Pad work in Muay Thai is an essential part of becoming a well-rounded fighter. Pad work helps to improve hand speed, focus, reaction time, and punching power as well as kicking power, technique, and serves as targets for combination practice.
To be able to throw a punch or a kick at full strength and have it land against a solid object gives you a sense of what it’s going to feel like when it’s time to land those blows in the ring.
Types of Muay Thai Striking Pads
Pads are an essential part of Muay Thai training, as they allow fighters to practice various techniques and combinations with a partner while providing a target for strikes. They come in various shapes and sizes, each with a specific purpose.
Some common types of pads used in Muay Thai training include:
- Focus Mitts: These are small pads that are held by the trainer or partner to work on punching and striking combinations. Focus mitts are great for developing accuracy, speed, and timing.
- Thai Pads: These are rectangular pads, approximately arm’s length that is worn by the trainer or partner on their forearms. They are designed to absorb heavy Muay Thai kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. They are an integral part of developing power and technique.
- Belly Pads: These are worn around the midsection of the trainer or partner to absorb body shots, knee strikes, and kicks. They are used for developing power and accuracy in close-range strikes. Used in unison with the Thai pads, they form a larger and more realistic target area.
- Kick Shields: These are similar to Thai pads but are generally larger and somewhat softer and rectangular in shape. They are used to practice more powerful kicks and knee strikes and are perfect for developing power in your leg kicks.
By using different types of pads, fighters can work on their footwork, balance, target recognition, and overall technique. Pads also allow for more intense training sessions without the risk of injury, making them an essential tool for Muay Thai fighters of all levels.
Benefits Of Pad Work
A major benefit of pad work is that you can concentrate on a single strike or combo, working to perfect it along with the proper footwork. This creates muscle memory and a level of automatic response to the offensive moves of your opponent, where you can defend and counter in a fight without much thought.
Correctly thrown punches and kicks, and executing proper knees and elbows can be honed while doing pad work. You will be able to exert maximum force without hurting your sparring partner or yourself while working to master each of the strikes used in Muay Thai.
Other benefits include:
- Mimics sparring
- Range practice
- Cardio and endurance
- Combination practice
- Defensive and counter-move practice
Pad work is the closest to sparring you can get without sparring. The advantage of having targets and resistance to your punches and kicks builds focus and gets your body used to the impact of hitting your opponent.
Judging how far an opponent is from your reach is a vital tool in landing the perfect kick, punch elbow, or knee, and having the pads as targets ingrains that distance into your mind.
Endurance or lack of it can lose a fight. Striking drills on the pads can help to build up your cardio and endurance. Your trainer may have you performing switch kicks for repetitions, or working the pads for three minutes a round for five rounds, using combos and counters as you would in a fight situation.
Combos and counters aren’t born in a fight, they are practiced and practiced some more. Pad work is the place where you can tie in those punches with a kick, knee, or elbow. You can practice your blocks and quick-response body kicks, or return a leg kick followed by an elbow.
Benefits Of Having An Experienced Holder
Having an experienced pad holder compared to just having someone hold the pads for you is like night and day. A trainer with good pad skills can help a fighter work effective combos both offensively and defensively.
A good pad holder will be holding the pad dangerously close to the target area to give you the appropriate target. If the target is the face, then the focus mitt and the trainer’s face are going to be close together; if the target is the ribs then the pads will be up tight in the rib area. An experienced holder has stepped into the role of your opponent, and they will need to be able to withstand the force of your punches and the power of your kicks, all the while calling out the next combination. The trainer’s role in pad work is invaluable.
A Relationship With Your Trainer
The more time you spend seriously practicing and training the more you will begin to develop an energetic relationship with your trainer, especially during a Muay Thai pad workout. Not only is there guidance, direction, and corrections coming from your trainer, but there’s a choreographed dance of sorts beginning to form.
The dance is not set in stone, but you will know when the pads are in a certain area, then there is a corresponding strike to go with it. And you will begin to find a rhythm. The instructions from your trainer are the music and the sound of the glove against the pads is the beat.
Range, focus, power, and speed are all developing as a result of the time spent hammering out the single strikes, the combos, and the counter drills that you practice while using the Muay Thai pads.
Having a skilled and knowledgeable trainer who understands how to use the pads properly and how to command and lead a workout is an invaluable asset for a serious Muay Thai practitioner.
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