Sure, you could try to improve your Muay Thai balance by simply practising your technique over and over until it gets better. But there are some shortcuts you may be missing, because you’ve glossed over the personal limitations you may have, but are unaware of. In this podcast, I explore this a little deeper, and share some Muay Thai technical drills that will fast track improved balance too.
And as promised, I’ve shared some links to more information on topics mentioned too – just see the transcript below for the links in context!
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT WITH FURTHER LINKS
Hello and welcome to the Heatrick Strength and conditioning podcast… from the leading MuayThai performance coaching company for busy Thai boxers and trainers to achieve total physical confidence for the biggest fights.
In this episode I’m going to field a question from one of my online Pro members…
Trinidad Savala asks “What drills or foot work can I do to improve my balance and my footwork. I seem to sometimes lose my balance as I move and kick, punch, knee, or elbow.”
And I confirmed with Trinidad that the loss of balance was during and after attacking.
There are many reasons why a fighter can struggle to maintain balance, with the most obvious being poor Muay Thai technique… but let’s look at this with a more complete understanding of the individual fighter.
As a strength and conditioning coach, I’ll already have good idea of any restrictions in mobility and stability that a fighter has, and how that will affect their Muay Thai technique… but lets work from the ground up and discus the thought process here… and I’ll finish off with the more obvious Muay Thai skill aspect too.
Let’s begin at the ground with the feet and ankles. If a fighter has flat feet or a collapsed arch, then balance is going to be more difficult, as the knee will follow what the foot tells it. If the foot flattens and rolls inward, the knee will too. A good, strong, active foot is a great asset to a barefoot fighter!
You should see a nice gap under the arch of the when you stand with full weight on your foot. Can you get a sideways thumb height under that arch?
Releasing of the plantar fascia on the sole of the foot with a tennis ball and practicing the short foot exercise will create some space and strengthen the foot considerably.
If you’re not familiar with those exercises, I’ll put a link to a page in the text with this podcast, that will show you what I’m talking about there.
Ankle range of motion should be good too. You should be able to get your knee at least 12.5cm or 5” over your toes while keeping your heel down on the floor. And both ankles should be score within around 1 cm or about 1/2” of each other too. Too much difference is an injury risk and will skew your balance.
You can work on the calf muscle using a release, open and anchor exercise sequence to sort that out… there are details on that in the linked web page.
Hip mobility is another big player, especially for kicks. Adductors and hamstrings need attention. A release open and anchor sequence for these muscle groups is a fast way of achieving this – by combining soft tissue self-myofascial release of the muscle itself with tack and stretch methods, a joint distraction mobilisation of the joint capsule itself, and finally neuromuscular anchoring of the brains motor control of the joint with it new range of motion.
And speaking of motor control, how about your sensory awareness or proprioception?
If you’re under 40 years old, you should be able to balance unsupported on one leg, with your arms folded and eyes closed for at least 20 seconds. If you’re in your 40’s – at least 15 seconds, and your 50’s – at least 10 seconds.
Start the clock as soon as your eyes close, and stop it if you uncross your arms, hop or shift your standing foot from the starting spot, or the free leg waves out of position or cheats by bracing against the standing leg. It’s harder than it sounds! Score your best out of three attempts.
Another source of stability problems is at the hips. Exercises that can help here are Crossed Band Shuffles, Band resisted Monster Walks, or the classic side lying clams.
You can strengthen the single leg pattern by programming single leg squats, farmers walks (carrying heavy loads both hands), or suitcase carries (carrying a load in one hand). Just make sure you’re maintaining great lifting posture as you use these. Again, links on the webpage to help you out with these if you need it.
As a test, I like fighters to be able to perform a single leg squat with balance to at least a 90 degree knee angle.
Ok, now looking at Muay Thai technique. If you score well on the precursor mobility, proprioception, strength and stability, it’s likely it’s just your technique that needs correcting.
This is where we need to change your habits, and correct those motor pattern engrams I’ve spoken of in the past. Again there’s a link on the web page if you want to know more about that.
First off, is your stance width becoming too narrow or too short as you attack? Are you over-stepping in your stance, or even crossing over your feet? You can do a visual check of course, but here’s a drill I have fighters do to help them feel it.
During pad work, have the pad holder offer a target or call a combo, then immediately after the final strike lands on the pads, slap the pad hitter back, or shove them with the pads to check their balance. They should be able to either withstand the counter, or step, or shuffle in a balance, controlled way – and be ready to hit the next target offered quickly.
Another drill that tells me a lot about a fighters technical balance, is throwing multiple round kick on the heavy bag or pads. A fighter should be able to keep their weight over the pedestal or standing leg throughout. If they keep committing weight to the kicking leg prematurely after the kick, the multiple kicking speed will drop off, and you’ll notice the fighter bobbles backwards and forwards, or side to side as they kick – rather than hopping straight up and down over the standing leg.
Another padwork or bag work drill you can try, is to look at if you can choose to place the spent kicking leg down either in front of you (changing stance), or to return it to where it started (maintaining the same stance)? OR if you uncontrollably fall either forwards or backwards after the kick?
Finally, love or hate shadowboxing, well-balanced fighters can throw fast punches, kicks, elbows and knees without falling uncontrollably too. Despite not hitting a target for support, even full-speed round kicks should result in a clean pirouette, demonstrating control of your centre of gravity.
That gives you some ideas on exercises and drills to improve your balance during Muay Thai attacking techniques, and that’s all we’ve got time for this episode. There’s a web page link for more detail of some of the aspects I’ve described in this episode, in the text with this podcast. And If you’ve got any questions, or want to check out our library of free articles and videos, head over to heatrick.com… that’s H E A T R I C K, where I’d love to help you reach your Muay Thai goals.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Heatrick Muay Thai Strength and Conditioning podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Cast Box, Overcast, Pocketcast or anchor – and you can audio message me on anchor too, so you can feature in future episodes. I’ll Catch you next time.