The other day I was training one of my clients who has dabbled in martial arts and boxing for years. At the end of our session he asked me what I believed to be the benefits of doing muay Thai. It’s a very simple question, but to be honest I don’t think one of my students has ever really asked me before.
Generally, I have found that the people I teach have had a desire to learn the art or have already practiced it in the past, whether as a hobby done a few times a week or as something they take seriously. So this article is dedicated to those people who may have an interest in learning muay Thai, but who don’t really know a lot about what it is or what it can do for your body.
Muay Thai is a striking art that utilizes attacks from the fists, elbows, knees, and feet. Strikes can be thrown from long, mid, or close range. There is also an element of grappling in muay thai referred to as the clinch. Very different from the grappling techniques used in Brazilian jiu jitsu, clinch maneuvers are used to set up knee and elbow strikes or to throw your opponent to the ground. Since the sport requires that practitioners possess a large number of athletic qualities, the benefits that accompany learning muay Thai are numerous. Below are what I believe to be some of the top benefits from practicing muay Thai.
1. Increased Cardiovascular Conditioning
I have played many sports and partaken in a large variety of physical activities over the years, and none of them have come close to delivering the cardiovascular conditioning that muay Thai offers. Being both aerobic and anaerobic, muay Thai places huge stress on your cardiopulmonary systems. With continued practice, your body will adapt to the demands of the sport, and improved cardiovascular performance is one of the payoffs.
2. Leg Strength
Kicking and footwork play a large role in muay Thai. One movement that is distinctive to muay thai is the roundhouse kick. Learning how to kick strengthens the musculature of the lower body. Every muscle in your lower body will benefit from practicing the various kicks and footwork drills incorporated in the sport. From muscle endurance, force production, agility, to just plain old good looking calves, muay Thai delivers.
3. Core Strength
Core is not a word I like to use a lot. Generally when someone refers to their core, they’re referring to their abdominal muscles. This drives strength and conditioning professionals crazy. Your core is every single muscle located on your trunk, not your damn six pack. But I digress. The rotational nature of all of the movements in the sport truly does strengthen your core. Getting punched in the body will also help a little. Striking, defensive movements, and clinching will all help the muay Thai student develop a strong core.
4. Increased Hip Mobility
It won’t happen overnight, but with time the kicking and kneeing movements of muay Thai promote increased hip mobility. Having healthy hips alone can save you from serious pain and numerous terrible medical conditions later in life. Just remember to do your foam rolling and stretching. Get an occasional massage and those hips of yours will feel amazing.
5. Stress Relief
I personally think this is the most important benefit muay Thai can provide. The majority of us accumulate a fair amount of stress during the day. Having an outlet for that stress feels fantastic and can work wonders for your mental and physical health. Let’s face it, when you’re pissed off at work or stressed about bills, hitting something just feels good. Due to the fast-paced nature of the sport, you can’t trouble yourself with worry while training. You’ll get hit in the face or mess up the drill you’re working on. Practicing a martial art allows you to focus on yourself and nothing else. I believe doing something regularly that detaches you from the daily grind helps you become a happier and more carefree individual.
To sum it all up, muay Thai can benefit just about anyone. Just make sure you adapt the workout to your level of fitness when you’re starting out. There is absolutely no shame in taking a break or modifying a drill to make it fit for you. Also remember when practicing any sport there is always a risk of injury. Make sure to consult your healthcare professional when beginning any new type of physical endeavor and let your coach know of any injury or physical condition that you may have prior to practice. For those of you choosing to explore the art of muay Thai, I wish you all the best in your training.
Photo 1 courtesy of Orion Lee.
Photo 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.