Muay Thai is a multi-faceted martial art that involves punches and elbow strikes and a lot of kicks. So with all that kicking, is Muay Thai bad for your shins?
Here’s what I know from practicing it:
Muay Thai is not bad for one’s shins. However, it does take a lot of practice to condition the shins so that shin kicks are not painful to the kicker. Shin guards can help reduce the pain but also make shin conditioning take longer.
The shins are bony structures and can be fractured when being conditioned. But, these are mild micro-fractures, and the body heals the bones and becomes stronger.
In this article, we’ll check out how long it takes to condition the shins, whether Muay Thai is bad for your bones, and how MT fighters condition their shins. We’ll also check out other related themes around whether Muay Thai is bad for your shins.
Let’s get started…
Muaythai Classes / K1 Kickboxing:
Comes from Thailand and is known as Muaythai or Thai boxing. The thai version uses very brutal full contact. It has full contact punching, elbow strikes, and many kicks, especially low shin round kicks to the knee joints. pic.twitter.com/5Pv6Ddk0Uo
— Martial Art (@martialartjk) December 24, 2017
How long does it take to condition your shins for Muay Thai?
On average, it takes 3 to 6 months of practice to condition the shins until shin kicks are no longer as painful. This is assuming a practice regime of 3 times (or more) per week.
Most of the lean, mean, and strong Muay Thai fighters we admire have invested years in conditioning their physique and shins.
Some even train twice each day. So, the conditioning process has become a part of their lifestyle. The way to go is to simply incorporate conditioning your shins into your regular MT training. And it would be painful for a few weeks. So, just take it slow.
It’s painful because the shins have little to no muscles, and there’s little fat there.
It’s essentially a bony structure. In effect, you’d be hitting your bone against something while conditioning it. It’s not particularly pleasant, but it’s great training for when you’re in actual contests because a conditioned shin packs a lot of power.
Which begs the question of what they actually do. We’ll go into this in more depth in a bit. But, essentially, they hit the bags and run a lot.
— Rory Diesel (@SADiesel) May 22, 2012
Is Muay Thai bad for your bones?
Muay Thai, while potentially dangerous, is not bad for the bones. But Muay Thai practitioners do tend to have a higher level of injury than other martial artists and experience long-term negative effects on the joints and brain.
A similar process occurs when we’re engaged in training that affects our muscles. When we’ve subjected our muscles to intense stress over time, they do not become weaker; they become stronger.
The more the stress, the stronger they become.
Our bones work similarly. It’s technically known as Osseous hypertrophy. As a response to stress (conditioning in this case), the bones grow in size and become stronger. Of course, the conditioning has to be maintained, or the gain would be lost.
It’s not that the bones are broken when they are being conditioned, but rather that micro-fractures are triggered. The body repairs this by filling them with calcium, making the bones stronger.
Yeah, they’ll grow stronger, but that’s not to say that your shins would be deadened. Your shins would still hurt. It’s just that, in time, you would see the pain as something that comes with the territory.
Who do you think will win if a boxer and a Muay Thai fighter were to have a go at it?
A Muay Thai fighter would beat the boxer. Both are hip to boxing, and the MT fighter also has other weapons up his sleeve. They include elbow and knee strikes which are incredibly devastating. In a recent article of mine, I shared more details on why MT is better than boxing.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
How do Thai fighters condition their shins?
Muay Thai fighters condition their shins by practicing spinning round kicks on a heavy bag or against a partner holding a kicking shield. They practice repeatedly using both legs to ensure both legs get equal training.
But aside from conditioning the shins, we also need to build muscle and coordination. There are a few ways to do that, including:
Weight training does not only help with muscle building. It also helps with improving bone density. Squats and lunges are the way to go.
A medicine ball, barbell, or kettlebell can be used. Remember to keep your knees aligned to your feet to maintain a proper form. And, don’t be in a hurry.
Increase the weights gradually. The last thing you need is an injury.
In sparring, you would have an idea of what it feels like in a real fight.
Of course, this depends on its intensity. Ideally, you may want to use shin guards if you’re just getting started with MT and gradually ease into training without them. I am not going to lie, it would hurt at the beginning.
But, as you’ve read above, they’ll only get stronger in time.
Sparring is probably the best way to condition your shin since this is what you would be doing in a real fight. As you land and block kicks, you’ll feel the impact as you would when it’s time to do it for real.
Hitting heavy bags
Hitting heavy bags in the gym is one of the go-to ways for shin conditioning used by pros and noobs alike.
The bag is heavy and strong, so each impact is hard on your shin bones. You may want to get started by doing 25-50 kicks at each session and then graduate to a lot more over time. It’s one of the proven methods.
And, within a relatively short time, you’ll begin to feel and see the effect. You could start slowly by hitting the bag gently and then increase the intensity over time, as you imagine that the bag is an opponent you’re trying to bring down.
When you run, you can feel the strain as your legs hit the ground and are being resisted by the force of gravity. The vibrations and the force put a lot of stress on the bones, and in time the body overcompensates and grows stronger.
Running is so effective for shin conditioning and endurance building that many MT fighters and boxers run many kilometers as a regular part of their training regime.
— William Joseph Hill (@fourscorpio) August 11, 2016
Why do Muay Thai fighters break their legs?
While somewhat rare, Muay Thai fighters who have broken legs did so because they kicked using an area too high on the shin or they kicked against the bone of a fighter that was stronger than their shin.
I still recall seeing that fight where Anderson Silva broke his leg in UFC #168.
Silva went to deliver a potent kick in the 2nd round, and his opponent, Chris Weidman, blocked it with his knee. It was undoubtedly painful for Weidman, but it immediately made Silva’s leg look like bent rubber.
Silva not only trained Muay Thai, but also BJJ and Taekwondo.
If a Muay Thai fighter does not have a conditioned shin, is not using their body to propel the kick at the right angle, and has got the timing wrong, they could break their leg. But, as I said earlier, it’s a rare occurrence.
Muay Thai is supposed to be one of the most lethal martial arts. But, can you use Muay Thai in a street fight?
It’s a good question. Who wants something that’s only awesome in the gym? So, what’s the deal with Muay Thai in the street?
You’re in luck, seeing as that’s what a recent article of mine is about. I explained that it could be used in a street fight seeing as MT fighters have been trained to use different parts of their body as weapons, and they also go through training regimes that help condition their bodies.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Does shin conditioning cause arthritis?
Shin conditioning does not cause arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that affects a joint or multiple joints. The shin is not a joint, therefore, there’s no way conditioning it can trigger arthritis.
It’s a condition that’s common with folks that are over 65 and overweight.
More women suffer from it. It’s not a condition that’s common with those with highly active lifestyles, such as MT fighters. That’s not to say that no Muay Thai fighter has it.
And, even in cases where a fighter has it, rest assured that it’s not caused by shin conditioning.
Arthritis affects young people but is a condition that’s common with senior citizens with a weight challenge. That’s not your typical Muay Thai fighter if you ask me.
This is not to say that shin conditioning has no side effects. But, it can be reduced if the conditioning is done properly, as I have shared in a section above. Don’t use anything too strong to condition your shins!
In the article, we learned that Muay Thai is not bad for your shins, especially if you condition them regularly on a Muay Thai heavy bag, especially if you condition them regularly on a Muay Thai heavy bag. MT fighters are taught how to make their shins stronger.
We looked at how long it takes to condition the shins, whether MT is bad for one’s bones, and how shin conditioning is done by MT fighters. We also addressed the question of why they break their legs (or, do they?)
And we wrapped things up by considering whether shin conditioning can trigger arthritis?