Mastering Muay Thai: Three tips to improve your padwork sessions

Article by: Finn Coleman

Three tips to improve your padwork sessions

Hitting pads is essential in Muay Thai, from brand new beginners through to world champions. Padwork enables you to hone your technique, manage distance, and develop power and cardio. At The Ironfist Gym Brisbane, we incorporate different padwork sessions into our classes; our beginners all the way through to our advanced fighters will practise set combinations, with those more experienced also doing freestyle pad sessions where both students work together in creating their own combos. 


The difference between simply ‘going through the motions’ and being fully engaged when hitting pads will make a tremendous difference to your training. Here are three helpful tips to get more out of hitting pads.


Don’t switch off in-between padwork combinations

Our Muay Thai program at the Ironfist Gym Brisbane uses padwork to develop cardio, power and technique across all skill levels. When practising set combos from our coaches, particularly with more simple combinations, it is easy to ‘switch off’ and simply take your body through the motion of the combo. 


Ironfist’s head coach Dan emphasises the importance of mind-muscle connection and a constant awareness when hitting pads. Rather than thinking of your padholder like a heavy bag, moving around with them and reacting to their movements will pay dividends in maintaining distance and being defensively-minded in a live scenario (e.g. sparring or fighting). A good padholder will ensure you are ready to react by occasionally simulating a punch or kick in-between combinations to make sure you aren’t dropping your hands and are ready to check kicks.


Make sure you are hitting the pads with full extension

A common mistake that beginner Muay Thai practitioners make is unintentionally shortening their strikes. This is usually either caused by the padholder coming too far out with their pad and ‘stuffing’ the strike, or the hitter standing too close to the pads.


With most combinations, you will want to begin the combo outside of the padholder’s striking range, and finish by exiting this range again. When sparring or fighting, it is rare that fighters will stay inside each other’s range for an extended amount of time; as such, a pad session should simulate this in-and-out movement, ensuring that the striker is landing their punches, elbows, kicks and knees at the end of their range of movement, maximising their power and effectively managing distance.


Pay attention to your breathing and core

Another aspect of padwork that beginner Muay Thai practitioners make is not knowing when and how to breathe. While it may seem trivial, inhaling and exhaling correctly is one of the most important things a fighter can do; doing so will not only make strides in your cardio, but also your power through effectively recruiting your core muscles in your strikes.


You’ve probably heard the grunts that Muay Thai fighters make when hitting pads or the heavy bag. While it may just sound like mindless screaming, this is actually the sound that you should be making as you exhale with your strikes. Grunting will not only pump more oxygen to your muscles, but also increase your power output through tightening your core at the point of impact, recruiting your entire body into the strike.


In-between combinations, make sure you are breathing deep into your stomach; this is known as diaphragmatic breathing. Studies have shown that diaphragmatic breathing helps trigger body relaxation responses, helping you remain mentally focused and enabling you to hit pads harder for longer. 


Keeping these tips in mind next time you are hitting pads at the Ironfist Gym Brisbane will make a big difference to your performance.


Ironfist runs Muay Thai classes Monday through Saturday, in the mornings and afternoons; so whatever your schedule, Ironfist has a time for you.


Any other questions? Ask away! We are happy to help.


Thinking about trying out Muay Thai? Get in touch – Book your free trial here today.

Address: 2/4 Devlan St, Mansfield QLD 4122

Phone: (+07) 0431 685 085

Check out our timetable for more details.




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