Should I try Muay Thai if I’m out of shape or overweight?

Published by Jason Narog on

There is never a bad time to try to get yourself into an activity or a sport. Muay thai (or thai boxing) is an excellent way to take someone who is out of shape or overweight and get them burning an extreme amount of calories incredibly quickly and get them into the best shape of their lives.

When I started Muay Thai I was a smoker, weighed somewhere between 205-210 lbs and couldn’t run more than 30 feet without getting winded. I was also brand new to physical therapy working on repairing some knee and hip issues. But Muay Thai is not for everyone. My first week of holding pads I got popped by the pad I was holding and walked into work with a black eye. I’ve seen a good number of people who signed up leave for a variety of reasons. If you go in with the right mindset it will work for you.

What do I need to know about Muay Thai for getting into shape?

  1. This is a physical sport. In most US gyms you will be holding pads for a partner at some point. They will punch, elbow, kick, and knee said pads. It’s up to you to form a strong base to keep those pads from bouncing back and hurting you. You also may develop bruises in the beginning as your skin toughens up. Your bare feet may blister as they callus.
  2. This is a cardio intensive sport. The beginning drills will tax you mentally and physically when you’re first getting started. They’ll probably still tax you after a year + of training (which is what you want to grow.) You’ll learn how to breathe better the more often you attend and your cardio will improve.
  3. This is a mentally taxing sport. There will be drills, routines, and combos for you to memorize. I actually find this to be the hardest part, trying to remember what kick or punch comes next in the combo. It plays on both sides, pad holding and striking.
  4. This is a dirty sport. People are sweating on each-other. Used gym pads have the sweat of dozens if not hundreds of people (so buy yourself some Defense Soap)
  5. It takes time to get good. I’m at best a weak intermediate in my mind. Don’t get down on yourself if a certain technique or combo is taking time for you to get good with. Bruce Lee once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” which means practice the basics and you’ll be better than the other person who always wants to learn the latest and greatest technique.

What are the health benefits of Muay Thai?

  1. You’ll end up with awesome cardio. The drills and repetition get you into amazing shape. I personally had an additional drive to improve my cardio outside the sport so I could perform better while training. This led to additional training where I’d run, work on routines like 11 minute abs, or even weight train.
  2. You’ll work your core, legs, shoulders, neck and other body parts you didn’t expect to. Punching isn’t really an arm exercise. You’re rotating at the core and using your entire body to power the punch. Kicks work in a similar fashion, you aren’t using the kicking leg but are instead rotating your entire body and whipping that leg.
  3. You’re in a supportive group environment. You know that motivation people get from going to group HIIT, Cross Fit, or other boot camp style classes? You get the same thing from a Muay Thai class.
  4. It’s an awesome stress reliever. If you have a semi-bad day hitting some pads or a bag takes your mind off your woes. If you had a totally horrible day it might be hard to shut off that piece of the brain (I’ve tried and failed, but hey you might have better luck.)
  5. Additional random cardio exercise routines get thrown in (at least where I’ve trained.) Burpees, push ups, bodyweight squats, jogging, and karaokas may end up making an appearance or two during a training session.

Additional Added Benefits of Muay Thai

  1. If / when you’ve been into it for awhile, the travel bug will bite you. The good news is the Muay Thai Guy is planning trips all over the place for you to visit at Muay Thai Vacations. I would have never wound up in Costa Rica otherwise and am exploring my calendar for a time I can travel out to Thailand (most likely early Q2 – 2019 with my coupon to Khongsittha.)
  2. It’ll introduce you to other sports. I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after getting myself back into shape with Muay Thai. Many US based gyms will offer classes in both in the same gym, most likely under the same membership package.
  3. It’ll improve your confidence. There’s nothing better for confidence than knowing you’re in excellent shape and having a few combos in your back pocket.
  4. It’ll improve your discipline. Wanting to be in shape for your sport will keep you out of trouble and get you into good habits. If it weren’t for Muay Thai I wouldn’t be a NASM CPT, I wouldn’t be running this blog, I wouldn’t be going for an SFG-1 (kettlebell certification), I wouldn’t have quit smoking, and I wouldn’t have modified my diet.
  5. You’ll feel at least semi competent while watching / talking about UFC fights.

Don’t worry about not being in “good enough shape” to get started. The sport itself will get you into shape, and possibly even better shape than you would have gotten into by “preparing to get started.” Give it a try, use the interwebs to find yourself a place to train and try it out. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a new you to gain.

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