In the first installment of this Home Training special, I wrote about picking the right heavy bag. Bag work is largely a solitary exercise and while it has many benefits, you must not forget that Muay Thai is an exchange between 2 martial artists. This is why Muay Thai training features a high proportion of partner training such as sparring, clinching, and pad work. For this second part of the home training series, let’s explore the various Muay Thai pads, their uses and which ones to get. Take note, this article is about Thai pads, not Pad Thai. Save the latter for after training when you have burned some calories.
Pad work is a training associated with Muay Thai and other kickboxing sports. Focus pads or mitts are the equipment of choice in traditional boxing: they are smaller and are used primarily for training punches. Thai pads are about double in size and rectangular in shape. They are designed to catch all the weapons of Muay Thai from punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. Pad-holders would also use them to work your reflexes and defense by swinging them towards you where you are meant to block or dodge.
Pad-holding is an art form. When a pad-holder and the fighter are in tuned, the flow is seamless and incredibly beautiful to watch. A good pad-holder not only knows the right way to hold the pads, he is inventive, knows how to simulate the flow of an actual fight, is able to motivate and push one beyond the limits. You’ll be surprised to learn that there are lots of mediocre pad-holders but when you meet a good one, you will know he’s THE ONE.
A good fighter doesn’t necessarily transition to being a good pad-holder. Pad-holding is a skill that doesn’t come naturally for everyone, even the multi-time champions. Some either lack the imagination to execute a natural pad workflow, or they just lack the right attitude to want to work on being good at it. Many pad-holders make it look effortless but is actually a highly intense work. Pads weigh between 2 to 4 kg (around 5 to 9 lbs) each. Even though they do absorb a bulk of the impact from the strikes, doing it with fighter after fighter, day in and day out, it is a very physically demanding job and one that inadvertently takes a toll on the body.
Then there are those pad-holders who are a pain to train with, literally. They hold the pads at horrible angles and slam the edges into your shin bones. If you have been around enough camps, you will also meet many different types of bad pad-holders. My least favorite is the one-trick pony pad-holder who does the same routine every freaking session or even the same five techniques every round. Most people have their favorite and least favorite pad-holder to work with although you don’t always have the luxury of choice. If you are going to partner up with a friend for some home training padwork, then make sure to communicate and help each other work on improving pad-holding skills. With the right home training partner, pad work is one of the best and most fun ways to improve in Muay Thai.
|Note for Beginners
Pad holding is not as easy as it looks. Before going hard at the pads especially with the kicks, it is important to learn some pad holding basics. This will help to minimize potential injuries to the arms or shoulder joints for the pad holder. A good pair of pads with proper padding will also reduce the impact on the forearms but the key to safe pad-holding still boils down to proper techniques. Watch this YouTube video on how to hold pads correctly.
Benefits of Pad Work in Muay Thai
No one would be doing it if there aren’t some kind of benefits. Pad work resembles an actual fight and allows the fighter/student to throw full-power strikes which they can’t always do during sparring. Here are some of its other benefits:
If you throw each punch and kick like you mean it, pad work is the ultimate cardiovascular endurance training. 3 minutes of non-stop pad smashing can feel like an eternity. Some Muay Thai camps (especially those in Phuket) are referred to as “Fat camps” for good reason. They do 3-5 rounds of pad work and that’s all it takes to burn a truck of calories. Having a trainer or partner holding pads makes a huge difference as they would push you in a way that most people wouldn’t if they trained on their own.
If you have yourself a good pad-holder with lots of experience, he can help to correct your techniques on the spot as he sees it. Little things like not driving your cross from your toes up, not blocking when you throw a roundhouse kick, generally habits that have gone formed over time unknowingly. A good training partner or trainer can correct them there and then. Something that a heavy bag can’t do.
Besides sparring and shadow boxing, padwork is also a great way to train footwork. A good pad-holder will not just stand stationary but will move around to mimic movement in the ring. Side-stepping, dodging, feints, and other footwork can all be taught and drilled in padwork.
Best Muay Thai Kick Pads
The most common pads used in Muay Thai are the ubiquitous hand-held kick pads.
These are mostly rectangular in shape and designed to catch every imaginable Muay Thai weapon, as long as the pad-holder is up to it. These pads are made by many fight brands and models may come in standard free sizes or different sizes and weights to choose from. While smaller/lighter pads are easier to hold for a longer period of time, they may not afford the same protection that comes with heavier/thicker pads which absorbs impact better. That said, too heavy a pad and it will tire out the holder fast.
In my experience, Thai pads need a bit of time to break in and so they can feel bruisingly hard when they arrive fresh. A few days or a week in and they will feel perfect. Too soft a pad isn’t necessarily a good thing as the impact will transfer to the pad-holder which can be a health hazard in the long run. At the same time, pad kicking is a good way to condition the shins so soft pads are useless in this aspect.
Again, I am recommending Fairtex as these are the ones they use at the gym where I train. If you can get your hands on Twins Special kick pads, they would be just as good and they are used in Muay Thai camps all over Thailand.
Fairtex kick pads can be quite hard when they are fresh out of the factory, especially for beginners whose shins are not quite conditioned yet. They will soften up just right within a couple of weeks’ of smashing. So just hang in there, buddy. These Fairtex curved pads are more comfortable to kick at and will break in faster compared to pads with flat surface.
They are padded enough to absorb impact from the hardest kicks but enough toughness for shin conditioning. Very well-constructed with strong stitching for long-lasting durability, Fairtex training equipment are designed to meet the heavy usage requirements of commercial and fight gyms, so they are more than adequate for home training purpose. This pad model weigh around 3.5-4 lbs each which is a comfortable weight for most people without sacrificing protection.
|– “I would recommend these to anyone looking for a durable set of Thai pads.“
– “I hold pads for some strong kickers and with these pads, a barely feel their kicks. “
-“airtex once again trumps all the competition in quality. These are the most comfortable and durable Thai Pads on the market – grab them, today!“
|Rating: (4.8 / 5)|
>> Click here to shop Fairtex Muay Thai Pads <<
|Quick Note on Buying Thai Pads
Be sure to read the fine print. Some sellers price their pads individually while others are priced for a pair. Make sure you are getting a pair and not just one pad.
Other Types of Pads Used in Muay Thai
The brick-like rectangular pads that we see above come to mind when we talk about Muay Thai pads. There are actually a few more types of pads used in Muay Thai training. These are equipment normally used or worn by trainers for a more comprehensive training (belly pad, thigh pad) or simply to mix things a bit (low kick pad). For training at home with a partner or for personal trainers offering kickboxing training, the standard kick pads may suffice. But with the following add-ons and you have yourself a winning combination for home training.
If you low-kick it like you mean it, these pads can give you a workout like no other. Unlike banana heavy bags which can be hard as concrete at times, low kick pads are a lot more forgiving. Coupled with a larger area than standard kick pads and this gives you the full consent to go as hard as you can. These square pads are not limited to just low kicking. Hold them up and they are good for medium kicks; hold them in front they function as a good pad to work those power teeps. The downside to these is that they are essentially designed to train low kicks as compared to standard pads which are more all-rounded.
Verdict: Good to have, definitely, but not a must-have.
Belly pads are worn by pad-holders to allow teeps (push kicks), stomach/body punches and especially to catch the knees. They are sometimes worn for clinching practice to allow the throwing of knees without restraint. They are a standard operating equipment for trainers and you will not see a pad-holder without one in any decent Muay Thai camp.
Verdict: Essential if you are a trainer. Unnecessary otherwise.
Thigh pads are more realistic for low kick training compared to the low kick pads. As the name suggests, they are worn on thighs and are designed to be subjected to low kicks. In reality, they are bulky but are not that useful against powerful low kickers and for the price, it’s not worth it for such inadequate protection. Fairtex offers a more compact thigh pad which I imagine would be more comfortable to wear but wouldn’t necessary provide better protection. Might just be better to work with the low kick pads instead.
Verdict: Don’t even bother.
How to clean Muay Thai Pads
As with all Muay Thai equipment, sweat and traces of blood can stain the pad work, breeding nasty bacteria that can give you plenty of dermatological troubles such as staph infection. The pads are most likely going to be shared among at least 2 pairs of legs and more so it is both wise and polite to keep them sanitary.
Wiping the pads after training using a damp cloth and mild soap solution (disinfectant spray) to remove sweat and grime, then again with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture will help to keep it sanitized. The nice part is that being more portable -compared to heavy bags-, they can be put out in the sun for a good dose of mother nature’s mold-killing UV rays. Do take note to not leave them in the sun for too long as it can cause discoloration and cracking. Regular maintenance helps to prolong the lifespan of the bag by preventing mold and reducing bacteria growth.
There you have it. No Muay Thai training is imaginable or complete without pad work. If you are working around a budget and have someone to train with, ditch the heavy bag and get yourself a pair of Thai kick pads. For all self-respecting personal trainers offering Thai style kickboxing training, Thai pads are mandatory. Clients aren’t paying for shadow boxing cardio they can do in aerobics class. We want a few rounds of pad work for an intensive workout. Verdict: Pad work >> Bag work. Happy smashing!