We’ve all heard the shin conditioning methods of kicking metal poles or using a rolling pin to beat your shins to a bloody pulp, but before you go out and shatter your tibia, you might want to consider other options when it comes to hardening your shins.
My goal here is to just keep it real.
I know that you want rock hard shins that can kick throw baseball bats after a couple days of training, but that’s just NOT gonna happen.
The Muay Thai shin conditioning tips and methods below aren’t anything special or super hardcore, but they are definitely the best and most effective ways to turn your shins into bricks (not to mention, they are also safer than trying to kick down a redwood tree).
1. Be Patient, Persistent and Resilient
I know what you’re thinking –
“Really Sean? Is that your #1 best tip for shin conditioning?”
Unfortunately yes, yes it is.
Believe it or not, there is no overnight magical potion to drink that will help you develop hard, durable shins. There is no way to avoid the inevitable pain that comes from clashing your shin on your opponents elbow or having your kick checked during an intense sparring session. There is no possible way that your shins will be as hard as Buakaw’s even after training consistently for more than a year.
Sorry to break it to you, but your shins are going to hurt for awhile and you’re going to have to get used to it.
Shit, I’ve been training for 7+ years and have had over 25 fights and I still cringe at the idea of having my leg kicks checked. Although my shins have definitely hardened up since I first started training, I’m still always trying to harden them up with the rest of the methods and techniques I explain further down the list. But before you read the rest of the tips, make sure you understand this:
In order to get rock hard shins, it’s going to take A LOT of time and A LOT of training. Developing a patient, persistent, and resilient mindset will be key to dealing with the initial pain and discomfort you will inevitably feel when you first start kicking. Now that I got this first tip out of the way, we can move on to the physical training exercises that will help harden your shins.
2. Kick The Heavy Bag… A LOT!!!
Sticking to basic training methods like kicking a heavy bag is crucial to conditioning your shins.
It takes time and an insane amount of kicks for your shins to calcify and harden, but in the end it will be worth it when you are able to deliver hard body kicks that break your opponents ribs. Not to mention that using the heavy bag will also improve your technique and conditioning as well!
If you are relatively new to training Muay Thai, then starting off with a normal heavy bag will work just fine. Doing at least 100 kicks for each leg during each training sessions should be a mandatory part of your routine, but if you feel like you can do more, then do more!
After doing your set of kicks, your shins will probably have some kind of stinging sensation – this is a good thing! In time the nerves in your shins will start to deaden and the pain won’t be nearly as unbearable in a few months. Not to mention you will also be creating micro-fractures in your shins that will rebuild themselves and come back even stronger than before.
Even if you are a seasoned fighter, heavy bag training is still super important and should not be overlooked. If you feel like your shins are somewhat conditioned and you want to add more density to the heavy bag to really start testing out your shins, then try adding more clothing, rags, or chopped up inner tubes to the bag.
3. Spar… A LOT!!!
What better way to condition your shins than testing it out on a training partners face?! In all seriousness though, sparring is (or should be) a major part of any Nak Muay’s training regimen, especially if they plan on stepping into the ring and fighting. There are two types of sparring to consider when trying to improve your shin conditioning
a) Sparring With Gear On – If you have sparred before and had your kick checked or blocked with an elbow, then you know that it hurts like a bitch even with thick shin guards on. Unfortunately, there is no way around avoiding this pain besides doing it over and over and over again until your shins get more used to it. Even after doing it numerous times, it’s still going to hurt, just hopefully not as much.
Besides doing freestyle sparring where you just move around with your partner without any set plans, it’s also a smart idea to drill certain set combinations. Throwing combos that involve checking leg kicks or blocking high kicks will help not only with conditioning your shins, but also help your timing, distancing and technique as well.
b) Sparring Without Gear – Wait, we should be sparring without gear? Hell yes!
Now, by “spar” I don’t mean go as hard as you would if you were to be wearing full body armor. What I mean is to playfully move around with your training partner in a calm, technical manner so you can work on your combinations and also not worry about curling over in pain from a checked kick. This type of sparring is very common in Thailand and you’ll see the Thai’s do it even when they aren’t at the gym.
Check out this great tutorial on the technical sparring that goes on in Thailand. Although in the video they use shin guards, it can also be done without them.
4. Take Care Of Your Shins!
After hard training sessions where you find yourself wobbling around due to the fact that your shins are so beat up, don’t just assume they’ll heal on their own.
Yes, they will eventually heal, but if you want to speed up the healing process so you can start kicking shit again (and in return, harden your shins even more) then you’re going to need to know how to take care of your shins!
Sylvie from 8limbs.us created a great video on how to treat bumps on your shins. Watch it. Memorize it. Use it!
She also goes into more detail on how to treat knots on your shins in this article here.
5. Lift Things Up and Put Them Down
In order to support stronger legs, your bones need to get stronger as well. Implementing weight lifting exercises like heavy squats, lunges, cleans, box jumps, and step-ups is a great way to not only help with your bone density, but to also increase your overall strength, explosiveness, and balance.
There have been a number of research studies done by universities and individuals that support the thought that weight lifting helps increase bone density. Although results are not 100% conclusive, these case studies make a pretty solid case that you should be doing some weight training to increase your bone strength!
6. Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Mama always told me to drink milk for strong bones and big muscles. I never doubted what my mom told me, but now that I actually understand the reasoning behind her logic, I know that mama was always right!
Everyday your body is removing old, crusty bones to replace it with new, sexy ones. Since your bones are constantly developing every day of your life, it’s essential to have the right type of nutrients to help in their development. Calcium is one of the key nutrients you need, but without it’s partner Vitamin D, your body won’t be able to absorb the calcium which it needs!
As long as you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you will be consuming a fair share of calcium and Vitamin D to help with your bone development. However, adding some supplements into the mix might not be a bad idea if you feel like you aren’t getting enough from your diet. Make sure to be getting around 1000mg of calcium a day!
Final Words on Shin Conditioning
Hardening your shins to the point where you won’t feel any pain takes a ridiculous amount of time and hard work. That being said, you can expect to eventually harden your shins to the point where it doesn’t make you want to cry!
As long as you put in the work sparring, kicking the heavy bag, and utilizing the other methods of shin conditioning I mentioned above, you should be able to dramatically increase the resilience of your shins.
Keep in mind that there is no secret formula for getting your shins as hard as Buakaw's.
However, if you follow the proven methods above, you will gradually be able to build your pain tolerance and get your shins more prepared for checking and delivering kicks. Stay constant, stay persistent and it will only be a matter of time until you are breaking ribs with your body kicks!
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