough of Khalimov’s jawline. The whole situation going on around his cheekbones, chin and neck seem to be the defining trait of Khalimov’s hyper-masculinity. The biceps and thighs? We’ve seen it before. But the glass-cutting profile of that jawline? Now we’re talking.

Incels have a word for the work they need to put in to climb the social-sexual hierarchy. As The New York Times outlined last year: “[It’s called] looksmaxxing: enhancing one’s sex appeal through weight lifting, skin and hair treatments and even plastic surgery.” And one of the primary characteristics they seek to enhance in all this looksmaxxing is the angularity of their jawlines.

The incels aren’t alone in obsessing over jawbuilding, though. The trend has gone firmly mainstream over the last year with “jaw trainers” popping up in Instagram or Twitter ads for anyone who so much as buys a tub of protein powder. Meanwhile, fitness influencers have convinced followers that chomping on a silicone ball all day should be a crucial part of their training.

Last spring, a Milan-based male model named Luca Marchesi, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok, posted a video showing the “results” of training his jaw for two straight months. The response was somewhat mixed — some compared him to Alvin and the Chipmunks, while others asked for more info on how he achieved the look. One follower wrote, “What trainer do u use. I have a weak ass chin I wanna chisel it.”

Desperate for a more defined jaw? Go for a run.

Marchesi likely uses Jawzrsize. The self-proclaimed “#1 hands-free workout for your neck and face,” it’s a compact rubber mouthpiece that promises varying levels of resistance (up to 50 pounds) for the “57+” muscles that surround your jaw. All you have to do? Chomp down on it while you’re sitting at your computer. It’s that easy. Jawzrsize’s site promises a “FULL FACIAL WORKOUT IN JUST A FEW MINUTES” that will eventually net you the sculpted face of your alpha male dreams. No more flabby cheeks or double chins or turkey necks.

The company was founded by Brandon Harris, who’s gone to the hospital for multiple head-related injuries throughout his adult life. There was a bar fight in Alaska, then a motorcycle accident in Hawaii, and each experience left him committed to strengthening his face. Jawzrsize frequently references these incidents on social media with videos or photos of Harris in the emergency room. But while it’s understandable that a man who’s used to having his jaw wired shut would be preoccupied with building it back, it’s unclear why he needs everyone else to, or how gnashing into his product is going to offer you anything in the way of holistic wellness.

As Robert Dodds, a certified personal trainer and fitness coach points out, Jawzrsize is repackaging an age-old wellness mistruth: spot reduction. “You can’t train away facial fat,” he says. “You lose fat from your face by following general weight-loss principles, by being in a caloric deficit. Most people are carrying more fat in their faces than they realize, which obscures the definition of their jawline. I would bet that if you get lean enough to see abs, you’d be happy with your jaw definition too.”

Even if you accept the premise that you could noticeably increase the size of your masseter muscle (of those 57+ facial muscles, it’s the main one in play), keep in mind that when we think of a “chiseled” jawline, we’re actually invoking facial structure. GigaChad’s infamous “square jaw” isn’t a muscle, it’s a bone — the mandible, which is the largest bone in the human skull. If you want it to look sharper, or straighter, you shouldn’t spend $45 on a chew toy. You should go for runs and cut back on beer.

Harris, like so many other fitness influencers out there today, touts a reversion to “primal living” as a key aspect of his regimen. “Over the years, humanity seems to have completely forgotten about the primal bite,” he tells his followers in one Instagram post. “It’s time we all get that back for the hundreds of benefits that it brings with it.”

This idea is baseless: our prehistoric ancestors tore through dense, fire-cooked game; we subsist on smoothies and French fries. As we’ve gone soft, so have our faces. But while some research has corroborated that jaw trainers “enhance bite force,” the same has been confirmed for chewing Orbit Spearmint (which early hominids most definitely did not have handy). In other words, your masticatory muscles are fine. You chew, talk, smile and frown all day long. The masseter and its associates are involved in all the above.

All this obsessive searching for the latest male imperfection is frustrating. You already had to worry about your dad body and man boobs and skipping leg day; now you have to worry about your jaws, too. On Harris’s end, the gimmick is working. According to GQ, the brand reeled in seven figures in 2020. As jaw training surged this year and workplace fitness fixes became more popular, it’s safe to say those earnings only went up.

Good rule of thumb for life? If the incels are obsessing over something, it’s best to stay away. I tried the Jawzrsize. It gave me a headache. I’d advise against trying any of the other trainers on the market, too. The founder of Jawzrsize’s main competitor, Chisell, once bragged about “all the girls at the conventions” who come up to him. “It’s like having abs for your face,” he said. No. Of course it isn’t. This isn’t wellness — it’s a time-suck side-show. Leave it for the men of 4chan. They’re the ones who sit in front of their computers all day, anyway.

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