In this episode, I’m going to breakdown one of the most feared weapons in Muay Thai. The elbow.
I’m going to show you…
1. How to KO or TKO your opponent using elbows
2. Biomechanics – How to generate maximum speed and power in your elbows
3. The most common elbow mistakes
4. Specific exercises to rapidly improve your elbow technique, speed, and power
“Welcome to Heatrick Heavy Hitters, where Thai boxers use science to separate fact and myth… and become complete fighters”
Let’s get right into it. The elbow is the most devastating weapon in Muay Thai.
Because unlike other weapons, elbows have the highest chance of ending a fight.
They’re usually aimed at the head. And an elbow that connects cleanly will almost always either KO the opponent, or deliver a nasty cut that can result in a TKO.
You can KO your opponent by landing a clean elbow on their jaw or temple. This acts as an off switch! With enough power, a clean strike to either of these targets will instantly and completely shut down your opponent’s body, no matter how much willpower or stamina they might have left.
To KO your opponent, aim at the jaw, and look to snap their head back or violently twist it round. To achieve that, you’ll need to be a fraction closer in range.
To cut your opponent, aim at the eye sockets, brow bone or other areas of the skull. Here the skin is more delicate – when the tip of the elbow connects, the delicate skin tissue will rip open like a massive, bloody papercut.
Whatever your target, be sure to deliver your strike with boney tip of your elbow, the Ulna bone.
Ok, now let’s look at the biomechanics of an elbow strike, and analyse how to transfer maximum speed and power to the tip of your elbow
These are the 3 fundamental components of a fast, powerful, and effective elbow strike
#1 Explosive hip drive
Watch here as a rotational hip action explodes into the strike.
The better this explosive drive from the floor, the more total body energy you can deliver to your elbow.
#2 Core stability
The core – the muscles in your torso – are responsible for transmitting the power from your hips to your shoulder.
If your core is weak or poorly coordinated, then your power will leak and fail to arrive at your shoulder.
You can see the result of good core-strength and power transfer here. The momentum from the hip rotation continues through the core, into the shoulder girdle which also rotates explosively toward the target.
The more you can think of an elbow strike as throwing your shoulder at the target, the more effective it will be.
#3 A relaxed & mobile shoulder joint
Now the power has arrived at your shoulder, a relaxed and highly mobile shoulder joint delivers the energy to the elbow and into the target – your opponent’s face!
The focus here is on “effortless power”. The work has already been done – generating momentum in the rest of the body.
This final step requires finesse. The shoulder and arm should be relaxed and snappy, like a whip. Timing is crucial.
If your shoulder is tight, lacking range of motion, your power will choke at this point. Resulting in a much less effective elbow strike.
But using good shoulder mobility – and correctly timing the folding of the arm in a whipping action – suddenly accelerates the elbow and increases the impact considerably.
All these things add together.
To super-fuel that elbow, you need…
1. Explosive rotational hip drive
2. A strong, coordinated core to transfer this energy to the shoulder
3. A mobile shoulder, with a completely relaxed arm and a well-timed folding at the elbow on impact
Now we’ll talk about the two most common mistakes when throwing elbows.
1. Arm Smashing (relying on arm strength)
Forget smashing away with major effort focused in your arm. That will lack meaningful Heavy Hitter power.
Even if you have great shoulder mobility, a tense arm won’t allow you to whip your total-body energy into the strike.
Relax your hand, wrist, and shoulder. And correctly time the folding of the elbow on impact.
2. Hitting With The Wrong Part Of The Elbow
The Ulna bone is the point of contact for your elbow strike.
It’s a solid, prominent, unforgiving weapon – that causes plenty of damage to your opponent.
Here we see rising star Nathan Ward delivering damaging elbows courtesy of Max Muay Thai.
And the reason for this spectacular damage is simple. Unlike your gloved punches, it’s a totally “non padded” weapon.
However, unlike the Ulna bone itself, the muscles of your forearm are relatively padded. So to truly exploit the destructive power of your elbow, hit only with the tip of the Ulna bone. And fold your arm to expose it.
It’s also worth mentioning, that along with the muscles running on the either side of that Ulna bone, there are several nerves. If you hit them, you’ll get that fizzy “funny bone” feeling in your forearm and fingers.
You don’t want that! Adjust your strike to hit with your bone, not your muscles or nerves.
These are a few things beginners, and even more experienced fighters, commonly seem to miss.
But get these key performance points right, and even when tired – like Nathan Ward is here – an elbow can be effective enough, to at the very least, distract respected attention.
Allowing a for a high-scoring follow-up technique. I personally love to ripple attention at this range upstairs with elbows, and downstairs to the mid-section like this with knees.
Possessing a dangerous elbow in your arsenal opens up many other opportunities.
Finally, I’m going to show you 5 exercises to rapidly and efficiently improve your elbow technique, speed and power.
5 EXERCISES TO IMPROVE ELBOW TECHNIQUE, SPEED, & POWER
#1 One-arm Dumbbell or Kettlebell Push Press (Explosive Hip Drive & Power)
This exercise primarily builds explosive hip drive power. But it also does two more things:
Firstly, it coordinates the core to transmit the power to the shoulder, and secondly (done correctly) it teaches drive from the shoulder with a relaxed arm.
Perform 5 reps on each side for 3 to 5 sets – taking at least 2 mins between sets before you repeat it again.
Start at three sets, and add a set each week to progress to 5 sets. And use a weight that allows you to complete all sets in perfect form.
#2 Kneeling Drop Elbow (Core Stability & Timing)
This exercises is my own invention, and develops the core stability and coordinated timing to truly deliver a devastating elbow.
Perform 5 reps per side for 3 to 5 sets – taking at least 2 minutes rest between sets before you repeat it again. Progress each week just as suggested for the push press.
Now, to develop the shoulder mobility needed to crack-in your elbow like a chain-whip, I recommend the following set of exercises:
#3 Pec Minor Tack And Stretch (Warmup & Shoulder Mobility)
Perform 5 reps of three different movement shapes:
Handcuff & salute, Flapping and Pressing
And practice this on both sides
This exercise is best placed at the start of your session as part of you warm up, to release the muscles to free up better shoulder mobility for the rest of the session.
#4 Wall Slide (Shoulder Mobility)
Perform 10 reps for 3 to 5 sets… and for practicality, place this exercise in the rest interval between the 1-arm Push Press and the Kneeling Drop Elbows.
It condenses your training time and makes your session super productive.
#5 Dowel Bow With Overhead Reach (Shoulder Mobility)
Perform 10 reps for 3 to 5 sets… and again for practicality, place this exercise after the Kneeling Drop Elbows before repeating the full sequence of exercises again.
So this super-condensed routine looks like this:
After preparing with the Pec Minor Tack & Stretch, work through the exercises in this order…
1. 1-arm Push Press both sides
2. Wall Slides
3. Kneeling Drop Elbows both sides
4. Dowel Bow with Overhead Reach
Rest as required, and repeat for the desired number of sets.
Remember to take enough rest between the explosive power exercise sets (the Push Press and Drop Elbows), or you’ll mess up the training effect you need to become powerful.
The aim of this session is to make you more explosive and better coordinated. And for that, you must move at your fastest speed – and that means without fatigue.
If you find you’re slowing up and losing the “pop” on your movements, take more rest. Save your power-endurance training for your Muay Thai sessions – that’s what they’re for!
To recap. To cut or KO your opponent with maximum speed and power…
- Explosively rotate from the hip
- Transfer the energy through your core
- Keep shoulder and arm relaxed
- Connect with the bony tip of the elbow
- Use the exercises provided to develop devastating elbows
- Arm smash
- Hit with the tender part of your elbow
- Do the exercises incorrectly, or with fatigue
To get access to the full exercise tutorial videos and the 4-week training plan, click this link: Devastating Elbows 4-Week Training Plan
Just follow this simple plan twice each week, for the next 4-weeks to develop explosive speed and power in your Muay Thai elbows.
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And I would love to hear your feedback. So leave me some comments below and let me know what you thought of these tips and if you are going to use them.
Thank you, and I’ll catch you next time.