Muay Thai is a fantastic martial art, but can you practice it by yourself? Yes, you can and in this article, I am going to tell you exactly how to practice Muay Thai with no partners.
Yes, it is better to train Muay Thai with a partner since it’s a combat sport but you can greatly improve your Muay Thai by focussing on several key areas that I will go over.
I will include tons of different drills and helpful resources to help you take your Muay Thai game to the next level training by yourself, and I will include a daily Muay Thai training routine just for you!
Remember, before you work on anything aside from footwork and light shadowboxing you must warm up or risk injury. You can see a fantastic Muay Thai warm-up in the beginning of my post here.
If you’re interested in getting the best Muay Thai gloves for your money check out these Limited Edition Fairtex Gloves from Amazon. Premium quality at an amazing price!
Work On Mobility, Hip Rotation & Stretching
If I could go back to my first day of Muay Thai training I would work on my hip rotation, stretching, posture and mobility. There is NOTHING you can do that would be more beneficial for your kicks and knees than learning proper hip rotation as soon as you start training.
The best thing is you can do all these exercises anywhere!
When you kick, all your power is generated from the hips. Most people when they start Muay Thai will kick straight up like a soccer kick, this is a big no-no as all you will hit is elbows and damage yourself more than the person you’re hitting.
A perfect analogy is a baseball bat. If someone broke into your house and you’re trying to defend yourself, would you swing your bat straight up? Or would you use your hips to get the most power possible? It’s the same with the roundhouse kick in Thai Boxing.
This is the kick checklist whenever you kick
- With the lead leg, your heel must go past your toes (foot has turned 180 degrees to where you’re kicking)
- As you kick have your force go upwards not down
- Bring your shoulder forward and whip your arm as you kick (same arm as kicking leg)
All of these things can be practiced in the drill by Sylvie, a Muay Thai fighter with 200+ fights in the video above. Remember you should feel your side butt cheek flex on the hip that is rotating, this means you are doing it correctly.
It is very important to practice proper hip rotation as it is quite an unnatural movement while being a fundamental Muay Thai movement pattern. Without it you will not kick properly.
I would recommend doing these at least 100 times per day on both legs to open up your hips. It’s not uncommon in Thailand for a trainer to tell a westerner to do 300 reps per leg if their hips are especially tight.
- Place your foot on a platform like a sofa and be on your toes on the other foot like you’re kicking
- Turn the foot on the platform to the shin to mimic the kick while using your arms
- Repeat for 25 reps and change leg for a total of 100 reps each leg
People living in the West tend to have tight hips due to sitting all day which makes throwing kicks very awkward, as a lot of people just lack hip mobility.
How do we solve this problem by ourselves? Hip mobility is crucial to proper hip rotation and general injury prevention in Muay Thai and normal life. See this study on the professional application of injury prevention for Soccer athletes who practiced muscle mobility.
Training by yourself is the perfect opportunity to focus on good movement patterns. The above video is a summary of Don Heatrick’s superb tips on unlocking your hips as a Muay Thai athlete.
Following the video could be the key in making your kicks so much better, as you could even have good technique but lack the necessary hip flexibility to turn your hips in.
This routine is split into three different sections. To do all the exercises, you must have a foam roller (best price on Amazon) or lacrosse ball (Amazon) for a cheaper option, and a resistant band (Amazon).
I have everything and I recommend you buy the equipment as it’s super important not just for Muay Thai, but for ensuring you have good health and posture throughout your life. This is especially important in modern society with smartphones and computers making us have poor rounded posture which can lead to health complications later in life. This routine will help you with the following
- Releasing the hips
- Opening the hips
- Anchoring the hips
1.Releasing the hips
- Start to foam roll at the top of the knee and gradually roll up and down the thigh to break down the muscle tissue
- When you find a tight area “windshield wipe” your legs left and right to get at that tissue and flex up and down.
- Avoid the IT band (the middle of your leg) as it cannot be lengthened and for rolling, it could cause injury
- Foam roll each leg for 1-2 minutes then switch legs.
2.Opening The Hips
- Attach your band to something sturdy like a squat rack or a TV stand and little lower than hip height
- Step into the band and have it high behind your glute/booty & make sure there is decent tension so it’s pulling your hips forward
- Squeeze your glutes by pointing your pelvis forward and thrust your hip in front of your knee don’t arch from your back make sure its the hips
- Practice the movement from different angles ensuring you squeeze your glutes throughout the motion
- Repeat for 1-2 minutes and then switch sides!
3.Anchoring The Hips
- Place your foot on a bench or a platform at a similar height like a chair so your ankle can pivot down and up
- Your stance must allow your hip to be at knee level or lower
- Keep your chest up and chin down and drive through the floor with your foot while squeezing your glutes and feeling that near hip stretch
- Once you understand the movement pattern try adding weights
- Repeat for around 3 sets of 10 reps for both legs
These exercises will help your Muay Thai and general health by affecting the muscle length, the joint capsule (how your bones are positioned), and your neuromuscular control of how your brain tells you what range of motion you have.
I recommend doing these exercises as part of a dynamic warmup to solidify good movement patterns which are key to reducing injury risk and to ensure you’re kicking correctly.
Releasing and opening your hips can be done randomly throughout the day. It is perfect for active rest between weight training sessions or part of a recovery day where you work on your posture issues or any muscle that is giving you pain.
After you have worked on your mobility, your muscles should be nice and warm. This is a perfect time to work on stretching and lengthening your muscles, which is key to improving your Muay Thai.
The difference between flexibility and mobility is flexibility relates to muscles, and mobility relates to joints. You need both to truly succeed at Muay Thai, but I do believe establishing proper mobility is more important.
Follow FightTips video above to get an easy quick stretching routine that you can do anywhere that lasts around 20 minutes. I recommend doing this routine anywhere between 4-5 times a week to every day to get maximum results.
Chamber Your Kicks
Imagine if you had as good of control of your kicks as your fists? With good balance control, and knowing where your kicks will land, working on your chamber is how you can achieve this!
Chambering is when you lift your knee towards your chest whenever you kick, and the act of retracting the kickback.
In Muay Thai even though we don’t chamber our kicks as much as other martial arts like Karate and Taekwondo, it is still super important to improving your power, strength, and balance when throwing and checking kicks.
These drills to improve your chambering can be done anywhere by yourself. From the superb FightTips video above, I have summarized all the drills.
Drill 1. Three Leg Dog
- Get into a push-up/plank position and sit your hips back to get into downward dog (yoga pose)
- Peddle your calves up and down to warm up the hamstrings & calves
- Lift one leg up and then drive your knee up to your chest as high as possible with your heel towards your butt/glute, hold this position for three breaths
- Bring the leg up and drive to the outside of the elbow aiming to eventually get the knee to the armpit, hold for three breaths
- Repeat step 4 with the opposite elbow
- The entire 3 movements count as 1 rep so repeat the process on the other leg for a total of three sets per leg.
Drill 2. Seated Leg Lift
- Sit down with your back straight and place something next to your legs like a Yoga block (best price on Amazon) or boxing glove/book
- Swing your leg over the object and tap the ground and repeat for a total of 5-10 reps on each leg and 3 total sets
Changing the setting on the block makes it more challenging and remember to not hunch forward as you want the focus on the hip flexor.
Drill 3. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
- Stand on one leg and grab your knee with both hands and pull up to stretch the hips- hold for 3 breaths
- Repeat the stretch but turn your knee inward, outward and behind and hold for 3 breaths in every position
If you lack the balance, either do them leaning against a ball, or repeat all the stretches lying down as you can see Shane do in the video.
For the most benefit do these drills every day or at least 5 times a week, and you will see a vast improvement in your kick chamber which will benefit any kicks you will ever do across all martial arts!
Basic Footwork Drill
Ask any fighter and they will say footwork is one of the most important skills to develop across all martial arts, and even most sports! Best of all it can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and is often never trained; don’t be that guy/girl who doesn’t train footwork!
Everything relates to your foot connection to the ground, with 3 main points on your foot, one on the base and two near the front. Your weight should be distributed 50/50 on your foot on the balls of your feet, with your tail bone and chin ducked under. You should be vertically upright and keep this position whenever you move.
One drill you can practice seen in the above video is very simple.
- Stand in a Muay Thai stance
- Take one step straight and step back in the same position, then do the same action but step right, back and then left
- As you get more comfortable double the steps or try the drill in your opposite stance.
Never do any unnecessary steps. It should only be one step as any more will put you off balance. When you get comfortable with the drill take two steps and even add punches as you step.
6 Step Solo Footwork Drill
I started to implement this 6 step solo footwork drill by FightTips and already I have seen solid improvements to not only my footwork but also my shadow boxing.
This drill involves six different punches with numbers that correspond to the actions. Now you don’t have to jab in the advancing steps, it can be an uppercut, elbow, or hook depending on your spacing.
I will briefly outline the drill
- Probing Step-in your Muay Thai stance takes a small step forward (around 1-4 inches) and do a jab as you step; think of your foot and arm being connected like a puppeteer and his/her puppet and whenever the hands move so does the foot
- Retreating Step- take the same step backward on your back foot and do a jab
- Pivot Cross- while still do a cross making sure you pivot off the backfoot while turning the shoulders
- Advancing 1-2 Step forward like in step 1 but bring your back foot with you and throw a cross after the jab
- Retreating 1-2. Do a jab while bringing your front foot back and then bring your back foot back and do a cross
- Switch Jab. Switch your stance (if you’re a southpaw go orthodox and vice versa) and throw a jab in the opposite stance as you switch
- Repeat step 1-6 in Southpaw!
There is nothing more beneficial you can do to improve your Muay Thai than Shadowboxing. It can be done everywhere, waiting in line for groceries or in the post office, you name it!
Now, when you shadow box you must visualize an opponent who is fighting you as you practice. This will help you when you spar as you’re accustomed to fighting a moving opponent who reacts to what you throw. Now you must train defense as well as offense, for shadowboxing to truly be effective.
The above 10-minute Muay Thai Shadow Boxing workout by Sean Fagan (check him out) is excellent and I do it daily. It works so well as it trains all elements on your Muay Thai, from offensive to defense and you can go through it at your own pace.
Remember to focus on technique as you shadowbox, otherwise, your body can remember bad habits via muscle memory. This is why filming yourself shadowboxing is so important and I urge everyone to film themselves training as often as they can.
I structure this workout by an internal timer on my phone where each section is split up by 10,1 minute rounds with no rest.
- Straights, teeps, and checks
- Single strikes
- Punch combos with a kick finish
- Combos with a defensive finish
- Forward fighting
- Counter fighting
- Punches & Elbows
- Lower Body strikes
- Creative flow
- Fight pace
How Not To Shadowbox
A lot of people, even professional fighters, have issues with shadowboxing. Many times it is because they are making one of the mistakes in the above video by Sean Fagan. Most likely they are not visualizing an opponent.
In the above video, Sean goes into detail about the issues people have with shadow boxing and I will briefly summarize the main points
- Kicking Wrong 2:57. I still suffer from this problem as it’s harder to visualize and properly rotate your hip if you’re kicking air. To fix it, record yourself and focus on correct hip rotation every time you kick
- Too Much Head Movement 4:10. Excessive head movement is fine for Boxing as that is part of the sport, but with Muay Thai, you want to keep your head movement sharp, minimal, and technical as you can’t bob and weave a roundhouse!
- Looking/Punching Down 5:37. This one is more common for an absolute beginner, but you wouldn’t look at the floor or punch down if you’re fighting anyone but a super midget!
- Staying Stationary 6:34. Movement and footwork is key to succeeding in fighting so make sure you move around and cut angles, to make it difficult for your imaginary shadow opponent
- Just Offense, No Defense 6:35. You need to add checks, leans backs, catching kicks and catching jabs/crosses when you’re shadowboxing as you’re trying to simulate a real fight
- Not Mixing Up Your Strikes 7:37. Now just working the basics like 1-2 right kick is fine if your focus is on technique, but if you want to simulate a real fight you need to diversify your strikes. Make sure you’re hitting high and low, to the body and the head with some low kicks. Keep your imaginary partner guessing!
- Too Tense 8:58. This is common in the beginning as fighting can be very stressful so your natural inclination is to tense up. Don’t do this as it will only waste much-needed energy. Ideally, you want to be nice and loose and relaxed while you’re fighting, only tensing up your fists when you’re just about to connect -for maximum speed and power.
- Forgetting To Breathe 10:15. This happens to a lot of people especially in BJJ where people forget to breathe. Don’t forget the most basic thing, for if you lose your breath you will get tired quickly and your strikes will lack any power.
- Forgetting To Visualise 11:43. Even professional fighters make this mistake and it’s key to getting the most out of shadowboxing. You need to BELIEVE someone is fighting you and reacting to what you throw and you need to react to their strikes. I know it’s difficult but in time you will get the hang of it!
- Not Extending Your Arms 12:50. I’m still guilty of this, and it’s a very easy mistake to make. Whenever you’re punching make sure you fully extend your arms. This is to maximize both your range and punching power. You don’t want those mini T-rex arms while shadow boxing!
Now, I know you might not have access to a Heavy Bag but it will be your number one training partner, it is never late and always there for you. Ask any fighter and they will say without a doubt it is def the best pieces of fighting equipment you can buy.
It is fantastic for improving your footwork and combos and every Muay Thai athlete has put 100s of hours into it. I highly recommend the Fairtex heavy bag (best price on Amazon).
If you don’t have the budget you can make one out of heavy carpet or material around the house, like in the video below.
When you have your heavy bag Sean Fagan’s 20-minute heavy bag workout for beginners it is fantastic. I’ve done it many times after a training session.
Remember all the 10 shadow boxing mistakes from the above video, and practice good form in everything you do on the bag, if you don’t you could get injured so pay attention!.
Here is a brief overview of the workout.
- Round 1 (1 minute each)
- -Jabs & Teeps
- -Jab, Roundhouse
- -Cross, Switch Kick
- Round 2 (1 minute each)
- -Left Side Strikes
- -Right Side Strikes
- -Boxing Only
- Round 3 (1 minute each)
- -Alternating Teeps
- Jab, Roundhouse, Cross, Switch Kick
- Combo Finish W/Check & Kick
- Round 4
- -Jab, Lead Elbow (1 min)
- -Jab, Rear Elbow (30 sec)
- -Balancing Left Teep Drill (30 sec)
- -Balancing Right Teep Drill(30 sec)
- Round 5 (1 minute each)
- -Power Right Roundhouse
- -Power Left Roundhouse
- -Power Right Roundhouse –
- -Power Left Roundhouse –
Muay Thai already is a fantastic aerobic and anaerobic workout. Check out my post here to see why Muay Thai is so good for your health. However, you need to do some other form of cardio so you can make your heart stronger and improve your cardio in a fight situation.
There are two different types of cardio you can do. We want to train both as they are equally important in Muay Thai.
- Aerobic (low intensity, think skipping or lightly jogging)
- Anaerobic (without air, think sprinting or lifting heavy weight)
In the video above, Shane from FightTips recommends the following weekly cardio workout.
Weekly Cardio Workout
- 3-4 days a week jog/run (aerobic) for 2/3 miles or 3.2/4.8 kilometers
- 2 days a week sprint (anaerobic) 100mx10
Now, this is a good conditioning workout, and fighters in Thailand run two 5K/3.1 miles runs every day. But an increasing number of fighters have spoken out about running and how they don’t enjoy it and instead do other more sports-related cardio like hitting pads.
ANY form of cardio that trains your aerobic system for around 20 minutes 3-4 times a week, with the ability to go anaerobic is fine. I will list the alternatives to running.
I still recommend running as the number one cardio you should do, as it is a very natural human action and the runners high after a workout is beautiful. Also, running is just excellent cardio and good for training the mind.
However, if you don’t like running I don’t believe you should be obligated to train something you don’t like, no matter how beneficial it is.
Cardio Alternatives To Running
- Hitting pads
- Interval training
Strength & Conditioning
If you don’t do any strength and conditioning and you do Muay Thai you are seriously missing out!
I’ve been on a Zoom call with 5x Muay Thai world champion Andy Howson and he said strength and conditioning is like having a suit of armor; as it makes you stronger and less likely to get injured in combat sports.
Everyone from every level can benefit from S&C and the best Muay Thai specific S&C workout I’ve seen was created by Don Heatrick (mentioned earlier). I have started to incorporate it into my Muay Thai training routine.
There are two full-body workouts, meant to be performed around 2-3 times a week with at least one day of rest between each day. Both routines contain 7 exercises with 3 supersets (2 exercises done connected with no rest) and one ab exercise, with each superset being repeated 4 times before moving on.
I will include a YouTube link where Don himself is demonstrating the exercises, with a brief exercise outline underneath each video.
Every exercise has been chosen to benefit your Muay Thai, and I will link Don’s website with his reasoning behind all exercise choices here.
He has 25+ years of coaching experience and is a former Thai boxer (ranked 4th in the UK when he was 40). I cannot recommend him enough and I love his work and want more people to know about him.
Full Body Workout A
- 1a) Front squat x 5-reps
- 1b) Rear foot elevated split squats (Bulgarian split squats) x 8-reps each leg
- 2a) Incline bench press x 5-reps
- 2b) Dumbbell chest press x 8-reps
- 3a) Pull-ups x 5-reps
- 3b) Dumbbell bent over rows x 8-reps each side
- 4) Dragon Flags x 5-reps
Full Body Workout B
- 1a) Deadlift x 5-reps
- 1b) Single leg suspension squat x 8-reps each leg
- 2a) Standing overhead press behind neck* x 5-reps
- 2b) Barbell push press x 8-reps
- 3a) Barbell bent-over row x 5-reps
- 3b) Suspended rows x 8-reps
- 4) Core plate (landmine) twists x 5-reps
If you don’t have access to a gym or weights at home, then a Kettlebell workout by Funk Roberts (certified MMA conditioning coach) is a superb alternative.
A kettlebell is one of the best fitness investments you can ever make, and you can do the workouts anywhere even with limited space. Buy the Amazon basics KB that I have here (best price on Amazon)
I recommend a 25 pound/16 Kg Kettlebell if you’re a guy and a 5 pound/10 kg Kettlebell if you’re a girl to start off with.
Alternatively, if you’re super broke and cannot afford a Kettlebell, Jeremy Ethier, a fitness YouTuber, has a fantastic full-body workout that you do at home without any equipment. Check it out down below.
Adopt The Right Mindset
Training your mind for success and changing your subconscious to make sure you’re goal-oriented, is one of the best things you can do to succeed in anything, not just Muay Thai.
I will go through various things you can do to maximize your success in Muay Thai while training by yourself.
Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People Online
If you do not have access to a gym it can be very difficult to be consistent. That’s why joining a Muay Thai community such as Nak Muay Thai Nation or r/MuayThai (Reddit) or even YouTube is a good choice.
In all these communities you can post your Muay Thai videos and ask for form critiques, and the community will be glad to help you. Having a community of your own helps keep yourself accountable, as it is difficult to practice by yourself with 100% commitment.
Relax & Meditate
I don’t think there’s anything more beneficial you can do for your life in general than meditate. Click here for the 12 reasons you should meditate. I do it myself every time I wake up and would not want to live without it.
Meditation improves your focus and attention span, as well as sharply reduces stress; all things that will greatly benefit your Muay Thai. Think before a fight, who would win assuming all things were equal but one person mediated regularly and the other did not?
I would wager highly the person who mediates will win, because they have practice in focussing heavily on one thing. The most important thing you need to win a fight is to focus on it!
Thai fighters themselves do a form of meditation in the form of dance before every fight, called the Wai Khru. Fighters engaging in some form of spiritual practice, whether meditation, prayers, or mantras is super common across all martial arts and even sports in general.
If you’re interested in the spiritual side and traditions of Muay Thai, check my post here.
Practice Positive Mantras/Self Belief
If you think you will lose a fight, do you think you have a chance of winning? I don’t think so.
This is the power of negative self-talk and we are all guilty of talking down to ourselves. The problem is, this encourages your subconscious mind to put yourself down which will create failure in your life and your Muay Thai.
Think of your brain like a computer that is programmed, with having poor self-esteem and getting bad thoughts is kinda like a computer program gone wrong (see the above video). Reprogramming your mind for your Muay Thai training will improve every aspect of your life no matter what it is.
I know this sounds a bit too far fetched, but fighters like Liam Harrison (8x Muay Thai world champion) have had tremendous success with mind coaches. I also have seen improvements in my life with positive thinking and talking things into happening.
A famous mind coach that Liam Harrison uses and is very good friends with is Vinny Shoreman, a well known MayThai commentator, fighter, and ex-coach. He did a Zoom session for our gym that everyone loved. You can see a clip of him on the Joe Rogan Experience in the video below
Positive affirmations (saying good things to yourself) is key to succeeding in anything in life, but especially while learning difficult things like learning Muay Thai.
Spend your time when you’re not training to think about what you have IMPROVED on, not what you did wrong that session. Yes, of course it is important to look at your weaknesses but focus instead on how much better you are compared to when you first started.
For Muay Thai, positive affirmations make you look on the bright side even in bad times, like when you didn’t do good in sparring or are just finding a technique difficult to learn. It allows you to stay rational when others might only see the bad in something.
The issue a lot of people have in life is focusing on what went wrong. They might do badly in their first spar and think because they did bad that is their destiny. Positive thinking allows you to think rationally and be more in control in bad situations.
Here is one of Brian Tracy’s (self-development author) quotes from the above video.
If you start thinking negative about your Muay Thai training, you will become worse, as your behaviors and emotions will reflect your negative thoughts. You will become what you say.
Brian Tracey even stresses using positive affirmations to remove emotion from bad events, and even be able to see the benefits during difficult times.
Let’s say you have a shin injury and cannot kick. If you train your mind to see the positives in everything with meditation and positive self-affirmations, you could use the down time constructively and focus all your effort on footwork and Boxing. Working with what you CAN do rather than what you cant!
Muay Thai Positive Affirmations
Repeat these affirmations randomly throughout the day. Repeat each at least 5 times. It’s good to do these when you first wake up and again when you go to bed. Be consistent with your mediation and positive affirmations, and I ensure you, you will see benefits and improvements across your entire life.
- I will succeed in everything I choose to put my mind to
- I will improve my Muay Thai every day and become the best fighter I can possibly be
- I am confident in Sparring and stay calm and collected in every situation
- I will learn from every problem and outcome and come out a better more well-rounded fighter
- I will allow any losses or bad moments to wash over me like rocks in a river
Daily Solo Training Routine
This is the daily training routine that I do to improve my Muay Thai. At first, start small and do a few of the things every day until it becomes a habit.
If you aim too high and end up not accomplishing your goal, you will feel unmotivated. It is important to start small as you build a habit and you will build momentum and create something called the compound effect (based on a book of the same name by New York best seller Darren Hardy).
You can buy the eBook yourself for the best price on Amazon right here or watch a summary of the book in the above video. But basically, the idea is Daily Consistency= Massive Results, so start small doing your routine, and eventually, it will become a habit that will build success.
Muay Thai Training
- Wake Up and jump rope for 10 minutes, do Yoga, followed by meditation & positive self affirmation (40 minutes)
- Run 5k/(3.1 miles)
- Do 10×100 meter sprints
- Do 100 hip rotations (see Sylvies video) and 100 shadow kicks on both legs (10 minutes)
- Shadow Box (10 minutes)
- Do Don Heatrick Mobility Work (15 minutes)
- Hit the bag (20 minutes)
- Do 100 hip rotations (see Sylvies video) and 100 shadow kicks on both legs (10 minutes)
- Shadow Box (10 minutes)
Remember to only run 2-3 times a week, and to lift weights or do some other form of conditioning 2-3 times a week.