A well-executed kick is the most devastating weapon in a Muay Thai fighter’s arsenal. When delivered correctly, a kick will bring a fight to an end immediately, so it’s worth spending a lot of time perfecting your kicking technique.
No matter which kick you use, when delivered properly all of them are incredibly effective techniques and can swing a fight your way in an instant.
In this article we’re going to go in depth on how to improve your Muay Thai kicks, covering training advice, practical tips and simple suggestions.
By the end of the article you’ll have a much better understanding of how to improve your Muay Thai kicks, turning you into a better, more skilled and well-rounded fighter. The more effective weapons you have at your disposal, the better the fighter you’ll be.
If you are going to be focusing on your kicking game, I'd also recommend investing in a pair of padded ankle supports. These are pretty cheap and will help soften the blow of your kicks and provide some support to your ankle joint.
Step up Your heavy bag sessions
This is an obvious but important place to start. When practicing ANY skill, you have to start in a no-pressure situation. The heavy bag is perfect – it’s largely stationary, so isn’t a moving target. This means you can focus on hitting the same spot time and time again, working on your basic accuracy of kicks.
It’s also resistant to punishment, so you can work on generating power time and time again. By allowing such huge volume of kicks, the bag is excellent for improving your Muay Thai kicking technique. Any skill is learned and improved through repetition, so this repeated movement pattern helps to re-wire the brain making the skills easier to execute.
The heavy bag being so still is perfect for working on distance control. The reduced swinging of the heavy bag means that you can practice your distances time and time again with a lot more consistency. Remember, you can generate all the power you like, but if you don’t hit the target your kicking is useless and can land you in trouble.
The constant repetition of kicks from given distances ensure you learn exactly how to aim, time and deliver your kicks from a range of distances.
Throw more kicks in sparring
Having spent a lot of time working on kicking the heavy bag, it’s time to transfer those skills and technique improvements over into a more fight specific setting, where your opponent is moving, throwing strikes back at you, making you change direction etc.
You can talk with your sparring partner beforehand, explaining that you’d like to work on kicks more, so you have the opportunity to practice throwing kicks. This is fine if you know your partner well and have agreed with him/her that you are working on your kicks, but less easy if it’s a new partner.
If you are working with a new partner or have agreed to a normal sparring session, you’ll have to engineer situations in sparring where you’ll be throwing more kicks. This will test all of the techniques you’ll have been working on with the bags.
This is a true test of exactly how much your technique has improved, because hitting a moving target effectively is a much more difficult skill.
Do more leg strength training
All things being equal, stronger muscles generate more power, more force and more speed than weaker muscles. They’re also much more resistant to fatigue and are less likely to injure than weaker muscles.
You should be mixing up your leg strength training, making sure that you don’t only focus on one exercise. Look to vary your exercises, your weights and your volume, so do some leg strength training with heavy weights and short sets, then others with lighter weights and longer sets.
Your exercises needn’t be ground breaking - start with the basics such as squats, lunges, calf raises, hamstring curls, deadlifts etc. Mix up the weights, the sets and the reps. Once you have developed a really solid base of strength, then you can look to add more power-specific exercises to your leg strength training.
This can be achieved with a technique called plyometrics, where you do explosive exercises that focus on improving the neural system that is responsible for muscle contraction. This will develop kicking power more effectively as it mimics the ability of the body to generate a lot of force very quickly.
Finally, look to use ankle weights for some of your kicking drills – when you take them off you’ll be faster and more powerful with your kicking. Just don’t go too heavy with the ankle weights so you don’t risk jeopardising your technique.
Do kick drills daily
Key to improving any skill is repetition. The more often you practice a skill and a movement pattern, the better you become at it. This can’t be stressed enough – if you want to improve your Muay Thai kicks, you’ve got to do a lot of them. Expecting to make significant improvements with just 10 minutes of kicks per week is ludicrous.
Mix up your kicking drills, focus on particular aspects of your kicking. Work on distance, on technique, on generating power, on balance, on timing and speed. All of these are fundamental aspects of great kicking technique so have to be practiced.
Doing daily kick drills will also condition the shins to be able to stand up to the demands of Muay Thai kicking. We all know how important this is, so toughen up your shins with daily kick drills – you’ll be improving your technique and conditioning at the same time.
One way you can do this is to incorporate Muay Thai pads into your daily training. These are great for developing speed, power and accuracy in your leg kicks.
Skipping is a key aspect of all fight training – from Muay Thai to boxing, skipping is perfect for developing the necessary muscles to do with kicking and helps to strengthen the connective tissues that are used so heavily during powerful kicks.
By skipping regularly you also help develop something called proprioception, with is basically an awareness of your body and how it moves. This is so important in Muay Thai kicks, where the speed of movement is so quick that you don’t have time to think in many cases.
If you can improve your proprioception so that you can throw your kicks quickly and accurately almost on autopilot, you’ll be making yourself a much better fighter.
Darren Mitchell is a Muay Thai enthusiast and writer for the BestMuayThai blog. Darren has trained Muay Thai for several years at gyms all over the world alongside some world-renowned fighters and coaches.