Lillian Wilson

Muay Thai: Nine Reasons You Should be Training the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, dating back to the 13th century. Now, it's prized for its impact on strength and endurance.


Muay Thai is called the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’, referring to its usage of the knees, elbows, punches, and kicks. The sport is brutal and can easily lead to injury, however training Muay Thai against a bag can take you to warrior-level strength and conditioning, without the danger.

Here are nine reasons to do Muay Thai, now

1It’s effective in managing weight and strengthen cardiovascular system

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is one of the most effective and efficient methods to improve cardiovascular fitness. By working harder, not longer, you can maximize calories burned while reducing time spent in the gym. In a study published by the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 15-second intervals of maximum effort followed by 15 seconds of passive recovery were the most effective exercise structure to reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

In a second study, 30 minutes of HIIT were compared against weight training, running, and biking with results showing HIIT burns 30% more calories than the next closet exercise, running.

Long story short, HIIT allows you to get more done, in less time, so you can get back to enjoying the rest of your life.

Muay Thai training is intense and structured in short intervals. Short, challenging, sets of exercises are repeated often. The sport can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. Moreover, the sport’s usage of eight limbs means more variety, more combinations, and more fun. It’s time to start enjoying our workouts. It’s time to start kicking.

2Muay Thai improves stamina

Muay Thai is a vigorous activity that involves your entire body. The repeated combinations not only challenge your cardiovascular system but also condition your central nervous system. This allows you to endure greater physiological stress, for longer periods of time.

Improving your stamina in the gym will make you stronger in the gym and also carry over to your life outside of the boxing room. Increased stamina can have a positive impact on regulating hormones like testosterone, improve your metabolism and heighten your energy levels throughout the day.

Participants in a 2017 study suffering from work fatigue dramatically improved their energy levels, cognitive functioning, and sleep quality after improving their stamina from a six-week exercise program.

3Muay Thai decreases stress

These days, we all experience stress. In fact, a 2022 survey showed over 30% of employees report moderate to high levels of stress. In the last year, over 74% of UK adults have at least once felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

To ensure positive mental, physical and spiritual health it is crucial to manage our stress.

Muay Thai is an excellent stress reliever. The high intensity releases emotions and eliminates distractions from the day that may be causing you stress. Muay Thai can help our bodies regulate cortisol levels, the hormone that tells us we are stressed.

Sometimes all we need is a well-placed punch!

4Time for a brain challenge

Muay Thai is a complex sport. Sometimes we trip over our own shoes; now imagine controlling eight limbs simultaneously!

As you train Muay Thai, your coordination naturally improves. This has positive effects on your ‘mind-muscle connection’ (the ability to make conscious and deliberate muscle contractions) and your overall neuro-muscular health.

Moreover, the complexity and repetition of Muay Thai can improve overall cognitive function. A 6-week study showed that HIIT was vastly superior to medium intensity continuous training (MICT) exercises like jogging or cycling in improving cognitive function in older adults. This can help reduce the likelihood of cognitive disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that tend to appear in our older years. Getting stronger AND smarter? That’s a win-win situation.

5Muay Thai improves your balance

The importance of balance in all sports and everyday life cannot be overstated. It is the ability that allows us to jump, walk straight and even stand up. Muay Thai relies heavily on balance to throw one-legged punches, elbows, and knees. This means improving your balance and overall skeletal system; a stronger, healthier spine and posture.

6 Helps bone strength

Julius Wolff was an anatomist in the 19th century who found that bones in a healthy body will adapt based on the stress or demand based on them. In Muay Thai, this growth is no different.

With every kick, elbow or punch, our bones experience small, healthy ‘micro-tears’. These tears are filled with calcium, leading to higher strength and density bones.

As we age our bone density naturally decreases. To ensure strong bones throughout our lives it is important to take measures to improve their health.

Drink more milk, and hit more bags!

7Great for flexibility

One of the reasons to do Muay Thai is that it is fantastic for overall flexibility and mobility. Strong mobility drastically reduces your chances of injury which can become more likely as we age or exercise more. Moreover, flexibility can improve your performance in all other physical sports.

Let’s face it – stretching can be pretty boring. Muay Thai is an excellent way to challenge our muscles and ligaments, improve mobility and still have fun.

8Muscle memory for a life-changing moment

Although we hope no one ever has to use the skills trained in Muay Thai, the art does condition and prepare your body and mind for a self-defense situation should it ever arise.

In 2015 off-duty police officer Normaswandia Alia used her Muay Thai training to protect herself against a knife-wielding robber. Normaswandia fought off the robber with a series of kicks, stopping the robbery and potentially saving her own life.

It is always better to be prepared.

9It’s fun!

We all want to live a longer, healthier life. But we all also want to have fun!

Muay Thai is a challenging, interactive and exciting sport. By reducing stress, improving our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and challenging our minds, Muay Thai makes us feel strong, satisfied and happy. In addition to happiness, Muay Thai has been shown to improve the emotional regulation and self-esteem of athletes.

If you are looking to get stronger, smarter and smile while doing it – Muay Thai is the sport for you.

Top tips before you start

1Find the right gym

It is important to find a good gym before training Muay Thai. This can be challenging, since there are so many options available!

It is always helpful to read the gym reviews, look at their price offerings and choose the spot that appeals to you most. If you can, try to do a practice session to get a feeling for the coach and other participants.

2Be patient

Let’s face it, we all want to be Jackie Chan. But Muay Thai is an ancient, complicated sport. You may find it difficult or even frustrating at first. Do not be worried, this is completely normal!

It is important to be patient and give yourself time to adjust to a completely new sport. As you practice, you will gain confidence. Enjoy the journey.

3Never skip the warm-up

Warming up is essential for all sports. This should be done before every session. Whether it is light, dynamic stretches or a brief cardio work-out, it’s importance to get the muscles warm, heart rate elevated and blood flowing before you start hitting the bag.

4Get yourself a pair of gloves

Most gyms will be able to provide you with gloves during training sessions. If you’d rather have your own pair, it is important to invest in a high-quality pair of gloves. Muay Thai trainers prefer a 16-ounce (450 g) glove. If you are less than 138 lbs (63 kg), we recommend the 14-ounce (390 g) gloves.

First session – what should i expect?

Most Muay Thai sessions last 2 hours, with seven main elements that hone particular aspects of your Muay Thai art. Good gyms will practice all of these elements to ensure students develop a well-rounded game.

1. Running or Jump-Rope starts most Muay Thai sessions. This will improve your cardio-vascular endurance and stamina, allowing you to train harder, for longer. If you want to improve even faster you can run or jump-rope outside of the gym.

2. Shadow Boxing is an exercise to improve movement control, stance and rhythm. It consists of throwing kicks, elbows, punches and knees in front of a mirror and against the air.

3. Pad Work makes up the main part of Muay Thai training. In most gyms, a partner will hold pads for you to hit. Pad work will develop your strike power, improve bone density and condition your muscles.

4. Bag Work is also important to improve stamina and endurance. It is one of the hardest sections of Muay Thai training, so get ready!

5. Partner Drills are by gyms to train your strike control, defense and reflexes. Light sparring against partners will teach you how to block attacks and launch counter-attacks. These drills allow you to replicate a real Muay Thai fight, while reducing the chance of pain or injury to practically zero.

6. Body Conditioning is crucial to your Muay Thai training. It includes exercises like pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. This stage of training can be very challenging at first; remember to be patient! Strength is a gradual process.

7. Cooling down is the last stage of training the aims to restore heart rate and blood pressure after an intense session. Stretching will also be included to relieve muscle tension. Take this section seriously, recovery is as important as training.

Let’s sum Muay Thai up

Practicing Muay Thai with a boxing bag is a perfect option for those who want to achieve serious full-body improvements and get many other benefits simultaneously. It is fun and awesome for your mental as well as physical well-being.

You won’t regret having intensive 8-limb training after a stressful day at work because it allows you to express your hidden emotions to the fullest!

Hungry for knowledge? Here is more

In this video, Sean Fagan – a sports influencer also known as The Muay Thai Guy – shares the 13 tips for the best workout experience with the heavy bag.

Healthypedia FAQ

Muay Thai can be dangerous if you fight professionally but for the casual Muay Thai student, the risks are quite minor. When choosing Muay Thai training with a bag there is no risk to your health.

When practising Muay Thai flexibility is developing in a natural way! Muay Thai improves flexibility by stretching and strengthening muscles, which helps prevent injuries.

Not only will Muay Thai enhance your physical well-being but also serve as a good stress reliever. Physical activity of this kind can make you feel better by letting you express hidden emotions through kicking and punching the bag.

Muay Thai is well-known for it’s extreme calorie-burning features. You can burn up to 800 calories in an hour.

Performing punches on a densely-packed bag will condition your knuckles, wrists, and elbows to impact, and the calcium deposits that are formed will strengthen your knuckles. When punching a bag micro-fractures that fill with calcium are created and due to this process bones are becoming stronger and denser.

The main benefit of HIIT is that it boosts your cardiovascular fitness faster because it uses a lot more energy than working longer. There is evidence that HIIT workouts can result in blood pressure and blood sugar improvements that are equivalent to or greater than moderate-intensity exercise.

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