Many casual fans see Thai boxing as a martial art where fighters march forward, spamming punches to the head and leg kicks. But if you take a closer look at the difference between beginner and expert, you’ll see a lot of high kicks and entertaining knockouts.
How do they do it? Well, let me reveal the secret – Muay Thai stretches!
Strong shins are the trademark of Thai boxing, shin-to-shin collisions happen every 5-10 seconds. But Muay Thai stretches are making a critical difference between an average fighter and a very successful ring warrior or a champ.
Types Of Flexibility
American Council on Exercise (ACE claims that flexibility is “the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses” and recognizes three types of flexibility – dynamic, active, and passive).
- Dynamic flexibility refers to the ability to perform dynamic movements of the muscles bringing your limb through its full range of motion in the joints.
- Active flexibility means assuming and maintaining extended positions using only the tension of your muscles. For example, lifting the leg in the air and holding it at the level of your body or head.
- Passive flexibility means the ability to hold maximum range of motion (ROM) positions using the support of your limbs, partner’s weight, or some other force (for example, a chair or a machine).
Now another question for you. Which type of stretching is the most important for successful Muay Thai performance? The answer is – both dynamic and active flexibility! Trading long-range strikes with your opponent can turn into a nightmare if your muscles are stiff. You won’t see a Thai boxing fighter holding his leg in the air because his foe might kick him to the standing leg and leave a better impression on judges.
But Muay Thai stretches are also based on static drills. Oh, yea, guys, this is not a joke. When a stiff fighter joins a Thai boxing dojo, he’ll be limited to boxing and low kicks in the beginning. It means he’ll have a hard time against a flexible footwork specialist in the competition.
Muay Thai Stretches – Dynamic Or Static Stretching Exercises?
I vote for both types of exercises. In Muay Thai, bouncing brings the leg above the level of your head, which is awesome when you meet the taller opponent. Also, Brazilian (downward roundhouse) kick experts can hurt your foe from close range.
If your flexibility is poor, you can forget about head kicks and long-range combinations. We recommend you to combine partner drills (plastic effect, greater amplitude improvements but flexibility changes won’t last for long) with active stretches (elastic effect, leads to smaller amplitude but long-lasting changes). This stretching routine combines both dynamic and static exercises.
How To Stretch Properly? Which Areas Should I Target?
Oh, that’s a tricky question. For example, let’s bet more than 80% of people will tell you to give advantage to adductors over hamstrings. But they are making a big mistake because inappropriate Muay Thai stretches will disable the ability of quick step-drag forward and backward, which will turn you into a sitting duck.
High-quality Muay Thai performance demands an elite level of a calf, adductor, groin, hamstring, glute, and shoulder flexibility. Let me guess, you have a question. Why shoulders?
Unfortunately, if you’re a casual fan, you’ll have a hard time understanding. But I will try to be as clear as possible. The answer is blocking and spinning strikes.
When you block, you must absorb powerful strikes. The stiff shoulder will absorb the strike, but you’ll need more time to counter.
It makes your performance worse. Also, a good spinning backfist and spinning back elbow are an awesome way to turn the lights out on your rival. But you must relax your flexible shoulders to maximize power.
My Muay Thai stretches are specifically based on Thai boxing mechanics and fighting movements. Listen, many “big famous coaches” focus on general drills and they can’t back their statements up with Muay Thai examples. But I am different, I want to maximize your performance and achievements. These are specific ancient Siamese martial art’s stretching drills.
What To Do Before Stretching?
Please, but please warm-up, this is non-negotiable. Stretching at the end of the training session serves to relax and recover you, but my Muay Thai stretches are made for great results. If you don’t increase the temperature of your working muscles, you risk injury, and you won’t be able to train for some time.
Muay Thai Drills With Explanations
I will focus on two dynamic Muay Thai stretches in the first place.
Why should you do it? This exercise serves to maximize the power of your low kicks and high kicks. If you feel the stretch in your adductors, hips, and glutes; you’re doing the drill properly.
- Put your swinging (left) leg behind your leading (right) leg.
- Bring your left leg up, your right knee is slightly bent. Take your left leg across to the right until you feel the stretch.
- Rotate your left arm to the inside pulling your right one backward.
- Return to the starting position. Do 10-20 repetitions, then switch to another arm/leg.
- Kick to the side and focus on the kick, do not drag your leg.
- You mustn’t kick in front of you, this is not a front/push kick training session.
- I recommend you to kick off with your kicking leg slightly bent and to extend it as you’re reaching the final position to simulate Muay Thai movement.
- Try to relax as much as possible.
Why should you do it? Single collar clinch, sweeps, double unders, pummel.
- Stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart. Look forward and keep your arms bent, lined with your shoulders, and cross your fingers (Muay Thai clinch).
- Slowly twist to the sides, do not move your legs. Please look in the direction of your twist. 10-20 repetitions on each side.
- Do not rotate your neck and spine.
- Simulate Muay Thai clinch, but don’t bounce.
- Speed movement is slow-to-moderate, this is a warm-up. You don’t want a lower back injury.
And now it’s time for static Muay Thai stretches. It’s time to boost flexibility!
Sitting Medial Deltoid Stretch
Why should I do it? Flexible shoulders, good spinning techniques, and defense.
- Sit on a chair keeping both arms are straight on the edge of the seat. Please rotate your shoulders and hands to the outside.
- Lean-to your left and feel deltoid muscles flatten (you are stretching the middle part of your shoulder).
- Hold the position for 15-20 seconds, then perform the same movement pattern with your other arm.
- You are allowed to rotate your hands more to the outside, but if and only if you don’t feel the stretch.
- You must feel the stretch of the middle part of your shoulder, not the front or lateral part.
- Keep your arms lined with your shoulders for maximum stretching effect.
Why should I do it? Muay Thai clinch, especially due to diagonal and horizontal knees. It is also beneficial for knee bombs.
- Sit on the ground, bring your heels together, grasping your feet. Keep your feet as close to your groin as possible.
- Place your elbows on the inner part of your thighs (5-10 cm above the level of your knee), and start pushing your legs towards the floor.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Do not curve your spine and head.
- You can push down with your elbows too.
- No bouncing.
Lying Glute Stretch
Why should I do it? This is one of the best Muay Thai stretches for knees and leg combos.
- Lie on your back bending your left knee and grabbing it with your left arm.
- Pull the knee towards the canvas across your body keeping your back on the mat.
- As soon as you reach maximum stretch, hold the position for 15-20 seconds.
- Return to the starting position, repeat the same movement pattern for your other knee.
- Forget about bouncing.
- Your spine, head, and back must remain on the canvas or mat all the time!
All Fours Calf Stretch
Why should you do it? You’ll move like a cat, no further explanation required!
- Lie down on a mat, and push your body assuming all fours position.
- Raise your hips into the air straightening your arms and legs. Form an upside-down V figure, keeping your elbows and knees straight.
- Lift your left foot off the ground, placing it on your right ankle, and lower your right heel as close as you can to the ground.
- Raise your right heel and maintain the position for 15-20 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and perform the same movement pattern for your opposite leg.
- Do not bounce.
- Perform the movements slowly and gently.
- You must form figure V, please.
Hamstring Stretch With Extended Leg (Partner Drill)
Why should I do it? Axe kick, high kick, push kick, crane kick… You name it, it is one of the best hamstring Muay Thai stretches!
- Lie on your back and lift your right leg off the floor. Your partner kneels on the knee of your left leg and puts his shin on your left ankle to control the movement.
- Your partner grabs the heel of your right leg and pushes slightly forward, and holds for 20 seconds when you feel the stretch.
- Partner lets you go, you return to the starting position and repeat the same movement pattern for your opposite leg.
- Your partner should stretch you slowly or you’ll risk an injury.
- Keep your non-stretching leg on the floor.
- If you don’t have a partner, grab your stretching leg and pull towards yourself, but try not to bend it.
I recommend you start with dynamic Muay Thai stretches, then transition to the other ones, because it will prepare your limbs for the upcoming activity.
The second recommendation is to follow the principle “from head to toe”. My recommended order looks like this:
- Standing rotation;
- Outside-inside swing;
- Sitting medial deltoid stretch;
- Lying glute stretch;
- Butterfly stretch;
- Hamstring stretch;
- All-fours calf stretch.
Muay Thai stretches are tricky, please do it properly and make the most of it. You can push your flexibility to the next level and improve your footwork, but you must stay dedicated! Rome was not built in a day.