Some beginning kickboxing students expect a Muay Thai shin conditioning routine to involve darkly mysterious rituals and ointments, beating your shins to a bloody pulp against tree trunks and the like. The reality is far different, especially today. Yes, Thai boxers in Thailand would practice their kicks against banana trees with trunks a heck of a lot softer than your average oak. That is not to say that shin conditioning is not important. A sport that involves hitting people with your shin bones (and blocking with your shin bones when your opponent hits you with his own) would get very painful very quickly otherwise. But the best techniques to achieve this conditioning are a lot less mystical than you might guess.
- Bone conditioning. What is the best method of conditioning your shins for Muay Thai? Practice Muay Thai. Do heavy bag rounds, Thai pad rounds and spar. Your shins will become conditioned. Period! The fact is, kicking harder substances than your shins can damage and injure them. Kicking reasonably hard substances that are still somewhat softer than your shins, on the other hand, will gradually toughen them up in a much more natural, safe way. Your bones are hollow with columns inside them periodically to strengthen and reinforce them. When you kick a heavy bag or Thai pads hard over and over again, your body realizes the impact on that part of your body requires extra reinforcement and will build many more of these interior support columns in your shins. Harder pads or bags will condition your shins faster (and shouldn’t injure you since they are still softer than your shin bones), but they will be somewhat more painful to kick than softer varieties when you are still in the beginning stages of your training.
- Nerve conditioning. A significant aspect of shin conditioning for Muay Thai is actually mental. Yes, your shins will gradually become harder,and you will not feel the sensations of pain on contact that you once did. This is due, at least partially, to mental conditioning. The nerves in your shins are generally not going to actually die, although some scar tissue may develop around them, making them less sensitive. But your system will eventually realize that your shins are being impacted frequently with no major harm done and will stop overreacting by sending extreme pain signals to your brain each time. The impact hasn't changed, but your body's interpretation of it gradually has.
- Shin conditioning recovery. If you follow recommended procedure to condition your shins, rather than damaging them against excessively hard objects, you shouldn't deal with an inordinately long recovery time. But they will become somewhat sore and bruised periodically, especially early on. These injuries should heal on their own, but you can help them heal faster by icing them. The most convenient method of icing them is to freeze a paper cup of water, then tear off the top of the paper cup so the ice is exposed. Rub your shins with the ice while applying pressure; the ice will melt slightly to fit the shape and size of your shins.
- Diet for shin conditioning. A proper diet for shin conditioning is, first of all, the same diet that helps the rest of your body recover from training (plenty of water, plenty of protein, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and so on). The one thing you should remember is that your diet should include plenty of calcium, since your conditioning routine will force your body to add significantly to your bone density.