The Shoulder Torquer – A Specific Exercise for Muay Thai Flexibility on All Your Punches and Elbows

The Muay Thai – Shoulder Torquer Exercise 

(Note: I was taught this exercise by my instructor in Thailand and in no way was I part of creating this exercise. I’m just the messenger!  I just gave it a funky name. Call it whatever you want, it’ll work wonders on making those punches crisp and those elbows slice!)


So below, I give some really really key information on why this exercise is so effective at quickly developing the specific flexibility needed for all Muay Thai punches and elbows. Watch the video then read about the core principles at play below:

Hip Rotation for Optimal Power Striking

Muay Thai - Hip Rotation Kennett Square

The hips have only two positions of stability which generate the most power. Anything in between is suboptimal for power – externally rotated (feet pointed away from each other) and internally rotated (feet pointed inward toward each other). When we’re at rest, our hips and feet return to anatomical neutral, a relaxed position where there’s no tension in the hips, but not very strong or stable. Power through any of the Muay Thai strikes (punch, elbow, knee kick) is generated mostly through hip rotation and that’s either going to be an

a) external rotation

b) internal rotation

For this exercise, we’re really exercising the external rotation of the hips when we keep the foot straight. Note that if we don’t actively program this into our movement, our hips will pull both feet toward anatomical neutral, a weak unstable position that doesn’t generate power.

Muay Thai - External Hip Rotation

Shoulder Rotation for Muay Thai Power

Muay Thai Shoulder Rotation - Kennett Square

The same goes for the shoulders, two positions of stability and power for Muay Thai – Internal and External Rotation. Again, when we’re at rest, our palms will turn inward toward the body and the shoulders are slack like in the pic on the right. When we turn the hands either way, we flex the shoulders into STABILITY. This is the position we want to land our elbows and punches in because, there’s no where but through the target for the force to go.


The Shoulders for Muay Thai Punches

Muay Thai Flexibility - Knuckles In

When you turn the shoulders in, another added benefit is that you turn the two knuckles in and they protrude forward. FYI – for punching, you impact with the two big knuckles of the fore finger and middle finger, not the entire surface. By narrowing the impact to just the two knuckles, the power is concentrated through a smaller surface, which means the punches will sink into the target more. By turning the knuckles in towards the centerline, the two knuckles will protrude out toward the target naturally, DRAMATICALLY increasing the chance you’ll land with just those two knuckles.

Muay Thai Turning The Knuckles In - Punching

The Shoulders for Muay Thai Elbow Strikes

The same goes for the elbows. By turning the palms inward, you the shoulders fully flex, and there’s no give upon impact, and the force has no where to go but into the target. I’ve shown the horizontal elbow because it’s easier to see.

Muay Thai Elbows - Kennett Square

The Shoulders and the Chin for Muay Thai Flexibility

Performing the Shoulder Torquer with your chin down to your chest will stretch out your shoulder and neck flexibility so you won’t bring your chin up on punches and elbows. What will happen by training this in? Your chin will rest effortlessly on your chest, out of harms way instead of flailing up when you throw punches, reducing unnecessary vital blows and knockouts.

There’s a lot of reasons peoples chin come up during fighting, but one of the primary reasons is a lack of flexibility. So I dare say….A lack of flexibility in the shoulders and neck is a large cause of people getting knocked out.  This is a specific type of flexibility necessary for combat fighting and you can train your body to go there naturally by doing it during this exercise and you’re normal training.

Training Muay Thai on your own

If you do any training on your own, like I do, it’s critically important that you visually confirm everything you’re doing either with your naked eye or in the mirror. If not, you don’t know if you’re doing it right, and if you’re not doing it right, your just creating bad habits. Unless you have a coach looking at you DIRECTLY, visually confirm you’re body is moving the way you want it.

I don’t like to work on too many things at once…the more narrow your focus during training, the more you’ll get out of it. Pick one or two mechanics to work on each training session, visually confirm you’re doing it the way you intend, and train the hell out of it until it becomes who you are.

Conclusion – In this exercise, you’re taking all facets of flexibility you’ll need for punches and elbows in Muay Thai – Turning the shoulders fully through the maximum Range of Motion, Doing it with the chin down, and stretching the flexibility of the arm to keep the hands up and the arms narrow to the body the whole way through.  Unless you’ve already achieved this level of flexibility through your normal training, I highly suggest just taking the time to get it down this way. It will save a ton of time and you can ACTIVELY focus on developing it.

If ya got questions about the exercise, leave them below in the comment box, and I’ll get back to you shortly.


Muay Thai Shoulder Torquer - Kennett Square

For More on How to Develop the Specific Flexibility And Foot Strength You Need To Become Great at Muay Thai, check out an earlier blog post that talks about just that.



Video Transcript:

So All you need is a 3 markers

  1. Two markers on the ground a little more than shoulder width apart where your feet will be

Start by stepping on the two markers on the floor, feet pointed straight at the wall, up on the balls of the feet….chin to your chest.  

Step forward onto the marker on the centerline , keeping both feet steady. Literally look at your feet and confirm you’re doing this, because it’s the only way you’ll know you’re doing it right.

What you’ll notice, is you’re foot is naturally going to want to turn in away from the wall. Your job is to keep it pointed straight at the wall. Try it out guys, it’s not as easy as it looks and what it’s going to do is stretch out the hips and train your feet to rotate the feet the way you want them.  

Next, we’re going to add the punches. The starting position of the arms is thumbs on the center of the forehead, elbows flush against your body.

Step in throwing the punch from one side while narrowing up to where the shoulders, and turning the two knuckles inward so the line up with the wall.   

To train your body to keep your guard up while unloading a power shot, keep that other thumb on the center of the forehead and the elbow flush to your body. If you don’t have the flexibility yet, this exercise is designed specifically to build that flexibility until you can move through the full punch and elbow range of motion effortlessly, so don’t worry.  

Now for the elbows, tuck the forearms in tight, in the same motion, 1) lining up the shoulder with the wall, 2) keeping the thumbs high  3) , keeping the elbows flush against the body.

OK..the final part…rhythm… match when that lead foot strikes the ground with when you reach full rotation of the punch or elbow. This is going to tune that precise rhythm between your arms and your feet. Again, try to keep the thumb on that forehead while you tuck the arm in toward your body.

So you’ll know you have the flexibility, strength in the feet, and rhythm, once you can move through this exercise – try to go for 150 – 200 reps a day until you get that effortless snappy motion through your punches and elbows. Don’t want to bog you down so for those of you that want more details, I’ve added more info about getting that effortless power into all of your punches and elbows with this exercise on my blog. Just click on the link below. Alright, until next time guys.


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