The muay Thai teep is one of the most fundamental weapons used in the sport and can be utilised to great effect in a number of different situations. It is primarily a defensive weapon which can be used to control the distance of a fight, upset an opponent’s rhythm, disrupt an opponent’s attack and cause tremendous discomfort to an opponent’s breathing pattern. When used correctly, the recipient of numerous teeps will become hesitant in their attacks, uncommitted in their strikes, rash in teep defence methods and may become vulnerable to teep feint set-ups.
From all of the above reasoning, it’s fairly logical that if the teep covers a longer range, we can use it to greater effect for all of the reasons above. Whether you are targeting the thigh, hip or abdomen of an opponent, a longer teep is advantageous to us. However, it is very common to see practitioners (especially inexperienced ones) not using the the teep to its full potential due to biomechanical, physiological or neurological restrictions which limit the distance at which they are able to reach with this weapon.
I just want to break the teep movement down very quickly to better understand the actions that make up the muay Thai teep. I’m going to use the lead (left) leg teep as an example;
While the right foot remains planted on the ground, the left hip flexes (knee moves upward to roughly hip height) and the ankle dorsi-flexes (toes also move toward ceiling). Next, the knee is extended, pushing forward into the target while the ankle performs plantar-flexion. Finally, the right hip hyper-extends and abducts in order to apply maximum power into the target.
Most people get the first part right but the main problem practitioners have is hyper-extending and abducting the hip in the final phase. Without this, the teep is severely limited in terms of its effectiveness and can render the technique useless when fighting an opponent with good hip hyper-extension and abduction who is using his superior teep technique against you.
So, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which we can increase the range of the muay Thai teep.
Increasing the range of the teep
As humans, we generally tend to have poor hip mobility, especially in the hamstrings, hip flexors and hip adductors. When one muscle group such as the hip flexors are overworked we experience something called “reciprocal inhibition” which is where the agonists of that muscle group (in this case, the glute max) becomes weakened and/or inhibited. So glute activation is generally poor in most untrained people or inexperienced athletes.
Therefore, we need to increase the ROM at the tight muscles and “activate” the inhibited muscles. We can also make a few technique alterations to further increase the range of the teep.
#1 Hip Mobility
One factor which causes improper muay Thai technique is the lack of range of motion (ROM) at the hip joint. When we look specifically at the teep, our main concern with regards to hip musculature ROM is the hip flexors and hip adductors of the supporting leg side, and the knee flexors of the teeping leg. However, we must fix the problematic areas of both sides if we are to avoid muscular imbalances and become more prone to injury.
When I talk about hip “flexors”, I’m referring to the muscles which flex the hip; i.e. move the knee toward the ceiling when in a standing position.
In order for the hip extensors (glute max + hamstrings) to do their thing and create hyper-extension on the non-kicking side, the hip flexors must be taken through an adequate ROM to allow that hyper-extension to take place.
Similarly, the hip abduction (moving one leg out to the side, parting the legs) that takes place during the final stage of the teep means that the hip adductors (the muscles of the inner thigh) must be flexible enough to allow the large angle that the abduction creates.
These dynamic stretches and hip mobility exercises can be implemented before you begin your muay Thai session to increase ROM at the hip joint.
Dynamic Hip Flexor to Hamstring Stretch – TM Fitness
Dynamic Adductor Stretch – TM Fitness
Stretch Routine for Hip Mobility – GMB Fitness
#2 Gluteal “fire ups” – Hip extensor and hip abductor activation
Hip extensor and hip abductor activation (or the lack of it) is another cause of short teeps. The main hip extensor is the glute max along with the 3 hamstrings muscles. To hyper-extend the right hip (move the thigh to the rear), the right glute max must be activated in order to lengthen the hip flexors and create the large angle required to drive the left hip forward. If we want to abduct the right hip, we must activate the gluteus medius along with some other muscles such as TFL as these are the primary movers in hip abduction.
If we don’t have good glute max and glute med activation then we aren’t producing the longest teep possible.
After you’ve performed your hip mobility work, perform some glute activation exercises to fire up your glutes and wake them up for your muay Thai session. Once this is done, your glutes will contribute much more power to your teep AND to pretty much every other movement during your muay Thai session.
Monster Walks and Sumo Walks – Bret Contreras
Glute bridge – Mike Robertson
#3 Technique Alteration
In addition to the above, teep technique alterations can also be made.
The lean back – some coaches teach it, some don’t. Fact is, you will get more reach on your teep if you lean back during the knee extension phase due to the greater angle you will be able to produce at the hip. I think a slight lean back is good practice, not only for producing a longer reach, but it acts as a counter weight for the teeping leg and provides a natural defence against punches and high/middle kicks.
The hop – This one’s “cheating” slightly as it doesn’t allow us to lengthen our teep, only it brings us closer to our opponent before impact by adding a hop at the same time as we begin hip flexion.
Supporting foot angle adjustment – In general, the angle of the rear foot in most muay Thai stances is around 45 degrees in relation to their target.
If the rear foot points directly forward during the teep (as it may do during a rear leg teep) then the limiting factors would primarily be hip extensor activation and hip flexor ROM.
If the rear foot points at a 90 degree angle when teeping then the limiting factors would primarily be hip abductor activation and hip adductor ROM.
The hip can adduct to a much greater angle than it can hyper-extend. For a longer teep, turn the supporting foot to a 90 degree angle.
Technique alterations can be made depending on your style and the given situation