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The 10 Best Stretches for Muay Thai Flexibility

Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is a form of martial arts that includes stand-up striking and combat. Since fighters can use punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to strike their opponent, maintaining flexibility with sport-specific stretches is essential in order to compete in Muay Thai or use Muay Thai as a workout, without getting injured. 

What Muscles Are Used in Muay Thai? 

The versatility of striking options in Muay Thai empowers numerous muscles to be used. Depending on the motion, the following muscles are used in Muay Thai:

  • Deltoids
  • Pectorals
  • Abdominals
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Serratus 
  • Abductors 

Muay Thai is a full-body intensive workout in which supplemental muscles support movements of primary muscles. This enables you to develop power, strength, and cardio. 

Common Muay Thai Injuries

Injury in a combat sport is an inherent risk when fighting. While you can sustain injuries such as blows and bruises from sparring with another fighter, many Muay Thai injuries stem from poor form or overuse. 


Common upper body Muay Thai injuries include:


  • Sprained Wrist
  • Sprained or Dislocated Shoulder
  • Pulled Pectoral Muscle 
  • Neck Strain

Other Muay Thai injuries that affect the lower body and spine include:


  • Sprained Knee
  • Herniated Disc
  • Twisted Ankle
  • Pulled Hamstring

How to Prevent Muay Thai Injuries

Preventing Muay Thai injuries necessitates a diverse approach to taking care of your body. The physicality of Muay Thai means you need to be proactive with strength training, combined with preventative foam rolling and stretching to help improve flexibility and stabilize muscular imbalances.


Listening to your body is also important to prevent major Muay Thai injuries. The intensity of Muay Thai means you will often have bumps and bruises that need taking care of. Since these minor aches and pains are expected in combat sports, it’s important to take the necessary precautions so those minor aches do not  manifest into chronic injuries. And since stretching needs no equipment, listening to your body and implementing the right corrective stretches will keep you injury-free. 

Muay Thai Stretches to Improve Flexibility

Performing an array of Muay Thai stretches to improve flexibility is one of the best ways to enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injury. These 10 stretches are designed to help you get the most of your workout. 

10. Hip Adductors

The hip adductors, also known as your groin muscles, often get tight due to restrictions in your hip, and can be a neglected muscle when stretching out your legs. But, the groin is responsible for aiding lateral movement, so dynamically stretching the hip adductors can improve lateral movement in any combat sport, such as boxing or Muay Thai. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Start standing in a wide base, with your feet wider than shoulder width. 
  2. To begin, bend your right knee and hip for depth and horizontally, while maintaining an elongated straight left leg.
  3. Return to starting position, then lunge laterally to the opposite side, repeating this sequence 10x each side. 
  4. Remember, you should feel a nice pull into the groin of the elongated leg. If not, make a wider stance. 

9. Butterfly Stretch

The butterfly stretch also emphasizes the hip adductors, but in a static stretch. As you increase range of motion in your groin, you should see improvement in your kicking motion during your Muay Thai practice.


Here are the steps:


  1. Start sitting on the floor on your Yoga Strong Mat with your feet out in front of you. Take your right foot, and bring it towards your left inner thigh, with the sole of your foot facing the left inner thigh.
  2. Then, take your left foot, and bring it in so the sole of your left foot is making contact with the sole of your right foot. Knees are both splayed out wide. 
  3. While maintaining a straight spine, grab both feet with both hands and rest your elbows on the inside part of your knee. 
  4. Breathe and hold for 20-30 seconds. 

8. Child’s Pose

Child’s pose may not challenge your range of motion as much as other stretches, but it still assists with improving flexibility in your hips and spine. The key is the positioning of your arms relative to your spine and hips to gain the maximum benefit for Muay Thai. 


Here are the steps:


  1. From all fours, bring your knees slightly wider than hips, nearly mat distance apart. 
  2. Keeping big toes to touch, push your bum towards your feet. 
  3. Keeping your hips back, begin to lower your chest, head and shoulders to the mat. 
  4. Then, forehead releases to the mat and arms stretched long forward. 
  5. Let elbows soften and hold 5 breaths. 

7. Forearm Stretches

Forearm stretches are a very common stretch for martial arts. The forearm extensors can get tight because gripping and punching in Muay Thai can produce excessive tension in the forearm. Performing forearm stretches in extension can alleviate any tightness in the biceps and triceps, as well as counteract the amount of time spent in a flexed position. 

How to Do

  1. Stand in front of a table or bed about waist height
  2. Then, flex your wrists downward and place the back of your hands on the table/bed 
  3. Next, lean forward into your hands to create more tension in the forearm extensors
  4. If you feel discomfort, gently back off a little, but still hold. 

6. Lat Overhead Stretch

Overhead lat stretches are especially important for athletes, since sports often require high velocity movements in the overhead position that are seen in Muay Thai. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Raise your right arm overhead, completely straight. 
  2. After that, grab your right wrist with your left. 
  3. Once you have a firm grasp, sway your hip to the right, as you pull your right wrist to the left side overhead. 

5. Hip Flexors

The hip flexors connect your legs to your torso, helping to stabilize the pelvis and the spine, making them an important muscle group to stretch for Muay Thai. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Start on your Yoga Strong Mat in a half kneel position, right leg up, left leg down. 
  2. When ready, start to push forward from your left hip, extending your left hip so your right knee moves forward over your toes. 
  3. At your threshold, pull your hip and knee back to the starting position, and push forward again, repeating 10x each side. Make sure you keep your glute on your back leg engaged and active. 

4. Hamstrings Stretch

Hamstrings contribute to many basic functions, such as walking, while also assisting with functions like kicking that you find in Muay Thai and kickboxing. The hamstrings’ significance with stabilizing your legs cannot be understated, as the hamstrings overlap both the knee and the hip.


Here are the steps:


  1. Start by standing on your right foot with your left foot in front. The heel should be on the floor with the toes up.
  2. Move forward with the hips and bend right knee slightly back
  3. Bend the right leg while keeping the left leg completely straight
  4. Hold for a minute
  5. Switch sides and repeat

3. Hurdler’s Stretch

The hurdler’s stretch gets its name from resembling the position hurdlers find themselves in. Targeting the hips, hamstrings, groin, and lower back, the hurdler’s stretch is an effective stretch to prepare your body for the physicality of Muay Thai.


Here are the steps:


  1. Start sitting on the floor with the right leg extended straight out in front of you and your left leg bent at the knee (in a 90 degree angle) so your foot is behind your body and your thigh is  pointed horizontally out to the side (perpendicular to your right leg).
  2. Then, begin to hinge at your hip and lean forward to reach your hands towards your right toes. If you cannot touch your right toes, reach to your shin. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. 

2. Frog Stretch

Working the frontal plane to help you better move laterally in Muay Thai entails making sure your groin and hips are in top condition. 


Here are the steps:


  1. Start on all fours facing the long side of your Yoga Strong Mat
  2. Then, turn the toes outward so the insides of your feet are facing the ground.
  3. After that, start to spread the knees out as wide as you can on the mat. Toes should still be pointed outward, and your hip is externally rotated.
  4. If you feel a good stretch, breathe and hold for 30 seconds. To increase the stretch, drop to your forearms and rock the hips back and forth. 

1. Sumo Squat

Sumo squats differ from regular squats in order to emphasize the inner and outer hips more. Since your pelvis is on a ring, making sure you’re stretching  all angles of your hips is vital.


Here are the steps:


  1. Start standing with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and hips and your toes slightly turned out. 
  2. Now that you’re ready, slowly squat down while keeping your hips pushed back and your chest up. Your knees should also be pulled out, and not caved in. 
  3. Then, stand back up to return to the starting position and repeat 10x. 
  4. If you need assistance keeping your knees pulled out, use Yoga Strong Bands around your knees  to aid with the movement.

Muay Thai Stretching Myths

Stretching for Muay Thai has produced a couple myths that have been accepted by the general population as truth, when in fact, they are false. 


Myth 1 - Stretching doesn’t affect muscle flexibility, only your nervous system.


While it is true that stretching impacts your central nervous system and tells it to relax, it does not negate muscular flexibility. When your nervous system tells your body to relax, it can help improve your muscular range of motion, but it does not suppress the need to stretch and mobilize your muscles to prevent injury and enhance performance. 


Myth 2 - Stretching weakens your muscles 


When you stretch, you are exposing your muscles to progressive ranges of motion, which actually strengthens them. By contracting your muscles in stretching, you are stimulating adaptation to the improved ranges of motion, allowing for better force production (i.e. making them stronger). Stretching empowers your body for soft tissue extensibility, which does not weaken your muscles. 

Stretch for Muay Thai Today

The physicality of Muay Thai entails very specific needs for you as an athlete. Every movement is aggressive and with force, which makes stretching for Muay Thai so crucial. With these 10 stretches, you have the tools to prepare your body for all the demands of Muay Thai. 


References:


Stretching for young athletes - injury prevention - children's Health Orange County. Children's Health of Orange County. (2021, April 8). https://www.choc.org/programs-services/rehabilitation/stretching-exercises-help-prevent-sports-injuries/ 

Author: Timothy Miller. (2017, October 10). Why stretching is more important than you think. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/benefits-of-stretching