Muay Thai is a noble and ancient martial art that comes from Thailand. If you’re serious about perfecting killer jabs, spinning kicks, and elbow strikes, the sport is going to demand some work from you. Like any demanding sport, the key to recovery is a good stretch before and after a session.
These are the ten best stretches for Muay Thai:
- Knee twists
- Child’s pose
- Cross-body shoulder stretch
- Dynamic shoulder rolls
- Pigeon pose
- Butterfly pose
- Standing knee to chest stretch
- Standing forward bend
- Lying hamstring stretch
- Standing quad stretch
Let’s break down this list and have a detailed look at each stretch and why it’s essential for every Muay Thai athlete.
1. Knee Twists
Knee twists are important if you want to loosen up the lower back and hip areas. Muay Thai is practiced with a stance that puts your chest and shoulders forward, and the lower back acts as the anchor for many Muay Thai movements. Over time, this can put a considerable amount of strain on your lower back muscles.
Here’s how to do a knee twist stretch:
- Lie on your back and make a T-shape with both your arms fully stretched out.
- Fold your knees and bring them to your chest.
- Without moving your torso, neck, and head, move your knees to the left until they touch the floor.
- Hold for a couple of seconds and bring your knees back to your chest.
- Move your knees to the right side, hold again for a few seconds and bring them back to your chest.
- Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times.
Knee twists are most helpful when you do them before a training season.
2. Child’s Pose
The child’s pose gently stretches your lower back after a training session.
This is how you do a child’s pose:
- Get in a kneeling position and place your hands about a foot apart on the ground.
- Spread your knees about shoulder-width and let your big toes touch each other with the sole of your foot facing up.
- Move your hands forward, keeping them straight, and do this until your forehead touches the ground, letting your tummy rest in the space between your thighs.
- Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, inhaling and exhaling slowly.
- Get back to the starting position.
- Repeat this pose about five times.
You can also do a variation of this stretching exercise to activate the latissimus dorsi, better known as lats muscles. These are the muscles that stretch down from your armpit to the side of your pelvis.
To do this variation, simply place your left hand on your right hand in step 3, above, before you start moving your head to the ground. Once your head touches the bottom, you should feel the stretch in your left lats. Repeat with your right hand over your left to stretch the right lats.
3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch
This stretch relaxes an extensive collection of muscles in your shoulders and triceps. During Muay Thai, you’ll probably be holding up your guard for long, which puts some strain on your shoulders. In addition, your shoulders generate significant force whenever you throw in a jab, hook, uppercut, or elbow strike.
It’s vital to do this stretch after a Muay Thai training session to release tension and allow flexibility in your shoulders the following day. To do a cross-body shoulder stretch:
- Get into a natural standing position and let your shoulders relax.
- Keeping your right arm straight, try to bring it to your left shoulder.
- Place the inside of your left wrist on your right elbow and push your right arm into your left shoulder to induce a stretch in your right shoulder.
- Hold this position for about 10 seconds.
- Get back to the neutral standing position and do the same routine for the other arm.
- Repeat this procedure five times.
4. Dynamic Shoulder Rolls
These should be done before your Muay Thai training to improve flexibility and avoid any pulled muscles in your shoulder region.
Dynamic shoulder rolls will warm you up for any quick movements you’ll make with your arms, such as blocking and offensive strikes out your arms.
Here’s how you can perform the stretch:
- Stand in a natural position with your arms relaxed on the side of your body.
- Lift both your arms until they are parallel to the ground, putting your body in a T- shaped position.
- Keep your palms straight and facing to the front.
- Maintaining the straight position of your arms, rotate your shoulders so it looks like your fingertips are drawing circles in the air. Do this for ten seconds.
- Change the direction of rotation and rotate your shoulders again for 20 seconds.
- Rest for 10 seconds in the natural standing position and repeat the whole procedure five times.
5. Pigeon Pose
The pigeon pose is an effective stretch to loosen up the glute muscles and hips. The glute muscles are found in your buttock region and include:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
Kicking is a big part of Muay Thai, and all three muscles generate a tremendous amount of force during kicking.
If your glutes are tight, your body will compensate for specific movements by overusing other muscle groups, such as your hamstrings. Stretching them will give you an increased range of motion and balance.
To do a pigeon pose:
- Start in a kneeling position on a mat. Place your hands on the floor with both your palms facing down to support your body weight. This should get you into a table pose.
- Bring your right knee to the inside of your left wrist and straighten your left leg back.
- Bring your right buttock to the floor, allowing the outside of your ankle to touch the ground. Don’t let your entire weight fall on your right hip; keep it in the middle of your hips.
- Using your palms for support, make your back straight and look forward. You should feel a stretch in your right buttock.
- Breath out and bring your torso to rest on your right thigh as you extend your arms straight in front of you.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds.
- Get back into the table pose and do the same for the left leg.
6. Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose activates the hip flexors, inner thighs, and especially the hip adductors. Hip adductors are crucial for getting in those effective high kicks.
These muscles aren’t easy to stretch, but a butterfly pose does an excellent job of relieving tight adductors. This is how to do a butterfly pose:
- Sit on the floor with your heels touching.
- Keep your back straight and pull in your abdominal muscles tightly.
- Placing your elbows in your inner thighs, hold each foot with your hands.
- Breathe in, and as you exhale, lean forward until you feel a stretch.
- Hold the position for about 20 seconds before returning to the starting posture.
- Repeat the routine 3 to 5 times.
7. Standing Knee to Chest Stretch
This will help to stretch your lower back and hip flexors. The beauty about this stretch is that it’s done in a normal stand-up Muay Thai position.
It also prepares your muscles for the actual movements involved with inevitable kicks and knee strikes.
To do a standing knee to chest stretch:
- Come in a natural standing position, keeping your core tight and your arms relaxed at your sides.
- Raise your right knee so as to bring it towards your chest.
- Grab the knee with both your hands and pull it into your chest as close as you can.
- Hold the position for about 20 seconds.
- Slowly lower the knee back to its original position and do the same for the left knee.
- Repeat the above routine three times.
8. Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend targets your hamstring muscles. During Muay Thai, the hamstrings are often stretched during kicks and head teeps. Having flexible hamstrings will give you a competitive advantage by allowing you a full range of motion with your kicks.
A standing forward bend is simple to do:
- Begin in a standing position with your hands on your hips.
- With your knees slightly bent, hinge at your hips. Bend to bring your tummy in front of your knees.
- Place your hands at the back of your ankles and keep your heels pressed onto the floor.
- Relax your neck, breathe in, and lengthen your back as you breathe out.
9. Lying Hamstring Stretch
If you feel like your hamstrings are extremely tight, it might be a better idea to stretch them while lying down. Some Muay Thai athletes are susceptible to tight hamstrings because of their natural body posture.
An anterior pelvic tilt stretches out an individual’s hamstring muscles, even when not exerted. It can impose an extra stretch on the hamstrings during kicking and jumping.
It might do more harm than good if you stretch your hamstrings while standing up. This is why you need a lying hamstring stretch.
To get started:
- Lie on your back and face up to the floor.
- Bend your right knee and place a resistance band or towel on the balm of your right foot.
- Keeping the opposite leg flat on the floor, use the band to straighten your right leg.
- Remember to keep your ankle relaxed to give your hamstring a good stretch.
10. Standing Quad Stretch
The standing quad stretch stretches your quad muscles. These are the muscles at the front of your thigh. They are heavily involved in kicking, footwork and jumping.
The quads are also a common target for your opponent’s kicks. Therefore, stretching them is vital to improve flexibility and control common injuries such as cork thigh.
This is how you do a standing quad stretch:
- Stand in a relaxed stance with your arms hanging at the sides.
- Bend your right leg behind you and grab the foot while maintaining a straight back.
- Pull your calf into the back of your thigh until your knee is facing the ground; you should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
- Hold for 20 seconds and slowly place the foot back on the ground.
- Do the same routine for the other leg.
- Repeat five times for each leg.