Muay Thai fighters are known for their fast, powerful kicks that can end a fight instantly. Low kicks are one of the most used weapons in Muay Thai competitions.
Also known as the art of eight limbs, Muay Thai fighters are allowed to use their fists, elbows, knees, and legs as weapons. Many would argue that Muay Thai kicks are their most powerful weapons since the largest muscles in the body are in the lower half. How Muay Thai fighters throw their kicks also makes them more powerful since they use their legs and follow through as if they were swinging a baseball bat. Martial artists from other combat styles like karate tend to use their legs as whips when throwing kicks.
Improving your kicking speeds also makes your kicks more powerful. It’s simple physics. The faster an object like your leg moves, the greater the force it makes impact with. Speed is why getting hit by a car moving at 5 kilometers per hour is less likely to be lethal than getting hit by the same car moving at 60 kilometers per hour.
Before diving into drills that help you improve your speed, let’s take a look at some of the things you should have perfected before focusing on improving your speed:
- Technique: Good technique naturally increases the speed and power your kicks land with. The best way to improve your technique is by drilling moves repeatedly with the correct form until they become part of your muscle memory. You don’t want to be thinking about pivoting your hips or other little details that significantly impact the effectiveness of your technique when fighting. You want to do these things without thinking. Drilling consistently is the only way to get there. When drilling, stand in front of a mirror to make sure you’re using good form. You should also consider scheduling one-on-one sessions with your instructor so any issues with your techniques can be addressed.
- Train Your Core: A lot of the power and speed for your kicking techniques come from your core muscles, so don’t neglect them. Aim to work out your core at least three times a week and watch the speed and power of your techniques increase.
- Add Strength And Conditioning To Your Training Program: Improving your muscle strength and endurance increases the power, explosiveness, and speed of your kicks. Start by determining your one-rep max for popular exercises like the bench press and squat. Then aim to perform about 12 to 20 repetitions of these exercises using about 50 to 60 percent of your one-rep max. Aim for about five sets of each exercise with only about 30 seconds of rest between sets. This increases your muscle endurance, so the speed and power of your attacks don’t dwindle as the fight progresses. Examples of conventional exercises that will translate into more powerful and faster kicks include bench presses, squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, front dumbbell raises, and standing calf raises. You can also incorporate resistance bands into your workouts.
Exercises That Improve Your Kicking Speed
Now that we have covered some of the main things you should be working on to maximize your power, speed, and explosiveness as a Muay Thai practitioner, let’s take a look at some drills that are specifically designed to improve how fast your kicks reach their target:
1) Ankle Weight Drills
Ankle weights are one of the simplest ways to improve the speed of your kicks. They also make your kicks more powerful. There’s not much to performing Muay Thai drills with ankle weights. You simply wrap the weights around your legs and perform any kicking drill you like. Even shadowboxing with ankle weights improves your kicking speed and power.
The ankle weight makes your legs heavier, forcing you to use more force to achieve your normal speed. By the time you get used to throwing kicks with that extra weight on you, your kicks will be noticeably faster when you take the ankle weights off.
2) Speed Kicking Drills
Speed kicking drills are an effective way to improve the speed and power of your kicks. They are also extremely easy to do. You can perform them with a training partner or a heavy bag. It involves throwing as many kicks as you can in a short duration. Here’s an example of what a speed kicking drill looks like:
- Set a timer for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Get into your fighting stance with a heavy bag or training partner holding mitts in front of you.
- Start the timer and throw as many kicks as you can while the clock runs.
- Rest for one to two minutes and repeat the exercise. Try to break your best record each time you perform the drill. Perform the drills three to five times each time you train.
- Wear ankle weights for more of a challenge.
3) Box Jumps
Box jumps help to build up explosive power in your legs, leading to faster, more powerful kicks. The key to getting the most out of this exercise is using the proper form. Start with a small box and build up from there. While the exercise looks easy, proper form is required to avoid putting excessive stress on your knees.
This exercise builds fast-twitch muscles in your legs, improving your movement and kicks. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Stand in front of a box with your feet shoulder-width apart. It should be a short step ahead of you.
- Lower your body by bending your knees slightly and swinging your arms out behind you.
- Use the momentum from your quarter squat and swinging your arms forward to propel yourself up as you jump on the box.
- Land softly on the box with your knees slightly bent. The tip of your toes should be the first part of your body to make contact with the box when you jump.
- Step back down and repeat the process. Perform about five reps to complete a set and aim for three to four sets. Increase the number of reps as you build endurance in your legs.
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