5 Reasons Why Golfers Could Benefit From Muay Thai Training
Wed Sep 29, 2021 by Dunk Visutthithada
I have recently just completed my TPI Certification Course for Fitness Level 2.
Hands down, it was well worth my investment and answered many of the questions I had about golf athleticism. In the course, I learned the fundamental principles of how to screen a player’s fitness, how to improve it progressively, and how to design training programs that are efficient, effective, and entertaining.
As I was studying TPI’s 3X3 Strength Matrix and 4X4 Power Matrix, I realized that golfers could also benefit from another form of exercise called “Muay Thai.” In case you weren’t aware, Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) is a martial art form that utilizes the human body’s eight limbs. These eight limbs include the fists, elbows, knees, and feet. As a martial artist (and golfer) myself, I have trained in Muay Thai for over a decade and have also founded one of Thailand’s leading training camps.
Since golfers are interested in “chasing distance,” a golfer must first have a solid strength base. But, having strength isn’t enough. A golfer must also know how to convert strength into power by improving his/her explosiveness. Most training programs for increasing strength and power recommend exercises such as performing squats, doing deadlifts, and throwing medicine balls.
But if you’re bored of those workouts and are open to trying out something new, here are five reasons how Muay Thai Training can help improve your fitness and make you become a better golfer.
1) Punches for Push Strength and Rotational Power
In Muay Thai training, the most basic striking form is the punch.
When performed correctly, a punch should be thrown into the training pad (or heavy bag) by stepping forwards slightly, extending the arm, rotating the torso, clenching the fist, and pivoting the backfoot to finish (like in golf). The muscles worked throughout delivering a punch include the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and your forearms. Similarly to golf, a powerful punch requires good technique, efficient torso rotation, and ability to transfer ground force from the foot.
Depending on your fitness level, a round of Muay Thai training can last 2-3 minutes. Combining punches into your workout program can benefit your golf swing by training your muscles to become stronger and your upper body to rotate faster. You’ll burn fat and improve speed at the same time. Be sure to use hand wraps so that your wrists are protected from the impact.
2) Elbows for Optimizing the Kinematic Sequence
The elbow differs from the punch in the way that it is a shorter (but deadlier) weapon. For instance, when throwing the right-side elbow, one must create a chicken wing, step forwards with the left foot, twist with the hips, rotate the torso, and finally swing through with the right elbow.
Sounds familiar? This is because a powerful elbow follows the same kinematic sequence as the golf swing: Pelvis, Thorax, Arm, and Club. Your elbow is the last to rotate in the “Muay Thai Sequence” and is essentially the same as your weapon in golf (your club).
Training to strike with your elbow and hitting the pads can hone your ability to become more explosive since it requires you to activate all your fast twitch muscle fibers. When you train these fibers more often, you’ll ultimately improve your rotational kinematic sequence for golf.
3) Knees for Hip Hinge and Vertical Thrust
Have you ever seen an elite fighter with “soft” looking legs? Probably not because they don’t exist. As with golf, power in Muay Thai also starts from the legs. Just look at Phil Mickelson's calves and compare them to those of a fighter.
The knee is a knockout weapon in Muay Thai. It is thrown by creating a sharp, upward thrust from the hips, with knees flexed, so that you’re able to “spear” your opponent in the midsection. By training Muay Thai, the motion of the knee strikes practices your ability to hip hinge and works out your entire leg. When complemented with traditional strength training such as deadlifts and squats, the speed you’ll gain from knee strikes will ultimately improve your vertical thrust power.
As taught in TPI Fitness, a player who has a high level of vertical thrust also has the ability to carry the ball further.
4) Kicks for Hip Mobility and Ground Force
The most powerful limbs for striking in Muay Thai are the feet (where feet include your shins) and are used for those roundhouse kicks. It is a difficult technique to master because it requires stability, mobility, and proper sequencing of the body.
The motion and muscles used in a kick mirrors the baseball swing, but the leg is treated as your bat instead. In super simple terms, to deliver a kick, one must step with the lead foot, rotate the pelvis, and swing the leg like a baseball bat into the opponent’s body. When performed correctly, an unblocked kick to the body produces bone-crushing force.
Muay Thai kicks can help train a golfer’s pelvic rotation ability. This is an important skill in golf because your pelvis sets up the proper sequencing of the downswing. If you’re able to control your muscles and separate your lower body from your upper body more efficiently, you’ll increase your ability in creating ground force. Just like a powerful golf swing, a powerful kick requires lower body separation and upper body stability.
5) Combos for Improved Cardio
Putting it all together, the eight limbs in Muay Thai create an incredible workout session. Whether you’re training with the heavy bag, hitting the pads with a trainer, or just performing shadow boxing, the movements in Muay Thai resemble golf in numerous ways. By training for just three rounds, the combos of punches, elbows, knees, and kicks will get your heart pumping. The next time you want to go for a jog, hop on a bike, or pull on the rows, switch to Muay Thai training for a kickass cardio session.
How to start training? Muay Thai gyms are located in major cities throughout the world. If you need a recommendation for a gym to train at, simply let me know in the comment section and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
How Muay Thai Helped My Golf Game
Now, I assume most golfers are probably skeptical of starting a martial art.
But, as a golfer myself, I felt compelled to share with the world that Muay Thai has helped my golf swing dramatically!
Before taking the TPI certification, I always wondered about my athletic ability in driving 300+ yards. I am 157 lbs (71.5 kg) and have a club head speed of up to 127 mph. Last I checked, this is above average and is extremely fast!
It was after learning about the Body-Swing Connection, the Strength Matrix, and the Power Matrix that I was able to understand that I am properly sequencing my body to generate the force required. The movements in my Muay Thai sessions have honed my rotational ability, trained my core for stability, and taught my muscles to fire as fast as possible. All of this results in an explosive swing.
To golfers reading this article, give Muay Thai training a chance. It’s an exciting, heart pumping workout that will shed belly fat, improve your fitness, and ultimately help your golf game. As Robert Yang from TPI says, “Better the athlete, better the golfer.”
Dunk Visutthithada has a Business and Hospitality Management background and is based in Bangkok, Thailand at Kiatthada Golf Range. He is a TPI Certified Expert in Fitness and Medical (Level 2) and is also a Certified Muay Thai Instructor from the Sports Authority of Thailand. Having co-founded Thailand’s leading Martial Arts Training Camp, Khongsittha Muay Thai, he is now passionate in sharing his fitness knowledge to golfers around the world. If you’re a golfer who’s interested in improving fitness, his online training program for Strength Training is available at https://www.stronggolfer.club/.