How to Condition your Shins for MMA
Conditioning the shins is one aspect of mixed martial arts that is misunderstood by many spectators and even practitioners. Sure you can search for videos of guys kicking banana trees, but that’s not going to help condition your shins.
A common misconception is that the purpose of shin conditioning is to kill the nerves in your shins. In reality, by conditioning shins you are increasing your pain threshold. Some very simple practices can be employed to help students or fighters at any level. These best practices will help you condition your shins and, at the same time, keep them in healthy shape.
If you are new to mixed martial arts, don’t worry, you will not be taking much heavy contact to your shins for some time. Rather, you will be focusing on your technique. Once your technique is developed, you will work on power. However, you can start the practice of getting your shins ready for kicking hard and checking kicks.
Outside of training gear, the first purchase for all practitioners should be liniment oil, which gives off a very distinct spearmint smell that may have tweaked your senses while at a traditional Muaythai gym. Liniment oil is rubbed on fighters before their bouts. The key to using this oil is to rub it on your shins before and after your workout. A word of warning, though: After a workout, the pores on your skin will be open and the oil will really burn. Don’t worry, this is normal and the sensation will only last for a short period of time.
Hot Tip: Doing it Right
Many professionals in the sport believe that a healthy intake of vitamin D and calcium, while using liniment oil and training in the sun, is the perfect combination for producing strong shins.
When rubbing the oil on your shins, make sure to use a good amount of pressure. If you have developed any lumps on your shins, focus on those areas and try to massage the lumps out. The thumbs, palms, and knuckles are all common parts of the hand that are used to apply pressure while rubbing in the oil.
The best conditioning that you can give your shins will be with your regular training. Just by kicking the heavy bag or the Thai pads, you will be getting your shins conditioned. Unfortunately for most folks, there is no quick and easy way to get your shins to the point where a kick won’t hurt. So it will take time and regular training to get the shins ready for fighting.
Most gyms will have several types of heavy bags and Thai pads. For newer practitioners, try to stick to the softer Thai pads and the less dense heavy bags. Once you are comfortable with how your shins feel kicking the soft pads, work your way up to harder pads. If your gym does not have harder pads, tell your partner to give more resistance on the pads when holding for your kicks. If you are more experienced and have properly conditioned your shins, then you should only be using the heavily packed bags and harder Thai pads.
To help get your shins get conditioned faster, take some time before and after class to kick the bags. You can do however many repetitions that you have time for, but a good base to start with is 25 kicks with each leg. This will ensure that your shins get used to regular contact. It will also lessen the pain when you finally experience shin-to-shin contact. Make sure that you kick the pads/bags with power, or else you shins will not get conditioned.
Engaging in sparring sessions or working partner drills will test your shins readiness for fighting. When engaging in any kind of sparring – whether it be light sparring, hard sparring, or partner drills – be sure to wear the proper shin guards and protective gear. Going shin-to-shin will only cause unwanted injuries and might even cause a fighter to miss a fight completely.
Sparring will not only get you ready to experience the shin-to-shin contact, it will also slightly condition the shins. Most fighters fear their first shin-on-shin contact in a fight situation. However, with the rush of adrenaline and properly conditioned shins, there should not be any pain. Even though both you and your sparring partner will be wearing shin guards, you can still feel the impact. If you start to feel too much pain in your shins while sparring, stop or tell your partner that you need to spar lighter.
The key to sparring and training is to stay healthy so you do not need to take any unneeded breaks from training.
The Healing Process
There is a very good chance that your shins will get injured or at least hurt badly while practicing your striking. One of the keys to conditioning the shins is keeping them healthy so you can continually train and condition. For any serious pains or injuries, please consult a doctor.
The first injury usually occurs when a fighter pushes himself too hard and suddenly notices the shins starting to bleed. This is most likely a result of kicking the pads or bags too much and can cause the top layers of skin to peel off. If you notice any bleeding or overwhelming pain, stop training and take time to heal your shins. When you do have any type of injury like this, do not put liniment oil on your shins. Instead, use a triple antibiotic cream to heal the skin. Keep in mind that you should be courteous to your fellow gym mates and clean any blood or excess sweat off of the bags.
Another common shin injury is the swelling or lumping of the shin. This can be caused by catching the edge of a Thai pad, kicking shin-to-shin, or kicking another hard body part. The best way to take care of these lumps is to take liniment oil after the initial injury and try to massage the lump out. You must use a lot of pressure while massaging this injury and this should be done until the lumps are gone. Another warning, though: This will hurt more than you can imagine, but it will help the shins heal a lot faster.
After you have messaged your shins, you must apply a cold compress; an ice pack and plastic wrap should suffice. Repeat until your shin is healed.
Shins of Steel
One important fact to remember is that your shins will not get conditioned over night. Avoid hitting your shins with hard objects in hopes that it increases their strength. This most likely will cause unnecessary injury and will not help in the goal of conditioning your shins. Most of the professional fighters you see have been training for years, and because of the many years of training, their shins can take more abuse than most.
By following these simple techniques, you will be on your way to healthy and well-conditioned shins.