Strength is an essential tool in a Muay Thai fighters’ arsenal. Improving your physical strength will allow you to throw more explosive shots, wear your opponents down and even build a more robust defence.
But building strength naturally takes time and dedication, which can be tough – especially when you’re already fully dedicated to Thai boxing. Strength training also requires a lot of knowledge, if you want to progress without injury, so this guide provides you with 5 actionable tips to help you develop a winning strength training strategy.
Make time for strength training
When you’re already training Muay Thai three to five times a week, it can be difficult to see how you are going to squeeze more workouts into your packed schedule. However, there are a few ways that lots of fighters manage to pack these sessions into their routines, even when working full-time on top of training.
Stay on after training
Probably the easiest way to add a few strength training sessions to your week, is by sticking around in the gym after you finish your Muay Thai sessions. Especially if you train at a bigger gym, you should be able to find some space (and maybe even some equipment) to train with. Even if you only train for an extra 20-30 mins each time, you will rack up some serious progress over the course of a few months. This method will also mean that you aren’t adding any extra commute time to your week, which is a great bonus
Wake up earlier
Nobody likes to see 6am or even 5am on their alarm clock ,but if you’re serious about your training, you have to make sacrifices. Waking up early a couple of times a week for strength sessions will give you the extra time you need to train, without cutting into the rest of your day. You can train at home to save the most time, or maybe a gym that’s near or on your way to work.
Start With Bodyweight Exercises
If you’re new to strength training, it’s best to start with body weight exercises to ensure you are getting the fundamentals of form and execution right. A huge benefit to bodyweight training is that you can perform exercises with zero or minimal equipment, and you can also workout anywhere including at home, or in the gym where you already train Muay Thai. You’ll also likely be familiar with a lot of the exercises, as many of them are used by Thai boxing coaches and trainers. Here are some basic exercises to get you started.
The classic press-up is already a staple of Muay Thai training, but it if you want to see some big strength gains, you’ll have to do a lot more than you would in an average Thai boxing session. Set yourself targets within your strength training and try to hit higher numbers evert session. Use a medium width to work a balance or shoulders, chest and triceps; a narrow grip to isolate the triceps, and a wide grip to focus on chest.
Lower your glutes to the ground as you would with a normal squat, but instead of simply raising yourself back to a standing position – jump into the air as high and quick as you can. This an excellent way to train the quads, hamstrings and calves, in order to build the explosive power you need to throw devastating kicks.
Add weights to your training
A lot of martial artists shy away from weight training because of the worries around becoming too stiff and bulky. However, when used in the right way, weight training will push your strength gains way beyond body-weight training, without compromising your flexibility. The key fact to remember is that you are training for explosive power, not for mass like a body builder. With this in mind, you have to push your reps out quickly, and avoid holding them for too long. You should still be in full control of the weights, so it’s always best to start with light weights and focus on getting your form right before going heavy.
In order to get the most from your time in training, focus on the big three compound lifts that will work multiple muscle groups and keep your body’s natural movement:
The king of lifts will work your lower back, hamstrings, quads, and your upper back.
Weighted squats are excellent for explosive kick power, working your quads mainly but also bringing in lots of other muscles to stabilise you in the lift.
For overall upper body strength including chest, triceps and shoulders, you can’t beat the bench press.
Rest and recover
Strength training requires proper rest and recovery. When you work muscles hard, you create micro tears in the tissue – and when they repair, the muscles grow and so does your strength. But this will not happen without adequate rest.
Ideally you should give muscles a few days rest between training them for best results. For example, you may want to train legs on Monday, and upper body on Thursday, giving yourself a whole week before you train those muscles again. Also ensure that you get plenty of sleep because that’s when the body does most if it’s repair work.
Get proper nutrition
Your muscles and strength will not grow if you’re not providing them with sufficient fuel and building blocks in the form of nutrition. A healthy diet that consists of at least three-meals per day which include a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables will provide your body with the means to repair and recover properly.
For protein you should turn to meats, fish and eggs predominantly, but you can also use vegan options such as nuts, tofu and seeds. Sweet potato and brown rice are great sources of carbohydrates, and your vegetables should include a healthy does of leafy greens for iron.
Darren Mitchell is a Muay Thai enthusiast and writer for the BestMuayThai blog. Darren has trained Muay Thai for several years at gyms all over the world alongside some world-renowned fighters and coaches.