While the explosive popularity of mixed martial arts has seen more people than ever before taking an interest in the sport, the numbers practising for themselves has also risen steadily. People get involved in Muay Thai and other disciplines for all sorts of reasons. They may want to try MMA themselves, and this sport provides a solid base. However, it’s just as useful for general fitness, discipline and merely getting out of the house.
If you’ve chosen to get involved, then it makes sense to improve quickly. We can’t necessarily guide you in how to win fights, but you’ll see better results regardless of your goals if you make an effort to get things done. These 10 tips will set you up for success, even if you’ve never participated in the sport before.
1. Do Something for Your Cardio
There’s nothing to say that you can’t jump straight into sparring and pad work when you first start Muay Thai, but it won’t take long to realise that the sport is far more intense than you might have thought. If you’ve chosen classes, we will hope that your trainers take your current fitness levels into account. Unless you’re already pretty fit, a single session can leave you aching and winded.
To combat this, you should incorporate Muay Thai into an otherwise healthy lifestyle. You don’t necessarily need muscle mass as the technique can cover for this. What you do need is good cardio. It’s a good idea to commence your classes in conjunction with jogging or cycling to ensure you can make it through a class or session with something left in the tank.
2. Make Hand Wraps a Priority
Whether you start off with pad work or sparring, hand wraps should be a priority. If you practice at a specialist venue, they might even have them for sale, and that’s an offer you shouldn’t pass up. One of the benefits of Muay Thai is that it builds strength in bones and joints, but you don’t see the results right away. You should take steps to protect your hands in the meantime, and wraps are the best way to do so.
3. Technique Trumps Power
We’ve mentioned how the technique can overcome a lack of muscle mass, and that’s vital enough to your progress to warrant further mention. Don’t make a point of hitting things or people as hard as you can. The act of training will build muscle, and it will come in time. For now, focus on getting your technique right. Think about every move and ensure your form is correct before you switch to more powerful strikes.
4. Decide if You Enjoy It Early On
As mentioned, you won’t become a Muay Thai master overnight, and you need to decide early on whether you’re going to stick with it. Martial arts aren’t for everyone, and the money and time investments may not pay off if you don’t enjoy it enough to keep your motivation up.
5. Set a Schedule
As with any form of exercise and training, consistency is vital. If you can’t bring yourself to go to classes at least once a week, you’ll miss out on many of the benefits of the sport. If possible, you should attend twice weekly to see tangible results before your motivation drops. Consider whether this fits into your existing schedule and make a point of staying on track. Pay in advance if that helps, as people are more likely to stick with their plans if they have already cost money.
6. Remember that Muay Thai is a Full Body Workout
If you want a sport where you focus on a specific part of the body, you might be better off with boxing or soccer. In Muay Thai, your entire body gets to work out. That’s great news for most, but it may require specific training outside class. If your legs are weaker than your arms, or vice versa, ensure that you focus on these areas when you work out elsewhere.
7. Ensure You’re Well Fed and Hydrated Before Each Class
We’ve already mentioned how intense Muay Thai can be, and you need to be in peak condition every time you attend a class – or at least as good as you can be in your current shape. That means having energy and water on board to perform your best. Hydrate before, during and after a session, and try to take on some extra carbs a couple of hours before you attend if your schedule allows.
8. Don’t Neglect the Warmup
Frequent strikes in Muay Thai are a recipe for torn muscles if you take your body by surprise, so don’t underestimate the importance of stretching and limbering up before you get down to business. You can expect to extend limbs and joints, and the jolt of impact can make a difference too. Far too many people consider warmups as unnecessary and a waste of time. However, ten minutes spent stretching out before a class can save six months out of the gym with an injury.
9. Understand the Workings of Muay Thai
Your trainer will tell you more about the specifics than we can here, but think about every aspect of the discipline and work on them equally. If you train only with the idea of striking things, you won’t get far. Place equal focus on attack and defence to give yourself the best chance of becoming competitive. Even if you have no ambitions of taking on a real fight, you should take full advantage of the opportunities afforded to you.
10. Don’t Run Before You Can Walk
Motivation levels are bound to be high when you first start out but don’t forget that the time spent not doing something is just as important as doing it when training. Recovery is critical, so don’t go all out and visit the gym every day. Recovery enables you to come back stronger and see results, so set up your schedule and stick to it rather than aiming to do significantly less or more.