We have another interesting topic for all of you Muay Thai fighters out there. So, how do you build up your endurance and have proper shin conditioning?
In Muay Thai, leg kicks are inevitable, meaning, your shin has to be strong enough. Now, we won’t be talking about technique because that goes without a doubt. If you try leg kicks right away, without previously knowing the fundamentals of a kick, chances are you will get pretty hurt. So, if you know the fundamentals and how to deliver a proper kick, we can begin.
One of the things we are trying to prevent here are SHIN SPLINTS.
What are shin splints?
If you frequently feel pain in the area between your knee and your ankle, you might be diagnosed with shin splints. Doctors like to call it medial tibial stress syndrome, but don’t let that name scare you. Doctors like to throw those fancy names around so that they sound like bad-asses, but we prepared you for that scenario as well. What’s up now doc?
Shin splints are common among athletes. They are frequent especially in those sports where an athlete needs to stop and then move again as fast and explosive as he can. Muay Thai fighters are the ones who can get this, for the obvious reasons.
So, shin splints can “catch” you if you are putting too much force on your shin bone and tissue surrounding it. They may also appear after a bone fracture as a result of stress reaction.
Pain on both sides of the shin bone, weakness in your feet, muscle pain, shin pain even when you’re resting, swelling in the lower leg.
If you have some of these symptoms most likely you have shin splints and need to go to the doctor.
So, as an athlete, or just a mere mortal human being, you want to avoid this cruel pain. As a martial artist you must be prepared for anything, especially for these things. If you get injured one day you don’t want to tell your friends that it was you who did, right? You don’t want to be that clumsy friend that everyone makes fun of, so let’s prepare!
Muay thai shin conditioning tips
Before we begin, we would like to clear the air when it comes to myths related to shin conditioning. Many people have heard about them but just because they are popular doesn’t mean that they are the right thing to do.
Myth number 1
Kicking trees, metal or any other hard material will condition your shin.
This one is so frequently asked and believed to be true. Is it? NO!
All that you can do by kicking trees in your Muay Thai training is get your tibia broken. Minor injury would happen only if you are the luckiest person on the planet.
We are aware that there are plenty of videos on the internet where Muay Thai fighters are kicking trees and even destroying them in half with their force, but this isn’t really how it looks like. The trees they are kicking are not just random trees that were closest to them. They always choose a tree that’s soft, like a banana tree, and with that, they won’t get seriously injured. The strong ones don’t, an inexperienced Muay Thai fighter on the other hand, most likely will. So next time you see them taking down trees with their feet, check and see how that tree looks like. We would like to see them try that with coconut trees, OUCH.
Myth number 2
You can kill your nerves by shin conditioning.
Fighters believe that with good and persistent shin conditioning they will get their nerves killed, therefore they will kick harder and absorb kicks with no pain. This is a terrible lie that most people take in as an absolute truth.
With proper shin conditioning you won’t get your nerves killed, you will just get used to it and your brain won’t sense the pain anymore, it will become a normal body function. So yes, a part of the myth is correct, but the main belief isn’t. You should be consistent, and we will tell you how later on, but your nerves won’t get “deleted” by the process.
Okay, with this being settled it is time for you to learn.
How to condition your shins properly.
The more you condition them, the more they can withstand.
Spar as much as you can
Sparring is pretty important when it comes to shin conditioning. You will attack your partner, practice those kicks, block, move and test your shins against a real opponent.
You can spar in two ways:
- With gear
- Without gear
If you are a beginner then the first one is for you without a doubt.
When an opponent is trying to block your kick, what often happens is that they might end up blocking it with their elbows. That will hurt like hell leaving you open for some devastating punches since you would be off balance.
Shin guards prevent that. However, they don’t offer you 100% protection, you might still feel pain, but it is less of a possibility.
Sparring without gear has to be much more thought through. Both you and your sparring partner need to know that you shouldn’t be going at each other with full force. It should be like a play in the theatre, meaning that both of you would need a script. You want to take an easy, calm approach, practice what you need but do so without surprising your partner. Notice how we say PARTNER not OPPONENT.
Muay Thai fighters from Thailand use sparring as shin conditioning tool all the time.
Train on the heavy bag as much as you can
This one will do wonders for your shins. You will get them hardened and rock hard but it will take a lot of time. Start with a certain amount of kicks with each leg. Don’t slack! Put the maximum force into it and push yourself as well as your numbers.
If you are a newbie to Muay Thai, then use a normal bag, however when you progress, a heavy bag is a must.
Using a heavy bag in Muay Thai shin conditioning will not only help you get a hard shin, it will also help you with conditioning and technique.
After your first session you will feel pain, however this is good. You will get used to that, just accept it as part of the process. We are Muay Thai fighters, not losers that fear pain!
After countless hours of kicking the bag, completing reps of 100 kicks for each leg or more, you will get your shins in a fight–ready condition. This is what we already talked about. You will get your brain and muscles to remember the movement, remember the pain and accept it. You will get used to shin pain and in time, it will no longer hurt. Nerves aren’t killed in the process, the heavy bag is.
Run as much as you can
Get up early, or whenever you can, and go for a nice run. Serious Muay Thai fighters run up to 15 kilometres before any training session.
Running will improve your stamina, another key factor not just in Muay Thai but in any sport. It will make you last longer, in the ring of course. However, conditioning is not the only thing that you will be working on. Running is good for bone density, just the thing that you need for your shins!
When you run, you constantly put stress on your bones from pounding the ground. As a result, your bones will get stronger.
If you run like a lunatic pounding the ground too hard you will only hurt your body. Run with proper technique and push yourself!
Lift weights often
We said “often” and not “as much as you can” for a reason. Hitting the gym too much while you are in Muay Thai training can end up destroying your body. Your body right now has its own limits, by proper training you will push them, but don’t over exaggerate.
Also, classical weight lifting isn’t what we are talking about here. You should do exercises where you must pick something up and put it back down again.
Squats and lunges are fantastic exercises for shin conditioning. Use dumbbells and work those legs with proper form of each exercise.
With weighted lunges, you will be isolating one leg, getting your leg and hip muscles stronger, all while maintaining balance.
It’s a perfect exercise for explosiveness as well.
Besides from lunges and squats, you can do box jumps and jump squats. Everything else is just a variation of these.
Consume the right food and drinks as much as you can
Two things are crucial here: Calcium and Vitamin D. They are key factors in developing your bones and cells.
Milk is full with calcium and it will help you like no other. That’s why doctors usually advise young kids to drink plenty of alcho.. um milk.
So drink milk, yoghurt, eat cheese as much as you can. It will develop and strengthen your bones, meaning, it will strengthen your shins!
Here are some tips when it comes to your breakfast:
1 glass of soy milk (80 to 500 milligrams of calcium)
1 glass of yoghurt (300 to 400 milligrams of calcium)
Orange juice (200 to 400 milligrams of calcium)
Mix these however you want with your breakfast.
Always take good care of your shins
Treat them like your babies. You depend on them a lot!
When you are resting, especially when you are sleeping, your body starts to heal. However, you must consider speeding up the process for your shins. If you are serious when it comes to Muay Thai, you should be training almost every day, so you will be needing those legs every day.
After each and every Muay Thai practice, after you’ve destroyed your shins from kicking, remember to go home, relax, and take care of them.
Hot water helps. Put a towel under hot water and then put that towel on your shins. Massage them nice and slow. Do not use full pressure. This is the ending of your training, your time to relax, so do that! Massage your legs, think of something positive, and that would be it. Another practice completed!
Tigerbalm is another great thing that you can use. After you have done massaging your shins, put some Tigerbalm on them. It will help with circulation and speed the healing process.
And that does it! If you take our advices seriously and do the things we mentioned, day in day out, eventually you will develop the shins of steel. So you could, hypothetically, beat the crap out of Superman just with your legs.
Enjoy the process, welcome the pain and stay healthy our Muay Thai friends!