Muay Thai is one of the most effective stand-up striking arts in the world. While it shares similarities with other kickboxing styles, a key differentiator is its use of elbow strikes. If you’ve seen a full-fledged Muay Thai fight, you know elbow strikes are part of what make Muay Thai such a dangerous fighting system.
When thrown with adequate force and accuracy, Muay Thai elbow strikes can knock out opponents or leave a nasty gash. Fights are regularly stopped in Muay Thai due to heavy bleeding from elbow cuts.
Why Do You Need Elbow Pads
The elbow is one of the hardest bones in the human body so elbow strikes can be especially devastating.
Due to its potential health risks, elbows are usually restricted during sparring or clinching. Beginners and even intermediate-level Muay Thai practitioners lack the control and experience to throw elbow strikes safely during training.
Boxing gloves help to protect the hands which are susceptible to fractures. Bareknuckle fist blows can cause considerable damage to an opponent which is the other reason why boxing gloves are mandatory for competitions and training.
Amateur Muay Thai fights mandate the use of elbow pads as they eliminate the risks of cuts and soften the impact to a certain degree. They also reduce the risks of injuries during sparring and clinching while facilitating the practice of throwing elbow strikes.
But even with elbow pads, elbow strikes will still hurt when thrown with enough power. The key is that they minimize risks of injuries which is as good as it gets for training.
Sparring without Elbow Pads
Elbow pads are not common in Thailand gyms. Fighters don’t always throw elbow strikes during sparring or clinching. But when they do practise with elbows, they always stop short of hitting the training partner and never follow through.
This requires experience as things can get heated during sparring, especially for those new to sparring. Accidents can and have happened many times when adrenaline is pumping.
The most common way to train elbow strikes is still the good old padwork. This is where a good trainer/pad-holder makes the distinction and elevates your elbow game.
Best Muay Thai Elbow Pads 2023
Most gyms outside of Thailand limit elbows to padwork only. This is why not all Muay Thai brands offer elbow pads. The selection may be somewhat limited but it is more than sufficient.
If you are looking for the best Muay Thai elbow pads for sparring and clinching, here are my picks of the top 5 options available:
Nationman is a Thai sporting goods manufacturer offering products for a variety of sports. As a Thai sporting brand, it specializes in Muay Thai protective equipment such as head guards, knee guards, groin guards and ankle support.
In Thailand, Nationman products are more affordable compared to similar offerings from traditional Muay Thai brands. This is not the case on ecommerce platforms outside of Thailand but still comparable in prices.
Nationman elbow pads are the choice of gear for international amateur Muay Thai competitions. This is a clear testament to their quality and reason enough to get them.
However, these come in only one-size-fits-all. NationMan gets around this by using hook-n-loop (velcro) closures help to keep the elbow pads in place and stable. As with most Thai products, they tend to fit more Asian sizes.
Overall, this is an excellent choice for slimmer small-medium body types.
- Made from high-quality elastic material for a comfortable and secure fit.
- Padding helps protect the elbow joint during training.
- Adjustable design allows for a customized fit.
For everything Muay Thai, you can always turn to the number one brand: Fairtex. So there is no surprise Fairtex makes and sells elbow pads.
You can count on Fairtex for high-quality Muay Thai gear and this is no exception. EBE1 elbow pads come in different sizes but much like the NationMan, they tend to fit smaller.
The padding is decent and suitable for competitions and throwing elbows in sparring.
Venum Kontact Elbow Protectors
- High quality cotton
- Strategic reinforcement insuring more protection
- Velcro closure for a customized no-slip fit
Venum is another fight gear brand with the whole arsenal of products for fighting and training.
The Venum Kontact elbow protectors are designed for day-to-day sparring involving elbow strikes. Like the NationMan, they use velcro (hook-n-loop) closures for secured stability.
In contrast to the Thai brands, Venum Kontact elbow pads fit more loosely. This can be quite annoying for slimmer folks as they require constant adjusting during sparring.
The padding is stiffer compared to other brands but does its job adequately. Just try to not go too hard with your elbow strikes during sparring.
If you are in the heavier weight classes, these will suit you better than Fairtex and NationMan.
RDX MMA Elbow Support
- PROFESSIONAL GRADE ELBOW PROTECTOR The CE-certified and SATRA-approved elbow pads for MMA is made of lightweight stretchable fabric with an ergonomic design that ensures that you can wear this elbow...
- THICK PADDING FOR IMPACT PROTECTION The elbow brace compression support has cushioned elbows that use EVA padding to hamper any impact force coming to the elbow. Feel confident while training for...
- REMARKABLE COMPRESSIVE FIT AND ADJUSTABILITY With hook-and-loop closure on top, and an elasticated fabric strip on the bottom, the elbow support brace for men adjusts and stays put in its place...
RDX offers two models of elbow support so make sure to get the right one. One of which is the Neoprene elbow support brace which is worn to provide pain relief and recovery assistance. Make sure to go for the product above for sparring purpose.
Although RDX has never been my go-to for fight gear, these MMA elbow support has everything you need for its intended usage. They stay secured throughout sparring which is much appreciated. The padding could be better if it were thicker and softer but it does its job.
I like that RDX mma elbow pads come in a full range of sizes from small up to x-large. Small-medium sizes are suitable for young fighters (10-14 years old) and large-xlarge sizes are good for adults.
Ring to Cage Elbow Striking Pads
- Especially designed for Muay Thai
- Injection molded foam padding.
- Heavy knit fabric cover
As per their description, the Ring to Cage Elbow Striking Pads are designed for Muay Thai. These offer the right amount of padding allowing you to throw elbows safely during sparring.
Like the RDX MMA Elbow Support (see above), these come in different sizes which makes more sense than free-size gear. However, even with the velcros, these tend to move around a little too much like the Venum Kontact.
These are reasonably priced for decent protection but definitely not my top pick.
If you want to start incorporating elbows into your training, consider getting elbow pads for the obvious safety reasons. It’s not fun when things heat up and someone ends up eating an elbow.
Sparring with elbow pads is a relatively safe way to get used to throwing elbow strikes against an opponent. For amateur Muay Thai competitors, elbow pads are must-haves. If you are turning pro and fighting full Muay Thai rules, elbow pads are a great way to ease into the game.