Muay Thai Shin Conditioning 101: Dos and Don’ts

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muay thai shin conditioning.

One of the common anxieties around training Muay Thai is the fear of hurting your shins. Luckily, one of the first things you do is shin conditioning.

Perhaps you have seen the videos of Muay Thai fighters chopping down trees with their kicks. While this is impressive, if you’ve ever banged your shin on your bed frame, you probably know that’s not for you.

And spoiler alert: Your shins will probably always hurt after kicking an opponent. 

But put your fear aside and read on because this article will provide some helpful guidance about how you can condition yourself to have tougher, more resilient shins so that you hurt less.

And this article we’ll also look at how to overcome the fear of injuring your shins as well. 

What is Shin Conditioning?

Shin conditioning is both a physical and psychological process with the objective of creating shins that are capable and resistant enough to endure the pain of combat. 

Physically, the process involves subjecting your shins to consistent and increasingly intense pressure to calcify the bones to increase their bone density and effectiveness in a fight.

Psychologically, the process of shin conditioning involves becoming familiar with shin pain in order to build the confidence to overcome the pain of facing this pain.

You don’t want to be paralyzed by the fear of the prospect of pain when the opportunity to throw a full-forced kick at an opponent presents itself.

It seems intimidating initially, but rest assured that it is an iterative step-by-step process. 

Benefits of Shin Conditioning for Muay Thai 

Muay Thai is an accessible sport that has benefits for nearly everyone.

But it is also an intense sport that will develop a person’s pain threshold, especially when it comes to shin pain. 

When a fighter goes through the motion of hardening his shins, he also hardens his resolve to use those shins in a fight. He gains an understanding of the pain, allowing him to face his fear.

And if you ever plan to actually set foot into a ring, or heaven forbid, come across a Muay Thai fighter in a street fight.

Rest assured that when you block your opponent’s kick with your shin, you will see that the pain suffered during training days is worth it.

A fighter who does not condition his shins can expect either a rude awakening the first time he lands a kick on an opponent or on the opposite side of the spectrum, may find himself hesitant to effectively use one pair of eight limbs of Muay Thai.

How to Condition Your Shins

This process of conditioning your shins calls for consistency, determination and also intensity of your training sessions.

But certainly, the more you give, the more you get. 

Kicking Heavy Bag or Muay Thai Pads

Both Thai pads and heavy bags are softer than your shin bone. But they are hard enough to damage the nerves on the skin above your shin bone with repeated impact.

When you use a heavy bag or Thai pads, not only do you have the opportunity to practice your kicking technique, but you also help build strong bone tissue. More kicks will result in micro – fractures which will become calcified and hardened shins.

Low kicks are the most effective way to maximize the heavy bag since the bottom of the bag will have the most density thanks to Newton’s laws of gravity.   


Running is a part of just about every athlete’s regimen, regardless of the sport (e-sports is an exception). Running helps build stamina and also builds stronger bones, especially where your weight is most concentrated – your lower legs. 

Jumping Rope

We are huge advocates for the benefits of jumping rope not only for Muay Thai training but for overall health and fitness.

For shin conditioning, jumping rope involves your body weight repeatedly bouncing up and down on your calves and shins which will invariably result in a strain on your shinbone, helping it to increase its resilience and strength during the recovery period. 

jumping rope for shin conditioning.

Strong shins and calf muscles make for more resilient shins, but like anything, you have to listen to your body to avoid getting shin splints.

Sparring with Shin Guards

Muay Thai sparring puts you in a simulation where you get to experience some of the thrills of Muay Thai but with a reduced amount of force from your partner. When sparring, it is recommended to go no more than 70% strength. 

In real Muay Thai fights, participants are not allowed to wear shin guards. When sparring, however, this is permitted, and it gives you the chance to experience some of the reality of kicks and checks while providing a degree of safety.

Lifting Weights

Everyone knows that strength training helps to build stronger muscles and stronger bones. To help build stronger shins, lower body exercises including squats, calf raises and shin presses using a leg press machine are the best options. 

How NOT to Condition Your Shins

Here are some of the strategies you may have seen people use to condition their shins.

But they aren’t recommended and should be avoided if you’re not a masochist.

Rolling a Glass Bottle or Using a Shin Conditioning Stick

Please for your own sake, do not use shin conditioning sticks, boards, or bottle as tools to condition your shins.

This causes bruises and knots to form on the shin and creates unnecessary pain that brings little benefit. 

Kicking Trees

First of all, the trees you’ve seen being kicked in videos by fighters are banana trees. Banana trees are not hardwood trees, but rather have soft, rubbery trunks.

And the good news is you don’t have to do this to get tough shins. In fact, you shouldn’t even try it. And the better news is that this day and age, the idea that Muay Thai fighters don’t need to chop down trees with their kicks.

They use modern equipment to develop. 

Yes, Thai boxers do have exceptional conditioning and high pain thresholds, and their type of training program develops hard shins. But no, this is not accomplished by kicking trees.

Shin Conditioning Equipment ‘Essentials’ for Training

Gone are the days of Thai fighters moonlighting as banana tree lumberjacks with their kicks.

Today Thai boxers achieve hard shins through the use of modern boxing equipment and months of training. Also, remember that most authentic Thai boxers begin training between the ages of 8 and 12, some even younger around 5.

They are literally knee deep in competition from the ages of 16. Repetitive training for 8 or more years with thousands of kicks to the heavy bag makes for resilient and hardened shins.

Here are the things you need to consider when choosing the equipment:

Heavy Bags

As we have discussed previously, heavy bag training is an essential and great way for hardening and conditioning your shins.

And there are several different types of heavy bags you can use for this.

Apart from helping you simulate the variety of kicking techniques that are part of Muay Thai, a proper heavy bag also helps harden your bone density.

Standard Muay Thai bags are five to six feet in length and generally have a maximum weight of 150 lbs. Anything less reduces the effectiveness of the conditioning, although you will feel more comfortable and will feel the difference of a lighter bag.    

Shin Pads

According to Muay Thai rules, shin pads are not an acceptable piece of equipment permitted in a sanctioned bout. For training, however, obviously, these are perfectly fine and helpful in avoiding unnecessary injuries. 

The last thing a fighter wants is an injury in the lead-up to a fight. Shin pads can certainly help avoid this. Especially high quality Fairtex ones.

Just remember that shin pads are not bulletproof vests designed to completely absorb the force of a kick.

But they do help reduce the risk of injury significantly, and a martial artist’s shins will harden and develop toughness through the use of shin pads. 

Kick Pads

Kick pads are used for pad work and is therefore an essential part of your training regimen. Your trainer will hold the pads and call out techniques for you to execute.

Obviously, while you are practicing techniques, you can expect your skills to improve things like your teep kick or your roundhouse kick.

But the key to using kick pads for shin conditioning is to ensure that they are tough pads.

Newer pads will result in initial pain for a novice Muay Thai practitioner. As the kick pads are used repeatedly over an extended period of time, they soften – similar to a baseball glove being broken in.

The softer the kick pad the less effective in terms of shin conditioning, so to maximize the usefulness of shin pads as a tool for shin conditioning, you should use newer harder, pads.  

Shin Conditioning ‘Essentials’ for Recovery

  • Ice or an ice pack is a great option. The coolness helps reduce inflammation and numbs soreness. 
  • Rest – Like a weight training regime, Muay Thai practitioners need to take rest days. Your shins and tendons need time to heal, and will be grateful.
  • After training, massage your shins using an analgesic heat scrub (such as A535, Ben Gay or Tiger Balm). Be careful not to accidentally rub any of these lotions on your eyes or on the family jewels though. This can lead you to new definitions and new levels of pain.
  • You can also use your knuckles to massage your shins. You can do this by placing your shin between your middle knuckles and middle fingers, and then rubbing vigorously along your entire shin. This will promote healing of any bruised flesh or bone damage.

Shin Conditioning Tips & Drills

If you want proper conditioning for your shins you should:

  • Practice with the Heavy Bag and/or Thai pads at least 50-100 kicks on a daily basis and if possible, more. The more you kick, the stronger your shins will become.
  • When you start a training session, start kicking the heavy bag lightly. Gradually increase the power so that you are kicking full power for the final 30-50 strong kicks.

Is Muay Thai Bad for your Bones?

Muay Thai is not technically bad for your bones. Like anything, over time, exertion, or lack of protective equipment can result in injury.

And that’s why proper technique is essential.

With regards to bones, however, one can draw similarities between Muay Thai and body building. The more we exert our muscles, the stronger they become.

Our bones are similar to muscles in this respect. Osseous hypertrophy is the medical term for the bones increasing in size and strength when subjected to prolonged stress. And similar to body building, gains can be lost without consistent training.

Can Muay Thai Make Your Bones Stronger?

In a sport like Muay Thai, micro-fractures to the bones are repaired by the human body, which naturally prioritizes absorption of calcium to aid the micro-fracture and, in the process, create stronger bones.

In short, a calcium-rich balanced Muay Thai fighter diet and sufficient rest allow for bone repair and helps with bone density and bone development in the long term. 

While the bones become stronger, the nerves alternatively become less sensitive.

And pain signals to the brain in moments of distress will become less severe. For a more aggressive fighter who regularly undergoes intense stress on his or her shin bones, he or she will develop a natural resilience that enables him to persevere without significant pain. 

So, in summary, no, Muay Thai is not bad for your bones. On the contrary, Muay Thai training is likely to be good for your bones as they will be calcified as they are subjected to more stress.

But obviously, there is a breaking point, and everyone should exercise proper judgment and self awareness and train within reasonable limits.     

Is it Normal to Feel Pain When Conditioning your Shins?

The shin condition process will almost certainly be painful and uncomfortable at times.

After all, it is deadening the nerves of your shin so that you aren’t incapacitated with pain when you kick someone or they go to kick you.  

And when you first begin using a Thai heavy bag or Thai pads you will continue to feel some degree of pain. It’s normal.

This is one of the reasons that patience is so important.

Because with consistent and dedicates practice with the heavy bag and Thai pads, your shins will be properly conditioned in a matter of time.  Professional fighters still feel pain when checking a kick with their shins and when throwing a kick to their opponent. But the more conditioned your shins, the more tolerable the pain. 


So there you have it folks. While this article is coming to a close. We have looked at the benefits of shin conditioning and we have provided basic training methods for improving bone strength. You are ready to set off on your journey towards stronger shins.

Have no fear. Practice, patience, resilience, regular training (including regular use of a heavy bag) will help you see benefits in time and whether you want to train for fun or for an actual fight, stronger shins will help you in your quest of becoming a better Muay Thai practitioner. 

Happy training!

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