We all know that shin conditioning is an important part of any Muay Thai training regime. Not only does it allow you to throw harder kicks without damaging your shins, but it also strengthens them to more effectively withstand kicks that are thrown at you.
However, shin conditioning seems to be one aspect of Muay Thai training - or any other training for that matter - which has attracted quite a bit of misinformation over the years.
But before we talk about the best techniques for conditioning your shins, let's first take a look at the science behind shin conditioning; so that the next time you're kicking those Thai pads or heavy bags, you'll appreciate just why you're doing it.
Shin Conditioning: The Scientific Bit
When you lift weights, your muscles get put under a lot of pressure and are inevitably damaged in the process. Your body then sets to work (while you are resting) to repair that damage and restore your muscles to their former glory and, given the right circumstances, make them even bigger and stronger than they were before.
The same basic principle applies to shin conditioning, except it's tiny bone fractures that your body repairs in this instance. Repeatedly impacting a heavy bag or Thai pads will cause microscopic fractures to occur in your shin bone, or tibia as it's also known. It's your body's natural response to these fractures and its incredible ability to heal itself that leads to you gaining stronger shins.
Through a process known as ossification, fractured bones are repaired and usually made denser as a result. This is because the new bone tissue is formed on top of the damaged bone tissue and the bone itself - in this case the tibia - is made thicker.
A Common Shin Conditioning Myth DebunkedA lot of people will tell you - incorrectly - that shin conditioning destroys nerves and that's why your shins can take more pain in the long-run. The fact of the matter is that this simply isn't true and it's merely a case of your shins becoming more desensitised as you condition them. In fact, the reduction in pain is due as much to psychological reasons as it is anything else. Your brain learns to withstand more pain, even though your legs are telling it that what you're putting them through is pretty agonising.
How to Condition Your Shins Correctly
Many of you will have seen Buakaw kick down a banana tree, but that video should come with a 'don't try this at home'-style warning. That's because kicking trees is a sure-fire way to really damage your shins. Buakaw manages it because he is a Muay Thai kickboxing legend and has shins of steel.
The best way to condition your shins is gradually. Try and achieve results too fast and you will just end up with injured shins. The key is to kick something that is slightly softer than your shins and do it repeatedly.
Some fighters think that hard, intense kicks are the order of the day for shin conditioning, but that's simply not the case. For example, you will condition your shins more effectively by kicking a heavy bag or Thai pads 100 times than you will if you go outside and kick a tree a few times.
It takes time, determination and regular training to get your shins properly conditioned, so don't expect to see results overnight. Start out kicking soft pads and work your way up to harder ones and heavy bags at your own pace.
Now go out and get yourself some num-man Muay (Thai liniment oil) and make a start on conditioning those shins. Should you find yourself needing to get rid of a banana tree then either give Buakaw a call or use an axe.
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