How To Land An Effective Shovel Hook In Muay Thai

Rodtang Jitmuangnon defeats Jonathan Haggerty at ONE A NEW TOMORROW

When you think of traditional Muay Thai attacks, a shovel hook might not be the first offensive maneuver that comes to mind.

It’s a risky tactic, especially when you have to worry about elbows, knees, and kicks as counters to your crafty body shot.

Don’t fret, however. This guide will show you how to execute and set up the shovel hook, while safely defending yourself from any potential counters.

The Science Behind The Liver Shot


To understand why the liver shot is so effective, you first need to understand the science behind the football-shaped organ.

The liver sits on the right side of the body behind the lower part of the rib cage. When the ribs are hit hard enough, they slam into the liver and its nerves, causing a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Because less blood flows to the brain, the organ sitting at the top of the spine sends a signal to the rest of the body telling it to lie down so more blood can flow to the uppermost part of the physique.

Unfortunately for the recipients of a liver shot, that signal is cripplingly painful. No matter how much tolerance they have for pain, their body just can’t stay upright.

What follows is the action you’ve seen repeatedly: combatants grimace in pain as they bring their arms down to protect their liver, and then they either turn away from their opponent and take a knee, or worse – they crumble to the canvas.

Executing The Shovel Hook

Ilias Ennahachi lands a body shot on Petchdam

When people think of liver shots, they think of shovel hooks. A shovel hook is something between a hook and an uppercut. Instead of the face as its target, however, the liver is its main mark.

To throw the shovel hook as an orthodox athlete, begin with a solid defense. Your rear hand should protect your face, and the elbow of your rear arm should guard your own liver.

When throwing the shovel hook, point your lead elbow down and away from you at a 45-degree angle. Then drop your left hand and drive the punch under your opponent’s right arm (left from your view) and into the rib cage.

The movements are similar to the mechanics of a standard hook.

Setting Up A Shovel Hook

Rodtang Jitmuangnon

The easiest way to set up a shovel hook for orthodox athletes is to use your jab. When you jab, see how your opponent reacts. Does your opponent raise his or her guard, exposing the liver? If so, you can then feint a jab and quickly throw a shovel hook.

If your opponent doesn’t fall for the bait, incorporate the right cross after the jab. The right cross may get your challenger to further defend and expose the liver.

If you’re a southpaw athlete facing an orthodox martial artist, then you’ll want to set up the liver shot a little bit differently.

Because of the difference in stances, your opponent’s liver will now be a further target. With that in mind, you can use your punches to get your adversary to raise his or her hands and expose the liver. Instead of throwing a shovel hook, however, throw a straight left punch to the right side of your opponent’s body (left from your view).

This is an advanced tactic that should only be practiced by veteran athletes because when you throw your left to your opponent’s body, you’re leaving yourself open for an elbow, knee, or high kick.

If your shovel hook lands, whether from the orthodox or southpaw stance, one thing is certain – your opponent will have a hard time surviving the rest of the bout.

Read more: 4 Ways To Increase Your Punching Accuracy In Martial Arts

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