To kick high you need to be flexible, but do you need to be flexible for Muay Thai? I decided to find out.
So do you need to be flexible for Muay Thai? Muay Thai is a sport learned over years, and like everything, flexibility takes a long time to develop. Just like a gymnast doesn’t need to be flexible before they study gymnastics you don’t need to be flexible to do Muay Thai, but it would help you.
Not being flexible is not an excuse to not do Muay Thai. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on your flexibility before you start training as it is quite easy to do and just needs daily work.
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Why You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Start Muay Thai
Muay Thai is the most complete striking martial art. It’s called the art of 8 limbs as you can strike with your fists, feet, elbows, and knees. This makes it a lot more difficult to learn than Boxing (see my comparison of both here) as you have a much larger toolbox to use.
How does this relate to flexibility you might ask? Well, when you begin Muay Thai, there is so much to learn from having the correct stance, clinching and learning how to punch and kick that flexibility will be the least of your worries!
It takes a long time to achieve a decent Muay Thai roundhouse. I have been training for 6 months and my kick is just starting to get there, my leg flexibility hasn’t even come into consideration! Worry about your kicking technique before your leg flexibility.
I do Yoga now and did Yoga before Muay Thai, so I had an advantage in flexibility over other people. Although I know people with way worse flexibility than me when they started and they didn’t use it as an excuse not to do it!
Just remember we all start Muay Thai at different levels, whether that’s fitness, fighting experience or flexibility, we all come from different backgrounds. Luckily, Muay Thai is a very humble and welcoming sport that stems from Thai culture, so in a good Muay Thai gym, you will be welcomed no matter what your experience level is.
This doesn’t mean I don’t recommend starting a stretching routine before you do Muay Thai or any martial art. Stretching is very important for maintaining health. Especially in todays world with our rounded shoulders, head forward-leaning digital life with smartphones, laptops and desk jobs.
Check out this short YouTube video from the Mayo Clinic, explaining how important stretching is for health and reducing sports injury risk in general.
How Do You Get Flexible For Muay Thai?
Whilst you can start Muay Thai with very poor flexibility I would recommend implementing a daily/5 times a week stretching routine to put you in a better spot to hit those high kicks.
Although doing the kicks themselves will give you a stretch, it’s better to have an actual routine in place. I like the fighting YouTuber “Fight Tips” where you can see his daily routine down below.
For stretching it’s better to do it every day or at least 5 times a week to get the proper benefits. Initially, it will hurt, especially if you’re stiff and not very flexible! Each time you practice it will become easier, and before too long you will love the sensation (trust me).
However, before you train Muay Thai or any martial arts, many people have a pre-workout stretch and post-workout stretch routine that they do.
How To Stretch Before & After Muay Thai Training
Pre Training Stretching
Before you do any stretching its important to warm up the muscles to reduce the risk of injury. You don’t just start going crazy and start punching and kicking with full power!
A warm up can be achieved via cycling to the gym, walking, or skipping before your work out which is very common in every Muay Thai gym in the world.
Sean Fagan the Muay Thai Guy who is a professional Muay Thai fighter and Muay Thai Youtuber has a fantastic dynamic warmup specifically for Muay Thai. You can access in the video below. However, I have quickly summarized the video for you
- Foam roll the Muay Thai problem areas (the hips, quads, hamstrings and calves) to get the blood circulating. If you don’t have a foam roller you can get the one I use- the TriggerPoint foam roller. Get it for a fantastic price right from Amazon here.
- Start skipping for about 5-10 minutes. If you don’t have a skipping rope you can get the Thai’s favorite Twins Skipping Rope for a steal on Amazon right here.
- Loosen the shoulders and neck by rolling them around both directions for roughly 30 seconds each side
- Stretch your chest by opening it up via stretching your hands wide and then close together
- Twist the torso for around 30 seconds to stretch your lower back
- Rotate your hips in a circular motion
- Rotate your knees and ankles by bending down and moving them in a circular motion
- Stretch your legs and work on your balance
- Finish by doing some light shadow boxing for 5 minutes before you start your proper workout!
Muay Thai Cool Down
Cooling down after a heavy workout session, especially after doing Muay Thai, is very important to prevent muscle injury and to help loosen the muscles after everything they have done.
Sean Fagan has made a specific Muay Thai cool down routine where you need to hold every pose for 10-30 seconds for best results. Remember whilst discomfort is okay you never want to feel pain during the stretches. If you feel pain, you are likely pushing yourself too hard.
I’ve linked the video below. Remember your flexibility will suck at first but just like everything daily practice will transform how your body feels over time.
How To Get Flexible Enough To Head Kick In Muay Thai
You might think head kick flexibility is all to do with the legs but you would be wrong. It is more to do with the hips and equally distributing your weight to a specific part of your foot, right underneath the big toe.
If you want more information about how to develop a head kick without being naturally flexible please check mastermindmuaythai blog post out. However, if you want a general leg kicking stretch routine please check out Fight Tips leg flexibility routine down below.
I’ve done this routine myself. Not only have I found it to be a great stretch, but my kicking dexterity has greatly improved. Check it out.
Why You Should Stretch In Muay Thai
I’ve already explained why you should stretch but it’s important to understand specifically why.
The most important thing is reducing the risk of potential injury, as Muay Thai is so explosive. If you don’t prepare your muscles, you could potentially cause a muscle strain, pull or snap and you don’t want that!
If you go straight into hitting the bag or pads with full power and cold muscles, this will be a ticket to snapped muscle city. Your entire body needs to be warm and limber from the neck to the calves before you do any serious Muay Thai workout.
This is why skipping is so common in martial arts as it’s a quick effective whole body workout that will stretch your calves whilst warming up your wrists and shoulders.
If you fail to warm up and stretch properly then the likelihood of getting a calf cramp or a pulled hamstring is sharply increased. These types of hamstring injuries are very painful and could potentially stop your training for weeks!
Improving the flexibility of all your muscles but especially your lower back, legs, and hips is very important for you to kick harder and higher in any martial arts. Regular daily or 5 times a week stretching will go a long way to making concrete improvements to your kicking ability in any martial art.
How To Open Your Hips In Muay Thai
In our virtual dominated culture having tight hips causes a lot of modern day health problems. You will notice you have tight hips in Muay Thai if you cannot
- Turn your hips properly when kicking
- Push your hips when you punch, knee or clinch
- Generate any power with your strikes
- Maintain your balance
To rectify these mistakes you need to improve the following (check out this video by the Muay Thai guy for a more detailed post looking into fixing these problems)
- Pay attention to your posture both inside and outside of the gym
- Make sure to stretch out the problem areas (your hips, lower back and legs)
- Strengthen your hip muscles. Most of this can be done in Pilates and many yoga poses
- Just be consistent!
Check out this handy Muay Thai mobility routine that has some specific stretches for the problem areas, and will help you turn that hip in!
If you have a partner then they can assist you manually with turning your hip. Muay Thai Pros has a fantastic video in doing exactly this!