Muay Thai shin conditioning isn’t talked about much as a beginner. But it’s vitally important to know how to condition your shins for Muay Thai.
If you’ve never trained in Muay Thai or kickboxing then your shins won’t be used to the constant use that comes with it. This is especially true in Muay Thai as the aim of kicks is to connect with the middle of your shin. Not the lower shin and foot like in kickboxing.
You can forget about using a Muay Thai shin conditioning stick or rolling pin too. Here, we’re going to give you tips on how to strengthen your shins for Muay Thai without purposely causing yourself pain.
- 1 How to condition your shins for Muay Thai
- 2 Summary
- 3 FAQs
How to condition your shins for Muay Thai
You should be kicking in every training session and doing this against Muay Thai pads or focus mitts can help with your shin conditioning.
Most original Muay Thai brands use real leather for their pads so they are much harder than fake leather alternatives. This makes them better for Muay Thai shin conditioning when doing pad work.
If you’re a young fighter or already have sore shins then you may want to train with punch mitts instead. That said, at most gyms in Thailand you won’t have the choice.
If you’re in the States, we recommend asking your gym to buy hard kick pads or you can even buy them yourself. This is because you can harden your shins faster putting you on a good path to sparring with no shin guards.
Train on the Heavy Bag
If you’ve ever trained in a Muay Thai gym in Thailand, you would have noticed that some Muay Thai bags are rock solid!
That’s because most of them are filled with sand for the very reason of conditioning a fighter’s shins. There’s also the fact that it’s a cheap material to fill a punching bag with.
If you’re kicking a water heavy bag or one with EVA foam, your shins aren’t going to get conditioned as fast as one with sand.
Although, if you’re a complete beginner, it’s best to start on a softer bag and then work your way up to the more dense bags.
This is why shin conditioning isn’t something that happens overnight. Oh no, your body needs time to regrow the bone density stronger than before.
Depending on how many times a week you train, each time you’re in the gym you should be doing heavy bag work. It is a great starting point to harden your shins for Muay Thai.
Sparring is another great way to slowly harden your Muay Thai shins without using a tool.
Whilst it can be daunting at first, you just have to jump into it and not be afraid to get hit. Plus, as a beginner, you’ll be sparring with Muay Thai shin guards until you get used to it.
This allows you to feel more comfortable as your shins are protected. It also allows you to kick a bit harder than if your legs were bare as there’s less injury risk.
Even with the best Muay Thai shin guards, you’ll still feel the contact when kicking your sparring partner. Anyone who says otherwise is just being macho.
Trust us, if your shin catches your partner’s knee or elbow it can be painful. So, sparring with protection will slightly help to condition your shins.
Once you’re no longer a beginner, when you feel comfortable, you can wear thinner MMA shin guards to spar. You won’t have the same padded protection, but it will help to keep hardening your shins.
The final goal is to spar without any guards as they’re not used in Muay Thai fights.
Though, it’s best to make sure your shins are conditioned enough before trying this. Plus, in Muay Thai sparring you need to be in control of your kicks as the aim isn’t to hurt your partner.
Running & Strength Training
Running and resistance training also helps your shins become conditioned for Muay Thai. That is long as it’s moderate.
Muay Thai fighters and boxers are known for running as part of their training program. Whilst there have been studies over the years that look at how running affects the body detrimentally, it’s still a big discussion point.
According to this study from Lee Jong Hwa in the Journal of exercise rehabilitation, there is no detrimental effect on the bone’s properties if you run a marathon per week.
Long-distance running can even boost your growth hormones which in turn help to build your bone density. Many Muay Thai Fighters even run twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening. The second run will usually be half the distance of the morning run.
Strength training can also aid in helping to strengthen your shins.
Weighted exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and lunges put stress on your muscles causing minor tears and they rebuild stronger and larger.
This is also the case for putting stress on your bones, especially your tibia. This means that your bone density will increase which will harden your shins over time. Those three exercises are some of the best to do for this.
I love the quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and even though it’s not related to Muay Thai or fighting, it can apply to the conditioning of your shins.
Your shins aren’t going to become hardened after a couple of sessions. Even after 20 sessions, you will still feel shin pain, especially if you catch someone’s bony knee or elbow.
This is why it’s important to be patient and not get disheartened if your shins still hurt after months of training. Conditioning your shins for Muay Thai takes time.
This also leads on to the next point which is all about healing your shins after a session.
treat your shins after intense sessions
Serious Muay Thai fighters will treat their shins after intense sessions and there’s no reason that you shouldn’t do this too.
Especially, if you’re new to Muay Thai and feel pain in your shin after training. Here are some quick tips for this:
- Use Namman Muay Thai Liniment or tiger balm on your shins
- Ice your shins after a session
- Use heat pads or hot water on the painful shin area and then massage out any lumps
- Wear compression calf/ankle sleeves
- Elevate the sore leg above your heart
Here’s a great video on YouTube from Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu of 8limbsus.com on how you can treat your shins when you have lumps, dents, and bruises.
You might want to train every day after becoming addicted to Muay Thai, but as a beginner that isn’t smart. If you’re putting too much pressure on your shins without letting them recover, you’ll end up with an injury.
That’s why resting is so important for Muay Thai shin conditioning as it gives your body time to recover.
Although there’s the famous “No pain, no Muay Thai” saying in gyms in Thailand, you should listen to your body and rest when it’s telling you to.
As we said before, if you overdo it, you could put yourself out with a more serious injury for longer than necessary.
Missing a day or two isn’t going to stunt your progression and your shins will be grateful for this rest.
Make sure to eat well
A fighter’s nutrition is important for so many reasons and one of these is to help your body to recover faster. That includes the damage done to your shins for them to become conditioned.
You need to make sure to get enough protein in your diet to help your muscles and the bone density in your shin rebuild.
Getting enough vitamins and minerals from healthy fruits and vegetables is also vital.
Carbohydrates and healthy fats are also key for a fighter’s diet plan.
Without all this combined, your body will take longer to recover. Plus, you won’t have the energy to train as much as you could with an adequate diet.
Whilst it’s best to get all your needed vitamins and minerals in the food you eat, it’s not always possible.
For example, if you’re lactose intolerant, you might not get enough calcium which is vital for building strong, healthy bones.
Vitamin D is also important for keeping bones healthy as it helps the body absorb calcium. So, if you’re not getting enough, you can get a vitamin D supplement.
If you live in a state that doesn’t get much sunlight then your vitamin D levels may be naturally low.
There are now bone strength supplements that contain a mixture of the following:
- Protein (from MCHA and Amino Acid Chelates)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K-2
- Thiamin (Vitamin B-1)
If you know you’re deficient in any of these then it may be worth getting a bone-focused supplement to speed up your shin recovery time.
It’s important to understand early on that your shins aren’t going to become conditioned for Muay Thai fast. Like any physical training, results take time and consistency is key.
If you’re training at a good gym, then you’ll already be doing a lot of what we’ve covered. For example, pad work, heavy bag work, and sparring will be part of your daily routine and will naturally help to condition your shins.
But, you now know that it’s also good to do other things to help your shins recover and harden over time.
This is why it’s good to actively heal your shins after a session and make sure your diet is right. Plus, maybe most importantly give your shins enough rest to recover properly.
- Lee, Jong Hwa. “The effect of long-distance running on bone strength and bone biochemical markers.” Journal of exercise rehabilitation vol. 15,1 26-30. 25 Feb. 2019, doi:10.12965/jer.1836564.282 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6416492/
How long does it take to condition your shins for Muay Thai?
For a complete beginner, it is going to take at least 3-6 months to condition your shins. That’s if you’re training 3-5 times a week. It can take longer than this and remember that everyone’s body is different.
Plus, even experienced fighters will still feel pain in their shins. You will always have some nerves in your shins and that’s just part of Muay Thai that you have to accept.
How do Muay Thai fighters condition their shins?
Muay Thai fighters condition their shins in many ways, but the most important is frequent training. This means training on the pads, on the heavy bag, and sparring with a partner at least 3 times per week.
Running and weight training can also help and of course, your diet and recovery are important too.