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Conditioning Shins At Home | Your Essential Kicking Guide

A man conditioning shins for kicks at home.

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If you partake in any full-contact standup combat sport like Muay Thai or MMA. The likelihood is that you will be both kicking and being kicked in the shin. And when you use it correctly, can act like a baseball bat. So how about conditioning shins at home when you cannot get to the gym?

Conditioning shins is an essential part of training your body for full-contact combat sports. And there are a number of methods that range from kicking a heavy bag to using a shin conditioning stick to achieve your desired goals.

When it comes to competing in any of the disciplines which include kicking. It’s key that your shins are in the right condition to both take and give punishment. And for this reason conditioning this area of the body should be top of your list.

But with so many stories out there, hearsay and even debate amongst fighters themselves. The question as to the best way to do it is what leaves some people stumped.

I can tell you that I’ve seen some methods which left me wondering if it’s really worth the pain. While others will swear that sticking to the tried and trusted methods, without doing yourself permanent damage is, of course, the way to go.

With some pretty diverse opinions on the matter, I thought it would be good to take a cold hard look at what actually works. What you can do at home and the results you should expect.

It’s not an easy road and will require your time and dedication. But the benefits of shin conditioning for your chosen sport are fully accepted. Because if you hope to ever reach your full potential, you are going to need to put in that work, simple as that.

Is It Possible To Condition Your Shins

While some may think that the conditioning of the shin is pure trial and error, without much real science behind it, they would be wrong.

In fact, the process of conditioning stems from a very real process known in the biology world as Wolfe’s Law. And this is that over time, bones that are repeatedly put under stress do in fact harden.

It’s the result of the human body adapting to new stresses. And so, as a result, they increase in overall strength and density to ensure that they are better protected.

A man bending down to tie his shoelaces on the street.
Image of a man’s shins as he ties his shoelaces.

And a great example where bones have lost their strength was studied by NASA in the early years of space exploration. Where due to the weightlessness involved, returning astronauts who had spent extended periods on the International space station would lose both strength and bone density.

So they enacted training regimes that included running on treadmills and cycling fixed bikes. To help to maintain the bone density they would have otherwise lost.

And while the way in which shins are conditioned for fighting uses other methods. The desired outcome remains the same, all be it in a much more intense and often bloody outcome.

How Long Does It Take To Condition Shins

So as you begin your journey with the final destination in mind. It’s good to have an idea of roughly just how long it will take, right? I mean have you ever set out to go somewhere and not wondered how long will this take?

Well, there is no simple answer to this question, as it very much comes down to the individual involved and how much work they are willing to put in.

As one training session may seem pretty intense to one person. It may just be scratching the surface for another. As you are preparing this part of your body for extreme stress. It makes sense that the training required should be equally as stressful.

A fighter kicks the heavy bag during training.
A fighter kicking a heavy bag.

Some fighters will kick a heavy bag until they get tired of their shins begin to hurt. While others will throw hundreds and hundreds of kicks. The skin on the leg may split and begin to bleed. But they will keep pushing forward through the pain.

So depending on what camp you are in will determine how long it will take. But if you follow a good regime and put in the hours. You should see some solid results after 2 – 3 months.

Shin Conditioning Methods Used

So there are several ways in which you can condition shins and multiple conditioning tools and methods are available. So it’s really a personal decision on what you wish to use to reach your goal.

So below I’ll set out some of the most commonly used methods and systems so that you can at least make an informed decision. Not wasting time and setting yourself up for failure further down the line.

Kicking The Heavy Bag

The tried and trusted method which is the go-to for Muay Thai, as well as other fighters across the board, will use. Traditionally found in the gym, you can of course also have a heavy bag in your own home.

Depending on your level and budget, using the heavy bag is widely accepted as the most straightforward and reliable approach. For people who are starting out in the sport, to begin with kicking softer bags. Then work their way up to those which are more densely packed.

Or like the Thai fighters do, by changing the content of the bag. Going from softer filling to sand, then finally a combination of sand and rocks. Guaranteeing their shins are super conditioned from the hundreds of hours they put into their kicking drills.

Use a Shin Conditioning Stick

There are sticks that are designed specifically for conditioning shins. Generally made from bamboo, these lightweight tools are widely used to enhance the progress of what you are doing. As you move closer and closer to your goal.

A Muay Thai fighter using a shin conditioning stick.
A fighter using a shin conditioning stick.

So most fighters will use the stick in a number of ways. Which range from rolling it from the base of the shin at the ankle, all the way up to just below the knee. Ensuring that all this area gets equal treatment.

It can also be used in a tapping fashion, where you move up and down the shin. Initially tapping quite lightly, but upping the intensity as you get more used to the discomfort. The eventual end goal is that you can hit the shin hard and not feel too much pain.

Try Sparring In The Gym

If you are lucky enough to have someone who can spar with you, that is awesome. As there is really no substitute for getting in there and landing some decent kicks. So make sure to try and find someone if at all possible and keep up this element of your training.

Using A Glass Bottle

Some people will use a bottle in the same way as the conditioning stick. A budget option, the smooth glass and density of the bottle are good substitutes. Lightly tap along the full extent of the shin and increase the intensity as you progress.

I will add, you should not look to get to a point where you can simply smash the bottle on your leg and not feel any pain! As a disclaimer, I just need to point that out to some people.

A Kitchen Rolling Pin

Believe it or not, you can also do your shin conditioning with a rolling pin. And yes I do mean the one your mother uses to make those beautiful pastries. In much the same way as using the stick, you can tap and roll the shin. But be careful as a tap with a rolling pin versus a specifically designed tool are two very different things.

Rolling pins are heavy dense objects, so take a little extra care and don’t go too crazy. Also, make sure to let your loved one know you have been using their favourite kitchen utensil on those sweaty legs. I’m sure they will understand.

Try Leg Strengthening Exercises

Having a solid structure to support the shin is key to overall conditioning. So by having strong muscles and ligaments that connect everything together will indeed make for overall stronger legs and better kicks.

A person running up steps in order to strengthen their leg muscles.
A person running steps to strengthen their legs.

So there is a host of exercises you can do to help build the scaffolding of the shins. And as they are pretty self-explanatory, I won’t insult your intelligence about how to do any of them.

But if you follow a good overall leg-building exercise regime which includes squats, running, hill running, and running steps. And generally, in any impact sports which force the connecting tissues and muscles to grow strong, then you should absolutely do that.

Some more advanced exercises like jumping squats, and two-legged jumping steps. Even running off-road where you will be forced to jump and dodge obstacles is a worthwhile addition.

Having A Good Diet

Your body is the vehicle, right? So why would you expect to see Formula One racing results if you are using dirty diesel? So it’s key that you eat the right foods to benefit and supplement the work you are doing.

You need to cut out the fast foods and focus more on those which will help build those bones and muscles. High in calcium and high in proteins, it’s up to you what you would like on the menu.

Vegetarians and meat-eaters will have vastly different diets. It’s best to ask a professional or at the very least stick with fresh non-processed foods. Whatever you do, know what you are putting in, so you know what you will get out.

In Conclusion

So the methods laid out above are tried and trusted amongst fighters around the world. Some will swear by certain techniques, while all will agree that you cannot beat the real thing in the gym.

You can at the very least do much of the work at home. So that when it comes time to get back into the action you haven’t missed a beat. Make sure your shins are well-conditioned as part and parcel of your overall training regime.

It’s not rocket science and longer term you will see the benefits of what you do now bearing fruit later on. So with that thought, I’ll leave it at that and wish you the very best on your personal journey.