For every Muay Thai fighter or enthusiast, having strong shins could mean the difference between a powerful kick, capable of knocking out an opponent, and a weak one. Strong shins also mean a better chance for a fighter to withstand kicks that are thrown at him.
The kick is one of the most valuable strikes in a Muay Thai fighter’s arsenal. The upper part of the shinbone, in particular, is what must make contact with his opponent’s body, leg or head in order to inflict the most damage. Thus, proper conditioning of the shins is essential.
Unfortunately, many Muay Thai students believe that “numbing down” or “destroying nerves” equates to shin conditioning. They also believe that they must kick a banana tree down like Buakaw in order to get shins of steel.
Instead, one’s shins become desensitized through conditioning. The more you condition your shins, the more pain you are able to withstand. Every time you kick a bag hard, tiny fractures or microfractures develop in your shinbone or tibia. Through ossification, the fractured bones are repaired and become denser and stronger as a result because of the new bone tissue created.
If you can’t find a banana tree around, don’t worry. The only place to condition your shins is in your gym. Today, Evolve Vacation shares 4 Ways To Condition Your Shins For Muay Thai:
1) Build bone density
Professional Muay Thai fighters and serious Muay Thai students often run up to 10 kilometers before a training session to build the endurance they need in the ring. Endurance is one of the most important qualities a Muay Thai fighter must have in his arsenal. It determines their ability to last all 5 rounds during a fight.
Apart from building endurance, running is also known to increase bone density. The vibrations from the constant pounding on the road, coupled with the force of gravity, puts bones under strain and forces the body to overcompensate. The result — the bones grow back stronger which builds stronger legs and shins.
2) Heavy bag training
To get rock hard shins, you’ll need to kick a bag thousands of times as hard as you can, repeatedly. Although it may take years, there’s no time like now to start working on conditioning your shins. Don’t worry; hard shins are worth the effort. You’ll definitely see the results when you land those body kicks in a fight!
During training, your instructor has probably asked you to start off class with 50-100 kicks for each leg. If you feel like you can do more, why not go for it? It will only help you condition your shins faster. Even if you have ring experience, heavy bag training is still one of the best conditioning exercises you can do for your shins.
If you’ve never really tried conditioning your shins, start slowly and build up the intensity gradually. Eventually, the repeated motion will toughen your shins, allowing you to kick more and with greater intensity.
In this video, multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion Penek Sitnumnoi demonstrates repeat kicks on the bag. To condition your shins, you should add this drill to your training. Notice how he gets up on the ball on his planted foot, swings his arms, and pivots his hips for maximum force.
Sparring is undoubtedly one of the best ways to condition your shins. It strengthens your shins as you land kicks on your opponent or when you check kicks. If you’ve just started sparring in your Muay Thai classes, you would have probably used a pair of shin guards. Don’t worry, the shin guards will protect your shins as they should, but you will most definitely feel it when someone checks your kicks, especially if you’ve kicked hard. The more you get used to blocking, counter-attacking and attacking using your shins, the less it will hurt.
If you and your partner are up for it, you can try sparring without any gear. However, try to keep it light and flowy rather than hard. You should be focusing on techniques and combinations rather than going all out. This way, you have some kind of idea of what real impact on your shins feels like.
In this video, multiple-time Muay Thai World Champions Sam-A Gaiyanghadao and Orono Wor Petchpun demonstrate what a sparring session is like with shin pads.
4) Lift weights
Studies show that weight training has the ability to increase bone density, which is needed for supporting strong legs. If you’re looking to strengthen your shins, then perhaps including weight lifting into your training repertoire is a must. Weight training is also reported to have the ability to improve muscle mass, balance, connective tissue strength as well as overall strength and explosiveness.
To increase bone density in your lower body, try implementing the following exercises into your training regimen, gradually increasing the weight every week:
Squats – Whether you choose to use a traditional barbell, kettlebell or medicine ball against a wall, remember to maintain proper form by keeping your knees in line with your feet.
Lunges – For better results, try weighted lunges using a kettlebell or dumbbell. By isolating one leg and balancing on it, you’re building bone density and working on your hip and leg muscles as well.
The more you train Muay Thai, the stronger your shins will become. Through all the hard work you put in before and after class, your shins would have been weathered from the constant contact. Conditioning your shins is a gradual process. Build up the number of hard kicks you do on the heavy bag during your dedicated shin conditioning time progressively. Most importantly, you will need to give your legs time to heal. There’s no need to rush and wear your shins down. Trust us, they will hurt and you might end up having to take a rest day or two to soothe the pain.