Shin Conditioning 101


One of the many properties an aspiring Thai, Low Kick Kickboxer or even MMA fighter requires are conditioned shins and one of the questions I get asked frequently is just how do you condition your shins? Should I kick trees like in the Jean Claude Van Damme movie, Kickboxer? Tap them with bottles? Roll them with Rolling pins?

Well there are certainly many methods employed to getting the shins conditioned to a level where by you can fight and check leg kicks however, due to misinformation and a lack of understanding about the body, Some of these methods utilized by trainers and fighters alike actually could be detrimental to the body in years to come.

The idea that the shin can become harder, due to calcium deposits developing over the shin bone or the bone itself getting harder is somewhat of a myth. A conditioned shin comes in various parts.

  1. The nerves surrounding the shin have been weakened or deadened so the pain is not as excruciating as it was before shin conditioning started.
  2. A lot of it can be psychological. In a fight anyway, adrenaline will be responsible for the fact that you might not feel the shin on shin contact as greatly as you would in training. Tell yourself that there’s no pain and carry on fighting.
  3. Correct technique. The way you block a leg kick can also be a factor in the amount you feel when you check.

So what’s wrong with hitting trees or tapping shins with bottles and sticks?
Well, when you hit the shins with anything that’s harder than the bone you run the risk of causing tiny stress fractures on your shin. In the short term this may deaden the nerves however, in the long term this could actually weaken the shins causing pain and injury, even arthritis later on in life.

And what about kicking trees? Hey didn’t the Thai’s kick trees back in the day? 
Before I went out to Thailand I had this vision of Thai’s just whacking away at trees. Haha how wrong I was. Nope, in this day and age, no trees are harmed in the making of a Thai Boxer however, it is true that before, Thais kicked the trunks of soft banana trees (the trunks were very rubbery and soft thus not like kicking an oak tree) The trunk of the trees they’d hit would be so soft in fact that they would make makeshift hand wraps with the strips of bark from where they kicked.

So how exactly do you condition your shins?
The tried and tested method is to basically kick the bags and pads AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!!!

The harder the pads and bags, the better the conditioning however, you must start at a level where by you are not feeling as if you are damaging yourself. After all, what’s the point in hitting the bags that are so hard that you are all bruised and battered and then can’t hit for at least a week?

Sure you will feel some pain on your legs after training but with the right treatment (Massage, Ice etc) you’ll be good to go for the next training session.

In Thailand I would see fighters train on the bags kicking away at them morning and afternoon, continuously kicking with one leg for over 3 rounds then switching to the next leg. This amount of kicking is the correct way of conditioning your shins. Along with patience and perseverance (Hey, it’s not going to happen over night in fact it could take at least 6 months of training like this)

Kicking leather Thai pads should also be placed as a mandatory training drill in your shin conditioning regimen.

What about sparring?
Sparring is a great way to condition shins and get used to blocking but it must be done with shin pads on as stated above, you must try not to strike your own shin with anything as hard as or harder than except of course for in a fight.

So It’s all about deadening nerves?
Not entirely. As stated above it is also a psychological process. Another thing to help condition shins is to condition the muscles that are surrounding the shins. These muscles are usually worked out from the intense amounts of running and skipping a Thai boxer will do. The Thai style of running, whereby you strike the road/floor with the ball of your feet and stay on your toes, works the Calf muscles which in turn builds the muscle defenses on the side of the shin. As is the same with skipping.

So remember ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Train hard but train smart and train safe!

Keep your guard up and Chok Dee!



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