Muay Thai Band Training

Calling Bulls**t on Band Training in Muay Thai

Training muay Thai techniques with added resistance such as elasticated bands have gained popularity in the last few years. Some of the advocates of this “band training” justify the method by pointing to some of the top Thai fighters in the world using these methods when practicing punches and kicks.

So, is there scientific literature backing such methods? Does logic and common sense lead us to believe that adding resistance to muay Thai strikes during training will increase our striking power in the long run?

In my opinion, the answer to those questions is NO!

Here’s why…

Striking Mechanics

Muay Thai striking technique takes years to perfect. Adding resistance to a skilled movement like a kick or a punch by attaching elastic bands to the ankles and/or wrists will inevitably alter the technique of that strike. Even Buakaw, Pakorn and Saenchai’s technique is altered with this type of training!

Kicking in a way that takes away from correct technique leads to habitually incorrect form and changes the way you kick – even when you aren’t using the bands. Bands decelerate the limb at the end of the strike, when naturally the limb would be accelerating right up until impact, negatively affecting coordination patterns.

Not only that, because the bands provide the most tension at the end of the strike, once the Thai boxer has made contact with the target, the limb is then pulled right back to the starting position by the elasticity of the bands with little contribution from the boxer’s musculature at all – the recovery phase is seriously altered with band training!

You’re basically training yourself to leave your arm or leg hanging around without having to forcefully snap it back into your guard or stance. Considering that the strike recovery phase is of utmost importance in terms of scoring and avoiding the counter, band training makes little sense.

Loading of the Kicking Leg

The majority of the force generated during any muay Thai strike is produced by the triple-extensors of the legs (hip, knee and ankle) when they apply force to the ground.

Even if loading a skilled muay Thai technique with rubber bands was efficacious (it’s not, but let’s just assume), the focus of using band training for kicking is being placed on the leg which contributes the least amount of force to the kick – the kicking leg.

The majority of the force generated during a kick is produced by the supporting leg whereby the triple-extensors apply force to the training mat or ring, so why load up the kicking leg with resistance? Loading up the kicking leg with reduce the force generated by the biggest contributor to kicking power – the supporting leg!

If we take a look at Saenchai’s kick below, we can see that his (right) supporting leg triple-extends during every kick, driving the left leg towards the target. When the left leg is brought down to the ring canvas during the recovery phase, the right leg flexes (joint angles decrease) at the hip, knee and ankle and contributes the majority of the force to the kick.

Saenchai Kick

Similarly, bands which resist the arms when punching are focusing on the wrong limb altogether!

With punching, the major contributor of force lies in, you guessed it – the triple extensors, which, again, questions the loading of the upper body at all. The joints with the most potential to increase punching power are in the lower body, not the upper body.

Developing power in the shoulder and elbow musculature wouldn’t even be the second on my list – the rotation of the torso contributes more to punching force than shoulder and arm musculature.

Why The Best Fighters Implement Band Training

The answer to this is simple – THEY DON’T

All of the videos of Thailand’s top fighters kicking with bands are marketing videos for companies who either;

a) Don’t have a clue what they’re doing

b) Want to sell you something

c) Both of the above (most likely)

Those fighters don’t actually train that way. It’s not the reason they’re amongst the best in the world… and it’s not how they got there either.

The companies responsible for circulating these training fads clearly don’t have a grasp on scientific training methods and have no idea what it takes to achieve a good level of technique in sport.

Loading up skilled movements and just thrashing around haphazardly is NOT what strength and conditioning is about and shouldn’t be part of your training program.

Certain companies can be very convincing of fad training techniques, but don’t fall for it!

You work hard – always have a reason for doing what you’re doing.

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.

2 comments

  1. Hi Aaron,

    While I agree that using resistance band to practice striking techniques are better suited for training scene in Rocky-type movies (looks cool but not necessarily effective.) — I think fighters can still benefit from band training when it is done right.

    Exercises like standing woodchops, trunk rotation, pallof press, standing single arm horizontal press and pull-through using medium to heavy resistance bands can be effective to strengthen the core and glute muscles — which help in improving striking power.

    Would like to hear your opinion on this, and thanks for keep posting great contents like this. Your site rocks.

    • Totally agree – bands do have their place in strength/rehab work. In this article I was only referring to the use of bands as added resistance to technical muay Thai work.

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