Muay Thai is the most effective standing martial art, and Thai fighters are known to have the strongest kick in all martial arts.
In this article using all my research and my personal experience I give you 22 ways to practice Muay Thai kicks. I will split the drills into drills you can do by yourself, with a partner, and with a bag to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for.
I know it can be intimidating not having a good Muay Thai roundhouse at first, but with consistent practice using the ways in this article, I can guarantee your kicks will greatly improve and you will become a menace in sparring! Let’s get to it!
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Solo Muay Thai Kicking Drills
If you don’t warm-up and stretch before training you are risking injury and limiting the flexibility of your kicks. Click here for an article about why a proper warm-up and cool down is important for combat sports athletes.
This warmup by Sean Fagan is specifically for Muay Thai and is all you need for your muscles and joints to limber up and be ready for your kicking drills. Do not skip this step as it will improve the benefits of all the drills mentioned later in this article, and if you do these drills completely cold you could get injured. So warm-up!
2. Unlock Your Hips!
Hip mobility is very important for turning your kick in to kick properly, and general injury prevention. See this study on the professional application of injury prevention for Soccer athletes who practiced muscle mobility.
With Muay Thai good movement pattens are even more important, this is a summary of Don Heatrick’s fantastic video about how to unlock your hips as a Muay Thai athlete, this could be a major factor in your kicks feeling sloppy, as you might have the technique but lack the necessary hip flexibility to turn your hips in.
This is split into three different sections, for the first, 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 recommend you get the same, as they are vital not just for Muay Thai but for maintaining proper alignment and posture for good health throughout your life.
- 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 forwards
- 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 whilst 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
Now these exercises reinforce many things to help your Muay Thai kicks. They affect the muscle length, the joint capsule(how your bones are positioned) and your neuromuscular control how your brain tells you what range of motion you have
You can do these exercises as part of your dynamic warmup to reinforce good movement habits, which are key to kicking properly and reducing injury risk from Muay Thai.
Release and open your hips are perfect for active rest between weight training sessions or part of a recovery day, where you work on the muscle tissues that are causing you bad pain or poor posture.
3. Stretching Routine For Kick Flexibility!
Now to add on to the dynamic warm-up and unlocking your hips, I believe a stretching routine designed for improved high kick flexibility to stretch all the muscles involved in kicking such as the quads, hips and the lower back is important for proper kicking form.
These stretches are designed to be done every day and will take around 10 minutes to complete, remember you need to warm up before stretching so your muscles can lengthen.
I can guarantee after doing fightTips daily stretching routine not only will your kicks feel more natural but your overall health would have improved. Stretching is not just underrated in martial arts, it’s underrated in life! So start stretching 🙂
4.Shadow Box (Focusing On Kicks)
The problem with shadow boxing is a lot of people(myself included) start to shadowbox without turning their hip over and incorrectly not following through, without turning their hip over with a foot pivot to hit with the shin.
This is bad as you are likely kicking with your foot and not your shin, which we don’t want in Muay Thai. Check out the video above by Head Coach of F5 Strength and Muay Thai Roxy Richardson, or read the drill down below.
To shadow kick correctly as a beginner.
- Step out around 30 degrees to either the left or right depending on your stance be on the balls of your feet under your big toe with your heel lifted
- Use your arm swipe to turn your hips(see the second tip) and follow through only to 180 degrees
Once you get the first one down.
- Step out around 30 degrees to either the left or right depending on your stance be on the balls of your feet under your big toe with your heel lifted
- Use your arm swing to turn your hips and swing 360 degrees and land facing your opponent in the same stance.
Helpful tips with the drill
- If you’re training in front of a mirror and see your booty as you kick, your practicing good form as your hip is turning incorrectly
- Practice with both feet to stop getting dizzy and to kick with both legs
- Make sure your heel lifts as you pivot
5. Standing Hip Stretch For Proper Hip Rotation
This is usually done with a partner but Sylvie a Muay Thai fighter with 200 + fights has shown how to do it at home by yourself,
- Place your foot on a platform like a sofa and be on your toes on the other foot like your kicking
- Turn the foot on the platform to the shin to mimic the kick whilst using your arms
- Repeat for around 20 reps and then change legs for 3 total sets
6.Film Your Kicking Technique/Practise In Front Of A Mirror
This is the biggest advice I can give anyone training at home or even at the gym as I’ve recently started to implement it myself. Recording yourself showcases all your weaknesses and always tells the truth.
I couldn’t believe how bad I looked on the camera! You will notice how often you drop your hands, your lack of head movement, and for kicking if you are turning your hips enough.
Filming your Muay Thai kicks will slap you in the face with the problems you need to address, which could be related to technique or a lack of flexibility or a combination of both.
Just compare your kick with someone kicking correctly, you can find numerous videos on YouTube with someone utilizing the proper form. Just see why your videos different, and the mistakes you are making.
I recommend buying a Gorilla Pod Tripod to record yourself in any situation with your smartphone such as this JOBY Gorillapod that you can get for a fantastic price from Amazon right here.
Now if you don’t have a way to record yourself doing shadow boxing in front of a mirror is a good alternative, as you can still see yourself technique and what needs improvement, remember you need to see your glute in the mirror. as you kick to show you have proper form!
7.Shadow Kick Something Physical Tree/Pole/Sofa
Now the problem with shadow boxing is because your hitting/kicking air it’s easy to disguise poor form, like not turning in your hip with a roundhouse.
Now, I am not saying you go to your nearest tree and strike it with full force as that will HURT! Just strike it with precision with barely any power, making sure you turn the hip in to strike with your shin.
This is a good drill as you will know if you’re turning your hips correctly as you won’t strike with your shin. Also, it’s a lot easier to visualize an opponent if you’re kicking something physical.
Also, you can tie a Thai pad onto a tree or pole so you can hit with more power, check out my recommend Thai pads page here.
Now start with shadow boxing without anything and then transition to hitting something physical. Be careful not to break anything!
8.Work On Chambering Your Kicks!
Ideally with your kicks you want to have good control of your balance as you kick, and where your kicks will land. Chambering is when you lift your knee towards your chest whenever you kick, and the act of retracting the kickback.
In Muay Thai we don’t chamber our kicks as much compared to martial arts like Karate and Taekwondo. but it is still very beneficial for improving your power, strength, and balance when throwing kicks.
These drills to improve your chambering are from the fantastic fightTips that you can access in the video above but I will summarise 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!
Partner Muay That Kicking Drills
1. Beginner Drill To Help Turn Your Hip
This is a very simple drill that you can do whilst kicking a heavy bag or the air. Shoutout to Muay Thai PROS for this one(above video), this drill will help a beginner understand how to rotate their hips for a kick.
- Have someone stand behind you when you kick and have their hands behind your hip
- When you kick, have your partner PUSH your hips forward whilst ensuring you’re on your toes and push off with the heel and step out a bit before you kick
2. Drill To Make Sure You Kick With Your Shin
Most people who start Muay Thai(me especially) will kick with their foot instead of their knee, which can cause injury and importantly will not damage your opponent.
My good friend Elijah fresh from training in Thailand told me about this drill to fix this problem, and it’s super effective.
- Have a partner raise their knee like they are checking a kick but don’t raise it that so to leave space between the knee and elbow to kick
- Kick your partner in between the space between the elbow and knee.
- Repeat for around 25 reps with each leg for 3 sets.
This is so effective as it forces you to kick properly if you kick incorrectly without turning your hip, you will hit your partner block. This drill will reinforce a good kicking pattern and I love it and try to teach it to everyone.
3.Body Kick Mobility Drill
Turning your hip over as you kick is crucial in Muay Thai, just drill done in Muay Thai gyms the world over is an excellent way to get the muscle memory of how you should finish kick.
- Have a partner grab your leg like they are catching a kick
- Turn your hip in whilst protecting your head and having your other arm out
- Either hold the stretch for 10 breaths or do reps of 20 with each hip turn counting as one rep
- Repeat for both legs
4.Handshake Roundhouse Drill
Your roundhouse will be your bread and butter Muay Thai kick, and this drill from the video above allows you to practice the ideal roundhouse technique, differently than the last two examples.
- Stand across from a partner and have them hold out their hand like a handshake
- Grab your partner hand, whilst pulling up and be on the balls of your feet and pivot with your shoulders back
- Repeat for 25 reps on both reps for around 3 sets
If you don’t have a partner but have a heavy bag you can use resistant band attached to something sturdy, to simulate grabbing someone’s hand.
5.Balance & Hip Thrust(0:22 In The Video)
The following 5 drills are common Muay Thai partner drills which you can see in action in the fantastic Sean Fagan’s partner drills in the video above
- Have a partner grab your leg whilst they’re catching a kick
- Your partner will walk around whilst holding your leg to test your balance
- Every time they stop, turn your hip in to practice the kick
- Repeat for around 10 reps change legs and do 3 sets
6.Kick For Kick (1:00 In The Video)
Like the name suggests with. a controlled partner go kick for kick and block each time, this is great for a warmup whilst testing technique and balance. Focus more on the technique and turning in instead of power.
- With a partner go in turns to kick each other blocks
- Repeat for around 20 kicks then switch legs
7.Check & Return(1:18 In The Video)
This is great for balance and getting accustomed to returning immediately after you get it, which is super important in Muay Thai. It’s important to maintain good balance and vary your kicks when you return
- Have your partner either go for a high kick or low kick
- Check your partner’s low kick or block the high kick and then immediately return with either leg
- Repeat for around 20 kicks and then switch roles with your partner, for a total of 3 sets.
8.Catch And Return (1:55 In The Video)
Catching kicks is very important in Muay Thai, and you must get used to dropping the leg and following up with a kick. Remember to vary your kicks
- Have your partner go for a body kick
- Catch your partner kick and drop the leg and kick with either leg
- Repeat for around 20 reps then switch roles with your partner for a total of 3 sets
9. Check And Teep (2:29 In The Video)
The whole game between checking a kick and what happens after is crucial for Muay Thai, someone could kick again or a punch or move back so getting in. the habit of teeping after checking is a crucial skill to learn.
- Have your partner go for a low kick
- Check the kick and with the same leg with control teep your partner
- Go 1 for 1 and repeat for around 2 minutes
10. One Person Kicks The Other Defends(3:00 In Video)
Working on your defense in Muay Thai and maintaining a strong guard is as important as your offense. With this drill only person kicks whilst the other defends and holds their ground. Try not to kick left-right but encourage fakes to make it more challenging and disrupt the kicking pattern.
- Have your partner with control kick you, with whatever kick they want
- Block and parry the kicks for around 1-2 minutes
- Swap over from your partner
11. Get Hit Then Move Forward (2:30 In Video)
Whenever you get hit in Muay Thai you must be on the offensive! If you get intimidated and drop back, this shows your opponent you are frightened and worst still you cannot easily counter since you are too far. Practicing moving forward whilst getting hit is key to succeeding in Muay Thai.
- Have your partner kick you
- Take the hit and practice moving forward towards your partner
- Repeat for around 1-2 minutes and switch roles with your partner.
Bag Muay Thai Kicking Drills
1.How To Kick Harder By Turning The Wheel
Using this drill you will drastically improve your kicking power and it is used by UFC fighters like Donald Cerrone and dutch kickboxing legend Ernesto Hoost. Try switching the kicks from low, to middle and high.
- With your lead hand intentionally miss a hook aimed towards an imaginary opponent
- After you throw the kick bring your other hand across your body
- With the momentum of your hand coming back, turn your shoulders and hands like your turning a wheel.
- As your turning, this wheel bring your leg and smash your shin to the heavy bag
- Repeat for 50 reps and switch sides and repeat
2.Heavy Bag Drill How To Kick Faster
Once you learned the proper roundhouse technique and learned to deliver kicks with power, now you can work on your speed and stamina/balance. Remember in between kicks act like your in a fight keep yourself active on the balls of your feet.
- Have one partner stand behind a heavy bag and hold it steady
- On the balls of the feet kick the bag with speed and precision, as soon as you connect bring your foot back to the floor with the balls of your feet
- Immediately kick again
- Repeat 50 times and switch legs and hold the bag for your partner
3. Heavy Bag Drill To Improve Balance
Balance in all martial arts is key, especially for striking martial arts. This drill will help you maintain balance whilst you teep, which will help you check kicks whilst still being offensive.
Remember to use the balls of your feet and aim for the same spot to improve your accuracy and help the bag from spinning everywhere.
- Stand in front of a heavy bag lift one leg and teep the bag this will cause the heavy bag to swing away from you
- With the same leg give a shorter teep as it’s swinging back to prevent it from swinging again
- Repeat 50 ties and switch legs
4.Condition Your Shins!
I’m sure you felt the pain of kicking someone’s block or clashing shins in Muay Thai it hurts! Dealing with this pain by toughening your shins through a process called bone calcification(read more here )is key to success in Muay Thai.
If your shins are constantly in pain, how can you kick properly?
Again Sean Fagan has a video answering this topic but I will summarise the main points.
- Your shins will always hurt. Dealing with shin pain. is just a normal part of Muay Thai, you can never clash with someone’s shin and not feel pain even with shin guards, it normal so just get used to it!
- Kick The Heavy Bag a LOT. The best method to strengthen your shins is just hit the heavy bag often and with power, avoid using the softer bags in your gym start with 50 reps per side and gradually increase the repetitions
- Run a lot. Like with the bag when you run your shins take a lot of damage(shin splints) and come back stronger. If you’re new take and ease into it and gradually increase your running frequency. In camp, Thais run 10k every day so there must be something to it!
- Take Care Of Your Shins. Aside from being healthy and having good nutrition, if you take a bowl of recently boiled you can wet. a towel and use this towel to put pressure on your shins and flush & break down the muscle tissue, see my post here on other ways to deal with the pain
- Spar Often. There is no substitute for sparring in every combat sport and getting used to fighting and the punishment your body takes is key to having strong shins. In a spar try to be accurate and not hit a body part that is hard like your opponent’s shin or elbow which will reduce the pain you feel after.