If you have ever been punched or kicked in the body from heavy hitters in training or competition, you know how devastating it is to your cardio and your mindset. Strikes to the midsection quite literally take your breath away during matches and in bouts that have multiple rounds (5 rounds for MMA or Muay Thai, or 12 rounds for boxing), your stamina will quickly erode the more body shots you take. In order to execute crushing blows to the body, you need trainers or coaches equipped with the best Muay Thai belly pads available so you can unleash your swiftest and most powerful shots.
In this guide, we'll explore the purpose of a belly pad and which particular belly pad products to choose from the wide range of options.
What are Muay Thai Belly Pads?
A Muay Thai belly pad is essentially a body protector or belly protector that is used for training sessions. Muay Thai belly pad training falls under pad work and is typically used in tandem with focus mitts or punching pads to give the fighter more targets to strike and more opportunities to unleash striking combinations.
The best aspects of having a Muay Thai belly pad are the shock-absorbing qualities and the dense foam padding found within for the best protection and injury prevention. Whether a belly pad is made of synthetic leather or real leather, having a body protector on is most ideal to withstand heavy hits.
Benefits of Using a Muay Thai Belly Pad
A Muay Thai belly pad offers several benefits (some more obvious than others). Here are a few of the more relevant functions and features of this body protector (or belly protector):
Protection for the Trainer
In Muay Thai training, the safety and protection of every party involved are two of the greatest responsibilities of the gym owners or management.
Muay Thai belly pads are effective in protecting the midsection of the coach or trainer during intense training sessions. Not wearing a Muay Thai belly pad is somewhat analogous to a boxing coach not wearing focus pads or mitts when working on punches.
Can you imagine how awkward and dangerous it would be for the coach to have both of his palms extended outward to receive devastating blows from the fighter?
Knee strikes, kicks, and punches to the body are no joke, and protection for the trainer is just as important as protection for the striker.
Protection for the Striker
Belly pads can offer a great degree of protection to the fighter.
Understandably, body punches do not cause as many hand and wrist-related injuries to the striker. This is because the midsection is not as contoured as the jaw of a face or as tough as a temple or a forehead.
Nevertheless, injuries can still happen when throwing punches to the body. The best approach to ensure safety and protection for the fighter is to provide them with a good quality target fitted with dense foam padding to allow for the necessary cushioning and shock absorption.
Boxing, MMA, and Muay Thai gloves can only do so much to minimize the risk of injury. Other pieces of gear and equipment are still required in order to have a safe training session.
The risk of injury is minimal if the appropriate body protector and equipment are present during intense training sessions.
We would always argue that the best fighter of today is the fighter that is actually available to train and prepare for an actual fight.
If you are riddled with injuries, you may as well be as good as someone who does not train religiously in the gym.
Again, keep training and sparring conditions safe with foam padding, belly pads, thick gloves, and other pieces of protective gear and equipment to minimize the chances of injury.
Fluid Striking Combinations
When combinations get more complicated, the trainer would have to engage in all manner of maneuvers (that sometimes look like dance moves) to ensure that the focus pads or mitts are positioned in the target regions for the striker to hit.
When it comes to boxing, this may be relatively easier to do since strikes would only come from the fist.
However, in Muay Thai, where not only punches are done, but also knee strikes, elbow strikes, and kicks, it's not so easy to position focus pads where they are supposed to be in a rapid manner.
This is why a belly pad is such a benefit when it comes to high-level preparation. With a belly pad and focus mitts combination, fighters can unleash striking combinations in rapid succession without having to worry about pad positioning by the coach or trainer.
Maximum Speed and Power
For most experienced fighters, inadvertently hitting your coach or trainer in the face is not a pleasant feeling. Sure, there may be a few laughs shared here and there, but with repeated occurrences, it just doesn't feel right.
Wearing a belly pad can help combat occurrences such as this. It also gives the fighter the confidence to unleash maximum speed and power in their strikes and striking combinations without worrying about knocking out the coach or trainer.
More Diverse Workouts
If you have seen the different (and sometimes weird) shapes and sizes of heavy bags (banana heavy bag, teardrop heavy bag, bowling pin heavy bag, and many more), you should also expect the same from pads.
The belly pad is a unique piece of gear that allows training sessions to be more diversified to avoid dull and mundane workouts and drills.
If you want to mix things up in terms of drills and striking combinations, then a belly pad will definitely help provide the opportunity for unique workouts.
Things to Consider when Choosing a Muay Thai Belly Pad
Much like any other Muay Thai gear, or training equipment, it's important to know what factors to look out for. Remember, a Muay Thai belly pad serves as a body protector, which makes it especially important for training sessions that involve body combos and liver combos.
Whether you use the belly protector for boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai, you will need to look for good quality pads, and to spot them. So here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Materials and Durability
There are several materials and material blends used in the market. When it comes to reputable belly pad products, you would come to observe either real leather or synthetic leather variations.
Just like any other product that utilizes leather materials, a synthetic leather belly pad would be more affordable, slightly lighter in weight, but at the cost of being less durable. The quality of most synthetic leather pad products is good, but we will not go so far as to say that this type of belly pad is as good as or better than real leather belly pad products.
A real leather belly pad is tougher, more durable, and offers a more crisp thud or pop when struck. Most genuine leather belly pad products are on the pricier side, but if you are looking to invest in a piece of equipment for the long-term, then get yourself a real leather belly pad.
There are all sorts of technologies, layers, and patented innovations when it comes to padding in a belly pad. Generally speaking, it would be ideal for you to get either a double-layer or triple-layer belly pad.
Aside from the number of layers, you would also have to consider how thick and dense the padding actually is.
A high-quality belly protector would have very dense padding and multiple layers fitted inside. Thicker belly pads may look tougher, but if the material used is not as compact or dense as other belly pads, then you may have to reconsider your purchase.
Size and Fit
Size and fit are typically not a problem when it comes to belly pads. However, make sure to check the specifications or dimensions of the belly pad before finalizing the purchase.
There are also some manufacturers that produce belly pads according to custom specifications (such as those that are handmade in Thailand). So if you need a custom-fit belly pad, look for Thailand-based belly pad providers.
Most modern-day belly pads are extremely light, ranging from 2 pounds to 4 pounds. This is very surprising, given that in the 1990s (and earlier), belly pads came as heavy as 6 pounds to 7 pounds.
Just take note that belly pads made of actual leather may be slightly heavier than those made of synthetic.
Also, consider the features offered. Shoulder straps, buckle closure systems, and other unique features may add a little bit to the overall weight and quality of the product.
Closure System and Shoulder Straps
There are a few different closure systems found in belly pads. The most common are velcro closure (or velcro strap closure system), hook and loop closure system, buckle straps and velcro closure system, and shoulder straps supplementary closure system with velcro.
Each has its own advantage in terms of convenience, ease of use, and fit. We do not necessarily heavily favor a particular closure system, but a velcro strap closure system is the most convenient and hassle-free technology to utilize. You will notice this towards the end of training sessions when you can barely lift a finger to strap on your gloves or gear. Just be diligent in cleaning your velcro as dust and grime easily attach to it.
Stitching is another important aspect of protective gear such as belly pads. The stitching helps keep the foam padding in the right places, it helps the leather layers stay attached to each other, and it ensures that the belly protector does not give up halfway through an intense workout session.
Most of the leading belly pad products available today come with reinforced stitching in vulnerable areas. Be sure to pick a product from a reputable brand (such as Fairtex and Twins Special) to ensure the best quality in stitching.
The 5 Best Belly Pads for Muay Thai
Listed below are a few of the best belly pads we recommend:
If you want a belly pad that not only serves its purpose but also looks like a championship belt, then check out this Ring to Cage MMA Muay Thai Belly pad.
This product is a well-designed protector that is specifically created for training sessions with heavy hitters.
The foam of this MMA belly pad is one of the best shock-absorbing materials available and can withstand an onslaught of kicks, knees, and punches.
If you want a better fit with heavy nylon shoulder straps, quick-release buckles, a hook and loop velcro system, and total midsection protection (up to the chest), then consider getting the Contender Fight Sports Heavy Hitter Boxing Body Protector.
This product is truly a piece of gear that is built for the full arsenal of martial arts. It covers the entire upper torso and extends to the sides of the belly to ensure that every strike is answered with thick, dense foam padding to minimize the stress of impact and reduce the severity of any injuries that may occur.
The Combat Sports Dome Air Technology Belly Pad is proudly marketed as a protector that has the patented Dome Air Technology (DAT). This tech is highly effective at dispersing impact received from all kinds of strikes.
This is one of the most rugged and durable products from Combat Sports and is built with synthetic material and sports a buckle strap closure for more effective fastening.
The well-known high-quality Fairtex leather build is back with arguably the best belly pad product in the market today, the Fairtex Leather Rib Guard.
Fairtex has once again outdone itself in the martial arts game with this wonderful product. Handmade in Thailand, this multi-layered foam padded body protector uses a rear hook and loop closure system and offers total core protection that is meant to absorb any type of kick at any weight and power level.
This Fairtex product comes in three base colors: blue, red, and white, and is absolutely a good long-term investment in terms of value for money.
The Twins Belly Protector is what some of our coaches and acquaintances actually use in their respective training facilities and for good reason.
Fitted with a velcro waist strap at the rear and made of 100% true leather and high-density foam (which you can actually see bulging out of the leather cover), this Thailand-made belly protector from Twins is a piece of gear you should definitely use as a reference when picking a top-tier product for martial arts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to the body protector gear (Muay Thai belly pad):
How do I choose Muay Thai pads?
In choosing Muay Thai pads or boxing pads, make sure to properly assess your context and situation.
If you are a gym owner looking to set up a training facility, then we would suggest that you purchase heavy-duty belly pads made of quality leather, good shock-absorbing qualities, thick padding, and adjustable straps or fit.
If you are looking to purchase a belly pad for personal use, then any high-quality durable synthetic leather belly pad from reputable brands will do.
How do you use Muay Thai belly pads?
Most Muay Thai belly pads have an intuitive design. Wearing a Muay Thai belly pad simply requires you to be able to locate the straps and closure system, wrap them around your belly (and strap them on your shoulders if your belly pad comes with shoulder straps), and ensure a snug fit.
You may go a bit tighter to minimize the movement of the Muay Thai belly pad but make sure that you are still capable of breathing comfortably.
What is Muay Thai pad work?
Muay Thai pad work and boxing pad work are a type of training in combat sports that allows you to throw strikes and striking combinations against smaller targets. Compared to shadow boxing, Muay Thai pad work and boxing pad work are considered to be more rewarding as the striker would always hear the crisp pop each landed strike would make when colliding with the pads.
Compared to heavy bag boxing drills and Muay Thai drills, pads are subjectively better simply because pads can be positioned or angled in a way that a boxing bag or Muay Thai bag usually cannot.
How much do Muay Thai pads weigh?
The weight of Muay Thai and boxing pads can vary based on brand, product type, and materials used, but the weight should be within the range of 2 pounds to 4 pounds typically.
Pads that utilize real leather construction (such as Maya hide leather or the patented Fairtex leather) are usually heavier but more durable. Pads are made of synthetic leather as well, which may be on the lighter side compared to genuine leather.
Conclusion (and the Best Overall)
As for our favorite protector, we boiled it down to either the Twins belly protector or the Fairtex Rib Guard.
In the end, however, we have to tip our hat to none other than the Fairtex Rib Guard. The quality, craftsmanship, and protective properties are all there right from the beginning. Wear and tear is also very minimal with this product so we fully expect this piece of gear to last for several years.
We've recommended 5 great belly protectors but the Rib Guard is truly one of the best Muay Thai belly pads in the world.
The foam of this MMA Muay Thai belly pad is exceptional with shock-absorbing materials available and can withstand an onslaught of kicks, knees, and punches.