The 12 Ways Muay Thai Gets You In Shape


Muay Thai has some of the best conditioning in all martial arts and is a fantastic way to get into shape. n this article using all my research and my own personal experience I will explain the 12 ways in which Muay Thai gets you into shape.

I know starting anything new can be intimidating but I promise you Muay Thai will change both your body and your mind forever!

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Burn Up To 1000 calories Per Class

There are very few martial arts or any type of exercise that can compete with the fantastic cardio workout you get from Muay Thai. You are in constant motion, round after round of kicking, punching, kneeing, and elbowing with conditioning drills are guaranteed to melt your fat and increase your heart rate.

High-intensity interval training(HIIT) is superb for losing weight(see this article) and most of your Muay Thai training will involve HIIT. Everything from jumping rope, kicking, punching is done at the maximum effort as a conditioning drill. Usually for rounds of 3 minutes with a 1-minute rest in between rounds, there no better cardio out there!

If you see this article by Men’s Health it only takes two weeks to see results from HIIT, and after those 14 days, you will see the same increase in strength and endurance with only 134 minutes of HIIT training compared to 630 minutes of traditional endurance work(, cycling, running) which is over 4 times quicker!

Muay Thai not only will make you lose weight more quickly in a fan way but it will also IMPROVE your power and strength in about 1/4 of the time as doing traditional workouts! What’s not to like?

In an average Muay Thai class you will start warming up with 5 minutes of skipping followed by some bodyweight exercises, then you find a partner, to drill some combos with Thai pad(see my recommended Thai pads here). All this is a very enjoyable fun workout.

This class will burn a whopping 600 calories per hour, with the average class being 90 minutes averaging a rough 1000 calories per session. I can tell you from experience how much more enjoyable a Muay Thai session is than a boring hour-long treadmill session. Losing weight has never been so fun!

Muay Thai is mostly aerobic exercise which is known by many scientists to be the best way to maintain your weight. With around 45-75 minutes(just under a class) a couple of times of the week to be ideal to be at your ideal weight.

For long term weight loss overweight and obese adults should eventually aim for 200 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week to lose weight. This is around 3 Muay Thai classes as a week

If you’re overweight or obese and think Muay Thai will be too intense for you don’t worry, you will be able to go at your own pace at taking a rest whenever you want and eventually work your intensity up.

Improved Bone Strength

Muay Thai like no other sport greatly increases your bone strength through a process called bone calcification when the body deposits calcium to increase bone density and strengthen bones. You can read more about it here.

Why is strengthening your bones important? Strong bones will protect your vital internal organs and provide added support for your muscles, which will help you in every aspect of your life.

The problem with not exercising is as you age, your body goes through a process called osteoporosis which causes your body to reabsorb calcium from your bones which makes your bones so much weaker.

Ever wonder why old people break bones so frequently? This is why, and it is because of a lack of exercise, worst still the break will happen suddenly and you won’t even notice it until it’s too late.

Osteoporosis is even worse with women as females have smaller, thinner bones than men, and when women reach menopause their estrogen hormone which protects bone health sharply decreases. Making doing any physical exercise such as Muay Thai even more important for women as they age.

But physical exercise is PROVEN to increase bone health(article here), but with Muay Thai and it’s an emphasis on combat bone calcification; this process happens even quicker especially with the shins(see the above video in how strong Thai fighters shins are).

I noticed this myself as my shins have gotten a lot stronger which was done in Muay Thai with hours and hours of kicking heavy bags, Thai pads, and doing sparring. Your body will understand it needs to strengthen the shin and other bones with calcium, and over time this will make the structure of your body so much stronger, preventing all manner of diseases from ever occurring later on in life.

Think how much your older body will thank you years from now knowing you chose to embark on this beautiful Muay Thai path, knowing your bones are full of calcium and way less likely to break.

In Thailand fighters have to go on runs daily, and running itself has shown to be very helpful to increase bone density. This study concluded that runners of both genders had 40% more bone minerals than the non-running control group. I think a study of control and Muay Thai trainers will find an even bigger difference.

Increased Muscle And Strength

Muay Thai is known as the art of 8 limbs as you strike with your feet, arms, knees, and elbows which makes it a fantastic full-body muscle building workout with everything you do in the art.

Bodyweight training is key in Muay Thai, and you be doing do pushups squats and burpees pretty and jumping rope pretty much every training session before you even start kicking or punching!

All this exercise puts a lot of stress in the muscles and forces them to grow back stronger. After your first Muay Thai session I can guarantee you are doing to be sore but this is only temporary as your body rebuilds itself to become a better, more rounded machine.

All the various moves and combos you will be learning will work your body in new and interesting ways, there is a lot of core(abs) work in Muay Thai with the constant kicking and punching, which is why Muay Thai fighters always have developed core muscles.

So why not start learning Muay Thai and not only get a fantastic workout that burns 1000 calories per session, but also will improve your bone density and muscle mass? What’s not to like?

Reduce Stress

There is nothing better after a stressful 9-5 office job to wind down with your Muay Thai buddies and smash pads, you will find yourself so much more relaxed and able to wind down after a stressful workday, as getting out your frustration by hitting things hard feels SO good!

The higher levels of cortisol in your blood the more stressed you are, and the quicker you lose brain tissue see the above video for more detail. This is why people with high-stress jobs like bankers/doctors are more likely to have brain diseases as they get older.

Muay Thai is such a fantastic workout and I’ve noticed myself the powerful effects it has on reducing my cortisol levels as I feel so much better after training. As someone who suffers from very mild depression I’ve seen the difference myself between the days I train and don’t train.

Muay Thai is the perfect weapon to fight depression with the more intense workouts having a more impactful effect on stress levels. However, any exercise in genera,l has been proven to reduce stress levels(see this study) but combat sports, in particular, have a more powerful effect in my observations with how I and other people I know feel after training.

Whilst you’re kicking the pads or sparring someone, you can only focus on that action and nothing else. Doing a martial art that regularly detaches from the boring daily grind just helps you become a more stable, happier, and carefree individual. Nothing will make you more relax and zen than 9 rounds of Sparring!

Increased Energy Levels

You might think, but Dillon wouldn’t training Muay Thai to make me more tired and less focused in my daily life? No, exactly the opposite as numerous studies such as Researchers at the University of Georgia found that people who did as little as 20 minutes a week of aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks reported an increase in energy levels and feeling less tired.

Now, if you want to know how often you should train Muay Thai click my post here but as a beginner around two sessions of 90 minutes, a week is ideal. This is a lot more exercise than the group in the above study, so I think the increase in energy levels would be even more improved.

Listen to what Pete McCall(his website), Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise says about exercise and improved fatigue levels.

“If a sedentary individual begins an exercise program it will enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue improving their ability to produce more energy (the chemical adenosine triphosphate)

Pete McCall Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise

Now training Muay Thai if your untrained will not immediately improve your fatigue levels as shown in a study by the medical journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic. One group did moderate exercise for 6 weeks while the other did low-intensity exercise.

Whilst both groups reported a 20 % increase in energy levels compared to the non-exercising group, the low-intensity group reported a 65% drop in feelings of fatigue while the more intense exercisers reported a 49% drop in fatigue.

Pete McCall said the following about the differences.

the discrepancy between the low-intensity and moderate-intensity groups could be explained, because if the participants in the moderate-intensity group did not take the time to develop an aerobic base, then the higher rate of work might leave them feeling more physically drained.”

Pete McCall Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise

This means for untrained individuals it will take a longer time to achieve a higher standard of fitness for Muay Thai, so you will temporarily feel more tired training Muay Thai than doing more moderate exercise; however, this will not last long as the more physically fit you become the more high-intensity workouts will improve your energy levels.

Improved Sleep

In modern society people across the globe have reported having sleep issues with 40% of people age 40 to 59 reporting(in this study) that they are getting less than recommended amounts of sleep; I don’t think these people do Muay Thai.

Your body operates on a 24-hour sleep cycle known as your circadian rhyme, with your body reaches the highest temperature at night and makes a chemical called melatonin which causes you to sleep; regular exercise increases natural melatonin in the body.

For older people, it’s even more important to exercise with this 6-month study of 8 older people from a retirement center engaging in weight training resulted in a 38% sleep improvement with a 52% upper body strength increase!

These same effects would be found in Muay Thai, as all the bodyweight training you do together with the 100s of repetitions of hitting the Thai pads would result in similar muscle gains.

It isn’t just weight training and this study found that weight training, walking, and social interactions will improve sleep for older individuals. Muay Thai isn’t just a workout, I’ve increased my social circle a lot with the people I have met in the gym and I think it’s helped my mental state a lot.

Training Muay Thai will make you less tired during the day and this study of over 2600 men and women aged 18-85 found that 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week pound a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.

So even if you only do two Muay Thai classes a week roughly 180 minutes of exercise your sleep quality will DRASTICALLY improve and you will feel less tired and be more productive in your daily life. Muay Thai is sounding amazing right now right

Improved Hip Mobility And Strength

Muay Thai through the process of kicking and kneeing will make your hips so much more mobile, strong and less injury-prone. Hip pain is a big issue at a later age in this study 14.3% of participants aged 60 years and older reported significant hip pain on most days over the past 6 weeks. Living in pain when your older, who wants that?

Whilst stretching is good for reducing the risk of injury, nothing is more effective than strengthening muscles to prevent injury. Resistant training helps strengthen muscle and tendons whilst increasing the flexibility of these ligaments.

With Muay Thai you will be kicking a LOT so by nature your hips will become a lot stronger with increased range of motion. Think, you lose what you don’t use as your body is very efficient with it’s movement patterns.

Who is less likely to have hip problems when their older, someone who never exercised ever, or someone who still practices Muay Thai and works his/her hips all the time?

For more information on how to open your hips to improve your kicks, please click my post here.

Improved Heart Function

Muay Thai is very unique as it is both an aerobic and anaerobic workout which is super good for your heart.

The main difference between both exercises is aerobic exercise causes your heart and breathing rate to go up like when jogging, and anaerobic means without oxygen and involves exercises that cause you to be quickly out of breath like whenever you sprint or lift heavyweights.

With Muay Thai pretty much everything you do can both aerobic and anaerobic exercise depending on the intensity. If you jump rope at a leisurely pace it’s aerobic but if you jump rope with the maximum intensity it will be a very anaerobic workout this is the same for; hitting the bag, pads, shadow boxing, etc.

With Aerobic exercise from Muay Thai, your heart will get stronger and pump more blood, with elite athletes pumping twice as pump blood to their bodies as average individuals. and your muscles won’t run out of energy as quickly and you’re less likely to get a heart attack.

The benefits of anaerobic exercise are it helps build lean muscle mass and calories are burned more efficiently in bodies with more muscle. It also improves endurance and fitness levels and will make losing weight easier, as the more muscular you have the more your bodies naturally burn calories; this is why Muay Thai is fantastic for improving metabolism.

Better Weight Control

According to these statistics in 2017-2018 42.4% of Americans are obese, with obesity increasing the risk of developing many serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes. high blood pressure. high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. A survey of global trend founds obesity was now second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in Europe.

Few sports burn as many calories as Muay Thai, with around 1000 calories burnt per class. Aerobic exercise has been proven to sharply reduce the risk of many serious diseases, notably, the Diabetes prevention program of more than 3000 people with a high risk of diabetes lost 12-15 pounds with 150 minutes of exercise reducing their risk of diabetes by 58%!

Another study of obese postmenopausal women who did aerobic exercise for 16 weeks for 45-60 minutes increased their insulin sensitivity by 20%..

The evidence that aerobic exercise prevents or reduces cardiovascular disease is even stronger. One study of more than 13,000 men and women found fit individuals had around half the date of cardiovascular disease as unfit individuals. Aerobic exercise prevents heart disease by reducing blood pressure so the vessels are less stiff and less likely for fat to build up and clog the vessels.

However, Muay Thai alone will not reduce your weight as maintaining a healthy diet is 80% of the battle of defeating obesity. Click here for a list of the top 20 healthy foods to lose weight. Although you will be hard-pressed to find any exercise than can compete with Muay Thai’s fat-burning potential.

Increased Athletic Performance

Pretty much all Muay Thai movements can be both aerobic and anaerobic making muay Thai fantastic for making you a more athletic and well-rounded athlete.

Muay Thai fights are 5 rounds of 3 minutes making the whole fight last 15 minutes, so a Muay Thai fighter has to have the perfect balance between explosive power and endurance.

You only have to use the raising trend of both Muay Thai and MMA in popular culture, with former College Football player Dominick Reyes and other college athletes making the jump to fighting and MMA with the increased paydays.

MMA and Muay Thai athletes have some of the best conditioning in sports as reported by ESPN, and combat sports by nature is extremely taxing emotionally. Every time a Muay Thai athlete steps into the ring they know they could get a life-altering injury in that ring, yet they still step in.

Now you don’t have to be a professional Muay Thai fighter to get these benefits, as all the different things Muay Thai requires you from: boxing, kicking, kneeing, clinching, stretching, and mobility will all toughen you up both mentally and physically making you a super athlete version of your self.

Better Quality of Life

Muay Thai is one of the toughest martial arts you can do, and this is exactly why you should do it. Training martial arts is the best positive change I’ve implemented in my life and I’m so glad I started.

If you want to know how hard it is Muay Thai to learn, then check out my post here.

Regular Muay Thai training is tough and it will make you stronger physically but also mentally. This mental toughness of pushing past your limits will be felt in everyday life, and it will help you overcome many of life’s challenges.

Think, when you regularly spar someone who is trying to hurt you every week, how unimportant will things you normally stressed over and paid needless attention to seem?

Performing a presentation in front of your co-workers or asking for a raise from your boss, will all seem ever so trivial compared to VOLUNTEERING to be punched in the face every week. Trust me, it puts things into perspective.

The aerobic exercise from Muay Thai has also been shown to improve your thinking, with rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease being lower in older individuals who exercise three or more times per week compared with older adults who exercise fewer than three times per week in some cases the risk is 62% lower.

So Muay Thai will improve both your perspective on life and help you think better and improve brain function? Sign me up! Oh, wait too late…

Improved Skin Health

Have you ever noticed that older people who exercise regularly tend to have lovely glowing skin? The secret is regular physical activity such as doing Muay Thai

In this study researchers found that by age 40 men and women who exercised often had thinner, healthier layers in their skin, with the skin being much closer in health to 20-30-year-old people; compared to people of their same age group, even if they were closer to 65.

Just look at the above video of Richard Wee(58) who’s skin looks great for his age and he associates a lot of his newfound health to martial arts and Muay Thai in particular as he was overweight and unfit before he started training Muay Thai.

Whenever you start sweating your skin has a mini facial as it allows your pores to dilate and any trapped oil or gunk on your o be cleaned by your sweat; whereas if you don’t sweat often all that gunk and oil is still trapped in the skin, hurting your natural skin complexion.

With regular Muay Thai training your skin will produce more collagen which is a protein found in skin and other connecting tissues, the more you workout the less likely you will get wrinkles! Take a look at dermatologist(skin Doctor) Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty points on the benefit. of exercise for the skin.

By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital. “Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin,

Ellen Marmur, MD, Dermatologist

Even a few minutes of Muay Thai will send blood pumping throughout your body, let alone a full intense 90-minute class. Do Muay Thai your skin will thank you!

Do you ever feel like you forget things? According to this study regular aerobic exercise expands your hippocampus, a part of the brain that is linked to memory. I feel a lot sharper the day after heavy training, which is likely due to the improved sleep and brain function triggered by intense Muay Thai exercise.

I think most brain diseases in older people like dementia are caused by a lack of both brain and physical activity. You lose what you don’t use, remember? Regular exercise, but especially Muay Thai is everyone’s best weapon for fighting every disease imaginable both for the body and the brain.

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