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Fitness 101: Muay Thai is not just for MMA fighters!

Martial arts is a popular activity and no longer just for wannabe ninjas. It’s a sport practised by young and old. Joanne Miller donned satin shorts and gloves to enter the Muay Thai cage with Pure Fitness trainer Terence T, and quickly discovered how gruelling the workout is.

 

An instructor and competitor in Singapore and Thailand, Terence has an impressive record of 14 wins and one loss in 15 fights, making him one formidable opponent. With perseverance, Muay Thai will help you define your muscles, shed unwanted weight, improve your fitness and increase your strength and agility.

Plyometric Training

You’ll want to be at your most powerful, explosive and speedy best to channel your inner Muay Thai champion. Regular plyometric training can help you to develop power and speed, improve your coordination and agility and increase your overall performance.

Plyo-what?

High-intensity, explosive muscular contractions utilise what’s known as the “stretch reflex”, stretching the muscle prior to its contraction for a much greater force. Skipping, hops, jumps and bounding movements are common plyometric exercises, so up the ante if they’re already in your regime.

Once you’ve mastered standard plyometric exercises, and only after a thorough warm-up and stretch, you you can progress to the “depth jump”: you jump off a box, rebound off the floor and jump onto another, higher, box. Beginner ninjas: do not attempt this one at home without expert supervision!

Fighting Fit

Like any sport, Muay Thai calls for a particular style of training and terminology. Here are some common stances and combinations.

Fighting Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re right-handed, position your right leg backward in a comfortable but solid position and then angle your right foot at 45 degrees. If you’re left-handed, do the same by shifting your left leg backward and angling your left foot outward. Stand on the balls of your feet but maintain a sense of lightness, evenly shifting your weight between your left and right feet in a comfortable rhythm. Although you’re technically on the balls of your feet, your stance should remain strong, stable and mobile. Your fists are clenched and your knuckles should be at eyebrow level.

Jab: This is performed with your leading arm, that being the arm that is the same side as your grounded leg. So if your right leg is back; you would lead with your right arm and vice versa. As you punch, form a fist; the knuckles of your index and middle fingers will lead the action. As you extend your arm, remain strong, but to avoid over-extension or elbow injury, don’t lock your elbows. (Tip: visualise a rubber band attached to and extending from your ribs. Try to extend and return your arm as quickly as possible to increase your speed and sharpness). While punching, be aware that your power stems from your entire body, especially from the rotation of your hips, and is not based on arm strength. Keep your abdominals tight and exhale sharply at the point of impact, even when you’re punching in the air. Get into the habit of always placing your non-punching hand by your face as a form of protection; your fist should be at eye-level and your arm close to the body.

Straight: This is your power or knockout punch, performed with your rear arm. It’s very important that you rotate your hind foot, hips and shoulders to harness all of your strength. Remember to keep your lead hand up and by your face, with your fist just below eye-level and your arm close to your body.

Push-kick: Extend your hind leg into a front kick, also known as a teep in Muay Thai. Imagine you’re kicking something away from you and follow through with the ball of your foot. Your abdominals should remain tight and, as always, your lead hand should be up by your face. For ultimate power, your rear hand should follow through and be positioned beside your rear leg.

Alternating Lunges

Static:

1.Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2.

Step into a forward lunge, maintaining a 90-degree right angle so that your lead knee doesn’t extend past your toes.

3.Push off the front heel and return to your original standing position with legs side-by-side.
4.Repeat the exercise with your other leg.

Dynamic:

 

1.Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2.Step into a forward lunge, being conscious of maintaining a 90-degree right angle so that your lead knee doesn’t extend past your toes.
3.Push off from both feet, propelling yourself into the air, and then quickly switch your feet from front to back before landing.
4.Land with the opposite foot in the forward lunge position.
5.Repeat with the opposite leg leading.

Tip: YouTube has many examples of such exercises.

Copy this link into your internet browser: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zLTDUFjbXA

Lunge to Push-Kick

 

1.Stand with your legs together.
2.Step back into a reverse lunge by bending your knees until your rear shin and forward thigh are parallel to the floor. This is almost identical to the forward lunge but you’re moving your leg in the opposite direction when you step.
3.Push off the rear toe and then execute a push-kick (see “Fighting Fit”) as if you’re kicking something away from you, and follow through with the ball of your foot.
4.Repeat the exercise on each leg for a set of from 10 to 15 before changing sides.

 

Burpee/One-Two Punch Combo

 

Static:

1.Do a “burpee” (squat thrust) by starting in standing position.
2.Squat down and place your palms on the floor.
3.Kick your legs out behind you while you control and lower your body into a push-up or front plank position.
4.Return to the squat position in one quick motion.
5.Stand up and execute a jab-straight combination.
6.Repeat the exercise and alternate leading arms for three sets of 10 to 15 on each arm.

Dynamic:

1.Do a “burpee” (squat thrust) by starting in standing position.
2.Squat down and place your palms on the floor.
3.Kick your legs out behind you, while you control and lower your body into a push-up or front plank position.
4.Return to the squat position in one quick motion.
5.Jump straight into the air as high as possible, using your arms to propel you upwards.
6.Land firmly and then execute a jab-straight-punch combination with one leading arm (see “Fighting Fit”).
7.Repeat the exercise and alternate leading arms for three sets of 10 to 15 on each arm.

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