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Shin Conditioning for Muay Thai and MMA
Shin conditioning is extremely important in muay thai and MMA. We are kicking and blocking using our shins, so they need to be able to take the impact. Our shins are naturally sensitive, but through conditioning we can make the bone stronger and dull the pain sensation. It is critical to use proper shin conditioning techniques or else you risk seriously injuring yourself (read my article on treating shin injuries). Have you seen those videos of fighters breaking their shins? This happened because they tried to condition their shins with improper techniques. This article will explain how to safely and effectively condition your shins for muay thai and MMA.
How Shin Conditioning Works
When you repeatedly impact your shin, you force your body to adapt. It does this first by deadening nerve sensations. In other words, it becomes less painful when you hit your shin. The second thing that happens is an actual change to your bone density. Your body responds to the impacts by building up the inside of your hollow shin bone. The final change is a hard calcium deposit on top of the bone, kind of like a callus.
How to Condition Your Shins
There are no fancy or quick ways to condition your shins. The idea of hitting your shins with hard objects, or rolling something over them, or kicking parking meters is ridiculous and dangerous. I can hear the naysayers now, "But didn't muay thai practitioners kick banana trees before there were heavy bags?" Yes, and some still do. BUT, banana trees are soft--almost identical to modern heavy bags. The reality is, shin conditioning starts with thai pads, moves to the heavy bag, and is a slow process.
When you first start kicking thai pads, you are likely to have some minor bruising for the first week or two. You may even have some minor discomfort. This quickly goes away as you condition your shins and before you know it, kicking a thai pad is like kicking cotton balls.
Once this happens, you're ready to start blasting away at the heavy bag. You need to make sure you have a quality heavy bag or you risk injury. A quality bag is NOT filled with sand. A sand filled bag is far too dense and you will only hurt your shins. Also beware of poor quality heavy bags that settle, or have all the packing sink to the bottom. This makes the bottom of the bag like a brick...something you don't want to kick. Like when you first started with thai pads, you can expect some minor bruising and discomfort. As your shins continue to condition, this will go away.
As you get comfortable kicking the heavy bag, you should also invest in shin guards. Make sure to get shin guards that are for combat sports--I recommend Twins. Drilling and sparring with shin guards allows you to take significant impacts without hurting yourself. This will further help to condition your shins.
Tips and Treating Injury
After you are comfortable kicking the heavy bag and sparring full contact in shin guards, you are well on your way. Remember that shin conditioning is a slow process, one that will take a couple years of repeated practice. There are no magic bullets, just repeat this and over time your shins will become like rock.
There are some things you can do to help the process. One is to make sure you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Both these nutrients are critical to bone health. Investing in dit da jow is another life saver. Dit da jow is an ancient chinese herbal rub that accelerates healing and cures bruises, as well as treating and preventing inflammation. I recommend buying from PlumDragon Herbs. I have used them many times and find they make the best jow.
If you do injure your shins, allow them to heal fully before you continue conditioning. If you have inflammation or lumps, you'll want to ice them as soon as possible. Twenty minutes of ice, followed by one hour of no ice--be sure not to put ice on your bare skin, put a thin towel in between. Repeat this until the swelling subsides.
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