Fitness: Best Things About Training Muay Thai

GET IN FIGHTING TRIM – There’s much, much more to Muay Thai than just learning how to kick. Here are some of the best—and sometimes lesser known—benefits of the popular combat sport.

Ever since Jean-Claude Van Damme showed the world just how hardcore the sport can be in his 1989 action flick “Kickboxer,” Muay Thai or Thai boxing has become a household name. Continued global exposure—through movie series like “Ong Bak” that popularized the ancient roots of Muay Thai and the style’s prevalence in modern MMA—solidified its position as one of the world’s most beloved combat sport.

Now, besides its competitive aspect, the physical conditioning aspect of Muay Thai has always been a big draw as well. Just look around town and you’ll find an abundance of gyms offering Muay Thai classes. There’s also plenty of high-end training camps, offering either hardcore traditional training for pro athletes or serious enthusiasts as well as experience packages that might include anything from spa treatments to luxurious accommodations.

So, you might ask, if I don’t intend to become a pro fighter, what would be my motivation to try out Muay Thai? If what I’m looking for is a new exercise option, why should I consider Muay Thai when there are so many other options available? Now, to answer that one, let’s look at some of the most important benefits of the sport as well as those that are unique to Muay Thai:

Total Body Workout

To say that Muay Thai training is physically intense would be a massive understatement. Of course, that also means that the payout will be just as big. First and foremost, Muay Thai includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which puts extra demand on your cardiopulmonary system. Once your body eventually adapts to keep up with that demand, you will definitely notice a significant jump in your physical condition.

Build Muscle

This part goes without saying. However, there are quite a few specific benefits that you can get from Muay Thai training. A lot of the movements in the sport is rotational and is driven from your center of mass. Add to that clinching or occasionally getting hit, and you will strengthen all the muscles in your trunk—your core.

Since kicking and footwork play a major part in Muay Thai, the musculature of your lower body will definitely benefit from training. All the kicking and kneeing will also help develop hip mobility, which will help you avoid a lot of painful conditions later in life.

Mind Over Matter

Now, this one sound like one of those clichéd sayings that’s so often thrown around in martial art circles. But it is true. Muay Thai training can be hard, bordering on torturous. And sometimes you will need to start a new drill or step into the ring with your body already aching all over, the coach screaming behind you and maybe a sparring partner who doesn’t pull his punches waiting for you. Go through situations like this enough times, though, and you will soon realize that your body is capable of so much more than you might think—once you put your mind to it.

Stress Relief

You’ve had a long day at work, traffic was bad and your lunch arrived cold. What better way to bleed off all that accumulated stress than working up a sweat, pummel a heavy bag for minutes on end and step into the ring with likeminded people.

Make New Friends…and Beat Them Up

The chance to socialize and make new friends is one of the most underrated benefits of Muay Thai—or any martial art, for that matter. But more than just meeting and getting to know people, training like this help you build a unique trust-based dynamic. You will step into the ring with the knowledge that your sparring partner fully intends to give your backside a good kicking; but you can also fully trust him not to intentionally hurt you. That’s why the term is sparring partner.

Training Never Ends

One final benefit from training in Muay Thai—or, once again, any martial art—is that there’s always something new to discover. There is a limited range of techniques and drills, and training is mostly a matter of repetition. But within that endless repetition you will eventually discover endless variety—minor adjustments, slight changes and clever tricks that can turn the tide of a bout. And as you train with an ever increasing circle of fellow fighters, your repertoire will grow even more. Essentially, with Muay Thai, it’s never too late to start and it’s never late enough to stop.