Let's say you are in a war-situation, and both you and your opponent are out of bullets. When I was in the army, I learned that the most efficient way to kill your opponent would be to kick him in the balls until he was incapacitated by the pain (one or two good hits in the nuts), then finish him off by some means.

I have since doubted this claim: Would you really notice the pain in such a situation? I imagine it works in a surprise attack, but is it efficient when the body is in a fight-mode and full of adrenaline? If no, how long does it take to reach such a mode where you don't feel pain from when you are mentally aware that your life is in danger?

In particular, what triggers the no-pain-mode? Is it physical or psychological, controllable etc?

What exactly happens to the body when you are in a fight-mode? There are lots of rumours of huge strength increasing. For example, women lifting cars when their baby is trapped underneath, etc.) Is there any scientific studies showing that people become able to lift heavier objects than normal?

  • 5
    Interesting, but what claim/belief are you questioning here? You seem to have many sub-questions that would make this overly broad and/or difficult to answer. Commented May 9, 2011 at 21:05
  • Just kick soldier 5 times in the nuts if man else in the boobs.
    – Job
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 21:38
  • 1
    You are asking several different question. The increased pain tolerance in stressful or life-threatening situation is a well documented neurological effect (have you ever gotten hurt badly and immediately tried to get up and pretend it was ok), various hormones (like adrenaline) suppress the pain response in order to help you survive. Increased strength seems farfetched, although the decreased pain may allow the person to lift more than what s/he could handle before, there is no physiological reason that your body would get actually stronger.
    – crasic
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:45
  • Dr. David Banner (physician; scientist) was studying this exact topic when a tragic fire in his lab interrupted his research. tinyurl.com/4xup88r
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 6:22

3 Answers 3


From Discovery Health - How can adrenaline help you lift a 3,500-pound car?

When adrenaline is released by the adrenal medulla it allows blood to flow more easily to your muscles. This means that more oxygen is carried to your muscles by the extra blood, which allows your muscles to function at elevated levels.

Adrenaline also facilitates the conversion of the body's fuel source (glycogen) into its fuel (glucose). This carbohydrate gives energy to muscles, and a sudden burst of glucose also allows muscles to strengthen further.

But of course an adrenaline rush can't boost your strength to infinity. Every body has physical (muscles, tendons, bones) limitations that can't be exceeded.

More Sources:

News articles:


Increased strength seems farfetched, although the decreased pain may allow the person to lift more than what s/he could handle before, there is no physiological reason that your body would get actually stronger.

I watched a National Geographic program about this: someone trapped under a slab of rock that had fallen on his chest, and sliding towards a cliff edge.

He did a bench press that pushed the rock off him: the push was successful, but he ripped ligaments in his arms/shoulders/chest.

I think we're theoretically strong enough to rip ligaments. We're physiologically/neurologically inhibited from doing so (from exercising so much of that strength) under normal circumstances.

(The same NG documentary also featured someone's sprinting away from a fire.)

  • 2
    Citation, please.
    – user3150
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 13:53

If you are really interested, I suggest you to read this review in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (a very well known basic and clinical research publication): http://www.jci.org/articles/view/43766

The endogenous (i.e., not induced by drugs) reduction in pain is achieved at several levels in the endocrine and nervous systems. There is no such thing as "no pain state", but the feeling can be reduced drastically. More importantly, you may know you're in pain, but you do not feel so much it. Propioception (the physical self awareness) is still there, but the pain pathways are partially blocked.

Regardless of the increased strength, I would believe it is due to a reduced fear to damage yourself and again increased pain tolerance, that allow you to perform tasks that you would not normally do. Lifting a car can be quite painful to your arms, so in normal situations you might not use your strengh at full capacity just so you do not damage yourself.

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